How do I get my towels white again?

This is such a Suzie Homemaker question, but… For our wedding, we got these awesome, thick 100% cotton white towels. I have always been careful to wash them separately, in hot water, with non-chlorine bleach. The tags say not to use chlorine bleach on them. Well, after a year they are a dingy greyish. I think maybe it’s because we have hard water that is remedied by a water softener.

Is there any way to restore the whiteness of these towels? I’m afraid to ruin them by using chlorine bleach, so I’m looking for other ways of whitening them.

Thanks for any tips.

Never mind, I see you have already.

Using chlorine bleach on them once isn’t going to make them dissolve or anything. Cotton’s cotton- if you can wash t-shirts in bleach, you can wash towels in bleach, if they’re white.

I’d just wash them on hot with 2/3 cup bleach, and see if that makes a difference.

I would take this one step farther.
Put the bleach in the hot water and dissolve it in there, add towels, and let them sit in the bleach water for a couple of hours. Then add detergent and run the machine.

You might try this with maybe half of your towels, and then compare to see if it really made a difference.

I also highly recommend OxyClean, even if Billy Mays is the most obnoxious motherfucker on the planet.

Is that like OxyClean? I looked at it today and that stuff is $12 a box! If that’s the only way to do it, then I will spring for it.

I read online something about white vinegar and baking soda. Can that actually work, and if so, how much do you use and at what point in the wash cycle do you put it in?

Actually, I hadn’t thought of that, but yeah, I’d at least try it. I really have heard good things about it.

Have you tried a borax soak/wash?
It’s pretty good at removing hard water/detergent buildup.

I don’t know of any towelmakers that use color-specific labels. The reason it says no chlorine bleach is 'cause the same label is going into a blue or green or brown towel, and the dye in that might not hold up to bleach, sure.

I’d bleach 'em. Heck, I even bleach colored sheets, although I use a smaller amount of bleach that I do for whites. Most of them, no matter what their labels say, come through just fine, although I’ve had a few sheet sets turn from green to beige on me. I’ve learned to wash all parts of the set together so if they change color, they change to the SAME color! :smiley:

ETA: Although **Squink **might be onto something with the Borax angle - grey usually means dead skin cells and oils trapped in the fibers of your “clean” laundry, and Borax’ll clean that gunk out.

You might try blueing them. It’s a very old remedy for dingy whites, but it works. It’s a bit complicated, but follow the directions and your towels will be dazzling again.

Good luck.

I have all white towels, as well as a white shower curtain (it’s towel material), white bathmats, and a dirty little brown dog.

OxyClean is really kind of a miracle - the towels are TOTALLY white (and some of them are quite old) despite being used on poodle face.

Blueing is to help dingy whites that have turned yellow, but I’m not sure it will help with the gray version.

Shoot…I buy all 100% cotton towels that are white or light in color and bleach the hell out of them. After a couple of years I usually have to replace them and the formerly light colored ones are even lighter, but I have towels that are as clean as the newly-showered skin they’re used to dry. YMMV.

I thought the whole purpose of white towels is that you can bleach them when you need to?

Advanced laundry:
Thoroughly wet the towels in warmish water; if you have a newer washing machine, use the electronic temperature controlled ‘cold’ water. Add borax, agitate thoroughly, and soak for half an hour. Add detergent, and run through the wash cycle with a single rinse, adding more borax in the rinse cycle. This might be enough; just add borax to every wash or rinse.

Still dingy? Pour the borax directly under the water inlet and use the hottest water you can; fill the washer, add detergent, agitate thoroughly, and add the bleach while agitating. [Never add bleach to dry clothes]. Soak for fifteen minutes, tops.

Rinse in warm water if you have the option. Add more borax to the first rinse. Add blueing to the second rinse. [Yes, you really do need to dilute the blueing.] If the towels are really dingy, let them soak for about half an hour in each rinse.

Add borax to the rinse water all the time, use blueing in a second rinse every month or so, and bleach as necessary.

This is it, exactly. You shouldn’t use chlorine bleach on colors, but whites need it to stay white. That’s what chlorine bleach is for.

That’s a really unusual nickname for an SO.

(Runs away. :smiley: )

I’m gonna third the borax. If what you have really is due to hard water, oxidants like bleach and OxyClean are not the first thing I would go for. Inorganic things don’t always oxidize to colorless although you could make them more soluble and wash away.

After doing the borax soak, dry them in the sun. Sunlight is a natural bleach.

I don’t know about baking soda, but you can put white vinegar in the rinse cycle in place of fabric softener. Go ahead and put it right in the fabric softener dispenser; use the same amount you would for non-concentrated softener. It helps get all the detergent out of your wash, which makes the fabric feel softer and may help restore colors/whiteness.

Fabric softener on towels is generally not a great idea anyway, as it sticks to the fabric (that’s what it’s meant to do!) and reduces absorbancy.

My daughter’s riding instructor, who has to deal with a lot of ground-in dirt and still have her show clothes look good, was talking up Oxyclean. Shortly thereafter, I got a few drops of blood on a white polo shirt and didn’t notice until it was dried. I tried the stuff and it really does work.

OxyClean is great! It’s worth the cost. If the towels are super dingy, I’d soak them in a mixture of bleach and OxyClean for an hour or so and then add detergent and run the cycle. If the towels are 100% cotton with no colored trim, the chlorine bleach isn’t going to harm them.