Thread Number: 74089  /  Tag: Detergents and Additives
Laundry Detergent that gets whites, white?
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Post# 978692   1/17/2018 at 10:52 (275 days old) by mike_g (Aberdeen SD)        


This is related to my DW detergent post. My wife has complained recently of white t-shirts and the like becoming off-white, greyish, after several washes. In researching on the dishwasher detergent, I came across folks mentioning phosphates as the missing ingredient. I suspect that is the case for us, as we have very hard water (almost 14 grains).

Does anyone have a suggestion for "better" laundry detergent? Is it as simple as adding STPP to regular laundry soap in a 1:2 ratio? Or is there some homemade formula which is a better idea?

By the way, the fate of any phosphates I use will be in the leachfield downstream of my septic tank, bound to the soil particles. I don't have environmental concerns in this application.

Post# 978694 , Reply# 1   1/17/2018 at 11:17 (275 days old) by Lorainfurniture (Cleveland )        

Why not just use bleach?

Post# 978695 , Reply# 2   1/17/2018 at 11:58 (275 days old) by dylanmitchell (San Diego, CA)        

A wash cycle with distilled white vinegar? You can also put some vinegar in a dishwasher cycle too. And it's the same thing I used to periodically clean my dishwasher of soap residue.

Mild acid you can buy lots of inexpensively at Smart and Final or similar store near you. Just don't buy the "vinegar" from the guy standing in the front of the store...

Post# 978699 , Reply# 3   1/17/2018 at 12:31 (275 days old) by toploader55 (Massachusetts Sand Bar, Cape Cod)        

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I would say do a soak of just white laundry with detergent and warm water for a few hours. Spin That out and do a Hot Wash with Rosalie's or Persil with the longest wash cycle. Add some LCB 4 minutes before the end of the Main Hot Wash. then Rinse with Warm first then a Cold Rinse at the end with a 1/2 c of white vinegar.

If that brightens up your whites, then just use Hot water wash cycle after that.

This is what works for me. Some STPP would help too. (Sodium TriPolyPhosphate)

Post# 978700 , Reply# 4   1/17/2018 at 12:45 (275 days old) by mike_g (Aberdeen SD)        

good ideas here. I think she has been using borax and or oxiclean in addition to her normal liquid detergent. As I think about it, reading what others have written on this forum, perhaps this is over-alkalizing the wash water, and resulting in deposits on the clothes which don't rinse out fully. Maybe the vinegar rinse would help here, or perhaps the STPP instead of borax or oxyclean?

Post# 978701 , Reply# 5   1/17/2018 at 12:46 (275 days old) by imperial70 (******)        

I have used Aldi Tandil brand Detergent (comparable to Tide) and liquid clorine bleach with great success. Hot water and whites cycle (longer wash time) with 3 rinses in the front loader (GE PFWS4600). I also like tide. I've also learned to dose using a coffee measure for best results.

Post# 978724 , Reply# 6   1/17/2018 at 15:57 (274 days old) by brisnat81 (Brisbane Australia)        

Mike, just to check are the whites being washed in Hot water or warm/cold.

Whites washed in Lukewarm/Cold will also end up grey regardless of the detergent

Post# 978725 , Reply# 7   1/17/2018 at 16:02 (274 days old) by mike_g (Aberdeen SD)        


I'll need to check with the better half, I don't know about wash temp offhand.

Post# 978729 , Reply# 8   1/17/2018 at 16:45 (274 days old) by Supersuds (Knoxville, Tenn.)        

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You're going to get a thousand different opinions here, but here's what works for me.

Prewash/soak for at least half an hour with Persil perls...but Powdered Tide with "bleach" (oxygen bleach) also works. Warm or hot water. This is mainly for tough stain removal and may not be needed depending on your circumstances.

Then wash in hot water with detergent to which STPP or SHMP and Biz has been added. That eliminates the tattletale gray problem due to mineral deposits.

I don't like chlorine bleach personally due to the smell, the need for extra rinses and/or a rinse water additive to counteract it, the danger of unwittingly splashing it on something and ruining it, and the fact that clothes last longer without it. I know bleach fans will object to all these points, but that's my opinion. As I understand it, using chlorine bleach in laundry is virtually unheard of outside North America. It might be good for your washer to use some occasionally, but that's another issue.

