How to Whiten Laundry Without Using Chlorine Bleach
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How to Whiten Laundry Without Using Chlorine Bleach

How to whiten laundry without using chlorine bleach.

Whites--they are beautiful when new but can quickly become dingy over time.  Chlorine bleach is a harsh way to whiten laundry, shortening fabric life and leaving a yellowish hue caused by oxidation. Color-safe bleaches are often ineffective, leaving most users frustrated and avoiding white items in future purchases.

There is a little-known secret to whitening laundry that does not require bleach, a secret weapon that you may have under your kitchen sink right now.  That secret is ammonia. Ammonia is a heavy-duty cleaning and degreasing agent, capable of removing stains that other cleaners can't.  The primary thing about using ammonia is to avoid all contact with bleach.  Depending upon the concentration of each substance, bleach and ammonia can produce a deadly gas or even explode under the right conditions, so be cautious and avoid mixing the two substances. 

Things You'll Need:

Dirty load of whites

Top-load washing machine

1 cup of ammonia

1/4 teaspoon of Mrs. Stewart's Laundry Bluing (for an extra-bright white) 

1/2 cup vinegar or fabric softener for the rinse (vinegar recommended)

Step One:

Fill the washing machine with hot water.  

Step Two:

Add the recommended amount of your preferred laundry detergent to the washer.

Step Three:

Add 1 cup of ammonia to the washer.

Step Four:

Add 1/4 teaspoon of Mrs. Stewart's Laundry Bluing to the washer. Note: washer water should be a light blue tint after adding this.

Step Five:

Allow the washer to agitate for a moment to mix these items thoroughly.

Step Six:

Add your whites to the washer.  Make sure that the laundry has plenty of room to agitate (do not overstuff the washer).

Step Seven:

Allow your washer to thoroughly agitate your laundry on a long cycle. If your washer does not have two rinse cycles, turn your knob back during the rinse cycle to give your clothes that second rinse cycle.  This extra rinse helps to make sure your washer removes as much leftover detergent from your laundry as possible, which will lessen discoloration of your whites.

Step Eight:

Add the fabric softener or vinegar to the final rinse cycle.

Step Nine:

Dry your laundry as usual.

Using ammonia instead of bleach on your white laundry will eliminate the yellowing that is common in bleached items.  It will also reduce or eliminate any stains already on the white laundry, causing it to be whiter.  Mrs. Stewart's Laundry Bluing is an optical brightener that has been in use for generations and will give your whites that "pop" so loved on new white items.  Using vinegar instead of fabric softener will help your washer remove any detergent residue left on the laundry without leaving an overpowering smell.


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Comments (6)
Ranked #15 in Home Cleaning

I did not know about the use of ammonia for whitening laundry. I haven't checked, but is it cheaper than bleach?

Here it is a bit cheaper. Dollar General sells a 2-quart bottle for $1, while a 3-quart bottle of bleach is close to $2 of the name-brand stuff.

Ranked #31 in Home Cleaning

Distilled vinegar is also good, -and it neutralizes the alkalinity of the detergents for those of us (taking a bow) that are uber-sensitive to soaps and lotions. And vinegar also loosens stains, whitens whites and brightens colors. I tried some commercial preparations like 'DIDI-7' and 'OXY-CLEAN,' -these products are crap and don't work. Seriously disappointed with both of those products.

I haven't tried DIDI-7 but I have tried Oxy-Clean. Costs a fortune but doesn't do a thing! Thanks for reading!

I use ammonia to wash my colored sheets and towels- it works great! Also, I generally have good luck with Oxy-Clean, but will stick with ammonia for the sheets and towels.

I realize this article is old, but since it still came up in the search, and is still being read, I want to correct something for future reaaders of the article. As a chemist there is one small but very important correction: Bluing should not be added to the wash water, but to the final rinse water. Bluing prevents yellowing and dingy grey hues on fabric caused by repeated washings with soap and chlorine, minerals etc. Adding it to the wash cycle defeats the action of the bluing. Bluing works best in a second rinse cycle when the majority of soap is gone. Vinegar is added to the first rinse cycle.