What You Need
Distilled white vinegar
Hydrogen peroxide (3%)
Note: With the exception of the lemon pre-soak and sunlight, use just one of these ingredients at a time, not all at once. Each method should work well with 100% cotton fabric, but it's a good idea to do a test before washing different fabrics or an entire load.
• Distilled white vinegar. Vinegar whitens, freshens, and softens fabrics. Add 1/2 to 1 cup of distilled white vinegar along with your regular laundry detergent. Don't worry about the vinegar scent; it will dissipate after drying. Vinegar may also be sprayed on spot stains and collar and underarm stains.
• Baking soda. Baking soda whitens, freshens, and softens fabrics. Add 1/2 cup of baking soda along with your regular laundry detergent. For spot stains, make a paste of baking soda and water and apply directly to the fabric.
• Hydrogen peroxide (3%). Hydrogen peroxide is a non-chlorine bleach. Add 1/2 cup of hydrogen peroxide along with your regular laundry detergent.
• Dishwasher detergent. We wouldn't suggest buying dishwasher detergent solely for laundry, but if you already have it on hand, it can be used to whiten fabrics. (To be eco-friendly, be sure to choose chlorine- and phosphate-free detergent.) Add 1/4 cup of dishwasher detergent along with your regular laundry detergent.
• Lemon juice. Lemon juice brightens and freshens fabrics. Add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of lemon juice along with your regular laundry detergent.
• Lemon pre-soak. Fill a large pot with water and a sliced lemon. Bring to a boil, turn off heat, and add clothing or linens. Let soak for an hour and then launder as usual.
• Sunlight. Hang laundry out to dry in the sun, which not only brightens whites but also keeps laundry smelling fresh.
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(Images: Emily Ho)