Washing Machine Stains That Appear On Clothes After Wash Them
A SR101 reader asked me a question about washing machine stains, the kind where you don't have a stain on your clothes before you wash something, but then you take it out of the machine and a stain has now appeared.
SR101 Reader asks:
I often have stains on my clothes that weren't there before I put them in the washer. Could this be from fabric softner?
Thanks for your question. I just hate stains from the washing machine itself, since it just means more work for you when all you want to do is get your laundry done.
You've actually identified one of the biggest culprits which causes stains to appear on your clothes after they get into the wash -- fabric softener.
That is because most softeners are oil based, and if too much is used, or added too soon or late into the cycle, or hits your clothes without being diluted enough, it will cause oily spots on your clothes. Typically, these spots are about the size of a dime and look almost milky or bluish, almost with an oily sheen to them.
However, you've not shared with me what your particular stain looks like, and that is important in being able to identify what it is.
Another common type of stain you can experience on clothing that comes from the washing process is rust stains. These can come either from rust which is developing in your washing machine itself, or from the water you are using to wash your clothes, if it has high mineral content. This can be worsened with the use of chlorine bleach, because bleach will set the stains.
Those are the two most common stains from a washing machine that I can think of, that you can get on your clothes. If you've got any more please share them in the comments.
I've answered this question as part of my stain removal help section on my website. You can ask your own questions, or read others I've already answered too.
I'm Getting Brownish Blotches On Clothes After Washing
Lisa asked this laundry question about washing machine stains:
We occasionally get brown blotches (faded looking) on our whites after washing...any ideas?
Don't you just hate it when you get a stain causing by your washing machine?
There can be lots of reasons for these spots, which are specific to your machine.
Above, in a previous question, I suggested, based on the description of the spots, that it was a fabric softener stain. These stains are kind of blue and greasy looking in color.
These stains, on the other hand, don't sound like that at all. The most common reasons for these brownish types of stains are mechanical oil or rust stains.
I've answered a question below about rust stains. I am thinking your stains may be mechanical oil based, although rust is also a possibility.
For example, if you've got a mechanical problem with your washing machine (even if you don't know about it yet) it can leak grease or oil, or other fluids, into the machine which can cause staining. For example, in a similar page about dryer stains a reader wrote in to share that her stains were coming from the washing machine, not her dryer, since there was a transmission seal leaking. A similar event may be occurring in your washer.
The way to know for sure is to have a repair person come out and look over your machine to see if they can figure out the mechanical problem.
Now, to get rid of the stains, it honestly depends what they are. I've given suggestions for removing the stains below if they are rust related. If they're grease related I suggest trying a grease stain remover such as Lestoil. In addition, you can see what other readers have suggested for grease stains here.
B wrote me in this laundry question, along with sending in these pictures of the problem she is having.
Lately, I've been getting brown mystery stains from my washing machine.
I know it's the washing machine because I've checked before putting the clothes in the dryer. On the lighter fabrics, it almost looks like it's been burned or smeared with mud and sometimes has the imprint of the surface of the washing machine (a bunch of little holes).
I tried cleaning the inside of the washing machine, even sticking rolled up paper towels into the little holes, but there was no residue.
I tried just rinsing the stains to see if anything happened, but since I have no idea what's staining my clothes, I don't know how to fix it.
It doesn't seem to happen with every load. I'd been adding vinegar to my loads to help remove stains and when I saw these new stains, I stopped, but they're still showing up. Help!
I have so much laundry to do and I can't afford to ruin my favorite clothes or my husband's work clothes.
B, I am sorry you are having trouble with stains from your washing machine.
It is very frustrating to put clothes in there, to get them clean, just for them to get stained during the washing process.
I cannot be sure of the problem, but it sounds like it is rust stains, especially based on your description of the imprint of the washing machine drum being involved.
Unfortunately, if a part of your machine begins to rust, some of the rust comes loose during the wash cycle, at least some of the time, and then can deposit on your clothes during the cycle. This is most likely to happen if you let your clothes sit in there for a while after the machine finishes, but can also happen during the washing process itself.
