Ever wonder why your white undershirts lose their color or turn grey-ish over time? Curious as to how to best wash them to maintain their whiteness?
So did this reader.
Hi, after about 4-5 washes my white undershirts start greying.
I’ve tried different brands (jockey, fruit of the loom, hanes, Kirkland), different detergents, bleach and different water temps. I have a front loading unit.
Any suggestions on how to keep them white?
Before we get into the possible solutions for Russ, let’s first discuss how your undershirts get white in the first place.
Most fabric starts off as “greige goods”. Greige goods is defined by Wiktionary as:
(textiles) Raw fabric before undergoing dying or bleaching.
More simply, the fabric in the majority of your white undershirts starts off as more grey-ish color fabric, and then it’s
dyed white. (Note: technically there’s no such thing as white dye, so the fabric is brightened/whitened with an optical brightener)
I mentioned this fact in an article where a reader was wondering how to re-whiten his undershirts.
Why Do White Undershirts Lose Their Color?
My first reaction to a question about why white undershirts would lose their color and turn greyish would be poor manufacturing, or more specifically, lack of quality dyeing.
If you think about it, if the dye in your undershirt or shirt starts to wash out, or lose it’s color, then it would be practical to assume it’ll fade to it’s original color (grey-ish), right?
Secondarily, I would assume that maybe someone is over-bleaching them.
That said, Russ identified 4 different brands in his email and also indicated that he tried different laundry products and different water temperatures. So, it seems a little strange that all of his different white undershirts, from different brands, would be turning grey.
Statistically, that seemed unlikely — so, I dug a bit further.
Jolie Kerr, Cleaning Expert
She referred me to this article where a follower asked about her white towels turning off-white, and among other things, she made a couple suggestions that stood out to me:
(2) You have hard water.
(3) The washing machine you’re using needs to be cleaned.
How To Keep Undershirts Their Whitest?
In Russ’ case, I have a suspicion that he has hard water — though there still is a remote possibility that his washing machine may need to be cleaned.
In the article Jolie made some recommendations on how to minimize the hardness or “soften” the water that goes into the washing machine, so hopefully that will help prevent future white undershirts from going grey.
How to Re-Whiten Those Dulling Undershirts?
In the same article, Jolie make some recommendations on how to re-whiten towels, so they could could be used equally as effectively on undershirts. Keep in mind the following should only be done after the hard-water or dirty washing machine issue(s) have been fixed.
- Hot, hot water wash
- Cascade soak
Though, I’d like to add three more suggestions:
- Oxi-Clean soak (30 minutes to overnight)
- Rit Whitewash – My recommendation in this Re-Whiten Undershirts article
- Bluette Laundry Bluing — Bluette® functions as a laundry whitener because a trace of blue in the wash will enhance white and light-colored articles, making them appear whiter and brighter. Try Bluette® for whiter whites, it is safe and gentle even on delicate fabrics. (a fave product of Jolie’s too)
How Do You Re-Whiten Your Whites?
Do you have any tricks of the trade you’d like to share? If so, tell us about them in the comments section below.
Category: Ask Tug