How to Whiten Linens

Yellowed linens can make a whole room look dingy and dirty.

Whiten Linens
Sometimes dust, fabric softeners and other laundry additives can make stored linens become discolored. There are simple ways to whiten linens, using household ingredients. Modern enthusiasts of vintage linens recommend over-the-counter products as well as natural ingredients. .

Launder the linens as usual to remove dust and oils that may be clinging to the linen. Use cold water and mild soap. Dry thoroughly by hanging in the sun or placing in the dryer.

Fill a large double-boiler pot with hot water and 1 to 2 lemons, sliced. The double boiler will keep your linens from touching the hot pan. Bring to a boil and soak for about 1 hour. Rinse and dry as usual.

Use vinegar if you don't have lemons--1/2 cup vinegar added to 2 gallons of water should work. There may still be a vinegar smell after it's rinsed, but once the linens are dried, the smell will be gone.

Soak severely yellowed linens in non-chlorine bleach, like Biz or an oxygenated cleanser like Oxy-Clean for as long as it takes to whiten them. Vintage linen enthusiasts recommend changing the solution every few days.

Hang freshly laundered linens in the sunshine for several hours. The sun can bleach linens safely. If they are crisp afterward, tumble them in the dryer or iron them to soften.

Things You Will Need

  • Lemons
  • Vinegar
  • Clothesline in the sunshine
  • Biz Bleach (non-chlorine formula)
  • Oxy-Clean


  • True linens are woven from flax fibers, not cotton. Do not whiten linens and cotton together.


  • Never use bleach on linens.

About the Author

Lisa Russell has been a writer since 1998. She's been published in Rethinking Everything Magazine, Playdate, AERO and Home Educator's Family Times. She has a Bachelor of Science in business marketing management and a professional background in marketing, education, cosmetology and hospitality.