Warm bath + fluffy white towel = sheer luxury. But how do you keep those towels fluffy and white? You may want to reach for the bleach, which whitens and disinfects. However, over time, bleach can weaken the fibres and make your towels less absorbent. It can also cause yellowing of the fabric. Then there’s the fact that household chlorine bleach is a pretty harsh chemical that can burn your skin and more.
So what is the alternative? We reached out to Sheryn Saab, founder of Toronto-based online linen company envello, providers of luxurious home textiles without the big price tag or harm to the environment. Sheryn recommends using biodegradable detergents that are free of phosphates and nitrates, which can harm our waterways. In addition, she has these tips on how to clean white towels without bleach.
Use the Right Amount of Detergent
Using too little detergent means that what you do use won’t be as effective. However, using too much detergent leaves residue on your towels, making them harder and less absorbent once they are dry.
Use Warm Water
One of the most important things to consider when thinking about how to wash towels is the water temperature. Sheryn recommends a temperature of 40 degrees Celsius or 104 degrees Fahrenheit. This is warm enough to help get rid of germs in what is one of the grossest things in your house right now but not so hot that it will damage the fibres and set certain types of stains.
Wash With Whites Only
You know that washing your white towels with reds will give you pink towels. Sheryn says that you shouldn’t even wash your towels along with the lightest coloured clothing, including beige. The reason is that the colour can still bleed into the highly absorbent towels and cause greying.
Don’t Use Fabric Softener
It might seem like a no-brainer that fabric softener will help keep your towels fluffy and soft. That’s actually a bad idea, though. Fabric softener is formulated to stick to fabrics and coat them in a thin layer. This makes them less absorbent.
One of the most surprising secrets to how to clean white towels without bleach is that these are just another of the many things you should be cleaning with vinegar. Adding between half a cup and a cup of white distilled vinegar to each wash will help remove stains and whiten your towels: you can add it to the fabric-softener dispenser. Diluting one part vinegar in four parts water and spraying it directly onto stains is also a way of pretreating them.
Use Baking Soda
Baking soda is another of those magical ingredients that clean just about anything. Adding half a cup of baking soda to your regular laundry detergent will boost the detergent’s cleaning and whitening powers. A paste of baking soda and water applied directly to spot stains will help loosen and lift them too.
Use Hydrogen Peroxide
If you’re stuck on the idea that bleach is the best way to get whites white, why not simply change the kind of bleach? Hydrogen peroxide (3%) is a non-chlorine bleach that does the job without the negative side effects. Just add half a cup along with your regular laundry detergent.
Presoak in Lemon
There’s a good reason why lemon is a common ingredient in all-natural cleaners: it works! For particularly tough stains, try a lemon pre-soak. Fill a large pot with water and sliced lemon and bring it to a boil. Turn off the heat, add your white towels and let them soak for an hour before washing them.
Find New Uses for Towels You Can’t Save
If you’ve followed all the advice on how to clean white towels but they’re still tatty, stained and discoloured, it’s time to find other uses for them. For example, you can cut them into cleaning rags. Alternatively, donate them to your local animal shelter: animal shelters can never have too many towels.