How to Keep Your Whites Bright

Do you love white linens as much as I do but worry about discoloration?


I’m talking about yellow underarm stains or dingy bed sheets. If you find that your white items don’t look as bright as they did before, we tapped Garde Robe and Margaret’s The Couture Cleaner for their expertise on keeping your whites good as new. Read more below!


Q: What’s the general rule of keeping clothing in their best condition?


A: Garde Robe strongly recommends that members clean every article of clothing before storing items for an extended period of time. While some articles of clothing will visibly appear clean, clothing may have stains that are not necessarily visible to the human eye. For example, body oils, perspiration, antiperspirant, perfume, clear liquids and other liquids and oils can cause “invisible stains.” Despite ideal climate conditions at Garde Robe’s facilities, such invisible stains will oxidize over time and cause a yellowing and deterioration of the fabric. All textiles should be cleaned prior to long-term storage.


Q: Since I’ve switched to “non-toxic” or natural deodorant, I’ve noticed that sweat stains in the underarm area are much more prominent and leave a yellow discoloration. Why is that?


A: “Non-toxic” deodorant most likely means it doesn’t have anti-perspirant, which means you are sweating more, which means these stains will appear faster/sooner.  I remember when I switched to Tom’s deodorant it just didn’t work out b/c it didn’t have anti-perspirant. Despite my belief that anti-perspirant is a chemical I would prefer not to use daily, I feel like it is unavoidable. Many people wear garments several times before cleaning them, which is fine. But at the end of each season or regularly every few weeks, these items do need to be cleaned. If they sit and sit and sit, the stains will appear, and removing them isn’t easy as you will read below.


Q: What causes yellow stains on white garments/sheets?


A: Typically they are caused by oils and fatty acids from food on clothes and lotion on sheets. Often these oils do not dissolve in washing and darken with time and heat (dryer). Using less softener often helps.

Q: How do you prevent these stains to keep whites bright?


A: Quality soap helps remove many of these stains. When the garment allows, use the hottest water possible and pretreat with a degreaser if applicable. 


Q: What is the best way to remove these stains?


A: Prevent them from happening is the best option. Try using a pre-spotting degreaser and we find Oxyclean or a similar product can help.


Q: Any other suggestions you would like to input?

A: An old fashioned way to get old oil stains out of white linen table cloths is to hang them for a while in the full sun for UV exposure.


Do you have any tips and tricks for keeping your whites bright? Let me know @clutterhealing!