Does the white shirt look a little “yellowish” or “grayish”? Do you want to bring that shiny, bright "new white shirt" back? A little bleach and the situation can be fixed! For many types of fabric, bleach is the quickest, easiest, and most affordable way to bring back a shiny white color. Unfortunately, there are fabrics that are not suitable for bleach. Don't be discouraged even in this case, because you can also bring back the perfect look of your white shirt with the help of the bleaching energy of the sun!
Method 1 of 4: Soak with bleach
Step 1. Put your shirt in a bucket of cold water
In this method, we will use regular laundry bleach to make our white shirt shine again. Start by tossing your shirt into a bucket, basin, or other suitable sturdy container. Fill the container with enough cold water.
- Using this method, it is perfectly acceptable to soak other white items along with the shirt. If you choose to do this, add extra water so that the clothes are at least a couple of centimeters or more covered with water.
- You will need a container large enough to stir and shake the clothes while they are soaking. Clean construction buckets are great for this purpose. It is advisable to purchase a container with a lid, so, firstly, it will be more convenient for you, and secondly, you can avoid inhaling chemical vapors. Alternatively, you can use a large cooking pot, the bath itself, or even a washing machine.
Step 2. Add bleach
Add some bleach to the water in which your shirt is soaked. Surely, on the bottle itself there are recommendations for the amount to be used for bleaching. Different bleaches have different concentrations. If you've just soaked your shirt, you may only need a few tablespoons of bleach or so. However, if you are soaking large amounts of white laundry, you may need to add up to 1 cup. Usually 1/4 cup is used for one liter of water. You can also add other cleaning products at this stage if the laundry is dirty. Here are some tools you can add:
- Washing powder
- Dish detergent
Never mix bleach and ammonia; this mixture can release the toxic gas chloramine.
Step 3. Let the shirt soak for 5-10 minutes
Next, stir the liquid in the bucket so that the shirt (and / or any other garments) are properly drenched. Then set a timer for 5-10 minutes and just wait for the bleach to do its job! You can stir the shirt every few minutes to get it completely wet.
Don't soak your shirt (or any other white items) for too long. Even fabrics that can be bleached, such as cotton and linen, can eventually be damaged when exposed to bleach for extended periods of time
Step 4. Rinse your shirt in cold water
Once your shirt is soaked, remove it from the bleach mixture and rinse it under cold, clean running water. You need to rinse off all bleach (and other detergents) from the fabric. If you dry your shirt and don't rinse it, the bleach (and other detergents) can leave an unpleasant odor, and the substances in the bleach can irritate the skin.
Step 5. Squeeze the shirt out and dry
After rinsing your shirt thoroughly, wring it out. Then just dry it as you normally would. For most, the easiest option will be to simply use a tumble dryer.
However, you can air dry your shirt. Drying white clothes in the sun is actually known to have a slight "whitening" effect, which results in whites being whiter (see picture).(See the section below for more information.) Of course, the sun doesn't bleach as well as bleach, so don't rely on it alone
Method 2 of 4: Using bleach with a washing machine
Step 1. Get rid of stains as soon as possible
The above method is not the only way to bleach a white shirt; You can also use bleach during your normal washing machine cycle to bleach your garment with minimal effort. For starters, if there are any stains on your shirt, use a paper towel, spoon, or whatever you have on hand to remove those stains from your shirt. The sooner you can get rid of the stains, the better the shirt will look in the end.
For dirt stains, try making a paste with baking soda and water and rubbing the mixture into the stain with a brush. The baking soda will gradually absorb the stain, after which it can be easily removed
Step 2. Pre-treat stains with detergent
Next, pour a small pea-sized amount of liquid laundry detergent directly onto the stain on your shirt. Use a soft toothbrush (one that you don't intend to use on your teeth again) to scrub the stain. Leave the rubbed in detergent on your shirt before you wash it off; the stain will loosen and your shirt will shine white again.
If you don't have a liquid laundry detergent, you can mix a small spoonful of laundry detergent with water and use it in the same way
Step 3. Load the washing machine and add bleach
Next, put your pre-treated white shirt (and any other white items you wash) into the washing machine. Now you can add the bleach. The washing step will vary depending on the type of washing machine you are using; Here are the instructions that will work for most washing machines:
- Bleach dispenser machines: Pour bleach into the bleach dispenser tray, filling it to the indicated line. The washing machine will automatically add bleach to items at the appropriate time.
- Machines without a bleach dispenser: start the program, then add detergent and 1/2 cup of bleach to the water, then add clothing.
- Very large washing machines: Use the bleach dispenser as above if possible. If the machine does not have a bleach dispenser, add 1 cup of bleach to the water after the wash cycle starts.
Step 4. Start the machine at the highest temperature setting
For best cleaning and whitening, use a setting with as hot water temperature as the fabric can handle. Look at the label on the garment if you are not sure what water temperature is safe for washing; in general, tough fabrics such as cotton, denim, and so on will tolerate heat normally, while many other fragile or man-made fibers can only withstand warm water.
