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Everyday Cheapskate: How to Wash White Laundry to Keep It Looking Brilliant

Mary Hunt on

Whether yours is an older top-loading machine that uses a lot of water or a front-loader that uses what seems like hardly any, chances are good you're using way too much detergent. It is difficult to imagine, perhaps, but you should measure by tablespoons, not cups, with most machines. Experiment to find the right amount for your machine, or follow the label instructions (warily), and then carefully measure for each load.

Detergent that doesn't get rinsed away thoroughly gets stuck between the fibers of your white towels and sheets and will make them feel rough and scratchy, not soft and fluffy -- and eventually dingy gray.


Use hot water in the wash cycle for white items (or the warmest recommended for the fabric) and cold water for the rinse cycle(s). This helps to remove body oils and grime that can leave fabric looking dingy and gives the dirty detergent the best opportunity to be rinsed away completely.


Forget commercial fabric softeners, which can leave residue on fabrics that can be harmful to our health and are not good for the washer and dryer, either. Instead, add one cup of distilled white vinegar to the rinse cycle to ensure that all the detergent is stripped away from fabrics.



Once white items come out of the washer, check again to make sure all stains are gone. If not, re-treat and re-launder. If a stained item goes through the dryer, you've just guaranteed it will be much more difficult to remove, if you manage to remove it at all. Heat treating does that.


If you have the opportunity and the right conditions where you live, hanging your white items out on a line or dryer rack in full sun is ideal. The ultraviolet rays from the sun will sanitize, freshen and whiten them!

If sun is not possible, dry whites on a low heat setting in the clothes dryer. This will take a bit longer, but your items will last longer, and any stains, dinginess or grayish tinge will be much easier to reverse. Overdrying can also cause stains you can't see to turn yellow.


Mary invites you to visit her at, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at, "Ask Mary." Tips can be submitted at This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of, a frugal living blog, and the author of the book "Debt-Proof Living."

Copyright 2021 Creators Syndicate Inc.



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