Chlorine bleach has become a laundry staple for most of us today. Considering the average American family does an average of 6-7 loads of laundry every week, that adds up to quite a bit of bleach and detergent over time!
Bleach can be harsh to sensitive skin, and it can also be hard on your clothes. What if you could effectively whiten your clothes without the use of bleach?
Here are some more natural and gentle whitening methods.
Pre-Soak Your Laundry with Lemons
First, check fabric care instructions to be sure it can handle laundering in hot water. Do not use this method on fabrics that are recommended to be washed in cold water.
Fill a bucket or basin with hot water and 1-2 sliced lemons, depending on how dirty your clothes are. Add your whites, and let soak for one to two hours before washing as you normally would in your washing machine.
For an extra boost, boil the water first, add the lemons and your whites, and let sit overnight.
You may want to sun dry your lemon-treated whites (see below), as high heat from the dryer can cause the lemon juice to turn brown.
Distilled white vinegar is not only a powerful natural whitener, it also softens fabric while eliminating the musty/moldy smell clothes sometimes acquire. Pour about one-quarter cup of vinegar into your washing machine's bleach dispenser before running a load or in the fabric softener dispenser for the final rinse cycle.
If your whites need some more help, try soaking them for a few hours in water and one cup of white vinegar before washing.
Baking soda is a natural, safe way to get your whites sparkling. Add 1/2 cup into your laundry cycle, and run the load. For larger loads, add a full cup of baking soda.
Hydrogen peroxide is well known to disinfect cuts and scrapes, but it's also a great way to get your whites even whiter. Start a load with 3 percent hydrogen peroxide solution into your detergent or bleach dispenser, then run the load as you normally would.
Speaking of greener ways to freshen up your whites, how about a lower electric bill (up to 4 percent) by drying your whites on a clothes line outdoors in the sun? Nothing beats the smell and feel of freshly sun-dried whites. If you use lemon juice in your natural whitening process, high dryer heat will turn residual lemon juice a brownish color, so that's another good reason to dry your clothes out in the sun.
Sun drying your clothes also prevents shrinking and fading often caused by your dryer, but don't leave them hanging outside too long. UV rays can cause sunburn on your skin, but in excess, they can also discolor your clothes, so turn them inside out and limit drying time to no more than two hours.
A Concentrated Solution
To make your own whitening concentrated laundry solution, combine one cup of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide, 1/2 cup baking soda, 1/4 cup lemon juice, then 4-8 cups water in a large bowl or container (less water = more concentrated).
Place your whites (or white item) in the solution. Let soak out in the sun if possible, for several hours. The sunshine bolsters the whitening power of the solution, especially the lemon juice.
After soaking, rinse thoroughly with water, then run through the washing machine. Sun dry to avoid the browning effect from the lemon juice.
Hydrogen Peroxide and Baking Soda for Stubborn Stains
A paste made from hydrogen peroxide and baking soda works magic on the underarm stains and other stubborn stains on your whites. Mix equal parts of hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, and water to make your paste. Cover stains with about a ¼” of paste and allow to sit for 30 to 60 minutes before laundering. Remove any extra paste with a brush or toothbrush, and then toss your load in for washing.
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