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How To Wash White Clothes With Color On Them

Have you ever found yourself standing over a pile of dirty laundry, scratching your head as you try to sort out the whites from the darks? You always come across that one white shirt with black squirrels printed on it or your favorite white leggings with blue polka dots. Fortunately, you have come to the right place to learn how to wash white clothes with color on them!

The best way to wash white clothes with color on them is to use cold water and a short cycle in your washing machine. You can also use household products such as vinegar, baking soda, and hydrogen peroxide to keep white clothes bright. Commercial products like bleach and laundry boosters can also protect white clothes.

In this article, you will learn 8 simple methods to wash white clothes with color on them. You will find out how to sort and prepare your loads of laundry to avoid color bleeding on white clothing. Finally, you will find tips for handling a white t-shirt with a printed design on it.

How To Wash White Clothes With Color On Them

Can You Wash Whites With Colors?

The best way to wash clothes is to mix them only with pale colors such as tans and greys and wash them in cold water. That said, in some cases, you can wash all your clothes together without negative consequences. This is because modern fabric often uses advanced dye-setting practices on synthetic fabric that creates a really colorfast garment.

Many factors impact the colorfastness of a garment, including the kind of dye used, the type of fabric, and even the kind of cleaning products you use. On top of that, brand-new clothes often need three or four washes to remove excess dye before they settle into true colorfastness.

One way to find out if a garment is colorfast is to turn it inside out and find a hidden inside seam allowance. Dab a drop of laundry detergent onto this unobtrusive area, and let it sit for five minutes. Then use a clean rag or paper towel to blot the detergent, and check if any dye comes away with the detergent.

Another good way to decide whether or not you can mix colors is to read the care labels inside your clothes by decoding the laundry care symbols on the tag. So, what do laundry symbols on the care label mean?

These handy pictograms let you know exactly how to clean your clothes, including what temperature you should wash the garment at. For instance, one dot inside the picture of a water bucket indicates that you should use cold water, while three dots in the water means you can safely use water at temperatures up to 120℉.

Also, the number of lines drawn beneath the little symbol of the bucket tells you what kind of cycle to use in your machine. One line below the bucket means a normal cycle, while two lines mean permanent press, and three means you need to use a delicate cycle.

In all honesty, you will find dozens of different symbols, all meaning very important things, such as a triangle with a cross over it to indicate that you should never bleach a garment. Also, an empty circle means that your clothing requires dry cleaning. If you see an unfamiliar symbol on your care tag, you should always look it up before washing your garment.

Some manufacturers skip the symbols entirely and just write out the key care instructions, such as “do not tumble dry.” It just depends on the brand!

On the other hand, unless you want to read every label on every garment you put in the laundry, you may want to follow the generally safe rule of thumb that similar colors should go together in your washing machine.

Of course, this leaves the confusing grey area of white clothes that have colored designs on them open for interpretation. If you have a white tee with a pink graphic printed on it, should you wash it with your white clothes or with the rainbow-themed pile of colorful clothes?

Should a black and white striped shirt go in with white clothes, black clothes, or colored clothes? Does it matter?

Yes! You should sort these clothes into the machine with your white clothing. Leave out heavy-duty items such as bed sheets or bath towels–you will want to wash these separately using hot water.

The key to keeping your white clothes with color on them looking bright and clean is to place them with equally light-colored clothes, use cold water, and use a short or delicate cycle.

You can also check out the next section to find eight easy ways to properly take care of these unique clothes!

How to Wash White Clothes With Color On Them: 8 Methods

How to Wash White Clothes

While the most obvious way to wash your white clothes with color on them is to throw them in the washing machine, you can protect your clothes even better by taking a few extra steps and using some common household products.

1. Washing Machine

The easiest way to wash white clothes with color on them is to use your washing machine and keep a few guiding principles in mind to avoid ending up with yellowed clothes. Or–even worse!–to end up with color bleeding onto your light-colored clothing.

First, check out the settings on your washing machine. You should have control over the water temperature. On some machines, you will find a simple knob with hot, warm, and cold options. On fancier machines, you may get to set the desired temperature yourself.

Some white laundry does well in hot water, such as bedsheets. You want the heat to clean away any heavily soiled clothing. However, hot water damages the fibers in the fabric and wears them down much more quickly.

