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how to wash white clothes

How to wash white clothes?

Easy. There's one rule you should never break: Always wash whites separately from colored clothes.

I know, I know. You're in a rush and sending the whole load through a cold-water wash is a lot quicker.

But the result is often that your whites emerge looking gray, yellow, or worse - with a lovely tie-dye effect.

Unless that's the look you're going for, take the time protect your white clothing investment from such colorful intermingling. Your efforts will pay off in the long run with cleaner, whiter whites that will last longer in your wardrobe lineup.

1. wash white clothes separately from lights and darks.

White clothes should always get the separate treatment - away from light and dark clothes. 

Even older non-white clothes can transfer color, or just make the white clothes look gray and dingy. From there:

  • Sort your white laundry by amount of soil, wash cycle needed, and water temperature required. (Read fabric care labels before you wash. Your white clothes will last longer if you care for them as recommended.)
  • Sort lint givers, like towels, from lint takers, like corduroy.
  • Separate delicates from heavy clothes such as jeans. If you over wash delicates, they're going to lose their shape quicker and you run the risk of snagging on heavier items. 
  • Don't wash heavily soiled white laundry, such as gardening duds, with your fine lingerie.
  • To keep snags and lint to a minimum, zip zippers, button buttons, brush away lint, and empty pockets before tossing clothes into the washing machine. 

2. laundry temperature for white clothes.

It pays to know your fibers when choosing the laundry temperature for white clothes. (Tip: Always choose "cold" for the rinse-water temperature. It saves energy and is just as effective.) Here's how to wash white clothes, based on the fabric:


  • Acrylic
  • Acetate
  • Cashmere
  • Cotton
  • Linen
  • Lycra/Spandex
  • Nylon/Rayon
  • Polyester
  • Washable silk
  • Washable wool


  • Cool
  • Warm
  • Cool
  • Cool to Hot, depending on weave
  • Warm
  • Warm
  • Cool
  • Warm
  • Cool
  • Cool

Once you've selected the right water temperature, turn on the machine and add detergent and laundry boosters, such as color-safe bleach, bleach, and/or fabric softener (for fluffier white clothes). 

If you don't have a special dispenser for the boosters, just pour them into the wash water once the machine is filled. If your white laundry is heavily soiled, if you're washing a large load, or if you're using cold water, add extra detergent.

3. don't overload the washing machine.

If you have to stuff them in, you've got too much stuff to stuff in one load.

The machine should be no more more than two-thirds full. The clothes need to tumble around to get clean. Unsure? Watch for rollover of small items such as socks when the machine is washing.

They should sink and reappear later. If they don't, they're too cramped for their own good. And yours.

4. check wet clothes for stains before placing in the dryer.

After your whites have been washed, check for any remaining stains you can see. Re-wash if needed.

If you dry stained clothes in the dryer, the heat will set the stains - regardless of the clothing color.

5. don't over dry clothes.

Keep in mind that it's best to dry loads of laundry that are similar in fiber content and weight.

  • Heavier stuff, such as towels and sweatshirts, require more heat and time in the dryer than lighter clothes, such as gym shorts and swimsuits.
  • Dry only full loads. Tumbling a handful of white laundry prolongs the drying time by reducing the tumbling. Don't over stuff the dryer, either. Overloading causes wrinkles and increases drying time, too. 
  • Set the dryer heat and time for the most delicate item in the load. Don't us a high or regular setting for all clothes. Read the label.
  • Fibers that don't absorb lots of water, such as microfibers, nylon, and acrylic, dry faster and need a lower temperature setting than other fabrics do. 

Leave clothes in the dryer just long enough to remove wrinkles and moisture. Some fabrics, such as Spandex and linen, will be damaged or shrink when dried with too much heat. 

Check out the Clean Organized Home Store for laundry products specially made for white clothes, and other laundry supplies to help ensure all your clothes stay clean and bright - safely.

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About the Author

Tara Aronson

Tara Aronson is a native Californian. Having grown up in San Diego, she studied journalism and Spanish to pursue a career in newspaper writing. Tara, whose three children - Chris, Lyndsay, and Payne - are the light of her life, now lives and writes in Los Angeles. She also regularly appears on television news programs throughout the U.S.