Chef Whites: A-Z tips to clean, care for and keep coat white.

The chef’s uniform, also called chef whites, symbolises the profession and dedication to the craft as much as it is functional. Being serious about your career means keeping your uniform clean and your coat (also called a jacket) white. In this, you show that you value personal and kitchen hygiene and project a positive image to customers.

Given the nature of a chef’s work, it is notably the white chef coat and other white components, like a white apron or neckerchief of the uniform, that is challenging to keep clean and white. Hence, as a parent with a son in culinary training, we have sought helpful advice to aid him in caring for his white coat: keeping it white, whitening a yellowing jacket and removing stains from the white coat.

Much of what we have found beneficial is shared in this article: how to care for and keep your chef coat white and how to whiten a yellowing jacket. We’ve written a separate article on how to remove stains from your white coat and encourage you to read it.

Of course, taking care of your complete chef uniform is equally essential. Please read our article containing helpful guidelines on cleaning and maintaining your full chef uniform, like the chef’s pants, apron, hat and shoes.

How to Care for and keep your chef coat white:17 tips.

To keep your chef whites, white try this:

1. Use a chef coat with easy-to-clean fabric.

Wearing a chef coat with fabric that is easy to clean, breathable and durable is the first step towards keeping your uniform clean and white.

Well-liked choices are coats made of polyester and cotton blends, as this fabric makes for comfortable wear and can also handle repeated washing. Avoid linen fabrics as they stain easily; use oil and grease-resistant fabrics.

2. Spray your chef coat with a fabric protector.

Protect your chef coat before you wear it by spraying it with a fabric protector. It only takes a few minutes to do, and it dries almost instantly. Do this even if you are wearing an apron over your coat.

A fabric protector makes stains easier to wipe off if you spilt sauce on your coat and helps prevent the stain from setting into the fabric.

3. Wear a full front apron to protect from stains.

When protecting your uniform from stains caused by food and oil splashes and spills, an apron that covers the entire front area of your chef coat is best. Choose an apron that is made of durable and washable fabric.

The apron also protects your person from injury in the kitchen from hot food splashes and spills. For more information on keeping safe in the kitchen, we encourage you to read our article on this topic.

4. Wear a white T-shirt to prevent yellow deodorant stains.

Wearing a white t-shirt under your chef coat will cause the t-shirt, rather than your chef uniform, to develop yellow stains under the arms. The aluminium in deodorants can cause yellowing of the underarm area when sweating.

5. Keep a pre-treat, wash, dry, iron, and store well routine.

To care for and keep your chef uniform clean and your whites white, follow and keep this five-stage routine: 1. pre-treat stains promptly; 2. wash in warm water with a good detergent; 3. hang out to line dry; 4. iron only if there are no remaining stains’ 5. store by hanging in a cool, dry place.

6. Pre-treat your chef coat to remove stains.

To keep your chef coat clean and white, it’s best to pre-treat stains before laundering. Pre-treating stains to start the stain removal process consists of the following:

a. immediate action to treat the stain and

b. pre-soaking your coat.

Prompt and direct treatment of the stained area.

Apply direct treatment to the stained area immediately when the stain occurs, while you are on the go, working in the kitchen or at your earliest. To do this, use a stain remover or household products like baking soda or vinegar.

If you need water to remove the stain, use the proper water temperature based on the type of stain. Protein stains, like blood, respond better to cold water and greasy stains to hot water.

Follow this up by pre-soaking when you get home, mainly when heavy soiling occurs.

Pre-soak your coat before washing.

Pre-soak your chef coat before washing. Pre-soak, especially if the uniform has heavy stains or if you cannot launder the uniform after each wash, to make the stain remover easier during the regular wash cycle.

Pre-soaking helps to remove stains and food smells before laundering your uniform. It starts the stain removal process, making the stain easier to eliminate in the regular wash cycle.

It’s best to repeat the stain removal process if the stain remains before placing it in the wash.