For this reason, you should use cold water on any garment you want to keep nice for a long time, such as a white shirt with a pink design printed on it!

Next, can you wash white clothes with color detergent? Some laundry detergent brands offer special detergents for light-colored clothes, including bleach and/or brightening agents. You would not want to use this on colorful clothing, as it could create bleached spots or make them fade.

On the other hand, using a regular laundry detergent intended for colored clothing on your whites should not harm them. You can also safely use a generic detergent.

Finally, you should have the option to set the kind of cycle your machine will use. This will include options like the permanent press, delicate, extra soaks, etc.

You want to wash white clothes with color on them in a short or even delicate cycle. This will expose your printed or patterned clothing to as little friction as possible and preserve the brightness of the fabric as well!

To sum up, you can wash white clothes with color on them in your washing machine as long as you use cold water, apply the right detergent, and set your machine to a short or delicate cycle.

2. By Hand

Can you wash white clothes with colors

Washing white clothes with color on them by hand is one of the best ways to keep them pristine. Hand washing lets you hunt down any stains or yellowing on the white clothes and treat them individually. It also offers a much gentler alternative to machine washing, which will keep the fabric looking nice for longer.

Of course, the downside of handwashing is that you have to spend more hands-on time with your laundry!

To handwash:

  1. Pretreat any stains by applying a stain remover. Slide a safety pin into the garment next to the stain so you can easily find it again during washing.
  2. Fill up a basin or plugged sink about two-thirds full of cool water.
  3. Measure in a teaspoon to as much as two tablespoons of laundry detergent, depending on how much water you used. You want to see some good bubbles frothing on top of the water after you pour in the detergent!
  4. Submerge your clothes in the basin of soapy water. Make sure you only include white clothing or white clothing with color on it to avoid any color bleeding. Ideally, you should add just a few garments at a time, so you have room to swish them around in the water.
  5. Give each garment a good swishing in the water. Make sure you don’t scrunch or wring the clothing, though, as this could mess up the shape of each garment.
  6. Allow the clothes to soak for 15 minutes.
  7. Rinse the clothes by emptying the basin and filling it with cool water again. Swish the clothes to remove any remaining suds.
  8. To gently dry hand-washed clothes, press out some of the moisture between your hands. Then roll up each garment jelly-roll style inside a clean towel before hanging up to air dry.

3. With Bleach

Biokleen Laundry Oxygen Bleach Plus 32 HE Loads - Concentrated Stain Remover, Whitens & Brightens, Eco-Friendly, Plant-Based, No Artificial Fragrance or Preservatives, 2 Pounds, 32 Fl OzIn most cases, you should avoid using bleach on your white clothing, especially if you have colorful designs printed on the garments. Laundry experts these days recommend avoiding chlorinated bleaches in almost all cases.

On the other hand, you can find oxygen bleach that mostly contains something called sodium percarbonate. When mixed with water, this type of bleach breaks down into hydrogen peroxide and sodium carbonate. These chemicals interact together to easily remove many types of stains from clothing.

Plus, oxygen bleach works well on both colors and whites! You can add oxygen bleach to your regular wash following the instructions on the bleach package. For additional brightening or stain treatment, you may also want to use a bleach soak.

  1. Fill a large basin two-thirds full of cool water.
  2. Measure in the recommended amount of bleach–usually, this will be just a few tablespoons.
  3. Submerge your clothes in this solution. Let them soak overnight or for 8 hours.
  4. Finally, wash your clothes in your washing machine or carefully rinse the bleach and handwash your clothes.

4. Without Bleach

If you do not want to use bleach on your clothes, you may want to consider a less concentrated household product such as hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide can both whiten and disinfect your laundry.

To use hydrogen peroxide on white clothes with color on them:

  • For stains, pour hydrogen peroxide directly onto the stain and allow it to soak for at least 15 minutes before washing the garment.
  • For yellowed or discolored laundry, measure one cup of hydrogen peroxide into your washing machine with the normal detergent. Make sure you use cold water in the wash cycle!
  • For normal laundry, measure just ½ cup of hydrogen peroxide into a load of laundry in your machine.

5. Vinegar

Heinz All-Natural Distilled White Vinegar, 5% Acidity, 16 Fl Ounce (1 Pint)You can use vinegar to remove musty smells from your clothes and also to brighten some types of white clothing. The acetic acid in vinegar can brighten cotton clothes without damaging any printed designs. It does not work as well on some other fabric types, though.

