Things You'll Need
1 cup dishwashing detergent
¼ cup laundry detergent
¼ cup enzyme cleaner
1 gallon boiling water
Towels become dull over time for many reasons. Too much detergent or too little, insufficient rinsing or large washer loads can all cause white towels to turn gray. The wrong water temperature can also have that effect; typically the mistake is water that’s too cool. Also washing whites and colors together can cause white fabrics to absorb other colors and fade. Avoid these mistakes in your regular laundry routine. Hard water is another common problem when it comes to graying or yellowing towels. Hard water contains minerals such as iron, which leave deposits on fabrics that cause discoloration. Cascade dishwashing detergent is a terrific secret to brightening white towels, as it has water softening ingredients which help to break down these mineral deposits. Adding other types of softeners to your washing water will also help alleviate this problem and restore your bright white towels. Enzyme cleaners can be very effective in whitening towels and removing set-in stains. A form of protein, enzymes break down protein-type stains, including food, blood or oils. Many detergents contain enzymes, so check the ingredient lists.
Boiling works effectively at whitening towels, but don't use this technique on synthetic fabrics. Only natural fabric such as 100 percent cotton or linen will not be harmed with this technique. Bleach can often be an effective whitener, but if bleach is used in hard water, a chemical reaction can occur which in fact causes towels to yellow even more. Bleach is also damaging to fabrics and can cause them to fray and weaken.
Hotel towels always appear bright white even if they have visibly frayed with age. So how do hotel housekeepers do it? Industrial strength bleach probably plays a large role in many cases. Several other, safer options to keep towels white and looking new for a long time are available. These tricks of the trade will brighten white towels brilliantly without being as harmful to the environment or as irritating to the skin as bleach.
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Washing with Dishwashing Soap
Fill washer with hot water.
Add dishwashing detergent to the water.
Add towels to the washer.
Allow to soak overnight.
Wash in the regular cycle.
Boiling with Enzyme Cleaner
Add a gallon of water to a large pot.
Boil the water on a stove.
Mix in detergent and enzyme cleaner to the water.
Add towels to the pot.
Boil for 20 minutes.
Robyn Murray is a journalist based in Omaha, Neb. She has reported for national and international media including National Public Radio, Public Radio International and Business Day in Johannesburg. Murray holds a master's degree from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.