How Do You Whiten Yellowed Clothing?


Quick Answer

According to Mama's Laundry Talk, the yellowing of clothes occurs because of chemical reactions with the fabric, and so to whiten the clothing, you must use substances that can reverse that chemical reaction. The most common culprit for yellowing is household bleach, sodium hypochlorite. The most common chemicals to reverse bleach effects are lemon juice and borax.

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Full Answer

Mama's Laundry Talk states that lemon juice is a mild agent for reducing yellowing that is not sufficient for all cases, but it is a good method to start with. Add one-quarter cup of lemon juice to a gallon of boiling water, and soak the affected garment for one or two hours. Then allow the garment to dry in the sun. If necessary after lemon juice, add one or two tablespoons of borax dissolved in two cups of water to the rinse cycle of your washer.

According to Mama's Laundry Talk, while bleach is usually the culprit in yellowing, the specific reactions that cause yellowing depend on the fabric involved and the water used for washing. Any polyester or polyester blend fabric is prone to yellowing from household bleach. High iron content in the water, as is common with well water, is also a likely cause. Avoiding bleach on polyester fabrics and adding water softeners to well water reduces yellowing. Using bleach more sparingly also reduces yellowing.

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