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7 Foolproof Tricks for Wearing White This Summer

How to find the perfect white tee, fix a stain on the go, and brighten dingy clothes.

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Check for quality before you buy

Whether it’s a cotton button-down or a silk blouse, check white clothing for quality before you leave the store: the color is completely unforgiving toward wrinkles and sub-par laundering. First, crinkle the fabric in your hand. If the fabric retains a ton of wrinkles, expect it to need precise ironing before each wear. Next, place your hand under the fabric and hold it up to the light. If you can see your hand through the fabric, the piece will likely be sheer when you wear it. Additionally, check the item’s care instructions to ensure it’s not too high-maintenance for your lifestyle. A dry clean-only white shirt will rack up high fees over time. This is how to spot a quality piece of clothing.

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Find the perfect white T-shirt

Most stores offer endless iterations of this wardrobe staple, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to find the perfect one for you. Shop around on this piece: crew-neck or high-neck tees tend to look best on small-chested women, while V-necks and scoop-necks are flattering on almost all body types. Sleeves that reach close to the elbow are generally more flattering than cap sleeves. Similarly, pay attention to where the shirt reaches; a T-shirt that’s too long or too cropped could venture into sloppy territory. Finally, consider where you plan to wear the shirt. If your goal is to throw it on over a bathing suit, then lightweight cotton is fine. But if you plan to wear it under a blazer at work, you’ll need a thicker knit. These are the style secrets of women who always look put together.

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Wash your washing machine before summer hits

No matter how diligently you sort your laundry, if you never clean your washing machine, your whites still might come out dingy. Add liquid chlorine bleach to your washer’s dispenser and run the machine on a long cycle with hot water. If the smell of bleach lingers, run another water-only cycle.

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Wash whites like this

Sort your whites from your colors and your heavily soiled whites from your lightly soiled ones (incredibly muddy socks, for example, will dirty up the rest of your load). Wash clothes on hot and add whitener or brightener (store-bought boosters such as washing soda and oxygen bleach work; as do natural options, such as lemon juice and distilled white vinegar). Here’s how to remove sweat stains from the armpit area of your shirts.

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Use bleach like this

Because it can be harsh on fabrics, bleach is best left for heavy duty washes. To use it, set your washing machine to hot and add detergent. Allow the washer to fill (by running it for a few minutes) and add 1/4 cup bleach. Run the machine for another minute (or until the detergent is dissolved and the bleach has mixed) and add clothes. Never bleach wool, silk, leather, spandex, mohair and non-fast colors. If you’re not sure about an item, mix one-teaspoon bleach to 1/4 cup water and apply a drop to a hidden area. If there’s no color change, bleach away.

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Clean an already dingy white piece of clothing

The key to returning once-white clothes to their original shade is a hot presoak. Mix one-gallon hot water with 1/2 cup detergent and soak clothes for two hours. Launder with bleach as usual and hang outside to dry. The sun naturally lightens clothes and you won’t accidentally set a stubborn stain in the dryer.

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Arm yourself for emergencies

Before heading out in an all-white ensemble, know that anything could happen. If the idea makes you nervous, bring along a stain-removing arsenal: baby wipes have incredible cleaning power against water-based and grass stains, peroxide and saltwater will remove blood stains, and club soda and stain-remover sticks can remove much of the rest. Just in case, carry a sweater or cardigan you can pull over your shirt or tie around your waist; cosmetics, oil, lotion, wax, and butter stains might have to wait until you get home to be addressed.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest