Celebrating the white shirt might not have been quite what Michigan General Motors workers had in mind when, on February 11, 1937, they ended a 44-day sit-down strike against their employers.
They might, perhaps, have been more concerned with their low wages, appalling safety levels and complete lack of meritocracy than the cleanliness of their light-coloured laundry.
But nearly 80 years on, the end of the strike is marked by White Shirt Day, when ‘blue-collar’ union workers in the US don the same white-collar attire as their management to remember the sacrifices and victories of their predecessors.
Blue-collar workers traditionally wore darker uniforms as their colours concealed the grease and dirt of the workplace better than the white shirts of management.
Because white shirts, as most of us know, rarely stay white for long, and after a couple of washes soon become a sad bluey-grey.
Unless, that is, you know these very clever tips from laundry expert Dr Lisa Ackerley.
Relieve your laundry headache – literally. “Dissolve five aspirin tablets in hot water and soak your dirty white clothes in the mixture before washing to make them super white,” advises Ackerley.
“To remove nasty grease stains from clothing, white chalk will help prevent laundry from absorbing greasy stains,” says Ackerley.
“Simply rub it on and the chalk powder will absorb the grease, making the stain easily removable when washed.
“Don’t have chalk? Use baby powder instead.”
Ackerley lauds salt as a “super stain remover”. “Add two tablespoons of table salt to the washing machine drawer, the chloride in the salt helps it helps colours stay bright and keeps items looking fresher for longer,” she says.
Keep it low
“Some fabrics such as delicate baby blankets and underwear can go grey under high temperatures,” says Ackerley.
Check labels carefully and where necessary, wash on a low temperature and make sure you kill bacteria by adding a laundry disinfectant, like Dettol Anti-bacterial Laundry Cleanser (www.dettol.co.uk) which kills 99.9% of germs and bacteria.
Keep it separate
It sounds easy, but it can also be easy to forget: don’t mix fabrics and colours. “Make sure you are washing all whites together, and the fabrics are the same. White cotton should be washed with white cotton and white linen only,” she says.
Keep it sunny
This one might not be all that easy in the miserable depths of February, but sunlight will bleach whites. “This is used a lot in hot countries and has an anti-bacterial effect as well,” explains Ackerley.