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Between dingy coloration and under-arm stains, you may be about to dump that white top you loved so much only a couple of months ago. Sure it's a favorite, and it fits like a dream, but there's nothing you can do about dull whites, right? Wrong. There's absolutely no reason to toss a well-loved top just because it has lost its former brightness. Show that shirt a little TLC and it will be back in your closet, working its magic again in no time.
When to Wash
It may seem like an obvious time-saving trick to toss a white top back in your closet after only a short wear. In fact, you may blame extra washes for turning your whites dingy or yellowed. But leaving a clean-looking white shirt unwashed may actually be causing the yellowing you're trying to avoid. Stains from body oils, perspiration and perfume all develop over time, so wash whites after every wear, no matter how brief.
Nothing says "yuck" quite like glaring yellow-brown stains under your arms. Thanks to a combination of your sweat and antiperspirant, you may have tossed far too many white tops, but not anymore. Treat the stain right away. For a washable shirt, create a solution of one part water to four parts dishwashing detergent and spray it onto the armpits of the shirt. Scrub it with a toothbrush and wash immediately. For non-washable shirts, either blot with water, or use the dry-clean-safe stain remover provided in at-home dry cleaning kits. Dry clean the top immediately. To prevent underarm yellowing, wear an undershirt or purchase the Garment Guard underarm shields recommended by "Real Simple" magazine.
Washing With Bleach
Bleach can be your biggest laundry ally or your most fearsome foe. Always wash bleach-safe and non-bleach-safe whites separately. In general, tougher fabrics like T-shirts are bleach-safe, and more delicate fabrics and anything with spandex or an elastic are not. Try bleaching bleach-safe whites every time you wash if dinginess is a recurring issue. Switch out regular detergent for a gentler one if you notice or are concerned about wear and tear on your clothing. Most bleach containers will list on the bottle how much to use for various load sizes, and there are some brands available in laundry-appropriate scents. It's also essential to allow your washer to fill at least halfway with water before adding the bleach if you do not have a bleach dispenser. Tossing the bleach into a nearly empty washer and adding clothes may damage the clothing.
Washing Without Bleach
The variety of non-bleach products for whites is astounding, and each claims to be the best. There are laundry boosters like OxiClean, non-chlorine bleach detergents like Clorox 2, and liquid bluing, which can all be used according to the product's instructions. The best product to use, however, will depend on the size of your load, presence and severity of stains and fabric to be washed. To skip all of these pricier options, though, you can take a little extra time and use products you probably have around your home. Use two tablespoons of liquid dish soap in a sink full of hot water as a pre-soak, and allow clothes to rest in the solution for 15 minutes. Drain the sink, rinse the whites and remove them. Refill the sink with hot water, add 2 tbsp. of ammonia and return the clothes to the water, allowing them to sit for another 15 minutes. Drain the sink and rinse the clothes again. Finally, wash the clothes in the washing machine with hot water and regular detergent. If you have space to hang your clothes outdoors rather than drying them in the dryer, do so; sunlight will help the whitening process.