Nothing is more depressing than tossing a brand-new white T-Shirt into your closet, only to notice your existing white T-Shirt look sad and dark in comparison. Bummer. However, there is something you can do to prevent this from happening. Follow this laundry advice to maintain your clothing’s crisp color over time:
1. Wash them after every one to two wears.
Even if you can’t see them, invisible body oils and perspiration can turn white fabrics yellow or gray over time. “You want to wash them out before they build up,” explains Carolyn Forte, director of the Cleaning Lab at the Good Housekeeping Institute.
2. Attack stains as soon as possible.
Food spots like ketchup or coffee are a given, but things that you can’t see, like sweat marks, should be treated to prevent build-up, too. To do this, rub a full-strength liquid enzyme detergent on the underarm area, then let your white T-Shirt sit 15 minutes before throwing it into the wash.
3. Always separate white and colored clothes.
Sure, this seems obvious, but it really makes a difference, according to Forte: “This is a must!” When you do this, you can use a dye-grabbing cloth like Carbona Color Grabber to attract loose dye in your load of whites and keep color from settling.
4. Pick a laundry detergent that contains bleach.
Or bleach alternatives. Forte says these products generally get whites whiter during the washing cycle. Another cleaner that you might want to try is a bluing agent, which make fabrics look blue-white instead of yellow-white.
5. Be exact when measuring your cleaner.
“Overuse or underuse of detergent can leave fabrics gray and dingy,” explains Forte. That’s because suds cushion fabrics and dirt, so stains get trapped and don’t wash away like they should. Bottom line: Just follow the instructions on your bottle.
6. Don’t overload your washing machine.
We know, when there’s space at the top it’s hard to resist throwing in a few more white t-shirt, but Forte says you should resist: “Clothing needs to circulate to get clean.” If you fill your washtub to the top, there isn’t enough room for the detergent to interact with soils and give an optimal cleaning performance.
7. Use the hottest water safe for fabric.
“The hotter the water, the more germs you kill,” says Forte. Higher temperatures also remove more soil, which is what causes white items to fade over time. But to prevent shrinkage and damage to clothes, check the care label to see just how hot you can go.
8. Dry clothes according to the care label.
According to Forte, over-drying will make your wardrobe look more worn over time, so pick your setting according to the label. Another option? “Use the auto cycle so the dryer stops when it senses the clothing is dry, not just when the time is up,” Forte says.
9. Don’t forget to use these tricks on other white laundry.
That means crisp bed sheets and fluffy towels.