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Whitening Whites…Can This Cami Be Saved?

My post about getting armpit stains out of t-shirts apparently struck a nerve or something. It has received almost 100,000 pageviews and is the 2nd most viewed post of all time! Apparently I’m not the only one obsessed with concerned about white clothes being WHITE. While getting the armpit stains out of my sons’ t-shirts and out of my camis was very satisfying indeed…my quest to salvage perfectly good articles of clothing from the trash merely because they have lost their lustre, continues. This past weekend however, I feel like I made a breakthrough of sorts and feel compelled to share.

Once again I drag out my poor stained, dingy camis as my “makeover” victim recipient.  This particular cami had not had the armpit stain removal method applied to it yet…so it had that AND the gray, dingyness going for it!


In my numerous field trips to the laundry section of the grocery store, searching for answers to this age old dilemma…I spied the Rit dye section. That is how desperate I was to reclaim my white clothings’ glory days!  I was actually considering dyeing them white! lol.  Well, it turns out, at least in my store…they don’t sell WHITE DYE…but they DO sell this stuff called Rit Laundry Treatment Fabric Whitener.  Oooooo…..that sounded promising!!  So what if it was almost $3.00 for one teeny tiny envelope of “treatment”…enough for one load of wash.  SOLD!  My desperation was clouding my frugal judgment at this point!

Long story shortened…I bought it home…used it…was fairly impressed with the results…but wanted more! (That’s the addict in me talking, in case you were wondering.)  But the thought of buying a bunch of those tiny little envelopes for $3 a pop was dampening my enthusiasm for the project. Of course my curiosity is rarely dampened and I decided to look into this further.

My friend Google and I spent some quality time together figuring out what was in this magical little envelope of whiteness.  Ingredients listed are sodium chloride (Salt, if my high school science doesn’t fail me) and Optical Brighteners.  What the heck are optical brighteners???  Turns out Optical Brightening Agents (or OBA’s) are designed to mask yellow or brown tones in fibers and make the fabric look cleaner and brighter than it would otherwise appear to the naked eye. In other words, the “dingyness” is made invisible to the eye in an “optical manner”.  Crazy huh? But not crazy enough for me not to give it a try!

My reporter instincts were definitely in overdrive now as I was determined to track down these “optical brighteners” for my laundry room

Turns out it was “hiding” in the laundry section of my store all along and I never saw it!  It’s called White Brite and it sells for about $4.00 for a 22 oz bottle (a much better value!)

I followed the instructions on the bottle for pre-soaking and mixed 1/2 cup White Brite in a plastic container with 1 gallon of warm water and let soak for about 20-30 minutes, then washed as usual.

Here are the “after effects”: 

Bottom line: My whites are definitely whiter! Which makes me definitely HAPPIER! But, I have to admit…I wonder about these “optical brighteners”.  Are my clothes REALLY cleaner/whiter?  Or is it all just an illusion??? (Or do I even CARE if it’s an illusion or not?)  Who knew laundry could get so complicated! :-)

I have a feeling this laundry saga continues………..

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Jill Nystul Photo

Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee

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Homekeeping Tips

  • […] my wallet, which puts a damper on my nerves! So I started to look into other options. I came across a product called White Brite and decided to give it a try; it only cost four dollars so what the hey, why not. I followed the […]

  • Could not find the White Brite so picked up some stuff called Cloralex, trying to get the dingies out of old baby clothes. On one particular hand crocheted blanket used some Dawn and vinegar on a 15 year old formula stain, came right out!! Then threw it in with the rest of the wash. All in all this is some pretty good stuff and on the label I later noticed that it’s “power booster” is, wait for it, wait for it,
    VINEGAR!!!! Will try the White Brite if I ever find it but am happy with result on Cloralex.

  • Just curious….did you try hydrogen peroxide? I was up late last night reading your post about it, and ran out to buy 3 big bottles of it. As I type it’s bubbling away on my shower tiles, hope it works!

  • […] am taking my blog inspiration from one of your comments. Karen left a comment today on my post “Whitening Whites…” saying that ever since she started making her own all-natural deodorant, she hasn’t had any […]

  • My gandmother taught me to soak yellowed and even mold stained clothes in a solution of 2 parts water to 1 part automatic dishwasher machine detergent. A strong paste can be made for more stubborn areas. Let it soak for a day at least and wash as usual. It very rarely requires a second treatment.

  • Bought some of this yesterday & gave it the old college try with mixed results.

