How I get the Whitest Whites

by Ramona on February 2, 2016

I was doing laundry a couple of weekends ago and as I was taking my husband’s long sleeve white shirts out of the dryer, I thought back to the many times he brought home compliments from staff members of the fire department on how “white” his white shirts were. The guys in the staff meeting were profoundly impressed that I could get white shirts, used during a fire scene no less, so white and spotless.

It dawned on me to ask the question on our ASG Facebook page whether others would be interested in knowing the products I use. I must admit I was actually quite surprised by the response. I think that not only does everyone know all this stuff, but in fact, they know much better methods than me. I had many respond with a resounding, “yes please!” when asked if anyone would be interested in learning what I do.

To that end, I took photos this weekend while doing a load of shirts and hopefully they will show up ok for you on this page. I honestly think it just happens to be the products I use. It took many trials and errors years ago to find something that would get white cotton pique firefighter shirts a very white “white”. When pressed, they look all but new every single time. Below are the simple steps I use and the products. We’ve always lived in areas with very hard water and I also don’t let soil sit in shirts—they are washed within a couple of days. It is a little bit of a process requiring two washings to get them this white because the products should not be mixed.

And a reminder: be sure to read and follow all the directions on the products—especially the “White Brite”. It says not to inhale the product and not to mix with other products. I used to be able to find “White Brite” in the laundry section of the grocery store or Wal-Mart, but around here it is no longer carried on the shelves so I order it through Wal-Mart for delivery to the store and pick it up there. I also searched on Amazon and there are sellers of the product through them as well.

First of all, these shirts are 100% cotton pique shirts. I also use this method for 100% cotton under shirts. I wash both types of shirts separately and never include socks or anything like that in the load. Our washer is one of those “sensing” low-water use machines, so though it is a little more work to do this, the results—for me at least—are worth him getting compliments he likes.

Here is how soiled the shirts get these days. You should have seen them in the days of being a Battalion Chief! They were awful. The cuffs, sleeves and neck area always get soiled.

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Here are the products I use. “Resolve” is the new name (and I think improved) for the old “Spray ‘n Wash” in the green bottle. I also use Tide (HE—for our septic system), Clorox brand bleach and “White Brite”.

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The first step is to spray all the soiled areas lightly with the Resolve; it doesn’t take much. This bottle will usually last me two to three months. I let the product sit on the shirts for about five minutes. Spray any soiled areas including the insides of the cuffs and collar.

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Pour the recommended amount of Tide into the washing machine.

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Place the sprayed shirts into the washer and then add the White Brite as recommended by the manufacturer.

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Use the hottest water available (and that the manufacturer of the garment suggests) and set the machine on a long wash cycle.

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After the machine has gone through this cycle of washing, open up the lid and take out all the shirts shaking them and fluffing them open. Pour half the amount of recommended Tide in the bottom of the washer and place the shirts loosely back into the machine. Add the recommended amount of Clorox bleach for the load size.

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This time wash on a normal wash cycle, again using the hottest water available and recommended by the garment manufacturer. After this wash cycle is done, remove the shirts and dry them in the dryer removing them while they are still slightly damp and hang them up. Press the shirts after they have dried (if necessary).

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This is the result; a bright, “white”-white….and lest you ask, no, the photo was not re-touched; it is just as photographed as were the others all on an automatic setting on the camera.  I must tell you, I have also tried washing with bleach first then the White Brite, but the shirts did not get as clean so now I always use the Brite White first and then the bleach.

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I would NOT recommend any of this for shirts of synthetic fibers. I have not tested it and I know for sure bleach should not be used on those types of fabrics. I have not tested the White Brite on synthetics, either. I use these products only on 100% cotton shirts. As I stated earlier, I also use the same steps for white undershirts and it works just as well.

Hopefully this will give you some ideas for brighter whites. I’m not “endorsing” these products, I’m just showing you what I use and because it is now required for “blogging”, the statement of “there was no paid endorsement of products” is issued.

Sew ‘til next time…enjoy the journey of sewing!

~Ramona

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