Follow this pre-soak routine:

  • Use a large container like a sink or bathtub and fill it with enough warm water to cover your chef’s coat completely.
  • Add a ¼ cup of laundry detergent to the water, stirring to dissolve the detergent thoroughly.
  • Add ½ a cup of oxygen bleach, stirring again.
  • Submerge the chef coat entirely in the solution. You can use a heavy object to weigh the coat down if necessary.
  • Soak the coat for 30 minutes or overnight if heavily stained.
  • Continue to launder as usual.

7. Wash your coat regularly and in warm water.

Build a collection of chef coats to rotate and wash your jacket frequently, ideally after each shift. This prevents excessive wear and accumulation of stains.

Use a high-quality detergent, according to the manufacturer’s guide.

Be sure to pre-treat stains, particularly heavy stains, before washing. If you have done so and all stains are removed, wash your coat in warm water, using a delicate cycle.

If you have not pre-treated stains either because you had no time or were too tired, use a heavy-duty cycle and hot water to kill bacteria and eliminate stains.

Be careful, though, as some stains, like blood, are best dealt with by pre-treating with cold water. Check the guide table in this article on how to treat different stains.

Preferably don’t use a fabric softener in your wash cycle, as the residue left on the fabric from the softener can attract dirt and stains.

If your coat has embroidered stitching or logos, turn your chef coat inside out to prevent damage to the embroidery.

Remove all objects from the pockets of your coat before pre-soaking or washing. Our son left a packet of instant cappuccino in his pocket and stained his jacket during the laundry cycle.

8. Wash your white coats separately to stop discolouration.

Wash your chef coat with other white uniform components to keep it white. Mixing with different colours can cause it to discolour.

9. Use oxygen bleach and fabric whitener to keep whites white.

Adding oxygen bleach or a fabric whitener to the regular wash cycle aids the detergent’s work to help keep your chef coat looking white and bright, removing stains and preventing the yellowing of the fabric.

10. Add 1/2 a cup of vinegar to the rinse to keep the coat white.

From time to time, adding a cup of vinegar will keep your chef coat white and eliminate any excess residue from the detergent. This can be added to the rinse cycle during the usual laundry wash.

Don’t overuse vinegar in your machine, as there is a risk of damage from long-term use.

11. Hang your chef coat up outside to line dry.

To keep your chef coat clean and white, wash and hang it properly. It’s best to hang your chef coat outside to line dry or in a well-ventilated area.

Don’t expose it to direct sunlight, as this can cause discolouration and for remaining stains to set in. The sun’s natural UV rays help brighten your coat and kill any remaining germs naturally.

It’s best to ensure no stains remain before drying your coat. For this reason, avoid a dryer as the heat can cause shrinkage, damage to the fabric and the setting-in of stains that were not removed during the wash cycle.

If you use a dryer, place your coat in it for only five minutes to remove the excess water and then hang it to dry.

12. Iron the clean, stain-free coat to remove creases.

An ironed coat looks professional, while an unironed coat with wrinkles and creases presents as sloppy and unprofessional.

When ironing, remember to:

  • Wash your coat first: Don’t iron a dirty jacket, as stains will set into the fabric. If stains remain after the wash, don’t iron the coat, as this will cause further setting-in of the stain and make it even more challenging to remove.
  • Set the iron to the correct temperature: Read the care instructions label for the recommended heat setting. Most chef coats are made of cotton and polyester and usually require a higher setting.
  • Ensure that the surface of the iron is clean so as not to stain your coat.
  • Turn the coat inside out before ironing to prevent damage or discolouration of the fabric.
  • Start with the collar: Iron the collar and iron in the corners using the sharp end of the iron.
  • Iron the sleeves next. Iron one sleeve at a time and begin at the shoulder, moving down to the cuff.
  • Move on to the body: Do this last and iron the body, starting at the top and working your way down. Most chef coats have stud buttons removed before laundering, but if yours are stitched in, avoid ironing over buttons or pockets.

