My love of the white t-shirt continues on. I have a closet full, and I rarely pass up the chance to purchase more. I like the bright, crisp look of a new white shirt. But unfortunately, that bright, crisp look fades over time. Why is that? Well, we’ve talked about a few reasons in the past. But since summer is here and that all-important white t-shirt will be front and center in most of our wardrobes, I think it’s time we revisit the do’s and don’ts for whites.
It is important to remember that white is not a color. White fabrics are bleached during manufacture and then treated with optical brightness. Those treatments create the illusion of whiteness by enhancing the fabric’s absorption of light. If the manufacturer treated the fabric with an unstable brightener, the brighteners will breakdown when exposed to light or heat as well as after it is cleaned. The only thing that can be done here is to return the garment to the retailer.
Here are some things we can do to keep our whites looking bright:
- Be mindful of what you get on your clothes. If you let a stain on a white item set or allow the item to get incredibly dirty, it may be difficult to restore it to its original state. Always treat stains immediately and follow the manufacturer’s care label when laundering. Avoid using chlorine bleach because it can break down the optical brightener causing things to turn yellow or brown.
- Store your white items separate from dark items. When light garments are stored closely to dark garments, sublimation of dyes occurs. This is when nitrogen gas causes dark dyes to redeposit on lighter garments, creating stains and discoloring.
- Always take the plastic off your white garments before storing them. Plastic bags trap humidity and gases around clothes causing them to yellow.
- Consider using deodorant instead of antiperspirant. Antiperspirant contains aluminum chlorohydrate which tends to clump in cotton and damage the fibers. It never completely washes out and will build up over time causing discoloration.