My Thoughts On Washing Whites

posted by Andrea | 11/19/2011
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I know it’s not necessarily the “greenest” thing to admit — but I love bleach! However, besides my use of bleach, I hardly use any chemicals to clean our house; mostly just natural stuff like vinegar, baking soda, etc.

I use Laundry Tree SoapNuts for the rest of our laundry detergent and vinegar for fabric softener… but anything white gets a healthy splash of bleach thrown in. I can’t help it… I just HAVE to know that our stuff is super clean, and bleach gives me that reassurance!

And for those of you who don’t know — I have a mini obsession with white.


We use white sheets, white/cream blankets, white comforters and duvet covers, white/cream towels, white washcloths, white rags, white napkins, white socks, white t-shirts… and even several white rugs!

I just love white, and with a little bleach, I really haven’t had a problem keeping our things white either.


When we got married, everyone told us ‘don’t register for white sheets, they’ll show everything’. So I didn’t get white sheets… and every day when I made our bed I would think ‘I wish I had white sheets’.

After about a year, I decided that I could make my own decisions — and I went out and bought white sheets. It’s been over 4 years, we still have the same white sheets, and besides being a little wrinkly, they look almost brand new.

Since Dave and I always take showers right before we go to bed, I figure our sheets can’t get THAT dirty, so I only wash them every couple of weeks —  however, I wash our pillowcases every week.

I wash our blankets every couple of months, and our comforter, duvet cover, and pillows once or twice a year {or as needed}.

Bathroom towels and washcloths:

My towels are cream and Dave’s are tan {so we can tell them apart}. The washcloths we use are also various shades of cream and tan.

And while I was a bit hesitant to bleach these at first {since they weren’t actually white} I’ve been extremely happy with the results… and have been successfully bleaching our cream and tan towels for the past 5 years with no spots or bleach stains!

I love how the bleach eliminates any “musty” smells that can sometimes plague damp towels — they just smell so clean and fresh when they come out of the dryer!


Obviously, I don’t use white rugs by any of our entry ways, but all of our bathrooms and our laundry room have white fluffy rugs… that are SOOOOO comfy to stand on!

Since we don’t usually wear shoes in the house, these rugs don’t get very dirty — I simply wash them with a little bleach every few weeks and they look brand new!

Kitchen rags, towels, and napkins:

Yes, we use WHITE kitchen rags, towels and napkins… and they are not stained or super dirty looking!

Our laundry room is directly off from our kitchen, which makes it really easy and convenient to simply throw dirty kitchen linens in the laundry room each day until I have time to wash them.

I actually keep a small plastic bin in our laundry room and every day, I throw the old kitchen wash cloth and towel in that bin. I switch out our cloth napkins once or twice a week and throw those in the bin too, along with other various cleaning rags and towels that need to be bleached.

Once the bin is full, I add a few more white items to it and then do a load with bleach.

I know some of you might think it’s excessive to change our kitchen towels and washcloths every day, but we do a lot of cooking {especially now that our exchange students have been cooking more of their traditional foods} and I never know what our kitchen rags have been used for, so it just make me feel “safer” to get a new one out each day.

Socks and T-shirts:

Except for our dress socks, we wear all white socks and have almost all white t-shirts… which makes doing laundry that much easier. It’s also really easy to fold our clothes because we’re never searching for matching pairs of socks!

I know this might sound like an awful lot of laundry to do each week, but most of the items are really small {socks, rags, towels, washcloths, t-shirts, etc.} and we have an extra large, high efficiency washing machine. Plus, the bigger items don’t get washed nearly as much… so I usually only need to do 2 bleached loads each week.

I do know that there are a lot of people against using bleach… and I understand why. However, I still haven’t found anything that works AS WELL to wash whites.  I’m totally open to trying new  methods… so I’d love to know if you have something that works well for you! 

How do you wash your whites?

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  1. Leigh


    How do you find oxygen bleach compares? I do a 24 soak with anything dingy or stained monthly (a la Clean Mama) and it does the job very well.

