How to Whiten Laundry Naturally

If you’re like me, having a visibly clean home is non-negotiable. When sheets start to look a bit dingy, I can hardly stand it. After some trial and error, I finally landed on this solution for how to whiten laundry naturally. My go-to whitening formula is natural and toxin-free and it totally gets the job done.

Before I landed on this solution, I ended up buying bleach at some point, knowing that it was probably not the best choice, but being desperate for bright white sheets. The bleach certainly brightened up my sheets–I couldn’t help but wonder… What’s so bad about bleach, anyway? 

The Truth About Bleach

Bleach is a harsh compound. Often used for cleaning, whitening clothing, and lightening hair, it’s made up of water and sodium hypochlorite. Bleach exposure can irritate skin and eyes. With those with sensitive respiratory challenges, it can cause negative reactions. When using bleach on garments, its potency can cause damage to clothing fiber and dull color. Plus, the potential health risks of bleach make it a cleaning staple you might want to phase out of your routine and learn how to whiten laundry naturally. Here’s what you can use instead! 

1. Distilled White Vinegar

Most of us have distilled white vinegar on hand. It’s great for homemade cleaning spray and a plentitude of other natural cleaning endeavors. To use distilled white vinegar to naturally whiten laundry, simply add one cup of vinegar to your laundry load and run it through a typical rinse cycle, without adding detergent. 

If you would like to wash your sheets as well as learn how to whiten them naturally, add the distilled vinegar in the final rinse cycle, or add the vinegar to the fabric softener compartment (as this will only release the vinegar in the final rinse cycle.) 

For tough discoloration in white laundry, boil water, and pour it into a bucket with your discolored garments to soak overnight. Then, pop them in the washer for a normal rinse. Voila! You should have yourself some fresh and clean white laundry. 

bakng soda and dropper bottle with white marble background

2. Baking Soda

Baking Soda–or sodium bicarbonate–is a household staple. This naturally occurring substance is a great way to whiten discolored linens. (Bonus: Baking soda is also a great odor-neutralizer.) Here’s what you need to do: Soak white laundry in warm water with one cup baking soda for eight hours to twelve hours. Rinse the garments off with water and throw them into your washing machine for a clean. (By the way, it is not a good idea to combine this method with the vinegar method, as these will cancel out the effects of the other.) 

laundry stain stick and dropper bottle with marble background

3. Lemons

When life gives you lemons… whiten your discolored laundry? Well, of course! This bleach-alternative method is sort of brilliant. Simply juice one lemon and run your whites with detergent and lemon juice. It’ll lessen stains and brighten whites, without all the potential risks that come with using bleach. Plus, it’ll give you a natural fragrance boost. 

Loving these natural home hacks? Check out our guide on how to take care of clothing properly.

white sheets rumpled with natural light

4. Sunshine

I first heard about this method to get stains out of clothing naturally a few years ago and I was shocked. What simpler, cheaper, and more natural solution for learning how to whiten laundry naturally could there be? Laying garments out in the sun can naturally lighten and brighten whites due to the sun’s ultraviolet light. However, to make the most of the sun’s natural bleaching capabilities, we suggest using one of the before mentioned methods for washing (baking soda, distilled vinegar, or lemons) and then hanging your whites on a clothesline in bright daylight to dry. 

Happy brightening! 

Tips for How to Whiten Laundry Naturally

Which is better to white clothes vinegar or baking soda?

Although both vinegar and baking soda make great whitening agents, we suggest starting with the vinegar method for a less abrasive approach. For tough stains, soak the white garments in vinegar before washing.

How can I make my clothes white again without bleach?

There are a number of ways to brighten and whiten clothing without using bleach. Baking soda, vinegar, lemons, and the power of the sun are all great methods for whitening clothing.

How to Whiten Laundry Naturally

How to Whiten Laundry Naturally

Yield: 1 load
Prep Time: 8 hours
Wash Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 8 hours 30 minutes
Difficulty: easy

Want to find an alternative to bleach? Check out this tutorial for naturally whitening clothing without bleach.


    1. Fill your bucket with warm water and one cup of distilled vinegar.

    2. Soak your white laundry in the bucket for 8 hours or overnight.

    3. Wring your laundry dry.

    4. Wash and dry your laundry as you would a typical load with detergent.


For additional natural bleaching, hang washed whites out to dry on a clothespin to absorb the sun's natural bleaching properties.

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