Dingy, graying or yellowing laundry? You don't have to toss it and you don't have to live with it. There are simple ways to brighten clothing and household linens without resorting to expensive chemical products that can be dangerous to us. Bleaches, enzymes and pretreatments have their place, but why spend money when you don't have to?
Is your laundry dingy and graying or yellowing? If you don't want to spend lots of dollars on bleaches and enzymes and pretreatments or throw out the clothing entirely, there are ways to get and keep your laundry bright and beautiful again!
The method to use depends on the material. Synthetics generally do not respond well to bleaches and some pretreatments, so don't use those unless the label specifically says that it's all right
The best methods are both frugal and effective. Use common sense in choosing the best treatment for the material. For instance, you wouldn't boil wool unless you wanted to felt it and you wouldn't want to hang dark colors in the sun for a couple of days.
For white clothes and light colors, hang the item to dry in the sun. Leave it there all day or even two days, turning it around about halfway through so that it gets even exposure.
Another old fashioned solution: Boil the laundry on the stove - microwaves can damage fabric - with just a little detergent. Stir it now and then with a wooden spon or a clean, sturdy stick, then when it looks clean, rinse several times in warm water, then in cold water. It's best to hang clothing to dry after boiling to allow the fibers to return to their original shape.
A tip that's more modern is to wash clothing in ammonia. A secret that probably won't appeal to many, but works very well anyway, is to soak stained clothing in urine. Since urine contains ammonia, using ammonia may allow the same result without the "eww" factor. Ammonia or urine is especially good for nylons and other synthetics that have yellowed or dulled.
If you're dealing with pure cotton material or material that's marked colorfast, use liquid bleach in the wash water now and then. Use the bleach dispenser or mix a half cup with a quart of water before adding.
Note: Never mix bleach of any kind with ammonia of any kind, as this will create dangerous fumes.
If you have dingy whites, try some old fashioned bluing in the rinse water. You can still buy it at most hardware stores, or do a search for it online.
For spots and stains, use a bar of plain hand soap and scrub the article this way: Wet the material, rub the bar soap into it, then rub the article against itself hard in your hand. This takes some elbow grease, but it works very well. Work over the entire article if it's dingy, then rinse well in lukewarm water and launder as usual
Sometimes grayed material is caused by too much detergent or detergent that is not being rinsed thoroughly. Wash the items without any detergent at all, and use white vinegar in the rinse water. You may have to do this two or three times, but as the detergent is removed, the colors will brighten. Vinegar neutralizes detergent and helps separate it from the fibers, so it's the important part of this method.
If the material can stand it, wash it in HOT water. Some grimes, like body oils, simply do not wash out well in cold water regardelss of the detergent used.
Many of these methods were used when everyone's laundry was on the clothesline first thing Monday morning and everyone could see if a housewife was a slacker. If all of her laundry wasn't bright, white and looking clean, everyone knew!