Miracle Laundry Whitening Solution


It’s been quite awhile since I’ve posted ANYTHING about laundry! I’m going through withdrawals! :-) I’m one of those strange people who likes laundry. And one of the things I like MOST about it…is the sense of accomplishment when something dirty comes out CLEAN. I guess I also like the “challenge” aspect of it as well. Turning dirty, dingy, grimy and stained into white, bright, fresh and clean. Yep, I find that very appealing. :-)

So when I came across this “recipe” for whitening whites in the comments section of a post at Homemade Mamas, I knew I had to try it. And I had the PERFECT test subject! A dingy mattress pad that I have washed time and time again…but never comes out WHITE anymore. For some reason I just KNEW there was a whiteness still lurking under the dinginess…I just needed the right formula to apply to it. This one seemed very promising.

Katie JoMar commented:

  • HOT HOT HOT water
  • 1 cup of laundry detergent
  • 1 cup powdered dish washer detergent
  • 1 cup bleach
  • 1/2 cup borax

After filling the washing machine with HOT water….I also dumped in a large-sized pot of water I had brought to a boil on the stove. I was looking for HOT HOT HOT water, just like Katie said.

Another thing to remember is to add the above ingredients to as small a load size as possible. You are looking for CONCENTRATED cleaning power, and the more water you have in the tub, the less concentrated it will be. Shoot for BARELY enough water to cover the article.

Let soak for as long as you can stand it! :-)  I managed to stay away from it for a couple of hours. Overnight would work too.

This is what the mattress pad looked like before “treatment”. Believe it or not, I’d just BARELY washed it. (Please keep in mind it’s very tricky trying to show before and after photos of mostly WHITE images, but I tried my best!)

Notice how dingy the top side of the mattress pad is compared to the SIDES of the pad. Fairly dramatic difference I’d say.


And here is the same mattress pad after soaking in the whitening solution and EXTRA hot water for around 2 hours. BIG DIFFERENCE!!!  The whitening solution actually managed to release the WHITE that was lurking within! And I call that SUCCESS!


Enjoy This Post? Never Miss Another!

Subscribe to Jillee's FREE email newsletter and receive more great tips and ideas!



  1. Tegan says

    Does this take colour out? I have white school shirts that have a colour emblem and colour around the collar and am looking for something to get them white again with out taking the colour out. Thanks

      • Melanie says

        I’ve used this recipe for years except instead of regular bleach use color safe bleach and it gets those baby spit up stains, etc. out of clothes. Safe for colored clothes this way. I just used to soak it in a bucket overnight. Then washed it.

        • Lucy says

          That’s really smart (to have a bucket to soak in as opposed to using the washing machine). I love that I came across this. My husband wears a white tee under EVERYTHING, and whenever we wander back to Florida from time to time I make sure to have them all for her to do, because she’s a miracle worker. I can’t wait to give this a go. Since we live in California, I don’t get to have mom’s help too much.

        • Nellyhill says

          Thank you Melanie! My teenagers have white uniform shirts with their school logo on them and I just CAN’T get those shirts back to white. I will have to try this in a bucket (I have a front load machine).

        • Maria says

          I like the bucket idea too because I have a front loader. There is nothing like a good old top loader with an agitator IMHO. Also I don’t think my septic system would like the bleach so I am going to try it with the color safe…after I see if THAT is safe!

          • Gayle says

            I agree on the Top Loader!!! I drooled over the front loader and then heard all the issues with them and I was almost an empty nester so knew I didn’t really need one. This mix looks great and I would think it would have to get anything whiter with all of this added. I have a friend that used to put a load into soak every night before she went to bed. Her daughters socks were so stiff compared to my daughters.:(( Most of the time I just put my washer on the longest wash after a 30-45 min. soak and things are really clean.

      • Jennifer says

        With the pillow whitening treatment. Do you soak it for several hours and then run it through the laundry cycle? Usually when I wash and dry pillows. It leaves them lumpy. Any suggestions or answers to either of these points?

