Dingy white towels

texasgal2February 25, 2006

My once white hand towels in the master bath are dingy and grayish color now. I have used Oxy-clean, bleach, tried cold water, hot water and in between but they are still not really white. Should I just buy new ones ?


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Yes.....if you need an excuse! LOL!
If they are not 100% cotton they can absorb colors from other items in the wash and get dingy.....that's how my drawer of cleaning cloths stays full!!
Linda C

    Bookmark   February 25, 2006 at 12:01PM
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Actually I don't want to buy new ones but I might have to. They are 100% cotton so why can't I get them white? Any suggestions?

    Bookmark   February 25, 2006 at 8:01PM
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There is an old-fashioned product, Mrs. Stewart's Bluing, which is made brighten white laundry which has become grey or yellowed. It's probably at your grocery store. Follow directions carefully and don't get the straight stuff on your laundry or it stains blue for-ever.

Here is a link that might be useful: Mrs. Stewart's Bluing

    Bookmark   February 25, 2006 at 9:49PM
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Did you try soaking them in bleach for several hours? Or soaking them in Oxiclean overnight? Sometimes it takes more than just a wash. I soak my dish towels every few months in a bleach solution for an afternoon to get them back to looking like new. Very hot water to start the soak.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2006 at 11:23AM
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What detergent do you use?...Some "organic" detergents don't contain optical brighteners....which are simply white dyes. Look for one that contains optical brighteners....and soak the towels in a very very strong solution of that detergent....and wash without bleach....see if that helps....and bluing coundn't hurt!
Linda C

    Bookmark   February 26, 2006 at 1:50PM
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Adding bluing doesn't get to the root of the problem, which is probably hard water, bluing just masks it. It's an optical illusion because bluing contain a blue dye or pigment which is taken up by fabrics in the wash or rinse. Bluing absorbs the yellow part of the light spectrum, counteracting the natural yellowing of many fabrics.

To get to the root of the problem, use a sofetner product in both your wash and rinse cycles because hard water minerals can gray your towels/clothes. If you have hard water, add 1/2 cup of white distilled vinegar to your rinse water. Another add-in for whiter whites is to add 1/2 cup of borax to wash cycle.

In some cases, mixing chlorine bleach and hard water will actually yellow clothes due to some types of minerals in the water and how they mix with chlorine.
And there's the old-fashioned "natural" whitener - the sun.

Here is a "Stain Out" solution found in one of the Tightwad Gazette books, by Amy Dacyczyn - it also works to whiten.

Stain Out
1 c. powdered Cascade (automatic dishwasher detergent)
1 c. Clorox II
Add to 5 gallons of the hottest tap water. Soak overnight. Use for color-fast articles ONLY.

I've also read where just using the Cascade and hot water soak will remove the dingy gray hardwater mineral deposits from white clothes.


    Bookmark   February 26, 2006 at 2:18PM
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I use Cascade or Cascade with not only the bleach but a cup of detergent too to get out bad stains.

My question for you -- Do you wash the white towels with white things only? That's important to keeping whites at their best white.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2006 at 3:40PM
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Wasn't there a whitening soak "formula" floating around on the Laundry Forum" way back when? It contained Borax and I think bleach and something else. It was supposed to make whites white again.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2006 at 5:11PM
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Thanks to all of you that responded. So many good suggestions! I do wash other things with the towels so I guess the problem starts there. When I get them white again, I will just wash the towels by themselves. I am going to try some of these ideas, including the bluing and the hanging them in the sunshine. Will let you know how it works out. Thanks again. What a great forum !

    Bookmark   February 26, 2006 at 10:29PM
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When I want to get something white, whiter I soak in Bleach and then hang on my good ole clothesline outside in the sun. Seems to work for me!

    Bookmark   March 14, 2006 at 10:42PM
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I use Washing Soda (borax)...adding when I start filling washer before putting whites in (about 1/2 cup to each load.) This works for me & my white towels are about 8 yrs old, and still look new. White towels are never washed with anything else...even colored ones, which are also washed alone. I let washer to fill 'n start, then open lid so load soaks for awhile, turn back to agitate again & finish the cycle.

Washing soda takes out stains (tomato based sauces, blood, etc.)that previously required peroxide/stain removers, etc., and I use it with all laundry. Also leaves everything much softer.

Detergent manufacturers say their product should be added as washer fills, but nearly everyone makes the mistake of adding it after.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2006 at 9:05AM
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Texasgal2 try "Whitener & Brightener" by Rit Dye put a box in with a load of towels and they'll come out as white as new.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2006 at 6:51PM
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Re: grittymitts (Suzy): Washing soda and borax are not the same thing. Washing soda is sodium carbonate, or soda ash. Borax is sodium borate, or sodium tetraborate. Both can be used in the laundry, but they are not the same product. In fact, both can be used to make your own laundry soap. Check out my homemaking blog for more info on that (pertinent posts are between July 31, 2006 and August 15, 2006).

Here is a link that might be useful: Homemaking blog

    Bookmark   August 16, 2006 at 11:57AM
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I have white wash clothes that look dirty. What happened was I used bdy wash liquid soap and when they mixed with the oils from my skin they stained the wash clothes. I'm so upset because I paid good money for these thick 100% cotton wash clothes and they are black. My rag pile is much bigger than my usable linen pile now. I use Borax in the wash and vinegar in the rinse and that hasn't made a difference. I think I will try the Cascade recipe. Don't have anything to lose at this point.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2006 at 4:41PM
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The cascade recipe is great... I use that a lot. I will also use liquid dishwasher soap on stains on WHITE clothes (it DOES bleach... do not put it directly on colored clothes). It takes out perspiration stains, blood stains and all sorts of things.... I'd be tempted to just use that in a soak cycle with the towels... and plenty of hot water.... and rinsing!

    Bookmark   September 12, 2006 at 7:51PM
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