Vinegar works especially well on those gross yellow under-arm stains you sometimes get on white t-shirts.

All you have to do is add one-half cup of distilled vinegar to the final rinse cycle in your washing machine. Alternatively, you can add a whole cup to the regular wash if you have smelly clothes in your load.

6. Baking Soda with Borax

ARM & HAMMER Pure Baking Soda 8 oz (Pack of 6)Baking soda and borax offer another household product solution for brightening white clothes with color on them. Baking soda and borax have high alkaline properties, making them great at removing stains and yellowing from fabric.

You can often find powdered borax in the cleaning aisle of grocery stores or places like Walmart.

To use baking soda and borax on your white clothing:

  1. First, mix one teaspoon of baking soda, one teaspoon of borax, and half a cup of warm water. Stir the mixture until it no longer looks grainy.
  2. Dip a cotton ball or clean sponge in this solution and dab it onto the yellowed or stained area of your white clothes.
  3. Rinse the sponge and apply the cleaning solution repeatedly until you no longer see the stain or discoloring.
  4. Finally, rinse out the garment and launder as usual.

7. Sunlight

Believe it or not, sunlight can whiten your clothes and keep them bright and clean! You can add a few squirts of lemon juice on stains during this process.

  1. First, either wash your clothes or spritz them thoroughly with cool water so that they feel damp to the touch.
  2. Take your damp clothes outside, along with a clean blanket or tablecloth.
  3. Spread out the blanket on a flat surface in direct sunlight.
  4. Arrange the wet clothes perfectly flat on top of the banket. You do not want wrinkles, as this could leave some unbleached garment areas!
  5. If you have yellowed or stained areas to treat, squirt lemon juice on those sections of the garment.
  6. Allow the clothes to sit in direct sunlight for two hours.

8. Commercial Products

If you prefer the ease of using commercial products such as color grabbers or laundry boosters, you can sometimes mix many different colors in the laundry.

Colors grabbers, made popular by brands like Shout, attract loose dye particles in the washing machine and catch them. This prevents the dye from bleeding onto other garments.

Laundry boosters such as Tide’s popular varieties give your regular laundry detergent a bit more oomph. Most boosters use borax in them, so you can also easily learn how to make your own booster if you prefer!

How to Wash White Clothes With Designs

How to Wash White Clothes With Designs

You should wash white clothes with designs in cold water on a gentle cycle. You can safely add oxygen bleach, vinegar, or hydrogen peroxide to brighten the clothes if you like. However, you should never use chlorine bleach as this could damage the colorful designs on the clothing.

Before cleaning your white clothes with designs, always check the care label to make sure the garment is washable. Some items, such as anything made out of wool or silk, may require dry cleaning.

You should not mix your white clothes with colorful or black clothes in the washing machine. Ideally, launder just a small load of white clothes with designs at a time, using a gentle cycle in the washing machine.

If you have super delicate garments like dresses or lingerie, you may want to consider handwashing instead. Handwashing lets you spot treat any stains and provides the gentlest possible treatment of your clothing.

Can You Wash White Clothes with Colors in Cold Water?

You can wash white clothes with colors in cold water. Using cold water will preserve your garment much better than using hot water! Cold water will not shrink or stretch your clothing like hot water, and it also does not put extra stress on the fibers inside the fabric.

The only reason to use hot water on white clothes is to purify anything that can get extra dirty, like bath towels, washcloths, and bedsheets. Hot water can disinfect these heavy-use items.

All other types of laundry, such as black clothes, colorful clothes, and delicate whites, should get a short cold cycle in the washing machine.

How to Wash a White Shirt With Black Sleeves

You can safely wash a white shirt with black sleeves by adding some vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, or oxygen bleach to your wash to keep the white portion of the shirt looking bright.

The difficulty of white and black clothing is that sometimes the black dye transfers to the white portion of the garment during the wash, creating a dingy grey. You can often avoid this by washing the garment in cold water, to begin with.

You can also add oxygen bleach to the load according to the instructions on the package or measure in half a cup of distilled vinegar or half a cup of hydrogen peroxide to keep the fabric looking crisp and bright.

Can You Use Bleach on White Shirts With Designs?

