Sunday, 13 December 2015

Whiten yellowed wool ~ with white vinegar

If I hadn't seen it I wouldn't have believed it: white vinegar really does whiten yellowed wool, as you can see in the 'before' and 'after' photographs below.  The ingredients and method are simple, thrifty and effective.

This dreadfully yellowed cami-top had been brand new just a week before - I had been so pleased to buy it for my mother.  The garment itself is a lovely merino wool which had been pale cream; the lacey overlay across the bodice is a stretchy synthetic, and discoloured perhaps only marginally.  How could this have happened?  Exposure to sunlight while drying, hot water and hot tumble drying, even general aging, can all cause this sort of yellowing in wool and silk. 

What had happened in this instance was that staff at the rest home where my mother now resides had put it through with the general wash.  This means hot water and then the heat of tumble drying.  I was so annoyed and wondered if it was a complete disaster or if something could be done about it.  At least shrinkage was minimal.

Labels on the bleach and laundry detergents I had to hand stated firmly that they were not suitable for soaking wool or silk.  A scout around the internet produced instructions for using white vinegar, which seemed safe enough, so I decided to give it a go, and was delighted to find that it works!  

Using the suggested ratio I adapted the method so that I could simply put the garment in a bucket of cool or tepid water and white vinegar and leave it to soak.  The first soaking was very effective but some slight uneveness of the cream remained so I repeated the process.  The result was a great success as can be seen below: the creaminess of the lace is now matched by that of the wool, and the garment looks exactly as it should!

The ratio of white vinegar to water used is as follows:
  • For about half a bucket:
    • 3 litres of water - cool or tepid
    • three quarters of a cup of white vinegar.
  •   For smaller amounts the same ratio of vinegar to water is
    • 1 cup of water - 250 mls - cool or tepid
    • 1 Tablespoon of white vinegar - 15 mls

The article I worked from, which suggests a slightly different method, can be found here:
My other articles about housekeeping can be found here:
My articles in the series 'Elderly and dependent' can be found here:


Anonymous said...

That's a remarkable result, and good to know about this method - thank you! [Valerie]

Leigh Christina Russell said...

Hi Valerie, and thanks.

quinn tran said...

hi i was wondering how long you soaked it for ? thankyou, quinn

Leigh Christina Russell said...

Hi quinn tran,
It's a while since I did this so can't say exactly. I'm fairly impatient with this sort of thing so probably not more than half an hour or so.
All the best,