    My white wash cloths (for face only because how do you know your face is clean without one) & white kitchen rags/towels are now a brighter shade of dingy. Not what I was hoping for, but better than what I had!

    The white socks & all of the guy’s dingy undershirts look fabulous!!

    Thanks for another great tip, Jillee!

  • Or you could just take a bar of white soap, and either put it on your hands, then rub it on the shirt, or rub the bar onto the stains. It’s a lot cheaper, and works much better! :)

  • I have found that 2 Tbs of my homemade laundry detergent (fels naptha/borax/washing soda 1:1:1) in a bucket of hot water and things tossed in to soak overnight will take just about any stain out and make my whites REALLY white.

  • I have found that my whites stay really white if I dry them in direct sunlight… = ) All natural and it does really really work. It takes out stains too.

    I am too lazy to do it ALL the time, but if something is looking dingy, I dry it outside a few times..or I alternate sometimes doing the dryer and sometimes outside.

  • Just tried the white brite on some REALLY yellowed and sweat stained undershirts, socks, panties, and bras. Soaked for about 3 hrs in washer, then used Jillees homemade powdered laundry soap – 1/4 cup – and washed as usual. They are at least 3 shades whiter n brighter. Husband even commented about it! Thanks again, Jillees!

    • This is my question too. I have a few white shirts that I am currently only wearing to the gym, but would love to put them back into regular rotation.

  • I was given some old white uniform oxfords w/the school emblem on the pocket. Do you think the White Brite will effect the color on the emblem?
    Thanks!

  • I just wanted to add a quick note. I made the homemade laundry detergent and added oxi clean. This will not work with any oxi product. Also bleach and oxi cancel each other out as I have found out the hard way since all my whites have become very dingy since making my own detergent. I will have to break down and buy a bottle of regular stuff at the store to get my whites back to where they were. On a side note, I sure am missing my top loading washer about now…can’f fill up and soak things with this front loader :(

  • Thank You a thousand times Jill! I too thought your writing was so very entertaining :) thanks also for making laundry fun to read about, and ….. when I get the white bright, will make me and my clothes Very happy indeed !!

  • BIG question that doesn’t seem to be answered is: if this only works for whites (due to bleaching), what works for light blue, light pink, grey-ish shirts? I’m dying to know, thanks!

  • My grandmother still uses it in her laundry, she also uses the Blue Rit Dye to help her keep her jeans from fading. I started this practice when I got married and love it! You take a table spoon of liquid dye per full load of darks. The dye should be added to the start of the load with the detergent before the clothes are added to the wash. Do not use it on darks that have detailing or silk screening that is a lighter color. It will not restore the garment to it’s former glory but it will prevent any future fading.

    • I spray vinegar on the colored and dark armpits. As long as you don’t have a lot of build up, this works like a charm. I let the shirts sit about 5 minutes before putting in the washer. They always come out clean. If you have some build up, maybe soaking in vinegar longer before washing would help. For my husband’s white t-shirts with those ugly yellow stains, I use Jillee’s hydrogen peroxide/dawn dish soap remedy. I let them sit a while and scrub with baking soda and a brush. It’s the ONLY thing I have found that takes the yellow stains away!

  • my mom always had her own whitner it was equal parts cheep dishwasher powder and clorox ( this is a must it cant be the store brand it dont work dont know why) fill the washer with the hottest water. pour in the clorox. (have the lid open and agetating) then pour in the dish washer powder. then throw in your whites. you can even do coloreds that say on the lable can use non-chlorine bleach. let it agitate then soak. this takes out grass stains, mold, mildew, baby formula an poop. blood an alot others canves tennys come out wonderful. the great thing about this is it dont eat the material like using straight clorox does. its like your own verson of oxy clean but better. good luck i dont think a front loader can be used with this coz it is very important that this gets mixed very good in the washer before the you put the clothes in. i use 2 cups ratio to the washer

  • In a house full of children I like to keep their whites white but sometimes it is hard. I have found that using a denture tablet in a half cup of warm water and scrubbing the stain with the solution works great. I don’t like using alot of the other options out there when it comes to clothes against my children’s sensitive skin. I have never used it on colours before so no idea how that would turn out but the whites come up sparkling!

  • Is that “optical brightener” based on bleach or ammonia? This past blog caught my attention because we have a lot of bleach and ammonia allergies in my family. I grow tired of having to throw things away or donate them because I can’t use anything to get the dingy look to go away. If you could help, I would really appreciate it.

