How to Bleach a Discolored White Shirt

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Things You'll Need

  • Bleach

  • 4 buckets

  • 3 percent hydrogen peroxide

Restore your shirts to their brightest white with bleach.

One quick wash with colored clothes, and your white shirt becomes a little less bright. In addition, frequent washes in tap water builds up mineral and metal deposits on fibers. Sweat, makeup, hair products, detergent and the occasional food stain all add up to a once white shirt that now resembles ecru. As long as your white shirt is not made from wool, silk or spandex and does not contain any colored emblems or embellishments, you can use bleach to restore your shirt to its original bright white.


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Step 1

Read the label on the shirt to verify that it is bleachable and safe to wash in hot water. If it is not safe to use hot water, you can substitute cold water, but the results will be significantly less than expected and require additional treatments.

Step 2

Mix 1 part bleach to 5 parts hot water in a bucket.

Step 3

Soak the shirt in the bleach for three to five minutes. Do not soak any longer. Bleach is a corrosive liquid, and it damages the fabric if it soaks too long in it.


Step 4

Line up three buckets, each filled with cold water. Add 1 part hydrogen peroxide to 5 parts water in the second bucket.

Step 5

Remove the shirt from the bleach bucket and immediately immerse it into the first bucket containing fresh water. Agitate the shirt to rinse bleach from the cloth.

Step 6

Move the shirt to the second bucket containing the hydrogen peroxide, agitate and then allow it to soak for 10 minutes. The hydrogen peroxide neutralizes the bleach, preventing further damage to the shirt. Hydrogen peroxide also has its own whitening properties.


Step 7

Rinse the shirt again in the final bucket of water. Do not place it back in the first water bucket containing the rinsed bleach.

Step 8

Wash the shirt in the usual manner.


Purchase 3 percent hydrogen peroxide at your local drugstore. Do not use a higher concentration of hydrogen peroxide, or you will damage the fabric.

To keep your white shirt bright, only wash it with other whites.

Add 1 cup of vinegar and 1/2 cup of baking soda to the washing machine with your detergent to boost the whitening power.


Never pour straight bleach directly onto clothing. Always work with a diluted solution.


references & resources

Erin Watson-Price

Transplanted Yankee Erin Watson-Price lives in Birmingham, Ala., and has been writing freelance articles since 1997. She worked as writer/co-editor for Coast to Coast Dachshund Rescue's newsletter, "The Long and the Short of It." In 2007 she obtained a certification as a copy editor. Watson-Price holds a Bachelor of Arts in creative writing from Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville.