What Do I Do if My White Clothes Turned Gray in Wash?

If you don't sort beforehand, your clothes will discolor.

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Clean, crisp whites are sophisticated for work and sweet for summer dressing. The problem is, if you don't care for them just right, they'll discolor to gray or beige quickly. You can reverse the clothing curse by bleaching or with bleach-free means, but you've also got to troubleshoot the problem to stop the cycle.

Why it Happens

Sometimes, colored items slip into your wash with the whites and discolor them. Other times, your whites do not get rinsed well enough in the laundry or don't get washed with enough soap. If you've got naturally hard water, you might fight gray discoloration more often. Drying clothes for too long can also discolor them. You can treat clothes to get them white again, but try to determine the cause of discolored garments or it will happen again!


Place your dirty whites back in the washer and set the temperature to hot. Start the washer. Add about one cup of water softener and put your hand in the washer. If the water feels slippery to the touch, you're set. Otherwise, add more. Watch to see if suds develop; if they do, your clothes need a rinse. Wash the clothes again with just the softened water. If your whites still appear gray, wash them in the hot water with laundry detergent.


If your white garments can be bleached, that will get the gray out quickly. Run the laundry through again on hot water, and add twice the laundry soap you typically use. Let the wash cycle run for four minutes, then halt it. Pour in one cup of chlorine bleach, diluted in one cup water. Add the bleach slowly so it doesn't burn garments. Again, give the wash cycle four minutes to run, then pause it and let the bleach soak in for 15 minutes. Give the washer 10 more minutes to agitate with the bleach, then turn the wash cycle back to the beginning and let it run through on its own.

Care Tips

Air dry your whites fully, or heat dry them until they feel damp and then hang them to dry the rest of the way. This prevents graying due to overdrying. Air drying outside allows the sun to naturally bleach whites. Also, pretreat stains before washing and wash whites after each wear to keep them their cleanest.

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