How to naturally whiten clothes, July weather, missing husbands and caring mothers

How to naturally whiten clothes, July weather, missing husbands and caring mothers

My work T-shirt used to be brilliant white but now looks suspiciously like the colour of evaporated milk. It served me well last summer whilst I worked at the little guesthouse in Panormos but on closer inspection it looks tired and unprepared for starting work again. For the last eight months it’s hung in my wardrobe neglected, waiting to see the summer sun once again. I can empathise with my T-shirt completely, I wondered if I’d wear it at all this year; In theory I should be four months into burning eggs, spilling coffee and secretly feeding the stray cats. Instead, I’m struggling to remember how much coffee to put in the machine and which setting to put the washing machine on. This blog post is all about how to naturally whiten clothes, July weather, missing husbands and caring mothers. Let’s begin.

The beginning…

Let me take you back to where my day began. I woke up at 5.30am just before the sun had risen or the cats had begun to meow for food. The cool air drifted through the French doors and the hazy morning light was soft and smooth like aubergine skins. Dora-dog lay next to me, upside down, all four paws in the air, tail wagging. As lots of you already know from social media, Mr SN is currently in the UK, topping up our dwindling funds, securing our life here in Crete, and I suspect, taking advantage of the array of crisps that he can’t get here…especially Cheddar cheese and pickled onion, he really likes those ones.

Dora and I miss him dearly but we show it in different ways. Dora seeks comfort from commandeering his side of the bed whilst she ponders what life would be like without tennis balls and when that lovely, funny man will come back and play with her in the evenings. Whereas I miss the pile of abandoned clothes strewn next to his side of the bed, and the sound of his motorbike zooming up the track. I smile every time I find a hidden note from him; I’ve discovered several, there was one in the coffee pot, one in the chicken feed and just this morning I found one in my bicycle basket.

Deep in thought…

Feeling lonely…

I really like my own company, but even I was starting to get lonely all by myself. Dora-dog isn’t into deep philosophical conversation, but fear not, after a couple of weeks of living here on my own, my mum arrived. This means that a) I have company b) The earl grey tea consumption will double, and c) The animals will gain weight. In addition, there will certainly be homemade cakes, so all is well with the world.

Back to the story…

Where was I? Ahhh yes…After I’d let out the chickens, fed all of the animals and watered the vegetable garden, I donned my once-white work top and jumped on my bicycle. As I whizzed down the sweeping hills, the cool morning breeze licked at my skin and I followed the road around the outskirts of Perama and on towards the coast. After thirty minutes the sleepy fishing village of Panormos came into view and up ahead, beyond the little tunnel, I could see the shimmering turquoise sea. 

Our girls…

Why I’m cycling to work at the moment…

I don’t usually cycle to work so don’t get too impressed, but at the moment I’m in a bit of a predicament. We’re in the process of reregistering our car so that we are on Greek licence plates. The trouble is that the English insurance ran out and we’re still waiting for the last part of the Greek registration. For another couple of weeks I’ll be looking decidedly athletic, zipping around on my bicycle, lean and suntanned, fuelled by cake and the knowledge that in a couple of weeks I won’t have to do it anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I really love cycling, but I hate hills…and we live on a hill.

Being back at work…

Within a couple of hours of being back at work, it felt like I’d never been away. Floors were mopped, oranges were juiced and strong coffee was slurped in-between. I boxed up all the leftovers from breakfast for the chickens to have and by 11:30am my morning was done.

The arrangement with my boss was that he would drive me and my bicycle home so that I could avoid the steep incline back, but despite searching and waiting for him, he was nowhere to be found. With a sigh, I mounted my bicycle and prepared for the long hot slog ahead.

The intense July heat beat down as I peddled. Further and further I went, all the while the cicadas screamed like a thousand carnival whistles, and my cheeks burned hot from exertion and the sun. The tarmac road spewed hot air in my face and the passing vehicles looked at me with puzzlement. I set my face with an expression that said “I’m strong. I’m determined” but I have to confess that I hoped one of them would take pity and give me a lift.

“I have to confess that I hoped one of them would take pity and give me a lift.”

As I sped downhill towards Perama, the breeze momentarily cooled my dripping perspiration, but I knew that the relief would be short lived; the killer hill was still to come. As I peddled on, trucks overtook me and in the distance the mountains stood like mounds of jelly. Pick-up trucks filled with animal feed and suntanned farmers beeped their horns to acknowledge that they’d seen me…me, being that red-faced sweaty girl on a bicycle cycling very slowly up a very big hill.

As I walked up the dusty track towards our house, Dora-dog sounded the alarm that I had arrived home and mum opened the door whilst whisking eggs. I was transported back to being seven years old. Many a time, dad had taken me on long bike rides, over ten miles round trip, and I always struggled with the last hill up to our house. Sometimes there’s nothing like arriving home to a caring mother who tells you how well you’ve done and makes you scrambled eggs and earl grey tea. It seems that not much has changed in the intervening 23 years.


