Nothing quite says ‘professional’ like crisp, clean white sheet or fluffy white towels. However, a number of common washing mistakes (many of which you may not even realise you’re doing) can leave your once bright whites a washed out shade of grey or yellow over time.
Whether you run a laundry room in a care home, school, hospital, spa, restaurant or another busy business, here are four simple steps for keeping whites white – and they’ll work at home too.
How to wash whites
By following these simple tips for your white laundry, it’s easy to ensure that your sheets, towels and other items stay as bright as the day they were bought. Here’s how to keep your whites white in a busy business laundry…
Separate colours and fabrics
While it may be common practice to not mix black and white laundry garments in the wash, it’s easy to overlook the mixing of other, lighter shades (such as blue, green and pink) with white items. This won’t necessarily result in colour transfer or ‘bleeding’, but white fabric is prone to picking up fluff from darker items, which will make it appear dingy and unclean.
If you’re in a hard water area, this can discolour your whites.
As well as colours, you should also take into account fabric types when washing whites for residents, uniforms for staff, chef whites or things like table cloths and towels. This is due to the fact that some delicate materials will require laundering at a lower temperature, or even by hand.
To make separating your fabrics as simple as possible, refer to the following guidelines:
- Acetates and acrylics can be washed together
- Cotton, linen and similar materials can be washed together
- Wool should be washed separately
- Delicates should be washed separately (often by hand)
- Do not skip rinses as detergent carryover will discolour items when drying
Avoid overloading your washer
Packing laundry into your machine might seem like a good way to get more done in less time, but it could lead to poor results on your load of whites (and re-washing which uses up more water and electricity and will bump up your bills). Always leave enough space between items for the water to flush away the grease, grime and dirt to get the brightest whites.
Wash at the highest temperature possible
As a general rule, white garments should be washed at a temperature of at least 65 degrees. This is typically the best option for white clothing or sheets as higher temperatures are the most effective at removing ingrained dirt (as well as sanitising and killing germs).
However, as we already know, wool and similarly delicate fabrics will shrink or obtain further damage if laundered at too high a temperature. To ensure such items retain their original brightness without their quality being compromised, you could add a whitener or brightener to the wash (please ask our experts for advice on this).
While the above guidance is a good ‘rule of thumb’ guide for keeping whites white, it’s also possible to get the same results or better at low temperatures – using ozone laundry. This natural (disinfection) method also opens up fibres more than a traditional thermal wash, which can help you get soft, fluffy towels that impress your guests.
Use the correct detergent
White laundry, black and brightly coloured garments all have different requirements to keep them looking their very best. To boost the brightness of your items and prevent dingy whites, opt for a detergent with an added bleaching agent. Be warned though…bleach shouldn’t be used to get the same effect on bright colours as this will fade them.
Once you’ve found the most suitable detergent, it’s important to use the right amount during each wash cycle. While items may not be badly stained (leading many to believe that they only need to use half of the recommended amount of detergent) this can have a detrimental effect on your washing equipment. Find out how detergent auto-dosing could help.
By not using the recommended amount of laundry detergent, grease and limescale will build up in the washer, resulting in garments picking up more dirt during the wash. Use too much, and your items will come out of the wash with sticky residue that attracts dirt quicker than a fully rinsed item.
Prevent and pre-treat stains
We’ve all had those moments – you’re wearing a new white outfit, when suddenly you’ve spilt something down the front of it. The same can happen with new bedding, uniforms, towels and other expensive-to-replace items. Luckily, it’s easy to salvage your items with these simple tips…
- Check each item before you put it in the laundry. If a stain is visible, it should be treated before it goes into the washing machine.
- Don’t let the stain dry – soak and treat it as soon as possible, ideally within 15 minutes. As soon as it becomes ingrained in the fabric, it will be all the harder to remove.
- Immediately pre-treat the garment with a stain removal product (ideally oxygen based or a product from a professional detergents range rather than vinegar or lemon juice as some might suggest) formulated specifically for the stain type (such as sauce or ink). Alternatively, you can use a small amount of detergent.
- Use chlorine bleach as a pre-treatment only as a last resort– it has the potential to damage delicate garments, so always check the inner care label before applying to the fabric.
- After pre-treating, try a cold wash (or look into ozone laundry) – in some instances, hot water can seal in stains, making them harder to remove in the long-run.
- If your stain isn’t removed after laundering, don’t let the garment dry. Pre-treat and wash for a second time (or until the stain is considerably faded or removed).
- To prevent yellowing from everyday wear, simply add half a cup of baking soda to each wash. Bonus tip: use a colour remover – they can be very effective on whites too.
Remember: if in doubt, check the clothes washing labels before washing or treating garments.
Always check the recommended ironing settings for the clothes or fabrics you’re washing. Too hot and you could scorch the fabric, too cool and you won’t remove all the wrinkles, which can leave your whites looking dull due to ‘crease shadows’.
Our friendly commercial laundry team has all the advice you need when it comes to tips on how to wash whites to keep them white, so please get in touch if you’re having issues.