How to Clean White Shirts

by Jill Leviticus ; Updated September 28, 2017

It’s not easy to keep white shirts looking as clean and white as the day you bought them. White tends to show wear and stains more than darker colors, making it a challenge to clean white shirts to your satisfaction. If your shirts are starting to look more gray than white, it’s time to take steps to restore them to their original appearance. Following proper laundry techniques and promptly removing stains will ensure that your white shirts look brand new no matter when you bought them.

Items you will need

  • 1/2 cup water softener, borax or washing soda
  • Liquid chlorine bleach
  • Non-chlorine bleach
  • Clean cloth
  • Liquid laundry detergent
Step 1

Wash white shirts in a separate load using hot water. White clothes can pick up some of the colored dye from darker clothes if you don’t separate your laundry before washing.

Step 2

Add ½ cup of water softener, borax or washing soda to your load of whites if you have hard water. Using these additives will increase the effectiveness of the laundry detergent.

Step 3

Use extra laundry detergent if your clothes are very dirty, you have hard water or if you are using chlorine bleach in the load.

Step 4

Use chlorine bleach only if the shirt’s care label states that chlorine bleach can be used. Dilute 1 cup of bleach in 1 quart of water before adding the bleach to the washing machine.

Step 5

Use non-chlorine oxygen bleach on types of fabric that cannot withstand washing in chlorine bleach. recommends using oxygen bleach rather than chlorine bleach if your water is high in iron, as the combination of iron and hot water can make your white shirts look yellow.


  • Use a separate laundry hamper for white clothes to prevent a stray sock of piece of colored clothing from accidentally finding its way into your load of white clothing. While washing colored clothes in hot water is not recommended because high temperatures can cause premature fading, fading is not a concern with white clothing. Hot water is the best temperature choice to keep whites looking bright.

    Treat stains promptly by blotting any solid material with a clean cloth. Use another clean cloth to gently rub the stain with a mixture of water and liquid laundry detergent. Be sure to use only cold water when working with protein stains, such as blood, mud or chocolate, as warm water may set these stains into the fabric.

    Fort Valley State University College of Agriculture, Home Economics and Allied Programs recommends hanging white clothing outside to dry on sunny days. When you dry clothing outdoors, a natural bleaching effect occurs due to exposure to the sun.


  • Don’t use more than the recommended amount of chlorine bleach when washing white shirts. Bleach can be harsh on clothes and can cause tears or holes in clothing if not used properly.

Photo Credits

  • Nathan Shepard/Demand Media