How to Wash White Clothes

Whites come in many varieties—from regular and delicate items to sheets and towels—but they all have one thing in common: They all need to look impeccably bright in order to impress. Follow the tips in this article on washing white clothes to keep yours looking bright and vibrant.

6 minutes to read

Wash Regular Whites

Step 1


Place white clothes labeled for warm-water washing in your machine. For instance, a cotton shirt and a rayon blouse can be washed at the same time. Use a warm, normal setting or your machine’s gentle setting.

A person loading white clothes into the washing machine drum
Step 2

Add detergent

Next, add detergent. Use either Tide PODS® Ultra OXI laundry detergent pacs or Tide Ultra OXI High Efficiency Liquid for next-level stain-fighting. Because the formula of Tide Ultra OXI HE Liquid contains built-in pretreaters, surfactants, and enzymes, it effectively removes even the toughest stains in just one step, wash after wash. Tide PODS Ultra OXI do an especially great job protecting your colors and helping to brighten white clothes.

A person pouring Tide liquid detergent into the detergent dispenser
Step 3


If you have a dryer, dry cottons on high and synthetics on medium or low. Alternatively, you can place them all together in the dryer and take the synthetics out as soon as they are dry.

The video below will give you a little more information about washing all kinds of whites—from sorting your items to drying them effectively.

White garments in a woven laundry basket

The video below will give you a little more information about washing all kinds of whites—from sorting your items to drying them effectively.

Not all white clothing is created equally, so the process of how to keep white clothes white will vary. While all are especially vulnerable to stains, how you wash your whites will depend heavily on their fabric composition.

Before machine washing any of your clothing, you should always consult the garment’s care label. For whites like cloth diapers, undershirts, gym clothes, or underwear, you should wash in hot water that is at least 55°C or 130°F using a specially formulated detergent like Tide Brights + Whites Rescue. This will be the best method remove any heavy soil or germs in these garments. Be aware that not all white garments are created equally, and some are more rugged than others, so your white clothes wash temperature will vary. Hot water can shrink, fade, or otherwise damage some of the more delicate white fabrics, so it’s always best to separate your whites by fabric type to keep them looking fresh.

It’s happened to all of us—after repeated washes, our whites start to dull and become brown or yellowed. To restore the bright, clean look of your whites, first pre-soak in a mixture of warm water and a one-quarter cup of Tide Simply Plus Bleach Alternative Liquid Laundry Detergent for at least two hours before a normal wash. If stains persist, soak the clothes again in a mixture of warm water and one cup of baking soda for up to eight hours before washing as you normally would with your favorite Tide Detergent.

For garments like dress shirts or bright, white outerwear, it’s often acceptable to go for a month or longer without washing them if they have no noticeable dirt or stains. Frequency of washing will depend largely on how soiled the garments become and the type of fabric, but you can typically wait to wash whites until they become dull or dirty. When you’re ready to wash, you can soak the garments in a mixture of hot water and Tide+Oxi Rescue Laundry Stain Remover for an hour (this is suitable only for fabrics that don’t shrink). Then machine wash according to the garment’s care label.

White garments like undershirts, underwear and casual outerwear are more susceptible to yellowing due to the frequency with which we wear them as well as the tougher jobs they tend to handle. Clothing that sits close to our bodies tends to get dirtier and needs be washed more frequently, so it makes sense that they would yellow faster. But don’t worry! There are several tried-and-true ways to restore the brightness of these whites and eliminate yellowing.

1. Whitening solutions: Whiteners like Tide Brights Whites Rescue are used together with detergent to restore the brightness of your whites. Color-safe and useable with a range of detergents, they can restore up to three shades of white to even the dingiest clothing.

2. Oxygen-based bleach: These bleaches are popular because they’re typically gentler on clothing, reducing damage and avoiding the color fading that often happens with regular bleaches. Detergents like Tide Ultra OXI High Efficiency Liquid Laundry Detergent provide powerful whitening while being gentle enough to use with most machine-washable garments. You can also soak your whites in a solution of Tide Ultra OXI with water before the regular wash cycle for tough stains or discoloration.

