White and natural color linen is a universal fabric used for timeless dresses and clothing, elegant aprons and tablecloths in the kitchen, soft towels in the bathroom and your favorite sheets in the bedroom.
If your linen got a stain that needs to be removed or if your vintage linen has turned yellow or gray with the years of use, it might be in need of some color refreshment.
Even though linen is a durable fabric, it requires some gentleness and delicacy with the products you use for its care.
We do not recommend using regular chlorine bleach on any linen garment as it is a harsh and strong chemical solution which can easily destroy natural flax fibers and leave you with a ruined piece of fabric.
But how to bleach linen without bleach?
TOP 10 Ways How To Bleach Linen At Home
You can bleach linen with many alternatives to chlorine bleach which you can find in your home or purchase in almost any local supermarket.
We have gathered a list of top 10 products which should bleach linen fabric leaving it healthy and damage-free.
To whiten your linen garments or wash out a stain, white vinegar is a wonderful choice.
Of course, the result wouldn’t be the same as using chlorine bleach, yet they do still help and use much more environmentally friendly liquid.
Most effective way to use white vinegar for bleaching purposes is to soak your linen in it for 2-3 hours. After that, wash as per usual and rinse in cool clean water.
Another way you can use vinegar as a bleaching agent is to add ⅔ cup (158 ml) of distilled white vinegar in your washing machine where you would pour your detergent and wash on a normal or delicate cycle.
You can add the same amount of vinegar to the rinse cycle to intensify the bleaching effect. Complete the process by washing as per usual.
2. Baking Soda
Most common way to use baking soda to bleach linen is to add 1 cup (128 g) of it to 4 liters of water and leave your linen in it for a few hours or overnight. Then wash with a delicate detergent as per usual and preferably air dry.
If you have stains on your linen clothes or tablecloth, you can pre-treat them before washing with a special bath made from ½ cup (64 g) of baking soda, ¼ cup (32 g) of liquid dish soap, and 1 liter of water.
A way to bleach small linen garments like napkins, collars or shawls is to bleach them with baking soda, salt and heat.
Pour your kitchen pot with water and mix ½ cup (64 g) of baking soda and ¼ cup (32 g) salt into it. Place it on a stove, add your linen inside, bring to a boil, turn it off and leave for 1–2 days before washing as per usual.
3. Oxygen Bleach
Sodium percarbonate, or oxygen bleach, is chlorine-free which can be used not only around the house, but also for fabrics including linen.
It kills bacteria and whitens the garments like a regular bleach, but in a much kinder to the Planet way as it doesn’t include the toxins.
Add 1-2 tablespoons to the washing machine drum and wash as per usual. Not only will it bleach your linen garments, but also kill all the bacteria and germs.
You can leave your white or natural linen colored linen to air-dry in the sun which will bleach your linen naturally.
You can hang it or leave it flat, but remember to turn it around so that both sides of the garment would be the same color.
5. Lemon Juice
If you have particularly dark stains on your linen garment, you can spray it with a mixture of lemon juice and water before putting it to the sun.
This extra tip will help to erase those unwanted stains easier. Although, it is important to have in mind that bleaching mind end up looking patchy which is why you can just dip the whole garment into the lemon juice and water mixture instead before air-drying outside on a sunny day.
6. Hydrogen Peroxide
To turn your linen back to white add 1 cup (236 ml) of hydrogen peroxide from your medicine cabinet to the washing machine detergent compartment and run a normal or gentle cycle. Use water temperature as instructed on the linen garment care label.
You can also create a bleaching solution using hydrogen peroxide. Simply add ½ cup (118 ml) of hydrogen peroxide (3%) and ½ cup (118 ml) of lemon juice to your delicate detergent and wash as usual using your washing machine.
7. Laundry Blueing
If your linen turned yellow with time, an old-fashioned way of laundry bluing can help as well. Since in the color spectrum blue color is the opposite of yellow it neutralizes it and makes your white or natural colored linen appear whiter and lighter.
Prepare a bluing solution by stirring 1/4 teaspoon of laundry bluing concentrate in 1 liter of cold water in a glass gar (prevents staining plastic containers) for a large load. If you have a top load washing machine, pour the solution directly into the drum.
For a front load washing machine, add a solution to the dispenser. In case your machine’s dispenser locks automatically during the wash, add the diluted bluing agent to the wash cycle.
8. Ammonia and Water
Whitening linen to eliminate the yellowness using ammonia and water has been an effective way in many households for many years worldwide.
Mix 1 tablespoon of ammonia per 1 liter of soapy water and let your linen garments soak there for several hours. Then rinse and wash as per usual. You can use turpentine instead of ammonia for the same effect.
Another method which can bleach your linen lightly involves aspirin.
Dissolve 5 tablets of aspirin in a bucket of water and soak your garments into the solution for a couple of hours. Wash as per usual, and air-dry in the sunlight for more bleaching effect.
10. Potassium Permanganate
Potassium permanganate, easily found in pharmacies and gardening shops, can also be used for light colored linen bleaching.
Add a very small amount, a few crystals of potassium permanganate, into a bathtub or other bucket with hot water so that it would turn light pink (do not worry, pink water won’t stain your garments).
Pour a little bit of delicate detergent, stir the water and leave your linen in there for 4-5 hours. Rinse and wash as usual.
How to Make Linen White Again?
The whole process of bleaching linen is not difficult and requires only these five steps, from the very beginning to the end.
STEP 1. Use any method from the TOP 10 ways how to bleach linen without bleach list above and follow the instructions.
STEP 2. Rinse your linen garments to stop the bleaching process.
STEP 3. Wash linen items as per usual while following the manufacturer’s instructions provided on the linen care label. You can also follow general linen washing instructions. If one wash was not enough to remove any odors, you can repeat the washing process one more time.
STEP 4. Air-dry linen garments preferably outside or in a spacious well ventilated room which will leave you with white and smooth linen.
STEP 5. If you wish to iron linen, the best way would be to iron it while still damp, if it has already dried then spray it with water. Find more on how to iron linen correctly here.
There are plenty of ways how to bleach linen without chemical bleach which harms the flax fibers and weakens your garment.
Alternative ways of bleaching at home protect the fabric and color providing with the desired whitening effect.
Moreover, they often act as garment disinfecting solutions against bacteria and germs. Hopefully, this guide answered a question about how to bleach linen. May your linen be fresh and snow-white!