How to keep your whites white with lemon juice


As I wrote last week, I have tried many different things to wash my clothes plastic-free and as environmentally friendly as possible. By that, I mean using a laundry detergent (or alternative) that is not toxic to humans or the environment. Of course, the washing machine itself contains plastic too and has a substantial environmental footprint in various ways, but I’m currently not in the position to invest in a more sustainable machine. So for now, I only focus on what goes into it.

One of my successful new habits is washing white clothes with lemon juice. It’s an affordable, environmentally friendly, non-toxic, plastic-free solution that delivers snow white clothes. Even pretty grayish items turn white when washing with lemon juice.

This is how I use lemon juice to turn my whites white again and keep them white.

First, I juice two lemons. At the time of this experiment, I used a simple plastic orange press. After I moved to a new home, I bought a stainless steel press, which I would recommend if you don’t have a press yet. The material is sturdier so that you can press harder, get more juice out of the fruit and it’s also easier to clean.

Lemon juice

I then put the white items in a container, pour the juice over it, and fill the rest of the container with hot tap water.

Lemon laundry

The next morning, I put the clothes with the lemon juice in the washing machine. After adding a small cotton bag with soap nuts, I select the 40 degrees Celsius program and turn it on.

Lemon laundry

The result is… perfectly white clothes! Even my favorite running jacket was white as snow again.

Lemon laundry
If the weather allows, I recommend hanging the white laundry outdoors, so that the sun can further bleach the clothes.

Because lemon juice has a bleaching effect, be sure to only use it for white items. I have only experimented with synthetic, bamboo, and cotton items. It may or may not work for other materials.

Also, I did not bother to take the seeds out of the lemon juice, but in hindsight it may be better to sieve the juice before putting it into the machine, because the seeds may get stuck somewhere in the machine and/or the pipes and may cause havoc.

How do you bleach your clothes? Have you used lemon juice before? Will you try this?




About Author


In 2013, after reading yet another article about plastic soup, Annemieke started her Dutch blog Plasticminimalism where she documented her small steps towards life with less plastic. To create more awareness about the adverse impacts of our plastic consumption, she launched Plastic-Free Tuesday in spring 2014. She strongly believes that building a better world starts by changing our own behavior. Annemieke is trained in environmental science and policy. She alternates living in the Netherlands, Sweden, the US, and China.

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