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How to whiten vintage bedsheets

These are from approx 1950 and are lovely cotton but they’re a horrible cream colour and I like bright white. I’ve tried a hot wash with vanish but that made little difference. Should I try pouring a bottle of bleach in and letting it sit for a while? I was also wondering about laying them out on the lawn in the sun, like the old bleachgreens but I’m not sure if that actually works or is just an old wives tale. Any ideas appreciated. 
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Comments

  • theoretica
    theoretica Posts: 12,275 Forumite
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    Have they yellowed, or do you think they were always cream?
    I would try oxygen bleach rather than chlorine based.  Sun does work, but it isn't a huge effect.  Laundry blue was another old way of counteracting yellowing.
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  • ripplyuk
    ripplyuk Posts: 2,888 Forumite
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    Have they yellowed, or do you think they were always cream?
    I would try oxygen bleach rather than chlorine based.  Sun does work, but it isn't a huge effect.  Laundry blue was another old way of counteracting yellowing.
    I think they were always cream but they’ve also yellowed with age because some parts are more yellow than others. 

    What’s oxygen bleach? Is that not what vanish is? I’ll try to find laundry blue. 
  • Spendless
    Spendless Posts: 24,136 Forumite
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    I once lifted a curry (possibly korma) stain from an old pale blue tablecloth by putting it out in the sun. I'm not convinced you'll get something to white that was originally cream though. 
  • Gers
    Gers Posts: 11,996 Forumite
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    ripplyuk said:
    Have they yellowed, or do you think they were always cream?
    I would try oxygen bleach rather than chlorine based.  Sun does work, but it isn't a huge effect.  Laundry blue was another old way of counteracting yellowing.
    I think they were always cream but they’ve also yellowed with age because some parts are more yellow than others. 

    What’s oxygen bleach? Is that not what vanish is? I’ll try to find laundry blue. 

    I bought this from Amazon - https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mrs-Stewarts-Concentrated-Liquid-Bluing/dp/B009M7ESPA You only need a couple of tiny drops each time.

  • thriftwizard
    thriftwizard Posts: 4,660 Forumite
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    I'd be quite sparing with bleach - oxy's not so bad, but strong chlorine bleach can rot your fabric pretty quickly. If they weren't white to start with, it'd be very hard to turn them white without risking that - how about dyeing them to a different colour altogether? Cotton - or linen, for that matter, takes dye very well.
    Angie - GC April 24 £331.14/£480: 2024 Fashion on the Ration Challenge: 10/68: (Money's just a substitute for time & talent...)
  • Nelliegrace
    Nelliegrace Posts: 482 Forumite
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    The bleaching of washed linen with grass and sunlight does work. It is a chemical reaction. 
    Sunlight alone bleaches linen. The best days were in Spring when the cloth dried slowly.

    I have vintage French Metis Cotton/Linen mix sheets which start off quite beige. I soak them in cold water with Oxyclean for several days, changing the water regularly. With regular use and washing, drying them in the garden, they soften and whiten. I think the may last for ever!
  • Rosa_Damascena
    Rosa_Damascena Posts: 6,258 Forumite
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    ripplyuk said:
    Have they yellowed, or do you think they were always cream?
    I would try oxygen bleach rather than chlorine based.  Sun does work, but it isn't a huge effect.  Laundry blue was another old way of counteracting yellowing.
    I think they were always cream but they’ve also yellowed with age because some parts are more yellow than others. 

    What’s oxygen bleach? Is that not what vanish is? I’ll try to find laundry blue. 
    H2O2 - good old hydrogen peroxide!
    No man is worth crawling on this earth.

    So much to read, so little time.
  • Longwalker
    Longwalker Posts: 909 Forumite
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    @ripplyuk, Ive kind of the same problem, sheets and pillowcases going yellow with age because they arent being used

    Plus a lot of items like pillow and mattress protectors yellowing through sweat stains 

    Someone mentioned Kirkland washing liquid, from Costco. I googled it and it had rave reviews so I ordered ( from amazon as we dont have Costco here and they dont deliver here ) and I got a tub of oxypowder for whites.. So far, 4 machine loads later, 99.9% of items have come out white and bright and fit for use again

    Im so impressed that Im going to see if my pillows come out well. Feather pillows, Ive only washed before on gentle quick washes so they have yellowed.
  • caronc
    caronc Posts: 8,076 Forumite
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    Napisan is great for whitening and brightening without bleaching. 
  • sammyjammy
    sammyjammy Posts: 7,364 Forumite
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    edited 21 May 2023 at 11:33AM
    I second napisan!  I soak my white bath towels and teatowels in it, not easy to get but Tesco sell it in the baby section
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