WHY DO WHITE CLOTHES GET YELLOW STAINS IN STORAGE?
Updated: Sep 28
Here we tackle one of the most common surprises when it comes to clothing and storage-- yellow stains and spots.
Jason has a date tonight. He has finally managed to ask the girl of his dream out on a movie cum dinner date. He plans to wear his favourite white shirt that he keeps for special occasions. When he took it out of his wardrobe, to his horror, the shirt has many yellow stains and spots all over! What happened?
Many of us would have experienced what Jason did above (maybe not in the case of a hot date), realising that our favourite white or light coloured garment had “developed” yellow stains and spots all over after a prolonged period of storage in the wardrobe. You remembered clearly that you had it properly cleaned and pressed before storing it. Or it could even be a brand new piece that you were saving up for that special occasion.
So what happened?
Even though the garment was stored in a seemingly dormant environment in our wardrobe, there are actually chemical reactions, decay and breakdowns invisible to the naked eyes that are taking place.
USE ENOUGH DETERGENT
Even though too much of a good thing can be bad, not enough of the same good thing is definitely not good. This applies to the amount of detergent we use during the washing cycle. If insufficient quantity of detergent is used, some dirt and grime which are invisible to the naked eyes may still remain on the fabric, giving it chance to decompose and break down behind closed doors, literally. The result will be ugly yellow stains or spots. Of course I am not advocating the use of excessive amount of detergent when doing your laundry, but using enough is absolutely necessary. A good gauge will be to follow the instructions recommended by the detergent manufacturer. However, using the right amount of detergent alone is not enough. The rinsing process is equally important.
RINSING IS IMPORTANT
Many people do not realise that the rinsing process after the washing process is equally important. I can think of at least 3 reasons. First, without thoroughly flushing out dirt and grime lifted up by the detergent, the tiny ones can resettle back on the garment. These dirt and grime will then have the opportunity to decay and break down, staining the fabric over time. Secondly, soap scum in a cold water wash can curdle to form an invisible thin layer that is deposited on the garment. This thin layer can cause the fabric to turn yellow over time.
Lastly, we do not want our skin, our largest organ, to come into contact with chemicals unnecessary. Without thoroughly cleaning out the residual detergent, they can remain on the fabric and our skin will come into direct contact with them when we wear the garment. Not good...
We have all been taught that we need to add bleach when washing our white garments to help keep them white. This is true provided not too much is used during the cleaning process. Bleach is a very strong chemical, oftentimes used as a disinfectant in cleaning. Due to its harsh nature, it can oftentimes cause fabric to actually yellow over a period of time due to deterioration. The deterioration is exacerbated if the bleach used is not rinsed out thoroughly during the washing process. If this happens, not only does it hasten the fabric decay but the residual bleach that remained is bad for the wearer too. We wouldn't want the residual bleach to come into direct contact with our skin when we put on the garment.
BREAKDOWN OF WHITENING AGENT
Many of us have the misconception that white fabric is naturally so, only coloured ones are dyed. Unfortunately, this is not true. White dye is used to make a fabric white. The challenge for fabric manufacturers has always been getting the white dye to be as durable as possible. This gradual yellowing process is not unique to fabrics but to all things that require white dye or paint. Most things white turn yellow over time. For garments, the fabric is especially susceptible to yellowing when the garment is not worn. Hence when the white shirt is kept in the wardrobe for an extended period of time, the dye starts to decay into a yellowish hue. If it is worn frequently, care through cleaning it actually prolongs the white dye lifespan.
RECOMMENDED CARE & PREVENTION
The following are a few points to note that may help to prevent yellow spots and stains of your white and light coloured garments:
Ensure that sufficient detergent is used during the washing process.
Rinse the garments thoroughly.
Be careful when using bleach. Do not use too much.
Do not keep the garment in cold storage for too long. Use and enjoy it regularly.
WHAT HAPPENS IF MY GARMENT HAS TURNED YELLOW?
So now your favourite white top has turned yellow. Do not attempt to treat it yourself as the wrong solution may worsen and make the yellow stains and spots permanent. Send it soonest possible to your regular dry-cleaner or send it to us. We have a remedy that may eliminate the yellow stains and spots. But as we always say, "though we cannot guarantee complete removal, at The Laundry Club, we always try our best!"
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