One way to check to see if these are rust stains is to try to remove them while they are fresh, and before you put the clothes in the dryer. Something mildly acidic, like lemon juice or vinegar, when dribbled onto the fresh stain, will typically lighten or remove it. You can also use a commercial rust stain remover to remove these stains, as long as what you choose is safe for clothing (and for the color clothing you have the stain on).
Typically, when you are getting stains from an appliance, such as your washing machine, it makes sense to clean it. However, typically when you clean your washing machine you may use chlorine bleach. In this instance, that would be a bad idea since chlorine bleach can cause rust stains to set.
Instead, you can try to clean your rusty machine with a rust stain remover designed for appliances. (Click here to read rust stain removers reviews provided by other readers of this site.) The one that first comes to my mind is Super Iron Out, although many products are available that could do the job.
If that does not remove the rust from your machine, and you continue to see these stains continuing, it is time to call a repair person. You may be able to identify and replace the rusting part. Unfortunately, if the problem is severe or the machine is very old it may cost more to repair than replace it.
Of course, I am not for certain it is rust, although this is really the most common reason for these mystery stains. If it isn't rust though, I really don't know what it is, unless it is grease from your machine. If it were this, however, I would expect a slightly different color than what you describe, but if it doesn't respond to the lemon juice, but instead is removed or lightened with dishwashing liquid, this may be the culprit.
I know this may not be what you wanted to hear B, but I do hope it helps you identify and solve your problem. I know how frustrating it can be to get behind on your laundry because of issues like this.
Does any other reader have any other suggestions for B about this problem, or how to fix it? In addition, have you suffered from similar stains in your washing machine? If so, did you identify what caused them, and how did you fix the problem? Please tell me in the comments.
***Update: A reader wrote in suggestion this as the culprit:
Your washer transmission is leaking oil into the drum. Replace the spindle seal or better yet buy a new washer.
Another reader suggested that it was some type of gunk build up. She stated:
The brown mystery stain looks like what we get from our lovely-horrid- front loader. It's gunk that collects inside the washer because it does not dry completely. I clean my washer once a week because of this and still have the gunk build up. It's very difficult to remove from your clothes as well. Any help would be appreciated.
Unknown Stains Only On MIL's Clothing After Washing
by SR101 Reader
Here's a question from a reader that has me baffled, but I'm adding it in hopes that someone else may have some insight into it.
SR101 Reader's Question:
We have a Whirlpool Duet.
My mother-in-law lives with us. Fairly often when she has washed a load of her whites only, her clothes will have a beige colored stain often at a seam or the neckline or waist band. These seem to be impossible to remove.
Could it be her makeup being dissolved in the wash water and staining her clothes? Again, it never occurs on our whites. My mother in law is elderly and does use make up foundations etc.
It's driving her crazy and as a result, me too. Thanks.
Hmmm, this laundry and stain removal question has me stumped!
It is now driving me crazy too, because it is only happening with your mother in law's clothing, not yours too, which suggests it is something to do just with your mother in law, and not the machine itself.
I am wondering, based on the location of the stains as areas where we perspire a lot, if it has something to do with that, and a reaction between the heat and/or other detergents and some medication she may be taking? I have heard about medications changing the ingredients excreted in a person's sweat, which may effect the ability to remove the stain.
Here's my suggestions for removing sweat stains, but this would most likely not be helpful for something related to her medication.
Of course, that is a completely wild guess, so I'd love to hear from even more readers who may have an idea about this unknown stain from the washing machine!
I would really appreciate some help figuring this out.
Thanks for your question Cathy. It's a common misconception that bleach stains come only from using chlorine bleach. Although that is a very common culprit these can happen even from non-chlorine and color safe bleaches, or detergents that contain such products.
However, it takes a lot for color safe products to cause bleach marks. Typically in those instances it is caused by improper application of the product, most often adding the product in an improper way such as full strength directly onto the fabric.
Finally, don't forget about the issue of acne products causing this problem. The benzoyl peroxide in these products is often the cause of such mystery bleach stains if the items stained have been worn or used in the bathroom when applying these products.
Elissa has a question about an all too common problem, unfortunately, stains that appear on clothes after you wash them.
For several months I have experienced stains on my clothing as I take it out of the washing machine.