My work T-shirt is hanging on the line to dry. I’ve naturally whitened it using lemon juice and sunlight (see recipe below) and it now shines bright and white, not like a fake dazzling Hollywood smile, more like white bougainvillea flowers or risotto rice. 

My T-shirt and I are ready for what’s left of the tourist season. In two months time Mr SN will be returning to me and we’ll be winding back down for the winter; picking olives and boiling up carob syrup. Until then, I may be missing my husband, but I’ve got plenty of things to keep me busy, plus I have my lovely mum…who just happens to make the most beautiful fluffy cakes in the world.

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How to naturally whiten clothes using lemons and sunlight…

Picking fresh lemons…

I’ve had great success with whitening a variety of different garments, from T-shirts to shower curtains. Say goodbye to stained underarms and off-white pillowcases. The combination of lemon juice, water and sunlight create a bleaching effect with very successful results.

Living in Crete means that we have plenty of lemons and sunlight. For those of you looking out the window at drizzle and cloud, simple add gin to the recipe and drink the concoction whilst dreaming of sunnier climes.

The recipe…

Simply mix equal quantities of lemon juice*** and water in a spray bottle and spritz the area until wet. Then sit the item out in the sun for a couple of hours. It helps to spritz it a couple of times more, whilst it’s in the sun drying.

The results are really astonishing and I’m amazed by the difference. The shower curtain is no longer discoloured at the bottom, pillowcases are crisp and white clothes are looking revived.

***I’ve tried both fresh lemon juice and bottled lemon juice, and both work equally well. If using fresh lemon juice, be sure to strain off the pulp before putting it in the spray bottle…it will clog up…trust me!

15 thoughts on “How to naturally whiten clothes, July weather, missing husbands and caring mothers

  1. That takes me back, way way back. I’ve been going to Crete since I was a baby as my mum is from there and lived there for 8 years after leaving school and I always remember my family using this whitening method. I also seem to remember them using lemon juice and salt (salt as an abrasive I think) to get rid of rust stains from press stud shirts.

    1. It works so well! I’m now constantly searching for things that need whitening!
      I bet you have some wonderful memories from being in Crete.

  2. Hiya Steph,

    I discovered your blog after watching you and your husband’s journey on C5 ‘Escape to Greece’ here in the UK.

    I love what you’re doing and your blogs are great.. It’s very enjoyable to read about your escapades in Crete with your furry friends and I really appreciate the recipes for natural deodorants etc too.

    All my best


    1. Hello!

      I’m glad you’re enjoying the blog posts, I’ll keep them coming!

      All the best.

  3. I do Steph just wish I could afford to move back permanently, think about it every day lol

  4. Hi Stephanie, as always it’s a pleasure to read your blog, and how you are facing in crete, what a adventure you are having, I hope it continues for a very long time.
    We are finally coming to Crete next week for two weeks holiday, and also to meet our host who we are hoping to rent her house for a few months from September which is in Gonia, Rethymno, so hopefully we might get to meet you both, sometime later this year to chat and pick your brains about living in crete!! Take care, regards Toni

      1. Kali Mera Steph,
        I hope you are not too lonely without hubby?
        Thank you for your reply, we will defo keep your offer in mind, take good care!!



  5. Love the photos, especially Dora Dog Deep In Thought, she must keep you smiling for sure! Good news that you have your Mum with you too, hope you’re doing well with the Greek fluency!

    1. It was difficult to choose between the millions of photos we have of Dora upside down! She spends half her time like that!

  6. Bikes are great are’t they….I read somewhere that they are the most energy efficient machine we have (though it dose not feel that way when climbing hills). Your Dad was obviously trsuting and brave to take you out on long rides on busy roads (or narrow lanes) at a young age. 50 years earlier my dear Uncle took me to Brighton & back to visit relatives – a 20 mile round trip but the roads were almost free of cars in those days (nobody in my neighbourhood owned a car). I had a half size bike (one up from my fairy cycle and we walked up Clayton Hill, Thanks for the memories.

    1. I always wanted to keep up with my dad, but I was at such a disadvantage. He had a mountain bike with numerous gears, and I had a children’s bike with no gears at all! I like to think it instilled determination and doggedness!

      Clayton hill is a killer! I’m definitely more keen on the downhill parts!

  7. Your lemon whitening tip was very useful, thanks. Now to put it into practice on my greying shower curtain. I wonder if it will work on the rust stains a metal doormat left on my front path tiles? I’ve got plenty of lemons when I visit my house near Athens. Cabin bags full travel back to UK. Καλά να πας με την ελληνική γλίτσα!

    1. Let me know how you get on with the lemon whitening. Maybe you could test the lemon juice on a tiny area of the tiles, somewhere you don’t see it so that you can see what the effect is on the tile? In the comments section, someone mentioned that adding salt to the mixture gives it an extra boost. Good luck!

      Thank you, hopefully I’ll get there with the language.

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