13. To store, hang your chef coat in a clean, dry place.

It’s best to store your coat in a clean, cool, dry place when unused. Ideally, hang it in a garment bag to prevent dust and dirt from settling, using a sturdy hanger to prevent wrinkles from forming.

14. Follow the care label instructions on the chef coat.

To properly care for and keep your coat clean and white, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for proper care and preventing damage.

15. Correctly use bleach, detergent and whiteners.

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for detergents, bleaches and whiteners. Incorrect use can cause yellowing and damage to the fabric. Too little product will not properly clean your uniform.

16. Use professional cleaning for very soiled coats.

While this may be a bit pricey, it can be worth it as professional cleaning services have the right equipment and cleaning solutions to remove tough stains and restore the pristine look of your coat.

Re-whitening a discoloured chef coat.

Whitening a yellowing chef coat can be challenging, but what causes the discolouration?

A white chef jacket can go yellowish because of the following:

1. Deodorant use causes yellow stains on the armpit area.

The aluminium in many antiperspirants and not sweat causes the yellowish stains in the armpit area.

2. The storing of dirty chef coats.

Yellowing of your white chef coat can be caused when storing a dirty chef jacket. Stains become set into the fabric and are more difficult to remove.

3. Not storing the chef coat in a clean, cool, dry place.

Heat and humidity can cause yellowish discolouration. Storing the coat in a clean, cool and dry place prevents discolouring.

4. Washing coat in cold water or with dark fabrics.

Incorrect washing methods include using cold water or washing with dark or colourful fabrics, causing discolouring of the jacket.

5. The accumulation of food and grease stains.

When stains are not cleaned regularly, over time, this can cause a build-up resulting in the discoloured yellowish appearance of the coat.

6. Exposure to the heat in the kitchen.

The many hours spent in hot, humid kitchens, working close to heat and exposure to high temperatures while cooking can, over time, cause deterioration of the fabric and discolouration.

7. Exposure to harsh chemicals like chlorine bleach.

Exposure and excess use of chemicals like chlorine-based bleach and detergents can yellow the chef’s jacket. Using gentle detergents and milder oxygen-based bleaches is recommended.

Restoring whiteness to yellowing chef whites: 3 tips.

To restore whiteness to a yellowing chef coat, pre-soak the coat using either a whitening agent, an oxygen-based bleach, or a non-bleach product like baking soda or vinegar, then add any of these products to the wash cycle, using hot water and hang out to dry.

3 Tips to restore whiteness to yellowing chef coats:

1. Pre-soak or wash coat in a laundry whitener.

A laundry or fabric whitener is designed to whiten fabric and helps restore yellowing white chef coats. They can also remove stains but are better suited for whitening a yellowing chef coat.

A laundry whitener can be used to pre-treat your chef coat before washing, or it can be used with a laundry detergent during the wash cycle.

Fabric whiteners are not as damaging to the fabric as bleaching products. Some do contain bleach, while others have natural whitening ingredients. It’s best to read the packaging label and follow the instructions for use.

2. Pre-soak in oxygen bleach and then wash in detergent.

Pre-treat a chef jacket by soaking the coat in water and oxygen bleach to whiten it. Then wash with a detergent in hot water in the regular wash cycle.

The active ingredient in oxygen bleach is sodium percarbonate. It is milder than chlorine bleach and is better suited for whitening a yellowing coat without damaging the fabric or the colour of the embroidery often used on chef coats.

3. Treat with bleach-free products: vinegar or baking soda.

Vinegar as a whitening agent can be used to pre-soak your chef coat: add white vinegar to hot water and soak your chef coat in this solution for at least one hour, and at most, leave overnight.

To whiten your chef whites, use baking soda to pre-treat your chef coat: create a mixture of baking soda and water, and then add your chef coat to this, allowing it to soak for at least one hour before washing it.

