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How to Keep Your White Clothes Looking Fresh

Photo: Roger Prigent/Corbis

Sometimes it seems like every time I leave my house in white jeans, I have a stain within ten minutes. Wearing white clothes — and keeping them white — can feel like an eternal struggle. While many things can help you keep your winter wardrobe fresh, lighter fabrics are more delicate and tend to fade over time. But there’s no need to constantly dry-clean your whites in order to keep them bright. From spraying a $5 Scotchgard to getting those stubborn collar stains out, here are a few easy ways to keep your whites looking extra white this summer — no matter how many times you wear them.

1. Protect Your Whites Before You Wear Them 
Always spilling on yourself during meals? Join the club. Try spraying white pieces, from sneakers to blouses, with Scotchgard to protect them from future stains. It only takes a couple of seconds to apply and dries instantly, making it a lot easier to wipe off that pasta stain when it happens.

2. Keep a Stain Stick Handy
I’ve learned the hard way, but now I know: I need to keep a stain stick on me at all times. The best that I’ve found are Resolve’s Stain Stick and Tide to Go. Though it won’t work for really big stains, it’s great on the road and small coffee spills in the morning.

3. Get the Most Out of Your Detergent
To give a boost to regular detergent, try adding a cup of White Brite to your load. Popular opinion would tell you to use chlorine bleach, but unless the items are 100 percent cotton (lots of jeans are a mix of fabrics!), it can cause yellowing and starching. You’ll notice the difference right away and your jeans won’t be so stiff afterward.

4. Air-dry Your White Jeans
Most people will mindlessly throw everything into the dryer. Do not do that to white jeans. To keep them sturdy and bright white, try placing them on a drying rack on a warm day instead. You’ll notice that the pigment of jeans will stay crisp and white.

5. Make Baking Soda Your New Friend
There are a lot of stain-remover products out there, but why not use ingredients that you already have in your house? Combine half a cup of hydrogen peroxide and half a cup of baking soda with a little water and use on spots and stains in a hurry. This works especially well on nights when I’m ten minutes from walking out the door and discover a stain on my dress.

6. Have a Last Resort to Fix Any Mistake
So you threw those jeans into the dryer and now they’re a weird shade that’s more yellow than white. Instead of giving up and chucking them into the garbage, use a bluing agent like Mrs. Stewart’s to neutralize the stain. Unfortunately it does wear off over time, especially if the damage is severe, but add a little every now and then and you’ll have everyone fooled.

7. Know How to Reverse Makeup Spills
At least once a week I spill foundation on my clothes, or a little powder’s left on my collar after a touch-up. If you use a powder foundation, spray a mixture of white vinegar and water directly onto the stain and let it seep in. Just remember to dab, not rub. If you use an oil foundation, add shaving cream on top of the stain immediately.

8. Don’t Forget the Collar Stains 
A ring can build up around the collar and wrist because of sweat, product buildup, and dirt, making it especially hard to get out once you’ve let it get too far. To prevent it from getting worse, spray Zout and use a small toothbrush to work out the ring.

How to Keep Your White Clothes Looking Fresh