White clothing and linens may lose their sparkle after several washes and can start to look dingy. They can also be quickly and easily stained, and it can be difficult to keep them looking clean over time. Many people turn to chlorine bleach when their whites turn dull, but bleach is a powerful chemical that may cause irritation to the eyes, lungs, and skin.
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A safe alternative is using white distilled vinegar, a pantry staple that you likely already have in your kitchen. Vinegar whitens clothing and is a nontoxic, much-milder household chemical than chlorine bleach.
Vinegar Has Multiple Uses
Vinegar for white clothing may sound counterintuitive, but it works well to naturally whiten whites. Not only does vinegar make whites whiter, but it also brightens colors and acts as a natural fabric softener. You don't have to worry about vinegar fading colorful clothes because it will actually help prevent fading.
Vinegar is also wonderful at removing odors. If you have boxes or bags of clothing in the basement or attic and you want to get rid of the musty or mildewed smells before you reuse, recycle, or donate them, toss them in the washing machine with 1/4 cup of vinegar during the rinse cycle and you'll be pleasantly surprised at the fresh-smelling results.
Use Vinegar in the Wash Cycle
When you want to use vinegar to whiten clothes, you'll run your washing machine as you would for any normal wash cycle:
- Check clothing labels before placing stained or dingy white clothing in the washing machine. Make sure the clothing isn't made of acetate, rayon, or silk when using vinegar.
- Add laundry detergent, select the cool water cycle, and run the washing machine.
- Pour vinegar into the fabric softener compartment of the machine, typically 1/4 cup, during the rinse cycle.
- Hang clothing to dry or dry it in the dryer.
Avoid using vinegar with bleach as this can produce toxic vapors.
Soak Socks Overnight
Sometimes, you will want to soak certain garments overnight, such as stained or dirty white socks, in a mixture of vinegar and hot water: