By Adam Welsch
Last week, this blog offered some laundering tips to help keep black lingerie looking its blackest. But what about white intimates? Though not as popular as it once was, white is perhaps the most traditional color of underwear, and can still be found in most dresser drawers and closets. Maintaining its brightness and clarity is important, and may be the most challenging of all laundering tasks.
Keeping white bras, panties , and shapewear their whitest requires a mostly different set of tactics than that used to care for black lingerie. However, as with black undies, remember the laundry room’s first rule of thumb – the steps you take to clean your unmentionables should never contradict the instructions on your garments’ care labels. Maintaining your shapewear’s bright white appearance, for example, will do you no good if you ruin the integrity or stretch of its fabrics.
The task of whitening whites begins before the washing machine is ever turned on. Plan to wash your whites often, after every wearing. Perspiration and body oils allowed to rest on fabrics act as notorious yellowing agents. Also, if your home has a hard water supply, invest in a good water softener. The minerals in the water settle on clothes, and cause them to look gray and dull. Finally, make sure that your washing machine is clean. Cleaning it a few times a year will remove the residue that accumulates from hard water deposits, detergents, and bacteria.
To do so, make sure it’s empty and fill it with hot water. Add two cups of chlorine bleach and run it on its longest wash and spin cycles. Then, fill it again with hot water and add two cups of white vinegar before letting it run again. Don’t forget to clean out its dispensers too. If they’re removable, soak them in some warm white vinegar and rinse them with water. If they’re not, pour some vinegar into each one and, after allowing them to sit for a few minutes, run the machine’s normal wash and spin cycles.
As with your black undies, the real work of whitening your white underwear will occur when you wash them. First, make sure to only wash whites with other whites. Colored fabric fibers can attach themselves to your white bras and panties and dull their appearances. Second, make sure to examine each of your white garments before throwing them into the machine, and pre-treat any visible stains. Though you can use your regular laundry detergent or a special stain remover, you might try some gentle dish soap on your more delicate fabrics. If you have the time, allowing these pre-treated items to soak in some water before being thrown into the washing machine should produce the best results. Third, make sure to use the hottest water allowed by the care labels on your undies. Hotter water will do a better job than colder water in removing stains.
Fourth, avoid using chlorine bleach. It can leave your whites looking yellow or gray. Use oxygen bleach instead. Fifth, adding a half cup of baking soda to the wash cycle will help prevent the yellowing of whites. If you do so, reduce the amount of bleach you would have otherwise added by half. Sixth, adding a half cup of white vinegar to the rinse cycle will not only help dissolve any remaining suds and prevent a soapy residue from accumulating on, and dulling, your clothes, it’ll also help remove any remaining bleach. Lastly, if you’re uncomfortable using bleach, try adding a half cup of lemon juice to the rinse cycle. The citric acid in the juice acts as a natural bleaching agent.
When it comes to drying your white intimates, there’s no substitute for the clothesline. The sun also acts as a natural bleaching agent for clothes, and won’t set stains like a dryer. Line drying also helps reduce the chances of shrinkage.
Of course, if all else fails, whites can always be dyed. Interestingly, white dye isn’t your only alternative. Remember, all whites are not made the same – each has a slightly different hue. Many people think that whites with blue hues are the brightest. Accordingly, bluing agents are available that add very small amounts of blue dye to your whites to make them brighter. If this sounds a little scary, experiment first by using a pair of old socks or undies that are on their last legs (so to speak). Just follow the bluing agent’s instructions.
It is possible to keep your white bras, panties, and shapers looking like new. It does take some extra effort, but is well worth it when it comes to your favorite undies.CC Image courtesy of kevindooley on Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/pagedooley/ / CC BY 2.0 CC Image courtesy of HenryStradford on Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/henry_stradford// CC BY 2.0