How White Are Your Whites?
Keeping your whites looking healthy is more of a challenge today than ever. Unlike your mother or grandmother, you cannot simply add a little bleach to the wash; instead of making them whiter, adding bleach might actually turn them yellow. Or maybe your whites are actually gray. No matter how often you wash them, they continue to harbor that dingy-looking appearance.
What can affect the whiteness of fabrics?
White or pastel fabrics may turn yellow or take on a dinghy appearance due to the deterioration of fluorescent brightening agents. In their natural state, many fabrics have an off-white or yellowish cast and are, therefore, bleached to remove their natural color. Optical brighteners are often added to make fabrics appear whiter and brighter. However, occasionally these agents break down, causing the fabric to revert to its natural off-white or yellowish color.
Graying of whites is most often caused by incomplete soil removal over an extended period of time despite repeated washing.
How can you keep whites their brightest?
Avoid exposure to light. Exposure to light can break down fluorescent brighteners, affecting only those areas that are exposed. For example, while the front of a sweater laid out to dry in the sun may turn yellow, the back will remain white. Once this happens, the damage usually cannot be corrected.
- Do not use chlorine bleach on whites, especially on wool, silk, nylon, rayon, and acetate. Chlorine bleach will cause fluorescent brighteners to break down more rapidly. Also avoid use of alkaline detergents, especially on wool, silk, and nylon.
- Pre-soak heavily-stained garments to ensure adequate soil removal.
- Make sure you use enough detergent and adequate water temperatures.
- Avoid overloading the washing machine and sort clothes correctly.
How do you restore whiteness?
If your whites are looking more gray than you would like, here are some tips you can follow to remove soil buildup and restore whiteness to your washable items:
- Use the hottest temperature of water acceptable for the fabric.
- Add one to two cups of water conditioner.