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 softener?
Thanks for your question. I just hate stains from the washing machine itself, since it 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.
There are many types of colored stains which can appear on clothing and other laundry after it has been washed, including:
Oily stains, with a bluish sheen - often fabric softener stains (as mentioned above)
Brown spots, that appear a bit oily - sometimes caused by an oil leak from your washer
Brown spots or marks, or sometimes orangish - perhaps rust stains
Oily spots - perhaps from HE laundry detergent
Bleach stains - sometimes from bleach, sometimes from other causes such as laundry stain removers
Ink looking stains or streaks - these can show up even when no pen or ink present
Black marks and stains - can be caused by oil, or something else
Fading chalky like
stains, especially on dark garments
Different colored stains that may actually be dye transfers
Variety of other colored spots and marks, including pink, purplish, blue, and more
Notice I didn't add a cause or cure for all of these types of spots, because sometimes the issue is unknown, but it's common enough that multiple people have reported it.
This page is ever evolving, as more people send in photos, stories about what problems they've experienced, and solutions they've come up with. So make sure to read down to the bottom for all the ideas and problems experienced, and to see if what is happening to you has already happened to someone else. (The comments are quite populated with additional stories, as well.)
I don't always have an answer, but I know if we all add our bits of collective wisdom we'll get to the bottom of all of these issues eventually!
Make Sure Your Washer Is Clean
There are so many possible causes for washing machine stains that it is often difficult to narrow down what the cause of them is.
To help with this issue, first make sure you thoroughly clean your washing machine, because a dirty machine can itself be causing the spots and stains, and it is often the easiest remedy!
Make Sure To Identify If Your Stains Are From Your Washer Or Your Dryer
Further, along with cleaning your washing machine, before you can identify what is causing your mystery stains, you've got to ascertain if the stains are actually coming from your washer, or from your dryer.
If the clothes aren't stained before washing, but they come out of the dryer stained, you don't actually know, unless you examine the clothes carefully again after washing, but before the dryer, which of the two machines is causing the trouble.
Here's my article on mystery dryer stains because that might actually be the problem you're suffering from!
Read on below for more pictures from readers, and possible ideas for what is causing your stain, and how to fix the problem.
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, 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.
Here's a photo of what the stains look like from a washer that is leaking this oil, sent in by a reader.
The reader stated, "Must have transmission oil leak in washer - entire load of white clothes have little brown spots. Found something on washer wall that appears to be gooey oil. Will anything remove this from the clothes?"
My Rubber Seals Plus Rusty Screws Causing My Stains
Please can someone help, I just went to grab my washing out of the machine to dryer and spotted two of my husbands rusty screw bits (sigh) from the previous wash!
"Luckily" they seemed to have got tangled up in the towels and the clothes are undamaged, however I know it's hard to get rid of any stains once something has been washed once, especially rust :(
Does anyone have any tips?
Also need to clean the rust from the rubber seal as you can see...
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.
Meanwhile, I cleaned inside that rubber gasket very thoroughly.
Isa and Susan, along with cleaning around the rubber seal, which you've both identified, rust can be a problem for washing machines, especially those that use hard water, or well water.
If you feel like you've got rust in your machine, I suggest using an appliance cleaner that is made for rust, such as Iron Out.
Very Weird Long Term Stain Issue With Orange Shirts Getting Dark Splotches
by Bruce Kantor
I have been having a laundry issue for the past several years that I simply cannot figure out. I have many orange cotton T shirts without any stains that come out of the wash stained on a periodic basis.
I wash them with like colored clothing (all of which have been washed MANY times before) in cold water using only powdered detergent and no fabric softener.
These orange T shirts, and only the orange T Shirts, get dark spots and splotches in many places on the shirt. No other clothes show any of these stains other than my orange colored T Shirts.
When I get the stains, I spray them with advanced formula Shout, let them sit a couple days and rewash. Upon rewashing, the stains always come out.
However, I have no idea where and how these stains appear from the washing process, but I am very frustrated.
I have attached a picture of a shirt I took out of the laundry today. Any thoughts? Any assistance would be most appreciated.
The photo above was sent in by a reader, anonymously, and she asked, "What are these black stains that appear on my baby's clothes, and how do I get rid of them?"
It's hard to tell from the photo, but sometimes when you wash clothes in your washing machine, and then they come out stained, it is not caused by the machine at all, but instead by something about the clothes themselves.
I'm not completely sure, without being able to examine the onesie you've sent in, but it looks like perhaps you've experienced a dye transfer stain, based on the look of the smudges that is mainly around the words which appear to potentially be thread embroidery.
Dye transfer stains can happen when the dye, such as on the thread, isn't yet colorfast, and when it gets wet and washed, bleeds and redeposits on surrounding cloth, in this case a white shirt which is why it shows up so visibly.
Mystery Black Marks Appeared After Washing In Machine: How Removed
Marieta originally sent in the before photo, asking how to remove the stains to these shirts that were caused by her washing machine.
Marieta asked: "Help!!! I have no idea what got on these in the wash! I've rewashed on stain fighter cycle with all the following added to cycle: bleach, Dreft spot remover, Shout in wash, Oxiclean in wash and this didn't work. Suggestions please!"
Then, before I even had a chance to suggest anything she got it off all by herself, and sent in the after photo as well.
She actually used a variation on what I consider to be the best homemade stain remover, which is hydrogen peroxide and dish soap. (You can read more about this DIY stain remover recipe here.)
She explained that she made a paste of peroxide, baking soda and blue Dawn, soaked the shirt in hot water in the sink for 10-20 minutes and then washed it two times. Both times, as she washed, she added Clorox bleach crystals.
(I would note that I would be careful about adding the bleach to any wash with colored t-shirts like this, unless the stain is so bad you don't care if you get bleach stains, because it's ruined otherwise. The stain looks greasy, which is probably why the peroxide and soap combination worked so well, so that would be my first suggestion of what to try!)
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!
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 or laundry stain removers 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.
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?
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!
You've read above a LOT of different types of problems, stains, spots and marks that people are experiencing that are sometimes a mystery, and are showing up on their laundry only after washing their clothes in the washing machine.
Now it's your turn. Tell me below, in the comments, what kind of problems you've experienced, and also any solutions you've found for fixing the problem, or removing the stains that result! I would love to hear from you, and so would everyone else who is experiencing these frustrating mystery stains.
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Comments for What Kind Of Washer Stains Are You Experiencing?
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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.