You can experiment around with different methods, but I'm guessing with hard water adding phosphates is probably what you need.

Post# 978736 , Reply# 9   1/17/2018 at 17:10 (274 days old) by GusHerb (Chicago/NWI)        

I typically wash the white towels in whatever detergent I have around at the time, plus I add Oxi Clean. What I've noticed based on the white hand towel someone scuzzed up while they were living here was that it takes several washes for the oxi clean to really whiten things. That towel is glistening white again. I originally tried whitening it running bleach through a cycle instead of oxi clean and it didn't do much to really whiten it. All the other towels stay bright white too.

Post# 978740 , Reply# 10   1/17/2018 at 17:21 (274 days old) by bajaespuma (Connecticut)        
Iron in the water?

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An important question is how hard is your water? Not only generic hardness but if there's a lot of iron in the water chlorine bleach would be the last thing you would want to use if "whiteness" is the goal. The chlorine reduces the iron into "rust" ions which will yellow and dinge white laundry.


When I lived in Poughkeepsie New York and had chef whites to keep clean and white to please the nazis who ran the Culinary Institute of America, I had to learn how to use oxygen bleach. A little bit of bluing helps also.

Post# 978744 , Reply# 11   1/17/2018 at 17:51 (274 days old) by mike_g (Aberdeen SD)        

With regard to iron, the levels aren't too excessive. I know the problems with bleach oxidizing iron on the water, used to see that with well water. With regard to hardness, it's about 14 grains, which isn't soft.

I do see the benefits of chlorine bleach, but we don't use much here, due to the drawbacks mentioned above by others.

Post# 978760 , Reply# 12   1/17/2018 at 19:59 (274 days old) by iej (Ireland)        

Just make sure you're using a detergent that contains oxygen bleach or add some to the wash and use your favourite detergent. The better the detergent, the more liklihood that it'll contain good quality antiredisposition agents that keep dirt and free dyes in the water.

If you use that combination regularly, you'll have perfectly whitened white fabric.

Using single doses of high concentration of bleach will give you results but may also harm the fabric.

It's about consistent use of the right chemicals and washing them separately from brightly coloured or dark clothes.

Also initially select a very long warm cotton wash in a front loader - it doesn't need aggressive tumbling, just plenty of time. The machine is just gently moving water through by tumbling.

In a top loader, stop the machine and allow a long soak for an hour or more. If you've a low fill top loader, you might be better off soaking them in a basin. I'm not sure that long agitation in those machines is good for clothes as they're not really designed for soaking, which is the only way of doing this gently.

Post# 979020 , Reply# 13   1/19/2018 at 15:02 (273 days old) by Iheartmaytag (Wichita, Kansas)        

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I got so confused, I threw my donut in the washer, and ate my Tide pod.

Post# 979248 , Reply# 14   1/20/2018 at 21:17 (271 days old) by lakewebsterkid (Dayton, Ohio)        

The key is using warm or hot water and a detergent that contains enzymes and oxygen bleach. For instance, Tide powder. This combo is powerful and removes anything that I throw at it. I also add 2T of STPP for a full load of whites with 4T of Tide powder.

Post# 979269 , Reply# 15   1/21/2018 at 01:07 (271 days old) by askolover (South of Nash Vegas, TN)        

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Liquid detergents can contribute to graying significantly....and Clorox bleach will NOT remove that gray.    Powder Tide with bleach alternative is one of the best.  Persil pearls is the other best.  Softened water helps...STPP may make a difference, don't know (I have a water softener).  Once a year I'll take my T-shirts and white towels that may still get dingy and run them through hot wash with White Out powder...makes a world of difference.  A little Mrs. Stewart's Bluing in the rinse water works wonders to keep whites bright.  Heck, we used to wash our nursing whites (back when we had to wear white) once a month or so in Cascade dishwasher powder that contained chlorine.  It was powerful enough over oils and such that it would remove yellowing around the collar and pit stains.

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