      • says

        My mom has been using this recipe only with Cascade dish washing detergent, Tide and bleach. We put it in the washing machine with the water & run the agitator for 10 minutes before you put the clothes in to soak. For some reason, we think the Cascade counteracts the bleach from draining colour the out. So she washed all of our clothes- all colours if they had impossible stains! The recipe just has to be well mixed before adding the clothes.

              • says

                you can use this in a front loader, you just have to add it to the drum and not in the spot for detergent. I use homemade laundry soap in mine. HE machines just like things that are not high suds so maybe get a dishwashing soap that is not super sudsy and you will have no problems at all :)

            • Amber S says

              I don’t think using the front-loaders is an option — The washing machine is just a vessel to hold the solution and let it soak. It has the added benefit of being able to then wash afterwards. Try using a bath tub (I imagine this would work wonders cleaning that, too) or a large bucket or portable washbin. A utility sink might be another option as well.

              • Debra says

                I was given a very similar recipe, 1 cup bleach, 1 cup Cascade, by a children’s resale shop owner when my children were very small and I used my bathtub. Worked wonders! Removed almost anything, even stains that had been set in. She also stressed hot, hot, hot water.

            • Ashley says

              You can either mix it in a utility sink/bucket and let it sit, or..I used less laundry detergent (Tide) and half a cup of the dish detergent, put the washer on eco-heavy setting. I’m letting mine run through but I think if you wanted to let it sit and you don’t have a soak setting, just turn the washer off/pause it after it has rotated a few times and gotten everything saturated.

        • Helen Forbes says

          When My kids were babies I used Liquid Cascade, Liquid Clorox 2 and hot water in a bucket to soak their food (and other) stains. But you have to mix it up b/f you add the clothes b/c the Cascade will remove color. This works like a charm. As a matter of fact I even did this in the bathtub once for a large amout of clothes that needed soaking then just put them in a laundry basket to transfer to the washer.

          • Trista says

            I think it’s important in our efforts to be green that we take the whole picture into consideration. Chlorine is horrible for the environment and fresh water is our most precious resource. Being paperless is great if we are also being conscientious of our cleaning products and water usage. I’m not judging, I feel I need to be greener, myself, but every time I fill that washing machine I think about it.

            • An front loader user says

              The steam cycle that you are refering too “like dry cleaning” is actually in a DRYER. Washing machines can have a steam boost cycle that can be used as well, but it is part of a regular cycle with detergent and water. (a “dry cleaning” cycle wouldn’t use water either therefore it wouldn’t make sense in a washer).

              Christina, I would use as a soak in a bathtub or bucket. The amount of detergent and dishwasher soap would be way too much for a front load washing machine. I am afraid that you might end up with bubbles exploding out the door like you see on tv.

              • says

                I have a front loader that is an all in one washing machine/dryer that has a hot steam /dry cleaning option… my MIL calls it the “freshen” cycle. ;)

                But definitely use the bucket soak method. If you have young kids please soak in something with a lid or make sure they can’t get to the container. I use a Rubbermaid container with a lid that is nearly impossible to remove to soak my cloth diapers.

                I’m really looking forward to trying out some of these recipes to see what works the best. Thanks Jillee for posting and everyone for your comments.

              • Lill says

                My front load washer DOES have a separate steam cycle. It utilizes steam by way of having a built in heater to boost the water temperature to steam level~ a fabulous option that I frequently use.

                The dryer also has a steam fresh cycle too. Love my washer and dryer!

                • Jess says

                  Lill, we probably have the same machines! I use the “steam” cycle on my washer at least 2-3 times per week. The dryer’s “steam” cycle is a really useful function. It’s great for our Lab’s bedding and lots of other things as well. My dryer has a “steam sanitary” & a “steam fresh” cycle. My washer also has an “steam allergiene” cycle (asthma & allergy friendly). Great for our oldest son’s asthma & our youngest son’s allergies. I’m called the “Stain Mistress” by my family & friends – I prefer front load machines to top loaders.

            • ruthagraber says

              FYI – The steam feature in my new front-loading HE Maytag washer isn’t for dry cleaning, it is for stain removal during wash cycle. I use it for colored clothes and (separate loads) whites. In both cases I do use detergent and/or bleach (color safe or Clorox). It’s my favorite aspect of my new washer. It really works!

