We talk a lot about how to care for our plant-dyed garments (I was even in the press recently discussing why plant-dyes are so unique), but what about caring for your white garments? It's a totally different ball of wax.
With my own white garments, my biggest issue is yellowing in the underarms after I've worn and washed a few times, especially in the sweatier months that we have no shortage of here in Texas. Recently, I ended up with some particularly gnarly yellow stains on my new Organic Cotton Bubble Gauze Carlisle Top and was feeling pretty crestfallen. The Carlisle has become the shirt I am reaching for day after day. I had worn it multiple times (with multiple types of deodorant from wear to wear) before bothering to offer that poor girl the respite of a good laundering.
I did some research and performed my own trial and error before ultimately ousting those dreaded stains. The first thing I tried was crushed Aspirin. This was something I had read about long ago but never seemed to have the stuff on hand when I needed it. This seemed like the time to try, and I found it in powder form at my local grocery store. I pre-soaked my shirt, then filled my bathroom sink with warm water before adding two packets (or two tablets worth) of Aspirin. Before dropping my top in, I gave the water a light swirl. After letting things sit for an hour, I was bummed to see no change. It occurred to me I might have tried a paste directly on the area rather than a soak, but what I recalled was that you can dissolve the tablets directly in the washing machine typically, so I didn't bother. Moving on!
Next I tried Oxygen Bleach (aka, OxyClean), which is powdered Hydrogen Peroxide, combined with an equal measure of dish soap. I combined both in a liquid measuring cup with warm water, dissolving the powder before adding it to the wash basin where my top was already soaking in warm water. I let it soak for an hour. When I returned, the yellowing was lighter, but still there.
Sidebar: I also found lots of recommendations that included Baking Soda or combinations of Baking Soda and other commonly found household items, but I didn't have any on-hand (we just moved and overzealously-purged our pantries). That will have to wait until the next time....If your go-to involves Baking Soda, please let me know in the comments section, I'd love to learn more!
Still determined, I tried White Vinegar next. We always keep a gallon jug of White Vinegar under the sink for household cleaning. I rather unceremoniously sloshed it into the sink of warm water with my shirt already soaking (I have no idea how much I used, maybe around a 1/2 cup?) and the yellow instantly lifted. I left the top in the vinegar bath for another 10 minutes just for good measure. Afterwards I rinsed and soaked the top in my favorite shampoo for 20 minutes to help diminish the vinegar aroma. After rinsing, I unplugged the sink and let the water drain out, letting my top hangout while the bulk of that water left its fibers. I recently heard that ringing your garments is really hard on the weave of the fabric and the seaming, so I've been trying to dry in a few stages instead. First, I drain the water with the garment on the surface of the wash basin, then I'll either drape it over two plastic hangers (plastic is better than wood for drying because the tannins in the wood can stain or discolor your fabric) or laid flat on a towel. With our Organic Cotton Bubble Gauze, we've found that a 5-10 minute turn in the dryer on low-heat is the best method for getting it's buoyancy back, so that was my last step. What a journey! But my Carlisle Top is restored and good as new.
Do you have a fool proof method for getting yellowing out of your garment? Or know how to prevent it in the first place? Any laundry tips you're dying to share? I would love to hear from you in the comments below,