Our linen supply is very simple: everything is white. That’s great when it’s new, towels and sheets glow with an almost internal light. The problem is they don’t stay white.

Some background: I never cared much about these things until I went to nursing school and ended up wearing white scrubs. I had my own washer/dryer in those days so I had concocted a collection of supplies that, with some effort, resulted in white scrubs. Otherwise, like my fellow students, things what get dingier and dingier.

I rely now on the corner laundry and usually I drop off my stuff and the nice attendant there washes, dries and folds my clothes. She does not separate colors and she clearly doesn’t focus on my whites.

Sadly in the process most of my whites are now greys and every so often I go down the street and do the whites myself. I know many of you are looking at these words and shouting “Bleach! Bleach! Bleach!”, but did you know bleach actually turns whites yellow? It also weakens the fibers and smells like, well, bleach.

Along the grocery aisle are dozens of products: Oxyclean, enzyme active, whiter whiteners, non chlorine bleach, and if your grocery store is old enough, you can buy something called “bluing.” I buy this because I can remember a product that advertised “with bluing for extra whiteness.”

I have tried every imaginable safe combination of products. Borax, All, Cheer, Biz, you name it. I have googled some remedies involving vinegar, lemon juice, pots of paste and aerosol cans of everything on the shelf. Each concoction had its own results in an array of tans, grays, and yellows.

The results have been soft, smell good, but are anything and everything but white.

I am ashamed to say that when I was a teenager at boarding school I subscribed to a service that, once a week came and brought you fresh sheets in exchange for the old ones. I never remembered so I got to learn about what happens when a teenage boy changes his sheets once a semester. I should have majored in science.

So what should I do? Buy tan sheets? Pattern sheets? Should I boil my current ones?

White linens are so overrated. [email protected]