How To Get Yellow Stains Out Of White Towels

White towels look, oh, so luxurious when you first grab them off the rack. Over time, though, they tend to turn yellow. It’s a natural part of towels’ aging process. If you want to save money on buying new towels prematurely, learning how to remove yellow stains out of said towels is a must. But, how do you do it?

There are several ways to remove yellowing stains from your white towels, each of which has its perks and pitfalls. These three below are considered to be the safest for towels:

  • Vinegar
  • Bleach Alternative
  • Bleaching

Cleaning towels and keeping them white isn’t always easy. However, you can make it easier by learning a couple of quick methods to get your towels whiter than ever. Keep reading to find out how you can take things to a brighter, cleaner level.

Woman holding a towel

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Why Are My White Towels Turning Yellow?

White towels can turn yellow for various reasons, with most of them being related to fiber aging in one way or another. Regular exposure to chlorine bleach can turn many towel fiber materials yellow, as can frequent exposure to high heat or UV radiation. It’s similar to why many lampshades turn yellow.

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White towels turning yellow

However, there are other reasons why this could be happening. Much like how bedsheets can sometimes yellow, regular oil absorption from your skin can cause all fabrics to take on a yellow hue. If you recently had a bout of bed bugs, then towels might turn yellow due to bed bug droppings.

Three Easy Ways To Whiten Your Yellowed Towels

Clean towels freshly folded

Now that we know that towel yellowing is a product of aging let’s talk about how one can reverse the clock. These methods below are the easiest ones to use.


Vinegar’s natural whitening properties make it a shoo-in for whitening towels. This is considered to be the most gentle method of the three, so if you want to protect your towels’ fibers, go for this one. To use this, follow the instructions below:

  1. Mix 1 cup of white distilled vinegar and two ounces of standard laundry detergent. Stir gently.
  2. Add this mixture to your laundry in the washer barrel.
  3. Set your washing machine to its normal settings, and let it do the rest of the work.
  4. Dry as normal.
Whole Foods Market, Organic White Distilled Vinegar

Click here to get white vinegar from Amazon.

Bleach Alternative

It’s worth repeating that bleach can cause towels to speed up in their yellowing. If you want to get snowy white towels while you keep your towel fibers intact, the best way to do it is using a bleach alternative like OxiClean. These oxygen-based cleaners are typically used as a towel presoak or as an additive to your wash.

Pouring bleach

There are two main ways to use bleach alternatives for your whitening purposes:

  • Mix a presoak solution according to the package’s directions (usually a scoop to a gallon of water), and then soak your towels for 20 minutes to an hour before washing them.
  • Or, add a scoop of bleach alternative to your laundry detergent, then launder as usual.
Molly\'s Suds Oxygen Whitener

Click here to get a bleach alternative from Amazon.

While we could offer some general methods that you can use with whiteners, it’s important to remember that it’s often best to follow the instructions provided on your bleach alternative’s packaging. The company in question often knows how to use it best.


A container full of bleaching agent

Bleach is a classic go-to, and it’s easy to use to whiten towels. Using it is somewhat damaging, so it should only be used on extremely soiled towels. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Start by running all the soiled towels through a wash in the laundry, using regular detergent.
  2. Grab a bucket, then add a gallon of water and 3/4 cup bleach.
  3. Soak the towels for five minutes.
  4. Add the towels to your washer tub, set the washer to HOT, and start it running.
  5. Once the tub has filled with hot water, add 3/4 cup of bleach into the washer.
  6. Wash, then rinse the towels normally.
Clorox Disinfecting Bleach

Click here to get bleach from Amazon.

How Do Hotels Keep Towels So White?

Laundry liquid and stack of white clean t-shirts on blue background

Knowing how frequent use can turn a towel yellow makes the feat of keeping hotel towels white and fluffy even more impressive. There are a couple of secrets to this. The most common secret mentioned is a cleaning procedure that takes four major steps to accomplish:

  1. First, spot treat any stains that you notice right off the bat. Do your best to apply the best treatment for the stain in question.
  2. Next, place the towels in the washing machine, add standard laundry detergent, and make them go through a full run.
  3. After that, do a second cleaning run with a generous helping of fabric softener. (No detergent this time!)
  4. Finally, add a small amount of bleach (like four tablespoons) into a quart of water. Then, pour the water into the washer and wash one last time.

Once you’ve done the triple wash, it’s best to hang white towels out to air dry. If this isn’t possible, dry them the way that their tags instruct.

How Do You Get Bleach Out Of White Towels?

If you have decided to bleach your towels, you might have noticed that your towels smell like, well, bleach. This is because bleach can leave a residue on towels or start to make your towels retain a chemical odor. Thankfully, this is a quick fix. All you need to do to get the bleach out of your towels is run them through an extra rinse cycle.

A towel turning yellow

One thing you don’t want to do if you fear that you’ve gotten bleach residue on your towels is to dry them out or just let the bleach sit there. This can damage your towels further. Once the towels have been rinsed, you can further freshen them up by spraying them down with a fabric refresher.

Can You Wash Towels With Baking Soda?

Another, slightly less common way to whiten your whites is through the use of baking soda. Most of the time, people do this by adding some baking soda to their laundry detergent. However, this doesn’t always have to be the case. Contrary to popular belief, you can wash (and brighten) towels using nothing but baking soda.

Woman holding a towel

To use this cleaning method with your towels, you will need to add a cup of baking soda into your washer. Do not add soap, vinegar, or anything else. Once the baking soda is in, set your washing machine to its typical speed and heat. You should be able to see visibly whiter towels after the cycle is complete.

Pure Original Ingredients Baking Soda

Click here to get baking soda from Amazon.


Trying to keep towels white and pristine could arguably be construed as a full-time job, even if you don’t run a plush hotel. Towels are naturally going to have a yellowish hue after a while, but it is always possible to remove those yellow stains if you know how. The trick is, you need to have the right supplies and technique to do it well.

There are tons of different methods you can use to lighten and whiten your favorite towels. You can bleach them, use a bleach alternative, use vinegar, or even use baking soda to make them white once more. Of course, it’s rarely ever a good idea to stick to bleach. As strange as it sounds, regular bleaching can be the primary reason why your towels are yellow in the first place.

Rolled and stacked clean white towels on blue background, How To Get Yellow Stains Out Of White Towels
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