Over time (and the course of many washing cycles), my white shirts all turn gray.
How should I treat these shirts to maintain their crisp white appearance?

I have read How to make a yellowish white shirt become perfectly white again and How to clean blood from white clothes which both seem to recommend bleach / hydrogen peroxide - should I run every load of white shirts with bleach?

I am not combining the white shirts with other colored items.

2 Answers 2


Loss of brighteners from the fabric will cause whites to become dull even if bleached every wash. You need to put the brighteners back to restore the whiteness to its original value. There are commercial laundry products that offer this -- generally they're sold as "brightening" detergents aimed mainly at colors, but they'll brighten whites as well.

An old fashioned solution specific to whites, to overcome the yellowish tint they tend to acquire, was bluing -- but I don't know if bluing is even available in the laundry section of the supermarket any more (haven't looked for it in ages). Bluing isn't really a brightener, but it offsets the yellowish natural color of cotton and linen, to make them seem whiter. It won't restore the brightness of modern treated fabrics, but it may help some.

  • @HungryWolf Brighteners actually make fabric fluoresce. (Look at a new white shirt with a UV light in a dark closet). So you've really got two problems (and this post addresses them both): 1) changing the yellow color to white and 2) renewing the fluorescence.
    – Χpẘ
    Commented Mar 27, 2017 at 23:01

Grey: Your clothing may be picking up mineral deposits; try a bit of vinegar in the wash. Yellow: If your clothing is polyester, bleach can actually cause yellowing. Pink: If your whites look pink, look for that one stinking new-ish red item that you left over from the previous wash :-)

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