3. Baking soda: This versatile product is handy to have around the home for a number of uses, but you can also add it to a load of whites in your washer to brighten them up. You can also use baking soda in a solution of water, soaking the soiled whites for about an hour before throwing them in the wash using a “white” cycle setting.

4. Vinegar: Much like baking soda, white vinegar can be used in a pretreatment solution of water to soak your yellowed whites before washing, or you can add it directly in your machine before running a load of whites. One of the benefits of using vinegar is that it not only whitens, but it can also neutralize tough odors in undershirts or underwear.

Advanced Tips on How to Wash Whites

Not all white clothing is created equally, so the process of how to keep white clothes white will vary. While all are especially vulnerable to stains, how you wash your whites will depend heavily on their fabric composition.

Wash White Towels, Sheets, and Socks

  1. Gather white towels, sheets, and socks that can tolerate hot washing. Check the labels if you're not sure.

  2. Use the hottest temperature setting according to the care labels. Because sheets and towels are heavily used, they tend to get dirty more easily, so it’s important to make sure the water is hot enough to remove all dirt and other build up. Adjust your water level for the correct volume, and set the machine for a normal wash.

  3. Place the required number of Tide PODS® Ultra OXI Laundry Pacs inside your washing machine’s drum or add a dose of Tide Ultra OXI High Efficiency Liquid to your laundry. Featuring built-in pretreaters, both detergents are designed to remove even the most stubborn stains in your wash, whether you’re using a standard or high-efficiency washing machine.

  4. If you have a dryer, dry all these items on high heat or dry the sheets separately if you don't want excess towel lint on them.

Wash Delicate Whites

  1. Gather delicate white items, such as sheer blouses, shirts, or undergarments.

  2. Review the fabric care tags to see how to wash white delicates and make sure the items are washable. Note whether machine or hand-washing is suggested as well as the recommended wash temperature and drying method.

  3. You can machine wash most delicate whites in cold water. Adjust the water level and use a gentle or delicate setting. Tide gets perfect results in every wash, even with cold settings.

  4. Hand-wash delicate undergarments or items specifically labeled "hand-wash only." Dilute a small amount of Tide Ultra OXI High Efficiency Liquid in a tub, bucket, or sink filled with cold water, then dunk and rinse your clothes under running water.

  5. Dry delicates on low or by hanging them up to dry. Check the labels.

Frequently Asked Questions

A:For bleaching white shirts and more, use a quarter cup of bleach or Tide Plus Bleach per gallon of water and soak your whites for an hour before adding to your washing machine. Be sure to select a “white” cycle with hot water on your machine, then add a third of a cup of bleach plus your favorite Tide Laundry Detergent before running to combat yellowed or stained whites.

A:If possible, act quickly before the stain dries or sets. Using a clean white cloth, remove as much of the stain as possible, avoiding heat that could set the stain. Add Tide Ultra OXI or other whitening detergent directly to the stain, allowing it to sit for at least five minutes, then rinse with cold water. Wash in your washer as you regularly would according to the garment’s care label.

A:For your favorite white garments, sometimes only hand-washing will do. It can help them last longer and is often gentler than a machine wash. Spot-treat any stains before washing with a Tide to Go Stain Remover, dabbing at stains rather than rubbing. You can also soak in a bleach and water solution, mixing a quarter cup of bleach per gallon of water, allowing them to soak for 15 to 30 minutes. Check the garment’s care label for water temperature and drying instructions, then hand wash in a clean sink or basin, adding 1 teaspoon of detergent to the water. Submerge and swish the garment around for 5 minutes, ensuring the soap can move through the fabric. Drain the tub, then refill with clean, cool water to rinse. Repeat until suds are gone, then dry according to the garment’s care label.