This Is Martha's Bleach-Free Trick for Getting Your Whites That Much Brighter
So long as you're using ultra-hot water, you can skip the chemicals, she explains.
Before you followed Martha on Instagram, you looked forward to learning from her on the air—and you still can. The Best of the Martha Show takes you right back into our founder's studio to rediscover her most timeless homekeeping tips and Good Things, galore.
Soy sauce, red wine, and vinaigrettes: All are enemies to your white button-down shirts. And while these culprits may leave stains in their wakes, regular wear-and-tear, especially when it comes to white linens or towels, often leaves these everyday items dull or dingy. Naturally, Martha has a solution for both situations—one she shared on the air years ago. In the above clip, our founder explains to viewers how she restores her favorite colorless items (like the Brooks Brother's top which she used as an example in the segment) back to their original brightness.
The first step? Check each garment's laundering instructions. While it's important to mind the label, know that you absolutely can wash certain white "dry-clean-only" items at home, so long as the fabrics are 98- to 100-percent cotton, Martha says. Next, separate the whites; they should never be washed with colorful clothing, she adds, which can result in dye transfer. Then, sort them into piles—one for your washing machine and the other for hand washing. For the former, she recommends using water as hot as the fabric can stand when you're ready to do a load.
According to Martha, you can even skip bleaching agents—the hot water will do the work. However, if you absolutely need to use bleach, take her advice and use oxygen-based formulas, instead of chlorine iterations (these can weaken the fabric). Be sure to apply the bleach and the detergent simultaneously for the best results. For stubborn stains, like those soy sauces, red wines, and vinaigrettes our founder mentioned at the top of her segment, use a pretreating solution on your fabrics before tossing them into the wash.
You can learn more about stain removal in her 2006 book, The Martha Stewart Homekeeping Handbook ($45, barnesandnoble.com), which has a helpful chart that breaks down how to remove everything from red wine to ball point pen; it even outlines how to remove mustard marks, a notoriously difficult stain to get rid of (the secret is to use an eye dropper to flush the stain with vinegar before washing it with dish soap!). In fact, Martha suggests pairing the book—which is as relevant now as it was then—with any white clothing, towel, or bedding gift: It certainly will come in handy down the line.
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