How to Whiten Clothes Without Using Bleach

Keep your whites crisp and bright without resorting to chlorine bleach. While bleach is fast and affordable, over or improper use can result in yellowed clothes and weakened fabric fibers. A bright white wardrobe begins with proper washing techniques.

Sunshine is a natural whitener.

Wash lightly soiled whites together with enough laundry soap to keep dirt suspended so it doesn’t end up back on the clothes. Start, add or finish with a gentle, whitener concocted from nature. Then, learn to settle for less than perfection. White clothing is often treated with a chemical brightener; eventually it will wash out and nothing will replace it.

  1. Soak your clothes in a sink with hot water and a sliced lemon. For a quick whitening treatment, soak clothes for an hour or two and launder as usual. For dingy clothing boil water, turn off the heat and add the lemon slices and clothes. Soak overnight before washing as usual.

  2. Turn to the kitchen cupboards for an unexpected whitener. Add about 1/4 cup of dishwasher detergent to a bucket of hot water. Slosh whites around in the mixture and let soak for 30 minutes – or over night. Dump the bucket and clothes in the washer and finish the load as with your usual laundry detergent.

  3. Take advantage of an age-old whitening treatment and hang white wash outside on a sunny day. Line drying clothes isn't as fast or powerful as other whitening methods, but sunshine naturally brightens whites and keeps clothes smelling fresh.


Treat any stains or flaws on your clothing before you put it in the washer. If you tackle the stain ahead of time, then the whitening agents can do their job, and you will get better results. If you don't have fresh lemons, use lemon juice as a substitute. If you want to use bleach, consider a much milder all-fabric bleach or an oxygen bleach.