    And a hint for baby messes. Nothing gets poop stains out (before the dryer particularly) like putting them out in the sun. Even in winter. Works wonders on white onesies.


    Amanda Reply:

    Diaper wipes will also get most anything off clothes. If I spill something on myself or if my 2 year old spills something on herself (or me), I use a diaper wipe first.


  2. Thrifty Mom in Boise


    I love bleach! I’ve tried all kinds of things but I always go back to bleach. Nothing works quite like it.


  3. Kristia


    When do you put the bleach in?


    Andrea Reply:

    Kristia, I put the bleach in right at the beginning because my washing machine has a separate compartment for detergent, bleach, and fabric softener. If your washing machine doesn’t have those compartments, I would probably put it in the water with the detergent, let the washer fill up and THEN add your clothes. if you dump the bleach right on the clothes it might get “spotty”.
    Hope this helps!


  4. Amanda


    I love bleach. I have white sheets, towels, socks and mostly white panties. I do 1 or 2 WHITE loads each week with bleach. Not only do my whites stay white, but my house smells clean.


  5. Karen @ Abundance on a Dime


    I use soapnuts for laundry, too. I add about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of Borax to each load and find that helps as a stain-removal booster and deodorizer. For stubborn stains on white/light coloured items, I pretreat with hydrogen peroxide, or if that doesn’t get it out I make my own “oxiclean” with hydrogen peroxide and washing soda. For really soiled items I’ll presoak in warm water with about 1/2 cup of the oxiclean solution added.


    Andrea Reply:

    Ok, good to know Karen! I’ll have to give some of those “recipes” a try some time!


  6. jerilyn


    I might send you into labor with my comment, you can thank me if that happens.

    I wash my whites along with everything else.


    Okay, we don’t have many whites. My husband changes oil for a living. If we had whites before he started that job I would have gotten rid of them. Every once in a while I will bleach all of his white undershirts in one load, but this is like less than once per year. Me and our kids don’t really wear white either. Once they’re in school, their uniforms will have more white and I’ll have to figure something out. :) I’m also the type of person that isn’t bugged by the fact that our bath towels and rug don’t match. Our bedroom linens don’t really go with our room paint either… *shrug* :)


    Andrea Reply:

    Actually… I don’t think that’s so bad!
    I don’t sort any of my laundry… just the white stuff b/c I use bleach. Everything else {and I mean EVERYTHING} gets dumped in the washer together!!


  7. Leithing


    I have a thing about white bedding and towels too. I use a mixture of Vanish for stains and Varnish for whites. It gets amazing results, much better than just using one of them. Don’t know if they are available in the US, I’m in Scotland.


    Andrea Reply:

    hmmm…I’ve never heard of these products, so I’m thinking they aren’t available :( I’ll have to look into them though!


  8. Ashley


    I was curious why people tend to think that bleach is so terrible to use and that it’s not “green.” So I bing’ed it. LOL I remember my grandmother telling me that bleach was an all natural disinfectant (she was a science teacher) and yes, it’s harsh, but it does the job. I also remember my mother hanging our clothes in the sun to dry because the sun kills bateria and mold as well. :-)

    This is what I found on Bing: “Bleach is a chemical compound derived from natural sources used to whiten fabrics.”

    Read more: How bleach is made – material, manufacture, making, history, used, components, steps, product, industry, machine, History, Types of Bleach, Raw Materials


    KimH Reply:

    I think the biggest reason one would want to stay away from bleach is that it is poison. Very simply put, it kills LIFE. We use it to kill bacterias, but in reality its doing as much damage to us as it is bacterias.

    Did you know that Splenda is chlorinated sugar? They take a chlorine molecule and attach it to a sugar molecule.. and whalah.. you have splenda.

