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How to remove old stains from white clothes

Keep your whites sparkling with our guide on how to remove colour stains from white clothes.


Reading Time: 5 minutes

removing a red stain on white fabric with a knife

Key steps to washing whites:

Wondering how to remove stains from white clothes? Remember these steps:

  1. Wash your whites with a quality detergent, on as hot a wash as safe for the fabric.

  2. If marks remain, try a natural stain remover like baking soda or white vinegar.

  3. For plain fabrics, try bleaching the marks with a diluted solution. Do not try this for delicate fabrics.

  4. To remove yellow sweat stains from white clothes, try soaking them in diluted bleach, lemon juice, or white vinegar.

White clothes look stylish on anyone - until they're no longer white, that is! Stains not only look more obvious on whites than dark clothes but they can be a lot harder to remove too. Luckily, a splash of tomato sauce or a yellow sweat mark doesn’t always mean the end for your favourite white clothes: try our tips and learn how to remove colour stains from white clothes to keep your wardrobe looking fresh.

Once you’ve learnt how to remove stains from white clothes, keep them bright by adding ½ cup of lemon juice to your normal wash.

How to remove stains from white clothes when washing them

Spilt food down a white dress? Wroked up and sweat and need to know how to remove yellow stains from a white shirt? Start by learning how to wash whites correctly:

  1. Separate your whites from all other clothes to prevent common laundry problems like colours running in the wash.

  2. Avoid overloading your washing machine for better wash results.

  3. Use a strong, quality detergent like Omo.

  4. Check the clothes label for the optimum wash temperature. A hot wash may help remove stubborn stains but could damage delicate fibres.

  5. Make sure stains have been fully removed before drying your clothes otherwise you'll make any residual marks harder to remove.

  6. Repeat the above steps or try one of our natural methods if stains remain.

How to remove stains from white clothes when washing them
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How to get rid of stains on white clothes naturally

Try one of our alternative stain removers for dried-on, tricky marks that don't come out in a regular wash:

  • Baking soda: make into a paste with water and scrub into stains. Leave for a few minutes then rinse.

  • White vinegar: soak clothes in water then scrub with a solution of a equal parts baking soda and white vinegar. Rinse and dry.

Try our other tips on how to keep whites clean and bright to help avoid dried-on stains, fading, and dullness.

How to get rid of yellow stains on white clothes

If it's general discolouration and yellow sweat stains you need help getting rid of, then try one of these fabric lightening methods:

  • Lemon juice: apply to stained areas or add to your regular wash to tackle sweat stains and smells.

  • White vinegar: use a paste of white vinegar and baking soda for troublesome patches or soak clothes in a white vinegar solutions for general discolouration.

  • Bleach: add a small dose to your wash cycle or dilute with water and soak your clothes in the solutions. This is only suitable for plain white clothes - not patterned items.

When soaking clothes in the above solutions, leave for around 1 hour before rinsing them and checking if stains remain. Repeat as necessary. Follow our tips on how to take care of your white clothing to prevent stains and discolouration in the first place.

Always do a patch test of any stain removal method first to prevent damage and check the your clothing labels for the maximum wash temperature - whether you need to know how to remove sweat stains from white shirts made of sturdy cotton or how to remove old stains from white clothes made of delicate silk it's important that you wash your clothes according to their instructions.


How do you get permanent stains out of white clothes?

Use a bleach solution made from equal parts water and bleach, soaking the garment in the solution for 15 minutes before washing it. However, it's important to check the care label on the garment first to make sure that it can safely be bleached.

How to remove old yellow stains from white clothes?

Soak the garment in a mixture of warm water and laundry detergent for at least an hour before washing it as usual

How to get stains out of white clothes without bleach?

One approach to removing permanent stains from white clothes is to make a paste by mixing baking soda and water, and applying it to the stained area. Then, you should leave the paste on the stain for at least 30 minutes before rinsing it off and laundering the garment as usual

What's the best way to remove an old coffee stain from a white shirt?

Make a paste using baking soda and water, apply it to the stained area, and let it sit for a few hours before rinsing and washing the garment. It's important to avoid using hot water or drying the garment in the dryer until the stain is fully removed, as heat can set the stain and make it more difficult to remove.

Originally published