Now that we’re officially in summer, we can start wearing our summer white clothing again. Only trouble is, whites don’t seem to stay white very long!
Here are our best tips for keeping those whites looking as crisp and pristine as they do the first day you wear them, without resorting to harmful chlorine bleaching.
It is best to avoid most commonly available bleach, sodium hypochlorite, a moderately toxic chlorine salt that can bond with other chemicals to form cancer-causing organochlorines in the wastewater system.
“Natural oxygen safe bleaches” are commercially available (found primarily in the health food store marketplace), and are based on hydrogen peroxide. The best choice is to buy commercial non-chlorine bleaches instead of making your own version using store-bought 3 percent hydrogen peroxide because commercial brands, such as Seventh Generations’s Non-Chlorine Bleach–Free & Clear include oxygen bleach stabilizers to help reduce the product’s reactivity in the environment.
Tip: Adding ½ cup of lemon juice to the rinse cycle of a medium load of whites will lightly bleach the clothing. This technique is especially effective on clothes that are then hung to dry on the line.
Soften Your Water
The minerals in hard water can gray clothes. If you have very hard water, add ½ cup of vinegar to your rinse water.
To brighten whites, and if you don’t have hard water, use the might of minerals in your wash cycle. Add ½ cup borax or washing soda (both are available in the laundry section of your supermarket) to a medium load of laundry.
Note to read clothing labels, as some direct you to dry the clothes outside of direct sunlight. On the other hand, storing whites in the dark can cause yellowing. A rule of thumb is that natural fibers love the sun and hanging them outside to dry on the line is to their benefit.