    I did a test one time.. I had been using Splenda quite freely but for some reason, my inner compass was telling me I shouldnt be. One day at work, I decided to pour my leftovers of about 1/8th of a cup of coffee w creamer & splenda in one of my potted plants & see what happened. I had heard that chlorine is the same thing as DDT, which is a horrid and toxic defoliant. (Agent Orange anybody?) I used to dump my coffee w sugar & creamer in my plants occasionally with no ill affects. I wondered if what I had been reading about splenda & chlorine was true. When I came into work the next morning, all 5 or 6 of my plants looked litterally DEAD! This had been a healthy vibrant mixed potted basket of beautiful plants.
    I felt so bad, like i had killed my children. I immediately grabbed the basket and ran to a kitchenette, and ran water thru the soil for about 15 minutes, until I hoped I had gotten rid of any remaining splenda in the soil.. My poor babies.. Only 2 of the plants lived.. the rest died..
    Toxic toxic toxic.. I decided right then & there, Splenda would never touch my lips again.. I drink my coffee black today because of that little experiment.

    I dont drink chlorinated water either. I have water filters on my frig & my kitchen sink that removes chlorine, & fluoride too. Pure poison.

    Heres a link to Dr Joseph Mercolas website & an article regarding chlorine & splenda too. There are many others, this is just one.


    Robert Reply:

    While I share your suspicion of artificial sweeteners, you do know that chlorine is part of table salt, right? As in NaCl.


    Stacey Reply:

    In response to your remark that DDT is the same thing as Agent Orange, please research before making such comments. 2,4-D was used in Agent Orange – it is an herbicide. DDT was an insecticide. They are two totally different things.

    If the thought of having 2,4-D in your food supply scares you, you may want to research GMO’s. 2,4-D is used regularly to combat superweeds that have resulted from overuse of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup.

    But I agree with on avoiding the use of artificial sweeteners. Honey is a much better alternative on all fronts.


  9. KimH


    I dont use bleach often myself. Occasionally I use it to clean the bathroom, and maybe once a year I’ll beach my white socks. Oh, I do use it in my white kitchen towels and wash clothes. Thats about it. Everyone else in my family are bleach happy like you…

    For the most part, I use a household cleaner I make with lemon juice & vinegar to clean just about everything else, counters included.

    My step mother though is a white fanatic, like you, 😉 and she swears by Oxiclean & hydrogen peroxide. She leaves a bucket of Oxiclean solution in water in the laundry room & drops all her soiled whites into it, and then washes at the end of the day.

    Everything white in her house is BRIGHT WHITE! Its quite beautiful.


  10. jane casey


    I love the post. I like bleach too but feel a bit guilty because it is so harmful. Hydrogen Peroxide and baking soda are what I use most of the time.


  11. Dorothy


    We’re a no-bleach household. I don’t even OWN bleach. I guess having 3 boys has meant that I have to let some things go. I don’t have white sheets. Or white kitchen towels. Or white napkins. Or white bath rugs. Mostly because I won’t use bleach–but also because I don’t want to be a slave to my linens. My boys would have a bloody nose on the sheets. THey would wipe up mud with a white dish towel. They would use white napkins to clean up marker. And bath rugs? YEah, those get dirty too–even after my kids bathe.

    But my kids’ socks are clean without bleach. Get this–you can buy socks with grey (or colored) bottoms. SO the socks never look dirty. My boys’ white undershirts are very white. And when they have a nosebleed on navy blue sheets, I wash them in very hot water so they are CLEAN but if there’s any remnant of a stain we can’t see it.

    I hope this doesn’t sound mean, because I’m not trying to be mean. But maybe you might have to let some things slide a bit when you have that sweet little baby. Spit up happens. Puke happens. Poop gets EVERYWHERE. And you’ll have stains. And you won’t care!! =) Because you won’t want bleach near your little baby’s skin.

    Just my .02.


