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White clothing is an essential component of a carefully curated classic wardrobe. This achromatic hue serves us well in times of sartorial need and makes our busy lives easier because it’s one of those few items that work season after season.

I’m very attracted to the colour and tend to make a beeline for these crisp pieces when I step into a store. Even though they look perfect when I try them on, I always find myself hesitating whenever I arrive at the cashier. 

Here’s the thing: I feel super nervous when I head out in white. Stains seem to hone in on me, no matter how careful I am. Besides, even if I manage to keep them stain-free, my whites never stay fresh and crisp. When I reach for them after a couple of wears, they usually look dull, dingy and sometimes even yellow. 

That said, the allure of this colour is irresistible, so after many years of trial and error, I am pleased to share some nifty tricks on how you can brighten your white pieces. 

1. Always wash your whites separately 
This might sound like a broken record but most people find it hard to abide by this tip because it seems silly to do the laundry with only a handful of whites. Resist the urge to merge because some of your apparel might not be colourfast, which means their dye molecules will end up in the wash water and settle on other fabrics. 

That is one of the key reasons why your whites don’t stay white and end up looking dull and dingy after it comes out from the wash, especially when thrown together with dark colours. They also have the tendency to pick up dark fluff and look unclean.

2. Wash them after every wear
I know we mentioned that you don’t have to wash your clothes after every wear, but whites are the only exception. Even though they might look clean, the fabrics are accumulating perspiration and tiny particles of dirt every time you put them on. These are the culprits in turning white clothing yellow or grey (especially at the armpit area) over a period of time. It’s best to wash them after every wear before grime builds up.

3. Treat stains immediately
Don’t throw a stained white item into the wash thinking that it will get rid of the stain. Washing the item directly will end up “setting” the stain. There are plenty of pre-treating agents available on the market. If that’s too troublesome of an investment, you can try applying common household items like dishwashing liquids, regular liquid detergent or even clear shampoo directly onto the stain. But remember to always read the garment label before you attempt to fix the stain. You can find out how to get rid of various makeup stains here.

4. Add a whitening boost 
Vinegar contains mild acids that act as a whitener for dingy clothes. It also helps to dissolve any remnants of detergent still lingering on the clothes, which is also another reason why your clothes look dull even after a wash. Alternatively, some lemon will do in a pinch. Lemon juice has very mild bleaching properties, so you can add a drop or two into the wash to maintain your whites without having to use harsh chemicals. 

5. Let your clothes soak up the sun
Do you remember leaving something out in the sun for weeks only to discover that its colour has faded? Yes, the ultraviolet rays of the sun naturally bleach and whiten many things so opt for the clothesline instead of your dryer. 

6. Wash your washing machine 
Inspect the interior of your washing machine. If it’s full of rust and mineral deposits, your whites may come out looking dingy and gray. Before you load up your next batch of laundry, combine two cups of white vinegar and half a cup of baking soda and add the mixture into the drum. Let it run on a normal load with the hottest water setting. This process will get rid of any deposits and mould while cleaning out your machine.