How to Whiten Laundry Without Bleach
By Erin Lindholm
No bleach? No problem. Whether you don’t have bleach on hand, have sensitive skin, or are purposefully moving away from using harsh chemical cleaners in your home, bleach isn't the only way to brighten and whiten garments, bedding, and linens.
In this guide, we’ve rounded up 10 of the best all-natural solutions for how to whiten clothes without bleach, ranging from soaking in solutions in produce to adding a dollop of dish detergent to DIY stain treatments. Time to say goodbye to dingy whites once and for all.
Photo via Doodle T and Me!
The citric acid found in lemons not only makes quick work of cleaning projects around the home, but it’s also an easy way to brighten laundry without bleach.
Mix approximately 1/2 cup of lemon juice per 1 gallon of hot water (roughly four lemons cut and squeezed; it’s fine to toss the wedges in, too). Soak whites in the solution for a few hours before washing as normal in the washing machine. Line- or hang-dry the garments, as high heat from the dryer may cause the citric acid to brown.
This all-purpose ingredient does wonders in cleaning almost every surface of your house, and it's also got a magic touch for dull, dingy whites.
Add 1/2 cup of distilled white vinegar to the washing machine during the rinse cycle to help brighten whites and tackle stains. As a bonus, white vinegar also softens fabric and dissipates any musty smells.
Given the fact that baking soda manufacturer Arm & Hammer has its own line of eco-friendly laundry detergents, it’s no surprise that its signature pantry staple baking soda turns up in DIY hacks for how to whiten clothes without bleach. When added to a laundry load, baking soda works hard to dissolve any lingering grease and dirt on fabric.
At the start of your wash cycle, add 1/2 cup of baking soda to the water and swish around until it dissolves. Run the wash cycle as normal. (For extra-large loads, double up on the amount of baking soda.)
Photo via My Merry Messy Life
This gentle cleaning agent is a natural whitener. Pour 1 cup hydrogen peroxide (3% solution found in grocery stores and pharmacies) into the bleach dispenser of your washing machine at the start of your laundry cycle and run a load as usual.
You can also spot-treat fresh stains—including red wine stains and blood stains— n white clothing and textiles with hydrogen peroxide. The faster you treat the stain, the better.
When you think about it, it makes sense: Of course the products that make sparkling clean dishes can also help brighten laundry without bleach. And what’s safe to use to wash the plates, bowls, and utensils that we eat with is safe for your skin, too.
For a whitening boost for natural fiber fabrics, mix and dissolve 1/4 cup of powder dishwasher detergent per 1 gallon of hot water; soak clothes for an hour before washing as usual.
Borax is a common household ingredient found in everything from specialty toothpastes to tile cleaners. Although Borax works to enhance the power of bleach when combined with it, this agent can still whiten laundry on its own. It’s also known to neutralize odors in laundry and remove built-up soap residue from clothing.
Whitening Bleach Alternatives
A host of brands make oxygen-based bleach alternatives, including Molly’s Suds, Nellie’s, The Laundress New York, and 365 by Whole Foods Market. And there’s always OxiClean, which offers an entire range of bleach-free whitening and stain-fighting products in powder and spray form. Or, you can purchase pure sodium percarbonate—OxiClean’s primary active ingredient—and add it to your laundry loads.
Photo via Doodle T and Me!
Yes, it sounds counterintuitive, but adding a bluing agent (like Mrs. Stewart’s) to your white laundry loads will help whiten clothes and linens. The blue pigment counteracts with yellowing on fabrics, and although it will leave some blue behind, the amount is undetectable to the human eye. Be sure to carefully follow the product’s directions.
Aspiring heals headaches and backaches—and whitens small batches of laundry. The salicylic acid in aspirin is astringent enough to whiten laundry without bleach. Let 5-10 white aspirin tablets soak in hot water and add white pieces like socks, undergarments, and pillowcases. Let soak overnight and run through a regular cycle in the wash.
The sun’s UV rays are great for bleaching your whites. When possible, forgo the dryer for all-natural sun-dried sheets, towels, undershirts, and more— and save some coin, too. Set a timer to check on your garments and bedding in a few hours so you don’t forget about them out on the clothesline. Don’t be surprised if they seem noticeably brighter and whiter; consider it a little kiss from the cosmos.
Have you found ways to whiten laundry without bleach? Tell us about it in the comments below; we’d love to hear!