You can use oxygen bleach on white shirts with designs, but you should not use chlorine bleach.

Chlorine bleach uses oxygen molecules to essentially remove the color from almost anything. In many cases, it leaves a yellowish tinge behind the fabric after removing dye particles. Plus, it greatly weakens the fibers of many kinds of fabric as it works.

The biggest danger of using chlorine bleach on white shirts with designs is that the bleach will damage the designs. Whether you have a print on a t-shirt or embroidered flowers on a blouse, the bleach will attack the designs and the white sections of the garment.

On the other hand, Oxygen bleach works well on any color-fast garment. It will clean and brighten white or color clothes. You should always test out a tiny drop of bleach in a hidden interior seam of the garment before applying the bleach to eth whole garment, though.

How to Wash White Clothes with Stains

How to Wash White Clothes with Stains

The best way to wash white clothes with stains is to pretreat the stained area first. You can also place a stain treatment in your washing machine with the clothes, but this may not prove quite as effective as it does not allow you to target those key areas.

If you have a colorfast garment, commercial products such as oxygen bleach can do a great job removing stains either in the wash or in a pre-wash soak. For an even gentler stain removing method, you may want to try the vinegar or the baking soda and borax methods described earlier in this article.

You can also apply most commercial stain removers to the stain, let the product sit for at least fifteen minutes, and then wash the stained garment as usual.

How to Bleach Colored Clothes White

To bleach colored clothes white, you will need to use a strong solution of chlorine bleach. In most cases, this powerful bleach can essentially “uncolor” the dye particles in your clothing, returning it to its original white.

That said, even chlorine bleach works best on cotton clothing. You may find that it does not completely remove the color from synthetic clothing.

You may find instructions for this process on your bleach container. You can also follow these general guidelines to safely bleach your clothing. Please remember that chlorine bleach is a dangerous chemical; handle it carefully and work in a well-ventilated area!

  1. In a plastic container, mix a gallon of cool water with one and a half cups of chlorine bleach.
  2. In a second plastic bucket, use a clean measuring cup to measure one cup of hydrogen peroxide into a gallon of cool water.
  3. Gently lower your clothing into the bleach bucket. Swirl it around using gloved hands or a long-handled spoon.
  4. Let the clothing soak in the bleach solution for five minutes.
  5. Carefully transfer the wet garment from the bleach bucket to the peroxide bucket. You will probably see some fizzing!
  6. Give the garment two minutes in the peroxide.
  7. Rinse out all the bleach and hydrogen peroxide under cool running water.
  8. Finally, let the garment air dry. Once dry, check it to see if you successfully turned it white. You can repeat the process if necessary!

Laundry Tips on How to Keep White Clothes White

While you can use many of the methods in this article to safely wash white clothes with color on them, you can always keep these general white clothes laundry rules in mind. Following a few guidelines will help you keep your white clothes looking nice so that you don’t have to resort to treatment for yellowing!

  • Wash your clothes inside out. This will protect the surface of your clothes but is especially helpful for t-shirts or hoodies that have printed designs on them.
  • Add half a cup of vinegar to the final rinse while washing your clothes. This softens, brightens, and generally perks up white clothing Plus, vinegar will not harm any colorful accents on your clothing!
  • Do your best to notice any stains on your clothing before putting it in the wash. This way, you can pretreat using the method of your choice and avoid setting the stain into the fabric.
  • Use cold water and a short or gentle wash cycle. The only exception to this rule is if you have heavily soiled white clothing. In that case, you may want to use hot water as a more powerful disinfectant.
  • Finally, try not to overstuff your washing machine. Fewer clothes in the machine at one time will create less friction, keeping your clothes nice for much longer!


The best way to wash white clothes with color on them is to wash them with other light-colored clothes in cold water on a gentle cycle. You can also use many different brightening treatments, including adding vinegar, oxygen bleach, or hydrogen peroxide to the wash. To get yellowing or stains out of white clothes, try applying a paste of baking soda, borax, and water or soaking in lemon juice and exposing it to sunlight.

You should always read the care label inside your clothing before deciding how to wash it if it requires dry cleaning or special treatment. You should also test the colorfastness of a garment before trying any of the methods in this article.

What are your best laundry tips for washing white clothes with color on them? What household products do you like to use in your laundry? Leave a comment below to let us know!