Don’t add vinegar or baking soda to your normal wash cycle when adding detergent. While this is often recommended, both can reduce the performance of the detergent. Detergent performs at a specific pH level; vinegar and baking soda interfere with this.

Vinegar can be added to the rinse cycle to whiten your coat. However, it’s best to do this on occasion and not regularly, as vinegar can, with regular use, be harmful to certain machines.

Use sparingly and leave this as a last resort if you have tried other remedies unsuccessfully.

Chlorine bleach, with sodium hypochlorite as the active ingredient, is a chemical bleach stronger than oxygen bleach and can effectively remove tough stains from your chef’s coat than an oxygen bleach.

Of course, there are pros and cons to using chlorine bleach:

The pros are that chlorine bleach not only removes different kinds of stains, like dark wine or blood but disinfects the coat from germs and deodorises it much better than oxygen bleach.

The cons are that while it is suited to whiten fabric like the white chef coat, it causes yellowing over time, and if you have embroidery on your chef coat, chlorine bleach can also remove the colour of the embroidery.

Chlorine bleach can also weaken the fabric, causing it to wear thin faster and need replacing sooner. The weakening and thinning out of the material make it less safe to protect the chef from burns from hot spills.

In addition, it’s toxic, and you inhale the strong chemical smell upon working with it. Some people have allergic reactions to chlorine bleach. It is also not environmentally friendly.

If you decide to use it for stain removal, make sure it is diluted with water and apply by dabbing with a sponge or soaking only the stained area. Wear gloves to protect your hands, a mask to prevent inhaling the fumes, and work in a well-ventilated area.

Considering the cons, if you use chlorine-based bleach, keep it for heavy stains and use it only as suggested.

The alternative is oxygen bleach, milder than chlorine bleach and safer for sensitive skin and a fabric whitener, but it may not be as effective for stubborn stains. If you want to use it to whiten your coat, laundry whiteners are better suited to whiten your yellowing chef coat.

List of products to care for chef whites.

The table below is an easy reference and summarises the remedies and products, non-chemical and chemical listed in this article and our article on removing stains with suggested brands and prices:

ProductBenefitsUseful TipsSuggested Brand
Baking Soda:

Also called bicarbonate of soda, sodium bicarbonate
A bleach-free product used for cooking and cleaning.
Suitable for keeping and restoring the bright white appearance of a white chef’s coat.
It helps to remove stains without damaging the fabric.
Gets rid of bad smells.
Use as a stain remover and whitener.
It can be used:
To directly treat the stain.
For soaking the chef’s coat.
Arm and Hammer baking soda.
A bleach-free acidic solution with whitening qualities.
It acts as a stain remover.
Using it whitens and brightens the appearance of your white chef coat.
Eliminates foul odours on your coat.
It acts as a natural fabric softener.
Use to pre-treat stains.
On occasion, add it to the rinse cycle to remove detergent residue.
Heinz distilled white vinegar.
Oxygen-based bleach:
The active ingredient in oxygen bleach is sodium percarbonate.
Useful for stain remover as a pre-treat and in the main wash.
Whitens the coat without the use of a harsh chemical.
Milder than chlorine bleach.
Read the label and closely follow the instructions for use.
Use to pre-soak coat to remove stains.
Add to wash cycle to whiten and remove stains.
Oxi-clean stain remover.
Fabric whitener:Brightens a dull coat.
Restores the original white colour of the coat.
Use to pre-soak coat to remove stains.
Add to wash cycle to whiten and remove stains.
Rit laundry treatment: whitener and brightener.
Fabric protector:It prevents stains from being absorbed into the fabric.
It makes it easier to remove stains.
Apply to a clean, dry and stain-free chef coat.

Follow the instructions label.
Use a non-toxic fabric protector that’s safe to wear in the kitchen.
Detrapel fabric and clothing protector.
Stain Stick:Removes stains.
This is best for work when you are busy and must deal with a stain.
Apply the stain stick directly to the stained area.
Apply as soon as the stain occurs.
Tide to go stain remover pen.

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