The next time you do a load of whites, consider:
Pretreating: For stains, pretreating is the way to go. Before putting a stained item in the wash, apply a little liquid detergent, a paste made from powdered detergent and water, or a pre-treating stick or spray directly to the stain. Let it sit for at least five minutes and up to several hours, depending on the instructions for the specific product and the stubbornness of the stain.
You can also pour some bleach, detergent or straight-up soap into a bucket of water and soak the item.
Drying immediately: For both whites and colors, it's important to dry clothes immediately after the washing machine stops. Wet clothing that sits (and sits) in the machine can end up developing mold or mildew, which is not only unsightly and smelly, but also bad for your health.
Using sunlight: Drying in sunlight can actually help get your whites even whiter. Natural fabrics especially benefit from the whitening (and disinfecting!) properties of the sun's rays.
In the end, the sad fact is that some stained or aged white clothing is going to stay that way. Even the greatest efforts under ideal conditions might sometimes fail to return your white dress to its former glory. In this case, your best bet is to think ahead: If you really love that dress and will simply cry if it won't get clean, buy two.
For more information on washing whites and other laundry concerns, check out the links on the next page.