  • I bought some White Bright at Walmart a few days ago, and just got around to using it today. I let it soak for a few hours like someone had suggested… and now some of my clothes have little blue dots on them….? I thought they would rinse out in the washer… but they didn’t. Any idea how to get them out? I would love any suggestions!

  • My sister-in-law told me this trick that she learned from a dry cleaner in France. Her hubby’s shirts came back extra white and when she asked about it, they told her Woolite. She uses a capful of Woolite and about a 1/2 cup of bleach

  • For armpit stains, I make a paste of ammonia and color safe bleach powder. Just rub it into the stain. It’s potent but works like a charm. This recipe comes from the inside of my washing machine lid.

  • Thanks for sharing….I have been using 2 TBS of detergent and then in the drum along with the clothes I use 1 cup of powered dish detergent (yes, dishwasher) and 1/2 cup of borax. Then I also add bleach to the bleach dispenser and my whites are very white….I too am obbsessed with getting whites white…my have to try White Brite with my mixture instead of the bleach. There is no soaking and they come out very clean. For dark and light colors I use the same combination except for the bleach and any and all stains are completely gone~

    • Ginna… What type of dishwasher detergent are you using? Are you using a front load washer? I have a front load so soaking is not a choice.

  • I've been using WhiteBrite for a few years now—and it does work very well on dingy whites. I use it in every load of whites, whether they need it or not, as a preemptive measure. It's REALLY hard to find…when you do find it, stock up because chances are you'll not find it again for a few months. Not cheap either. You need to use about 1/4 cup per load and it's best if you let it soak for a minimum of 4 hours–overnight is better.

  • I'm not sure why fabric dye has gotten a bad reputation. I use it to freshen up black jeans & other favorite items that are still wearable. If a little dye is all it takes to get more use out of something, then I will take that over paying $60+ dollars for a pair of jeans.
    Good find on the brightener. I am going to look for it the next time I go shopping.

  • The best product to use for these stains is called raise. It works on the first wash and it does an amazing job brightening the white. The danger in soaking fabrics so long is it breaks down the material. I'm a nurse and the joke is you can wear any color you want as long as it's white. I get all kinds of stains on my white scrubs and this product has yet to disappoint me.

  • That is awesome for whites..but any suggestion on arm pit stains on colors? I have to get rid of a ton of shirts due to this problem. :(

  • Thanks MamaBug….interesting and almost disturbing.

    I may have folded the cami's slightly differently for the pictures…but it was not intentional and in both pictures you are seeing the same area.

    I tried Mrs. Stewart's Bluing once but ended up turning some white t-shirts blue. :-( I don't think I followed the instructions correctly though. Worth another try.

    • Squirt about a tablespoon or so of blueing into an empty gallon sized vinegar jug (or whatever jug you have, I always have empty vinegar jugs) and fill the rest up with water. Voila. Now just pour some into your washer while the water is running before you load your whites. All done, and no more blue clothes!

      Can you tell I turned a load blue once too? ;)

  • After using what you did ….
    then use Mrs Stewart's Blueing. (any nurse that has ever worn white knows about this stuff) By adding a bit of blueing to your whites it brightens them. Brings them back from yellow.

  • I have a question for you if it got the stains out of the arm pits of the shirts then why after you treated it did you fold the arm pits in so that you can not see them in the picture I would think that if it got the stains out so well you would be showing the actual part of the shirt that had been stained. I could tell you had done that because in the first picture you can see the side seam of the shirt and in the second you can't.

    • click on the ‘after’ picture…..go ahead, i’ll wait……ya do it? OK. now. see the seam? It would appear that Miss Jillee actually wrote about a success, after all. One may then conclude she may not be up to the task of concocting a tale (about pit stains, no less!) solely for the thrill of pulling one over on you. Something to ponder, darling.

  • I use bluing in my rinse cycle. Just mix bluing with a quart of water and add to machine after the tub has filled, rinse as usual. Bluing is a optical brightener. Whites definitely come out brighter! Won't live without it.

  • Anony….thanks for the tip on Mrs Stewarts Bluing…I did not know that!

    Ashley…I assure you I am working on this frantically. :-) You are not the only one who has had this problem. Would you might telling me what browser you are using?

  • Anony…thank you! I'm always tired of doing laundry! :-) Unfortunately it never goes away. I think I write about it so much as therapy! lol.
    I would LOVE to write a book someday. Definitely on my bucket list.

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