    Lovemybusybuzzybees Reply:

    Thank you for posting this. I thought I was the only one! Maybe its the fact that I have 3 rambunctious boys and an equally rambunctious husband who works in the autmotive field, but we do not own many purely white items. No bleach in our household either…If something is really needing a good treatment, I Oxyclean the spot and throw it in the Santize cycle – voila! Problem solved. It was a bad moment when some bottled bleach I had bought at the store leaked all over my trunk and the smell still lingers from time to time. No thanks!


  12. Susanne


    We are definitely a NO BLEACH family.. Bleach IS toxic. It is extremely difficult to rinse out of anything in the washing machine. We use white vinegar in the rinse cycle for laundry. For stains, I use “Zout” which is an enzymatic cleaner. Enzymes break up the stain without bleach. It can be a skin irritant so I just use it on the spot itself. I have used bleach in the past for the food disposal to sanitize it, but I find that using baking soda pour in first and then pour white vinegar into it…. It just bubbles for about 30 seconds, then I rinse well. It works for us. I use homemade cleaning products most of the time. By the way, I collect dishes as well. I just love to mix and match solid colors of the same pattern. Organizing them is my next project. Hope this helps.


  13. Mae @ WoFin Blog



    Here is a couple quick links listing eco-friendly, but effective bleach alternatives. I did not want to list just 1 or 2 b/c I figured you would want to research which ones you could find cheapest near your home in MI, or online.

    This link has an at home recipe with only 3 ingredients

    Hope this helps
    Mae @


  14. Firesparx


    We too use minimal chemicals in our house. We wash everything in cold water….except whites. I get a secret pleasure washing those in hot water with bleach. It’s like my one little bit of environmental rebellion. We only do a load of white every other week and it’s a high efficiency washer so I try not to feel too bad.


  15. Sue


    Sorry everyone.. I am with Andrea.. I love bleach.. I also use it to clean my front loader washer.. I got a front loader about 2 years ago.. and I really hate it.. one thing I hate about it is if you close the door when not in use and then keep it closed for a day or so.. it smells.. So about once a month I run a cycle on the hottest setting and put in about a cup of bleach.. seems to keep the smell down or out of the washer.

    Honestly, I think there is nothing that smells better than clean, bleach cleaned sheets hanging on the clothes line.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    I know I am a bit strange !

    sue in NJ


  16. Jen @ BigBinder


    Bleach lover; right here. I have tried to give it up. I can’t. And whites get washed in hot water. And bleach. When my kids were little and used cloth diapers, we soaked the diapers and wipes (home made re-usable ones) in vinegar and then washed them – I bleached them like once a month and it worked great!


  17. Tina


    I have a septic tank and bleach harms your bacteria balance! So bleach alternative suggestions are wonderful!


  18. Crystal H


    We use bleach….lots of it in fact. We have a child with several medical problems and urine, blood, and feces is a common occurance. We have all white towels, washcloths, bedpads, and sheets. I know that might sound odd but we have those BECAUSE we have to bleach everything…call me lazy (although believe me I am not) but with all the medical challenges we struggle with everyday, tossing all of these items in the washer with some bleach and having the sense of security that it is clean and bacteria free is a small relief to me in my chaos I call everyday life. :)


  19. Carole


    I came across your post during a search for ‘why bleach doesn’t clean my towels’, but haven’t really found an answer here. After years of using various colors of towels, I first made the switch to white in the kitchen with bar mop towels (for sanitary reasons). I’ve had them for years and they’re still in very good shape. They get bleached at every washing.

    I eventually talked myself into white bath towels. Granted, they’re not expensive (via IKEA), but I didn’t want to plunge head first into white in the bathroom until I knew how well it was going to work. Unfortunately, the towels have yellowed. Bleach has not helped. I find that very interesting. Maybe because they’re cheap towels?

    I’ve recently purchased a set of Martex towels from Costco. I’ve only washed those a couple of times, and without bleach, so we’ll see what happens.

    I’ve used oxygen bleach for ages, and have not found any differences in the expensive brand over the inexpensive brand. Since my main purpose of using it is freshening the laundry (none of the brands have ever really gotten out stains – even with pre-soak), there’s no point in spending $6 over $2. They all have the exact same ingredients.