Step 5. Dry and repeat as needed
When the washing machine has finished washing, take out the white shirt and any other white items you washed with it. Dry as you like; most use a tumble dryer, however, you can dry your clothes outdoors, thereby saving electricity.
For particularly stained or soiled white shirts, you may need to repeat this cycle several times to bring them back to their original white color. For best results, try alternating this washing method with one of the methods described in this article
Method 3 of 4: Sun Bleaching White Shirts
Step 1. Wash your shirt as usual
In this method, you will use the natural bleaching power of the sun to make the shirt as white as possible. Before bleaches came in wide variety, the sun was the main way to keep whites bright and shiny. Start by washing your white shirt as usual. You can use one of the methods described above, or just use whatever washing technique you are used to.
Step 2. Hang your clothes outside in warm weather
If the sun is shining and there is no hint of rain, hang wet clothes outside. Hang your shirt on a horizontal wire or wooden drying rack. If you don't have either, you can try stowing things on a clean, level surface, such as a deck or patio floor, or hanging them from a railing. Try to position the shirt where it gets a lot of sun; the bigger, the better.
Step 3. Wait for the clothes to dry
Now, all you have to do is wait! After a while, the sun will do its job - moisture will naturally evaporate from the fabric. When this happens, the sun will also gently bleach the fabric itself, resulting in a noticeable whitening effect without the help of commercial bleach. This method is great for cloth diapers and other types of white fabrics that tend to get dirty.
The whitening power of the sun comes from the ultraviolet radiation in its rays. This radiation can actually break the chemical bonds that produce colors in stains at the molecular level, resulting in "fading" or lightening of stains
Step 4. Don't let your clothes sit in the sun for several days in a row
While sun bleaching looks like a simple, convenient alternative to commercial bleach, it has its drawbacks. Over time, the sun's rays can weaken the fabric of the garment, making it much more susceptible to damage and wear. For this reason, you shouldn't leave your clothes in the sun longer than they should be. As soon as the white clothes are dry, bring the laundry into the house, so the clothes will last much longer.
Method 4 of 4: Using bleach safely while washing
Step 1. Only use bleach on whites
In general, bleach should only be used on white areas of clothing. Bleach is great for all-white clothes, but colored ones can damage them. Bleach can discolor colored clothing, leaving you with pale, faded clothing. Worse, if bleach is spilled undiluted directly onto colored clothing, it can result in a patchy, uneven lightening of the fabric where the bleach splashes onto the shirt. This is why keep colored items away from bleach.
To be clear, there are actually two different types of bleach: chlorine bleach, which is only suitable for whites, for the reasons listed above, and oxygen bleach, which is usually sold as a cleaning agent with the prefix "Oxi" in the name (for example, OxiClean or Oxi Action and so on). In some situations, oxygen bleach can be used to clean stains on colored clothing. However, since chlorine bleach is what most people tend to think of when they hear the word bleach, we focused on this type of bleach for safety reasons
Step 2. Check for color fastness on the inner surface of the material
While chlorine bleach is generally not recommended for cleaning colored clothing, oxygenated bleach can usually be safely used in small amounts for “color fast” clothing; that is, colored clothing that does not shed. Sometimes this information is found on the garment's care label. If this is not the case, you can check the color fastness of the item with a little test:
Mix 1 tablespoon of oxygenated bleach in 1 glass of water. Dip a cotton swab or cotton ball into the mixture and use it to apply just a drop or so to one of the inner seams of the garment (or another part of the garment that is unlikely to be seen). Wait about 10 minutes, then check if the colors have faded. If so, don't use bleach to clean your clothes
Step 3. Do not use bleach on wool, mohair, leather, silk, or spandex
Bleach is a powerful cleaning agent; yes, whites will turn white again, but weak fabrics can be irreparably damaged. In general, this is the reason why you should not use bleach on any type of garment made from the materials listed above. Bleach can sometimes ruin or severely discolor garments made from these fabrics. If you wash white clothes made from this material (i.e. white wool, white mohair, and so on), you should most likely use hydrogen peroxide or another mild bleach instead of the standard one.
If in doubt, refer to the label on the garment. The above list is not meant to be exhaustive, so if you are not 100% sure whether you can actually use bleach on a particular garment, look at the garment label
Step 4. Don't mix bleach and ammonia
As noted above, never, never, never mix bleach and ammonia for any garment cleaning job. These two basic cleaning agents can be very harmful when combined and produce dangerous chloramine gases that can injure (or, if you are constantly exposed to them, even kill you). Chloramine gases are not what you want in your home, so keep ammonia away from bleach. The following are just a few of the effects of exposure to chloramine gas:
- Chest pain
- Irritation of the mouth, eyes and throat
- Use regular bleach if the shirt is completely white, and oxygen bleach if the shirt is colored.
- Rinse clothes well in cold water after washing them in bleach or other cleaning products.
- Wear gloves!
- Think carefully before bleaching. The bleach CANNOT be RINSED OUT, so don't use it on anything you don't want to bleach permanently.
- Be careful when using bleach as it is a harmful chemical, keep it away from the skin around your eyes and do not swallow it.
- Don't overdo it with bleach, as it can turn things yellow.