Keep your linens looking new with these professional tips.
Towel hanging out of a washing machine
Credit: Kirill Rudenko / Getty Images

You know that split second between when you spill something and your heart races in sheer panic as you watch the dark mess hit your clean white towel, potentially ruining it forever? We know it, all too well. White linens are appealing because they match everything, they're calming and versatile and traditional and no matter how much potential for ruin the color white has, we're going to keep buying white textiles.

The good news: The next time that spill hits your white towels or sheets, never mind how large or how dark, you'll be prepared to save them, with a few expert tips we've collected to easily keep your whites like-new.

Wash Your Whites

Separate your whites! If you want white fabrics to not absorb other dyes and stains, this is essential. Use a separate laundry basket, or a bag within your hamper if that simplifies your white laundry load. Dean Davies, cleaning supervisor at Fantastic Services, also recommends washing whites with hot water, not overusing fabric softener (which can cause a waxy build up and slowly damage fibers), and washing your whites every few days. "The longer they stay dirty, the harder it is to get them clean," he says.

Remove Makeup

"It's impossible to avoid the occasional stain on your white towels," Davies says. "After all, that is kind of their purpose." Mascara, foundation, blush, and lipstick inevitably end up on white towels, but the makeup isn't permanent. "Before throwing it in the washing machine, spray the stain with a pre-treating cleaner. This will prevent the stain from setting," he says. You can also strategically have a separate makeup application and removing towel in a darker color in your bathroom, to protect white towels from future stains.

Get Super Soapy

"Add a bar of white soap in boiling water until it melts. Place sheets and towels in a big bucket and add the mix when the water cools down to warm. Let the laundry sit for one to two hours and wash like normal," suggests Norma Capin, operations manager at Dallas Maids. "The warm water helps loosen fabric threads and go back to their original shape, and also helps getting rid of tough stains." She recommends this routine up to once per month to keep whites extra white.

Blood Stains Begone

"If you happen to get blood on your white towel you should first soak it in cold water," Davies says. Hot water will set the stain, which can make it difficult, or potentially impossible, to remove. After the towel has soaked for a while, you can put it on the washing machine. "If the stain is old and the blood is dry use an enzyme-based stain remover to soak the stain and then launder as usual," Davies adds.

Add Vinegar

"When starting the washer cycle, add a cup of white vinegar," Capin says. "One of its main properties is acetic acid, which a great natural cleaner." Vinegar also helps absorb bad odors!

Forget Food Stains

If you used a white towel to soak up spilled wine, tea, or coffee, you should soak it in cold water and pretreat it with stain remover. After the pretreatment, launder as usual.

Don't Dry

"Don't use the dryer too much," Capin warns. "Heat excess harms the fabrics and towels can get stiff. Just let them dry at room temperature." Some also choose to hang their whites in the sun, to allow the rays to bleach them back to a brilliant white hue.

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