How To Safely Brighten Your Whites Without Bleach

updated Jun 5, 2019
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(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

If you find it difficult to convince yourself that those formerly bright, now slightly graying towels and t-shirts are indeed fresh and clean—keep reading.

I can totally embrace my hair going gray, I actually love it, but I absolutely positively cannot handle graying white linens. So when I noticed a beloved old t-shirt turning that awful shade, I quickly took to researching a safe, effective way to return it to it’s original glory—without compromising the fibers.

What You Need


  • Mrs. Stewart’s Bluing
  • Glass pitcher
  • 1 quart cold water


1. The instructions are listed on the back of the label and are pretty easy to follow. First, depending on the size of the load you are washing, dilute bluing with cold water in a pitcher before adding to the wash.

For a small load: add just a few drops to 1 quart of cold water.

For a large load: add up to 1/4 teaspoon to 1 quart of cold water.

Per the label, when diluted, the water should be a light sky blue color.

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

2. Pour the bluing into the wash during the final rinse. For front-loading and HE washers, see the FAQ’s page.

I was pretty happy with the outcome of my shirt, however, it wasn’t as radiant as it would have been had I used bleach. Since my number one concern was not compromising the fiber content (any more than I already have), I counted this experiment a success!

Unless every single linen in your household is white, you will probably only need to purchase one bottle of Mrs. Stewart’s bluing in your lifetime, considering the small amount one actually needs for a load of laundry. This is probably why the website suggests a bunch of other totally awesome and strange uses for the bluing liquid.

  • Magic Salt Crystal Garden
  • Brighten Swimming Pool Water
  • Whiter hair (for people and pets)
  • Pain relief for insect bites
  • Reduce algae growth in fountains, bird baths, and fish ponds
  • Drug testing (!?)
  • Pottery glazing
  • Detecting plumbing leaks
  • Marking ski racecourses

What are your secrets for keeping your whites bright?

More great tips and tutorials: Cleaning Basics