    I don’t love bleach, and I use it sparingly because it does break down fabric fibers. Plus it hasn’t really helped where my bath towels are concerned. :-/

    Maybe I should try Borax and/or Fels-Naptha soap bar again. Although, with a front loading machine I’ve got to be careful how much and of what I put in. Very little soap is needed in a front loader (ask any appliance repair how many machines they’ve had to service due to over use of soap), and adding a bunch of other stuff on top of that isn’t good for the machine either.

    As for “letting things slide”, if something is “clean” and there’s still a stain, I don’t consider it really clean, but that’s just me.

    Kim, that’s interesting about the oxy and hydrogen peroxide.


    Carole Reply:

    Interestingly enough, I just read at another blog that using too much bleach causes whites to yellow. One reason is because it does break down the fibers. Another reason stated that bleach removes any protective ‘agents’ that whites may have, thus causing yellowing. I’ve never heard that one before, unless by ‘protective agents’ the person means antibacterial properties, which I’d rather not have on my towels to begin with thank you very much.


  20. Wendy Bryan


    I do not take things to the drycleaner either. My thought is….why keep buying the same outfit over and over again when I can buy something new instead???


  21. Cassie


    I totally agree with you on the bleach thing! I am a fanatic. LOL I just bought 4 bottles tonight! I have a 4 and 2 year old. I did/do cloth diaper and I have cloth wipes. I bleach those every other day. And I bleach All my daughters’ panties with them. My oldest has super sensitive skin and has no issue with this. It makes me feel like I got them clean enough for my babies. I have 2 sets of white sheets for my bed lol and white towels and rugs just so I could bleach them! What I noticed is that the cheaper fabrics DO yellow with the bleachings. I did feel like a stain=dirty for years and years, but am attempting (with 2 small kids) to overcome this and allow those as playclothes. Its hard… Also as an interesting bit, I bleach everything that stains and I cannot remove it. Before an item hits the play clothing stack as “clean” I bleach it, no matter the color. I have saved SO Many items this way! 95% of my first daughters clothing was 3rd hand from family. The formula stains were Awful! So I washed and washed and washed(with tide) and then said heck with it, and bleached them. I only ruined 2 things that year. There were 9-12 boxes(packing boxes!) and 2 HUGE trash bags of clothing. So if you have something you do not think is salvagable- try it. Whats to lose? Sometimes you get a stain free tye-dye. Thats ok too! I do make my own home cleaners and no longer use tide-we make our own here. MY detergent is Amazing on whites with the bleach! Removes oils too! But I cant live without my bleach. I love the smell of that load of laundry just permeating the house. Mmmmmm…….


  22. Katie


    Andrea, I just wanted to get your opinion on this. We currently have white/light bathroom towels and washcloths and red kitchen towels/wash cloths. I do not use (and don’t want to start using bleach… sorry


    Andrea Reply:

    Hey Katie,
    I’m honestly not sure what you’re asking here — there is no question :)
    My opinion would be to use bleach because I use bleach for ALL whites and even most lights.


  23. moya


    I have everything white like you sheets pillowcases all kitchen cloths and towels . I love bleach but I have asthma so cant use it. I wash the towels in bio detergent – it is an environment friendly one and strangely works better on a low water temperature. My husband and I both have white towels and also our kids. I sew a small initial on the corner of the towel . All the washcloths are white and get washed with the towels. My curtains are all off white so I wash them regularly to prevent dust mites. I have hotel type bath mats that look like heavy white towels . I wash these separately . White household stuff is quite easy to keep and you know its clean. I find white easier to keep than colour- no sorting no fading just bung it all in and lasts forever.


    Andrea Reply:

    sound like we think alike Moya!! I LOVE my white linens. And yes, I agree, they are very easy to keep clean. You know when they are clean (and you also know when they are dirty!)


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