    • Hazel says

      Use ammonia, dilute 1 part ammonia to 3 parts water… place something in between the shirt like paper towels to catch the stain and keep it from spreading, spray on the solution and blot with more paper towels, you may have to do this over and over again, changing to new towels once they have soaked up the color but it works, this is how I got the explosion of black ink off my husbands white coat after his pen exploded, remember to do this in a well ventilated area and never ever ever use bleach or hot water on a paint or ink stain for this will make it almost permanent…

    • Shari Kalous says

      I wonder, if you left out the bleach if it would still work? Make it safe for colors or maybe exchange the bleach for like Clorox 2? Hmm something to maybe try on something not to important! may have to try it myself, I have a couple things like that to! My husbands Hoodies! lol

    • SlushKitty says

      {Does this take color out?}

      I’ve got a few results regarding any discoloring:

      -100% Cotton (Fruit of the Loom panties, white with color trim)
      No discoloration/lightening.
      -100% Cotton (Disney panties, white with color trim stitches & iron on decal)
      No discoloration/lightening.
      -100% Cotton (White sock with color toes & heel)
      No discoloration/lightening.

      -95% Cotton 5% Spandex (White shirt, color sleeves, dark trim on neck & sleeve seams, glitter #’s on chest)
      Sleeves slightly lighter, neck trim has bleaching effect, no discoloration or damage to glitter #’s.

      So it’s probably safe to say that the 100% cottons are safe but anything less @ this point may be at risk for discoloration. I am still going to test a cotton polyester mix to see how that turns out & will post results @ a later date.

    • serdlc64 says

      I thought that the picture of before and after was the one also used in the Lemon Juice and peroxide mixture for bleach alternative and the same pic is now here with the whitening solution of dishwasher soap etc. Which is it really or is it just fake????

  2. Karen Zaccagnini says

    I have a front loader, so I’m not entirely sure how that I can do this. I would also love to be able to do a full load of boy’s socks! I was even thinking of doing a pre-soak in a big rubbermaid tub and maybe doubling the recipe?

    • says

      I have an HE washer as well. But, if I had a small load like socks, I might consider heating the water in a large stock pot on the stove, then adding the solution along with the socks, and let soak overnight. When you’re finished, just toss them into the HE machine and run a good rinse cycle.

    • Jax says

      I need HE methods too. Judging from the previous posts, I think a soak in the bath tub or some other vessel then into the machine. I do not see anyway of doing this in a front loader. Looks like premixing the ingredients and soaking is the key here.

      • Sheila says

        I wouldn’t try this in a front loading machine. If you use the laundry soap for HE washer, just cut back on the laundry soap as that is already concentrated. Just use a bucket for the soaking, then transfer into the washing machine. Not as convenient, but you probably are not going to get your water hot enough and the bleach compartment may not hold enough bleach.

      • Cheri says

        I have an HE and would say that if you mix this with a small amount of water (just enough to mix it all up) and them add to detergent chamber slowly, it should all go down and them wash it on sanitary or whatever your hottest level is. You can put it on stain cycle too if you have one for soaking time. I would not use the steam cycle because it is not for use with detergents. : )

      • Nancy says

        Ladies! Let’s use our brains here. The idea is to SOAK the clothes in the solution. Top loaders can be used as a handy alternative to a bucket or tub because there is no transferring the dripping clothes from a sink, bucket, tub, etc. The top loader is upright. You can place water in it before you actually wash the clothes.
        As a matter of fact, I ran the clothes through the spin cycle B4 I started a wash cycle. A Front Loader cannot hold a bucket of water plus clothes to soak. You would have to open the door, put a bucket of premixed water & cleaning agents in it and then put clothes in it & mix. THE DOOR WOULD BE OPEN FOR YOU TO DO THIS AS A SOAK IN A FRONT LOADER. That is why it would not work. A SOAK is a SOAK. Get yourself a bucket or tub. Wring them out by hand in your utility sink & then throw them in your front loader. If they make a top loading HE machine that you could spin the solution out of before you actually wash them then that is great; do it. Hope that makes it clear.

