How to get whiter whites from your washing machine

If your laundry’s coming out grey don’t be too quick to blame the washing machine. There are a few tricks for getting whiter whites before panicking and calling our engineers.

Detergents

Lots of people think all washing powder is the same – it isn’t! While you don’t need to spend a fortune on the stuff, cheap brands are often poor quality. On the other hand, the most powerful brands will certainly wash cleaner, but might wear out your fabrics in the process.

The best detergent depends upon the kind of clothes (woollens, coloureds, whites) and the local water supply so it isn’t really fair to recommend one particular brand for all areas. However Daz is a very popular moderate priced powder that gets good reviews from users and has often been awarded “best in class” by independent testers. Bold gets good reviews for its performance on coloureds. Ariel bio rates well for stain removal at low temperatures. Persil gets good reviews for bleaching whites, but some people complain that it damages more delicate fabrics. Surf? honestly I can’t recommend it. If you’re allergic or have sensitive skin, one of the best brands seems to be Boots Sensitive Skin.

No detergent brand is best on every type of fabric, so it makes sense to keep 2 or 3 different ones to hand. For example, powders designed for coloured laundry do not contain bleaching agents and whiteners so can’t be expected to be the best for white cotton. The bleach in powders intended for whites will get your clothes whiter, but you won’t be very impressed if they weren’t white in the first place.

Quantity

One of the most common mistakes in laundry washing is to add too much soap powder. Soaps and detergents don’t wash better when you add more – in fact the extra can make them work less. If you aren’t getting good results, it might be worth flushing the machine, cleaning soap from the soap drawer, and using less. The packet will probably tell you the amount to use. Use a measuring scoop if possible.

Excess soap left in sheets and clothing can also cause skin irritation, psoriasis or eczema.

Powder, liquid, capsules, blocks or gel?

Independent tests suggest it doesn’t make a blind bit of difference. However, powder is usually cheaper. If you get powdery soap residues on your clothes it indicates that there is something else you are doing wrong. For example, overloading the machine or using the wrong kind of detergent for that temperature.

Temperature

When people aren’t happy with their wash, an awful lot make the mistake of switching to bio and turning up the temperature. Either might work, but both together might not. At over 40 degrees, the enzymes in biological powders are inactivated. Just because biological powders work better at low temperatures it doesn’t mean they work better still at high temperatures – the reverse is true.

Over Loading

Another common mistake. Much as we’d like to get through the laundry pile quicker, you’ll get a far better wash by not overloading the machine. It doesn’t really matter how big and powerful the machine is – if it’s overloaded it can’t agitate its content, and heat and water struggle to penetrate, or can’t be rinsed out properly. It’s less work to run many smaller washes than to be constantly throwing clothes back in the laundry because they didn’t look very clean in the first place.

Mixing your wash

The same applies. Putting whites, coloureds and woollens in all together might seem a good way to save time but not if you don’t get good results.

Light coloured cottons can be washed at up to 90 degrees whereas most deep coloureds shouldn’t be washed at more than 50. There is a reason modern washing machines often have dozens of wash programs – be sure to use them, and check the labels on your clothes.

Gunk

Gunk shouldn’t accumulate in a well working washing machine under normal circumstances, but it can if the laundry is unusually soiled, too much soap has been used, or if an obstruction has slipped into the outlet pipe (see below). Therefore it’s a good idea to clean it regularly – which you can easily do by running an empty wash with half a cup of white vinegar in it.

White vinegar does not leave a smell, will not stain clothes, and is an excellent cleaner. In fact, you can add white vinegar to a wash instead of detergent powder. It has a very good reputation for revitalising tired whites and will clean out the drum, pipes and pump at the same time. White vinegar is also very good for getting rid of musty smells – for example, if you have laundry with a touch of mildew it’s well worth a try.

Washing soda is another traditional formula that is very good for both clothes and your washing machine.

The case of the stolen sock and the purloined panties

Socks and knickers have a knack of slipping from the tank down into the pipes – don’t ask me how. That’s why we have a pile of them here at Homesource (please don’t all rush at once to look through our knickers collection). When these small items block the pipes they can prevent dirty soapy water draining out properly before the rinse cycles start.

You can check for lost socks and unmentionables through the little panel at front bottom of almost all washing machines. However, when you open this hatch any water left in the machine will pour out onto your floor, so be ready with some absorbent towels before you try it. Pulling out a sock often solves wash problems like powdery residues.

Outflow pipes

Very occasionally, soapy water doesn’t clear from machines properly because of a slow clearing outflow pipe – the one on the wall into which you slip the washing machine hose. It can trick some machines into not empting as fully as they should.

If there’s a problem with the outflow it could lie outside in your drain. Blocked drains can sometimes slow down your internal drainage. If you’ve also noticed your bath or sink seem to be empting slower this is something to look at.

Grass stains

Grass and other biological stains often respond well to a rinse in methylated spirits. We’re not sure this is something to try in your washer, although it would probably be okay after a rinse out.  A pre-soak in a bowl is a better idea.

Make sure you only try this with real methylated spirits – DON’T use paraffin, white spirit, turps substitute et cetera – you will never get rid of the stink and they will also irritate your skin. We recommend you don’t do it while smoking either 😉

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