Some of the stains on my cotton t-shirts come out blueish colored.
On other items the stain is pinkish.
My washer is 12 years old and my husband pulled the agitator which seems to have gunk inside.
I have also had some orange colored stains on my white cottons.
Do I need a new washer?
Elissa, thanks for your question, and sorry for your frustration with this problem.
In regard to the bluish stains, as I explain above these may be fabric softener stains, which often look blue in color, and rather greasy looking.
It sounds like the pinkish and orangish stains may be from a type of mold or yucky bacterial film that can start growing in your washing machine, although I cannot be sure that is the problem.
If your washing machine is otherwise functioning properly, I would first try cleaning it thoroughly to see if this fixes the problem. For example, clean all the junk out of the agitator that you mentioned, and follow the instructions in my article about washing machine cleaning.
Could HE Washing Detergent Be Causing These Spots Because Of Silicone Oil?
Taylor's note: I got this detailed explanation of what Ag925 thinks is causing many of these stains and spots on clothing. I am not personally saying this is correct, but I would love to hear from others with your thoughts on this possibility of what may be happening in your machine to cause this problem.
I have seen these spots on anything made of cotton (not just t-shirts) but have found they are most obvious on my cotton t-shirts.
The spots occur when the detergent comes in direct contact with your cotton clothes before it has completely dissolved in the wash water in the washing machine. Cotton loves to soak up this silicone oil...
What will help: If you have an older washing machine that is not high efficiency, use a laundry soap that is not made for HE machines (I found cold water versions are best).
OR you can use as little HE soap as possible and add it to the washing machine first along with a few inches of the warmest water for what you are washing before you add the clothes.
If all else fails, repeat the wash cycle with no detergent added before drying the clothes.
If you have an HE machine, you don't have control over when the detergent is added: use as little detergent as possible with the warmest water possible.
If the spots are still occurring, try changing detergents or check your washing machines instructions for using detergent not made for an HE machine (most do).
You can also repeat the wash cycle without any detergent.
Thanks for this explanation!
Like I said in my introduction, I have no idea if this is the cause of spots for everyone (most likely not, since many things can cause such mystery stains) but I would love to hear from others about this possibility, sharing if these suggestions helped any of you. I sure hope so!
Hello. Can you help me please? On 2 separate occasions, months apart, 2 of my t shirts have came out of the washing machine with pinkish stains on them. The first was just a few small spots, but the 2nd one has one larger stain on it and I'm baffled to how or why this has happened.
SR101 Reader 2 says:
I have a new washer/dryer machines. This has suddenly started leaving pink spots and stains on my white clothes.
No coloured items are going in the wash and the machine has been checked by a repair company to see if any red or pink items are stuck in the drum and nothing has been found.
I am using washing powder and fabric conditioner but neither are pink in colour. Any ideas?
Susan shared her thoughts after reading some of the suggestions I had above, especially the possibility of the brown stains being caused by rust.
I haven't checked to see if I have solved my problem yet, but in trying to figure it out and looking inside my washer, I decided to wipe with a towel inside the rubber gasket at the opening of my front loader.
It turned out it was full of brown gunk!
We have a well and although we have a rust filter, it may be that.
I think running an empty cycle with Iron Out is a good idea, and I am going to do that.
Meanwhile, I cleaned inside that rubber gasket very thoroughly.
If you use the Iron Out, be sure to get it well rinsed before you put colored clothes in it, as it will leave bleach spots if you don't.
Hope the Iron Out works for you Susan, since it can always be a big pain to try to identify and then cure these types of stains!
There are affiliate links on this page, and if you purchase a product through them I receive a small commission. Purchasing through my links costs you nothing extra, but helps support the free information provided on this site and my family. To learn more please see my product review disclosure statement.
Comments for Rust May Be Possible Reason For My Washer Stains
I hope you enjoy this gift, and stop by again soon!
CAUTION: This website is provided for informational purposes only. It is provided as is, without warranties or guarantees. Some stains and messes just won't come out, and are permanent. Further, some cleaning methods can harm your item, so if what you want to clean or launder is sentimental or expensive call a professional. See disclaimer of liability for more information.