    • Amanda says

      I have a frontload HE washer and what I did was use one of those really large tubs that you can get from Walmart/Target with the rope handles and used these same measurements and filled with hot tap water then added a few pots of boiling water. I then transferred it to the washed and washed as normal (hot normal cycle). It worked and I was truly amazed. I have searched long and hard trying to find someway to get rid of those nasty stains. Very happy. Thanks Jillee!

  3. Jill says

    I have used this trick for years but never with borax. I will have to give it a try. My most treasured laundry tip is Lestoil for oil or grease stains. I mean GREASE! Car, tractor, grease you name it as well as oil from food. Just put it in the spot and let sit before laundering. ( check for color fastness of fabric) I had one t-shirt that faded.

      • Michelle says

        My dad is a mailman and in the summer time, his sweat and the strap from the mailbag causes a gross dirty stripe on the front of his uniform. Lestoil gets the stain out every time.

    • Keith says

      Really tough grease and tar can be pre-treated with GoJo hand cleaner. Just rub it into the stain before washing. I have used it to remove asphalt from commercial carpet. It’s my “go to” solution for any petroleum based stain in carpet and my personal laundry.

    • says

      I’m curious about using Lestoil. I tried it once to get out oily stains. The stains did lessen after a soak and a wash, but my washing machine and the clothes stunk of Lestoil for days. Even subsequent loads of laundry took on the smell just from being in the same machine (front load). I’m curious if others have run into the same problem, or if maybe I just need to be rinsing better before laundering!

    • Amisstree says

      Your Lestoil tip is right, my mom used to use it but….I can’t stand the smell of Lestoil. Baking soda or OxiClean work great for grease stains too. Apply a stain releasing gel like Shout or Spray & Wash, then apply some OxiClean or baking soda, press concoction into stain, and then apply another dollop of stain releasing gel, let sit overnight, and then launder in the hottest H20 garment can take. I’ve found this to work on white shirts that had old fruit stains in them and had gone through the drier already several times. This recipe took the stains right out.

    • Jess says

      I’ve also used WD-40 with great results. I use coconut oil as a deep conditioner for my hair & I sleep with it in my hair. I put a large folded towel on my pillow & wrap my hair as well. But a couple of months ago I ended up getting a huge oil spot on my pillowcase! So I used WD-40 on the oil spot – placing 2 folded white towels in between and squirting the WD-40 on the oil spot. It took 2 treatments to get the oil totally out & there was no residual smell.

      • Ember says

        I too regret having purchased an HE washer; what a rip-off. It does not get clothes clean and has been a real money pit. I purchased my w/d set when prices were really high, then had several repairs while under warranty. Now both machines have problems again, warranty expired 2 mos ago. This is it, I’m going back to “old school” Maytag large capacity. I work for a friend who bought one two years ago & the cycle agitates much better and runs for only 20 minutes getting very large amounts of clothes clean.

  4. Lori says

    I’m a little confused, my washer will stop going through cycles? Do I leave the lid up? Could I soak in my 5 gal. bucket then wash?
    On a side note I’m very sad that none of the commissaries (military grocery stores) have laundry bars so I cannot get fels naptha… is that what it’s called? I’ll have to order online… (I’m in Japan)

  5. Marianne says

    I’m going to try this on my ugly dirty socks!

    From your picture it looks like you used your homemade laundry detergent that’s made from Dawn (I’m just guessing here, because it looks blue). I thought you weren’t supposed to mix Dawn with bleach?

    • says

      I wouldn’t try this in your front load washer/HE washer. I have one also. What I would do is soak your items in a laundry tub or kitchen sink, still using the hot, hot, hot water. Remember the less water you use the better the outcome. Use the same ingredients. Then be sure to rinse everything thoroughly and transfer to your front load washer and wash a normal load, washing in hot water. I have some dingy towels that this method should work well on.

