Stains..

I've some nice old cotton sheets and pillowcases that have stains due to constant use, they've been cleaned, but are darker in the middle.
I've tried soaking them in washing powder, which usually does the trick and very hot wash but nothing gets the darkness out.
They're flannel, so I'm afraid that if I bleach them they'll loose the softness. Is there a way to bleach the stains out without making the material hard?
Any advice appreciated.
Thanks
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Moose wrote:

Will bleach leave fabric less soft? The usual causes are detergent residue and drying method. Maybe your bleach caused something in the water or detergent to stick to the fabric.
An old trick us to wash with 1/2 cup of bleach and 1/2 cup of baking soda instead of 1 cup of bleach. That will buffer the pH and soften the water.
Adding a cup of vinegar to the rinse is a trick to remove residue that can leave fabrics hard and dingy.
Maybe chlorine bleach wouldn't remove your stains. Some washing powders contain oxygen bleach, enzymes, and other chemicals to remove stains. IIRC, Tide has done very well in tests, and Gain is almost as good for a lower price.
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