Fresh towels and green branches on light grey stone table in bathroom

I Searched, Tested, Tried—Behold, The Secret to Keeping White Laundry Brilliantly White

If you’re sick and tired of perfectly functional household linens or clothing items ending up in the rag bag simply because they turned a dingy shade of gray when you expected your white laundry to come out brilliantly white, help is on the way. 

Fresh towels and green branches on light grey stone table in bathroom

Dingy gray is usually a sign of a build-up of too much detergent that is not getting rinsed away entirely in the rinse cycle together with new stains, sweat, bacteria that work their way into textile fibers. If you have well water or hard water containing unusually high amounts of iron, that could also contribute to this problem.

The Frugal Fix

Here’s a frugal way to fix I have discovered that can and also prevent this problem of white and light-colored items like sheets, shirts, and towels taking on an ugly shade of pale gray.

Add a half cup of borax to each wash load with the clothes (in the detergent dispenser or just throw it in with the clothes ) for both top and or front-loading machines. This will boost the cleaning power of your laundry detergent. (Homemade laundry detergent does contain Borax, but a very small amount which translates to a minuscule amount in a washer load, which may be sufficient for maintenance.)

7 Reasons to Add Borax


Borax is a natural mineral, sodium tetraborate, which has been mined out of the ground and used for thousands of years.


Borax is safe to mix with chlorine bleach and detergents and has been proven to enhance their cleaning power.

Whitens whites

Borax whitens your whites because it converts some water molecules to hydrogen peroxide, a whitening agent. This enhances the action of bleach, whether you add it separately or it’s already present in your laundry detergent. If you don’t like to use bleach, borax is still a good whitener on its own.

Releases detergent

The borates in Borax work to keep soap dispersed throughout the load, so it’s more likely to rinse out. Test: Try washing your clothes in just water for some time (no detergent), and you’ll be amazed at how much detergent comes from your clothing.

PH buffer

Borax acts as a pH buffer which means cleaner clothes. It softens hard water and also helps to remove soap residue from clothing.

Gets rid of odors

Borax neutralizes laundry odors because it inhibits fungi and mold; it has disinfecting properties. It helps to get rid of ammonia odor in baby clothes, diapers, bed pads, and incontinence pads.

Boosts detergent

Borax increases the stain-removal ability of your detergent. The alkaline pH of borax helps to break down acidic stains like tomato or mustard.

How to Reverse the Gray

For super-stained items or uniforms that have become dingy gray, do a one-time pre-soak for 30 minutes in a solution of one tablespoon of borax per gallon of warm water or add 1/2 cup of borax to a pre-soak cycle in your washing machine. Then continue to launder as usual.

Borax is sold as Twenty Mule Team Borax in many stores or in bulk as borax powder. As long as unscented and nothing else (oddly) added, it’s all the same. Find the best price and you’ll be golden.




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  1. Bobbie says:

    Hi Mary! I read you weekly article in the Epoch Times and make notes. Yes! Have used “20 Mule Team Borax” (recall the commercials on TV when I was young!) for some time now and will never be without it in my laundry room supply cupboard. My white bath sheets and white nightwear still look as bright as the day purchased. Thanks Mary for the endorsement.

  2. Juanita says:

    Hello, Will Borax take out the dingy smell out of kitchen towels and sheets that are in the linen closet

    • Mary Hunt says:

      Absolutely. For tough situations, i.e. a build-up of musty odors in linens such as you describe, I soak them in a bucket or other container of very hot tap water and a few tablespoons of borax, for hours—even overnight. Then I dump the contents including the water into the washing machine (I have a front loader and this works just fine), adding a bit of detergent, setting it to Hot Water and a long wash cycle. If you have “extra rinse” option, do that, too.

  3. Jenny Sonsalla says:

    Am I missing something here. Amazon wants $21.99 for 65 oz Borax and I just paid $5.97 for the same thing at Walmart 2 weeks ago.

    • Mary Hunt says:

      Well, yes! Of course my readers should always check and compare their options. I post resources, not necessarily to give the cheapest option for every reader but to give a place to start with a description and photo of the product to make sure we’re all considering the same product. You should always cost compare. Not everyone has a Walmart nearby. I have readers from around the globe, some in rural areas, others who have no way to get to a walk-in store like Walmart, Target, Kroger etc. I give my readers a lot of credit for being able to cost compare as you have.

  4. Jo says:

    Is it OK to use borax on microfiber since you cant use bleach? My dishcloths are white microfiber and I use them for all kinds of cleaning jobs besides dishes, so sometimes they get pretty bad. They usually come out white, but a lot of the real stains don’t come out.

    • Mary Hunt says:

      The answer is yes, borax is fabulous on microfiber. OR give this a try: Hot water plus automatic dishwasher detergent—powder or 1 pod to a wash load. You will love the results.

  5. Gina Stevens says:

    Thanks, Mary. I often need a booster to my memory on the wonders of Borax. I actually need a spreadsheet to know when to use Borax or Washing Soda taped inside my laundry room cabinet!

  6. Brooke Kingston says:

    Wonderful post! Ok, I’m sold on the idea of adding borax when laundering sheets and linens. Is this a similar treatment to OxiClean?

  7. Lija W says:

    Thank you, thank you! This one tip alone is “worth the price of admission,” so to speak. I’ve been trying to whiten my kitchen towels for a couple of weeks now without success. I’m going to do it right now!

      • Lija W says:

        Thank you Mary. I will have to do several treatments. Turns out that I didn’t have borax after all. The last time I should have replaced it, I got the OxiClean instead. It must have been on sale for less than the 20 Mule Team.
        And just like you warned Brooke, it did not work nearly as well. So I will have to repeat the process. Next time I go to the store I will buy some more mules!

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