  6. Linda says

    When my twin sons were in Little League, they got terrible grass stains in the knees and butts of their uniforms. I don’t remember who told me (it’s been awhile, they’re 36 now), but someone suggested a pre-soak, preferable overnight, in a powdered dishwasher soap/water mix. I always just got the cheapest one. The I just put it on spin and then washed like a regular load. It was amazing! All the stains were gone. I’ve found that the commercial stuff has a form of bleach in it, so I never had to add any. Sparkly-white uniforms. So nice! 8-)

    xo Linda (so glad I found your blog. I send a lot of your posts to my daughter, the new independent-living, drowning-in-school-debt, post graduate student)

  7. Kay says

    This is a great tip! I am a fanatic about laundry and getting things white too. I have done a mixture of equal parts dishwasher detergent, borax and washing soda that works great too. If you have a really dingy item use 1 cup of each and then 1/2 cup of each about once a month to maintain the whiteness.

  8. says

    Definitely! Gonna put this in my arsenal! I had totally forgotten about using powdered dishwashing detergent for white! Thanks for the reminder!

    PS–I like your Shout prewash, but it keeps clogging my sprayer up. I shake it well, but it seems to dry in the sprayer top and won’t spray anymore. What type of sprayer do you use? Have you had this problem?

  9. rita says

    This stuff works so good that when my sons played football in WHITE pants no less. They complained that their uniforms were the cleanest of all the players. One of them asked me not to get his so clean. I so hate grimy clothing. lol I learned about this working in the Thrift Shop. 25 yrs ago. I washed many many loads of baby clothing with stains and most come out spotless. Make sure you check for colorfastness. Some are and some aren’t. My rule is “If it’s already ruined what more can I hurt it” and I throw in the solution. I love my front load washer but sorry to say it won’t soak. Laundry tub and rubber gloves.

  10. Amanda says

    Thanks for sharing, I have a white bra that has become that dingy, dirty dishwater color and I’ve been desperately trying to turn back into a bright white! I’m going to give this a try :)

  11. says

    im ashamed to say i have been following you for a few weeks now and LOVE your blog but havent commented. i get your posts in emails so i get lazy and dont want to click thru to comment. lol
    i am really sensitive to laundry detergents and have to use dye and perfume free. i havent used borax in so long im not sure if it would cause problems or not??? also we have well water that turns out whites icky/dingy, but i am hesistant to use bleach as i was told it breaks down the fabric and it doesnt last as long. is there an alternative?
    have you seen the recipe for oxyclean using baking soda and hydrogen peroxide? do you know if it works well?

  12. says

    I love how dish detergents work so well with clothes. I always add dish soap when I wash my one year old’s clothes. I always gets all the little food stains out, but it makes sense, it’s designed to cut grease and food. And it does a much better job that detergent alone!

  13. Pam says

    For those of you who cannot soak in your washer, I have created my own soak bucket. I use a large bucket and lid for Home Depot, I cut a hole in the lid and use a (new) plunger to mix my laundry. It works great, got the idea from my by scout son, they use these at camp if necessary!

  14. Pam says

    I use the camp method of laundry for soaking my cloths. use a large lidded bucket from Home Depot and cut a small round hole in the lid. Use a toilet plunger (new) for miking and keeping the cloths below the water level.

  15. Liz F says

    I know it’s not homemade, but Rockin Green Diaper Soap will get whites white again, and regular use will prevent build-up from other soaps (things that have ingredients that are supposed to “whighten and brighten clothing.”) It’s hypoallergenic, has an unscented version for those who are VERY sensitive, and comes in three types: soft rock (for soft water), classic rock, and hard rock (places with hard water.) I cloth diaper and have *never* had a stain that won’t come out with a soak.

  16. marta says

    My grandson is a freshman catcher on the varsity high school team and his uniform is always very dirty, could I use the dish detergent minus the liquid bleach on his uniform . His uniform has a thin maroon strip down each leg. Will this method bleach out the strip?

  17. Kathleen says

    Zote comes in a box of flakes now. Saw the at Walmart.
    Also, my kid works at a restaurant and wears white long sleeved shirts. The get filthy, especially the cuffs. I sprayed them an washed twice. Still dirty and stained. So I poured CLOROX ULTIMATE CARE BLEACH on the cuffs followed by BORAX. Using gloves and a mask I did a little hand scrub and watched the stains disappear. Washed as usual. Voila

  18. Mama T says

    Jillee, I make my own dishwasher detergent and was wondering if this would work using it. The recipe for it is
    2 parts washing soda
    2 parts borax
    1 part citric acid
    1 part coarse sea salt

    My mattress pad is in the same state, dingy and dull looking.

  19. Tracy says

    In your recipe you say to use HOT HOT HOT water. Most people don’t realize that HOT water deactivates bleach. You probably need the HOT water to dissolve the dishwasher detergent and borax, and HOT water also helps clean whites, but when you add the bleach, it will just dissipate. The recommended water temperature for bleach addition (according to the Clorox website) is 75 degrees, which would be cool. I wonder how well it would work if you let the laundry detergent/dishwasher detergent/borax solution cool, THEN add the bleach and the clothes?

    • Nancy says

      Tracy – I saw your comment after I’d tried this method with hot, hot water and wasn’t satisfied with the results – some things were still kind of dingy. So, I’ve since tried this a few times with cold or warm water instead, then a hot “rinse” sometimes – I am MUCH more satisfied with the results!

  20. louise says

    It’s great that you got this concoction to work- stuff you buy in the shops always sounda good on the label but rarely does the trick. Just be careful mixing different chemical products together – you could end up with some toxic gases or even an explosion!

  21. Susan says

    Wow! This really works! Now I’m sad the my husband recently got rid of most of his dingy white tee-shirts, specifically because they were dingy. But between him and my son, I wrangled up 6 of them today and gave this a try. 5 out of 6 are like-new white again, and the 6th probably would be with another treatment. And it didn’t harm or fade the graphics on the shirts at all.

    Thanks again, Jillee!

  22. says

    I seem to recall reading about soaking clothes in a dishwasher detergent solution as a last ditch stain remover (Tightwad Gazette, I think.) However, if I remember correctly, they did say that something in the dishwasher detergent breaks down the clothing fibers, which is why it is so effective, but the fabric may wear out faster. I just thought I’d mention that, as it may not be the best solution for frequent use or certain items. That being said, I plan to use it on some dingy white laundry as soon as possible!

  23. says

    My friend just tipped me off to your site-it is great!! I make my own laundry detergent but hate how dingy the whites look-can’t wait to try this.

    Also, I have a blog-The Loose Screw-and would love to share some of your great recipes. Would you mind if I did, as long as I gave credit to you and a link to your blog?


  24. Cheri says

    Hi Jill. Love your tips.

    When my son played sports @15 years ago, I was faced with all the grass stains, mud etc. I began soaking his uniforms, and eventually other whites in a 5 gallon bucket. I used 1 cup Cheer, 1 cup cascade, and 1 cup Clorox (or Clorox 2 for colors). Sometimes the soak was a couple hours, other times over night; then emptied the bucket and washed as normal. If I had a few difficult stains remaining, I would add denture tablets to the washer. I usually put 6-8 tablets in a load. I figured that if it would get blueberry stains off of dentures, it should work on grass stains. And the whites smelled minty fresh!

  25. cheryl says

    I really hope this works on the old yellow (oxidized?) stains I have. Think they are from grease. Too many white items ruined! Unfortunately, homemade oxyclean didn’t work :-(

  26. Rachel says

    I’ve been trying this method over and over again, lol. Any white in the house that looks dingy, I try this recipe. The water has to be BOILING HOT in order for it to work. You have to stop the washer half-way through its filling cycle because she is right about the more concentrated it is, the better it works. I use the end of my broom stick to mix it together (just like the old days), you have to let is sit for 2 hours like she said. I hate waiting…but it works!

  27. says

    If you have a septic field you should not use the powdered detergent… they tend to plug the system over time. Powder products tend to re-clump when they go down the drain and solidify to plug the lines.


    Otherwise something I will have to try using liquid products. THANKS

  28. michelle says

    I have used this recipe but without the borax for years. I first learned of this when my children were babies. This works wonders for formula and spit up stains. Just be sure to wash and rinse well before putting back on baby.


  1. […] White, bright, fresh, and clean. That is how laundry is supposed to be! Mine isn’t always but with this magical DIY Whitening Detergent, it will be! Now that I know how to get my clothes clean I need to actually get up and clean them! 5 ingredients/steps to amazing laundry! Find out how! One Good Thing By Jillee […]

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *