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Preventing Bleach Stains on Clothing

Category Laundry
Bleach Stains On Red T-Shirt
Finding mysterious bleach spots on your laundry, even when no bleach was used is frustrating. This is a guide about preventing bleach stains on clothing.


Ask a QuestionHere are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community or ask a new question.

May 25, 20041 found this helpful

i need help. Every once in a while (more lately) when I do a colored load of wash clothes will come out with what looks to be a bleach stain on them. I have already lost a few shirts and some nice pants and I cant figure out whats doing it. I very rarely use bleach and I know I didnt spill it. I seperate the clothes and follow the lables. I am sick of losing nice clothes. It will only happen to one or two things a load and not every time I do wash. Anyone have any ideas what it could be?? Thanks for the help,


Missy in PA

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May 26, 20040 found this helpful


This same thing has happened to me. But alas I found out what was causing it. Fabric softener, that you would pour into a dispensor cup ontop of the agaitoter. (WOW what a spellor). If just one drop goes into the wash cycle, it finds you nicest clothes. And then you already know what happens.

Once I stopped fabic softening this way and went to the sheets. No problems, so if this is what you are doing, My advice is get the sheet, not the liquid. And it worked for me.


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By guest client (Guest Post)
May 26, 20040 found this helpful

What type of detergent are you using? Are you pouring it over the already loaded washer? The same thing was happening to my sons clothes and we found it was the liquid detergent "working" before the washer had filled with water, even a worse problem when the detergent contains "brightners or bleach." It was causing bleached stains and streaks. We now put the detergent in first and rinse down the tub with a cup or two or water BEFORE we load the clothes in. Problem solved.

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By guest client (Guest Post)
May 26, 20040 found this helpful

Yeah, I learned the hard way to always add the soap to the water before putting clothes in. You have to dilute a lot of these laundry detergents before they make contact with your clothes. Especially if you are a bargain hunter and change detergents from time to time when you find a deal.

I had problems with liquid detergent staining clothing and powdered detergent sticking to clothing and not getting rinsed off. Sometimes when you dry clothing without seeing the stuck-on powdered detergent it will set a stain or discoloration on clothing. At best those clothes need to be re-washed. So, I always let the water run for a while, add the soap, then add the clothes and I haven't had a problem since.

The fabric softener may also be the problem.

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By guest client (Guest Post)
May 27, 20040 found this helpful

One thing I have been doing for years has saved my clothes and made my washer work better and longer.

Once a week pour 2 cups of household vinegar over your adjitator to clean off all the resedue left by soaps and powdered bleach. Run some old white towels through a short wash without soap. They will come out whiter and cleaner then before but your machine will be clean also. It is a good idea to run vinegar through once and a while by it's self. If I get a real build up I use a entire gallon.

To prevent problems in the future- dissolve your detergent in an old cut off bleach bottle. Rinse one out. Fill half full with warm or hot water, depending on what you are washing and stir after pouring detergent in. let stand while you fill the drum with clothes and water. Don't add soapy liquid until the washer is almost full. Even adding detergent first doesn't always work. Try it

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By guest client (Guest Post)
May 28, 20040 found this helpful

I always put the detergent in first when I do wash. I pour it (powder) right where the water hits when it fills. Start the water. Then I go get the hamper and start to put in the clothes. By then there are a couple of inches of water in the tub and deterg. is mostly dissoved.

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By guest client (Guest Post)
May 28, 20040 found this helpful

I had noticed some grime on the agitator but it did not wipe off easily. Today, I used the magic eraser and it worked like a charm. All that grime is gone. I then filled the washing machine and let it go one cycle to wash away the dirt.

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By guest client (Guest Post)
May 29, 20040 found this helpful

This is happening to us too, but never with our old Kenmore machine. We moved and bought a GE from Sam's Club. I think what's happening is that most bleachable loads are smaller than dark clothing loads so, when you add soap and bleach to the tub to do a small whites load, the fill stream splashes concentrated bleach/soap drops higher up on the tub and/or agitator sides than the eventual water level reaches during the whites cycle. These concentrated droplets of bleach solution remain there for your next dark load which is usually bigger, so you pile in the clothes, they contact the bleach droplet and voila-a white spot!


Two solutions for this:

1. Make your whites load the last of the day so the tub dries out completely-dry bleach won't enter the fabric like liquid does, and

2. Let the tub fill with water about half way before GENTLY pouring the bleach in. Pour it in on the front side of the tub opposite the water stream. Then, let the agitator do a couple of rotations to mix before adding the whites. No more bleach stains on the dark stuff.

The Kenmore had a bleach-add cup on the top of the tub area that let the bleach in on the outside of the perforated tub so we never had the problem until now. Hope this helps!

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By guest (Guest Post)
July 9, 20050 found this helpful

don't use deoderant that is a clear stick. I had some and it got a white "bleach looking"stain on one of my good light blue tee shirts. I know it was the deoderant because the stain was only under the arms. I retested it by putting the deoderant all over the shirt and rewashed it. Sure enough, there was white marks everywhere I put the deoderant.

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By guest (Guest Post)
November 20, 20050 found this helpful

i had a lovely pair of khaki combat trousers which have been ruined by bleach. there are a few purple drops all down the front of them as a result of the bleach in the mop bucket. i am devestated as i loved them. any tips as to how i could go about repairing these combats. they are my favourite. karen xoxo

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By 0 found this helpful
April 30, 2008

I keep getting bleach stains on all of my clothes, I no longer use bleach and have washed the washing machine. Please Help?

Emma from Tas, Australia

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April 14, 2008

Can someone help a dumb bachelor? I only use bleach when doing whites in a separate load. I notice periodically a small white bleach stain on an item in later loads of shirts and pants. This obviously ruins the item, and is driving me crazy. This has been happening for years, which leads me to believe I'm doing something wrong. And I don't think it's just me, because I'm starting to notice it on others clothes as well. Can someone help. Thanks.

Larry from Clearwater, FL

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By guest (Guest Post)
April 14, 20080 found this helpful

Same problem! I have decided my current washing machine does not fill enough on the rinse cycle. Therefore it does not wash out the fabric softener or the soap residue. I'm on the verge of getting a different washing machine. I've tried less soap, less fabric softener, no fabric softener - no help. What seems to help the problem is doing a third rinse.

Fischer/Paykel is currently being informed of the problems.

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April 14, 20080 found this helpful

That is why I don't use by bleach dispenser. Sometimes they do not empty completly until a load or two later.

Instead, I fill my washer and add my bleach while it is filling. I let it adgitate about 5 seconds, then I add my whites.

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April 14, 20080 found this helpful

I HAD this same problem, but solved it by washing first a white load with bleach, & the next load I wash is light colors that don't need bleaching, (like light blue, pink, white or light gray) then lastly after I've run the light load through I finally run my dark colors through. Just be sure to run the light load or "cleansing load" through the wash after every bleach load BEFORE you wash any jeans or dark clothes. Of course my machine is over 20 years old, too!

YES! Always add your bleach as or after the water has filled the machine, then lastly after you've agitated the load a bit, THEN add your whites.

* I'd NEVER give up using bleach! How else would I totally disinfect my bath towels, pillow cases or bed sheets? Yes, I know hot water helps (but costs money) as does drying in the Sunshine. But I live in Seattle! (only rain!) So I'll stick to bleach to kill my germs.

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By guest (Guest Post)
April 15, 20080 found this helpful

I have found that I have simply splashed myself while pouring in the bleach, now I pour into the backside of the washer and hold the bottle neck low into the washer, pouring slowly. Now that I am more careful, I never have bleach spots. It takes awhile for the bleach to discolor your clothes as it is now dilluted with wash water, so you don't notice it till you launder them again. Notice if the bleach stains are usually on the front and or sleeves of clothing, including pants.

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April 15, 20080 found this helpful

As Mary said, you are probably splashing yourself or letting the bleach drip somewhere unnoticeable. Then the clothing comes in contact with the drip or splash and you've got ruined clothing. It's happened to me too and I wondered how in the world it was happening. It's possible that the bleach bottle was set down beside the colored clothing and the clothing rubbed against the bottle. Very frustrating, I know. Probably best thing is to be more careful and to keep the bleach as far away from colored clothing as possible.

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By guest (Guest Post)
April 15, 20080 found this helpful

I have the same problem and only use color safe bleach on my clothes because of our septic system.

I am starting to think that maybe the Downy that I use is getting on stuff and "bleaching" it. Has anyone heard of this happening?

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By 0 found this helpful
December 7, 2006

I live in a dorm at school, none of the kids are supposed to use bleach, but of course they do. I've been the lucky person to put clothes in after they are done and have had 3 very nice shirts with bleach stains. How can i prevent this? I don't have the time/money to run just a load before I put my clothes in. Any suggestions?

Kevin from Philly, PA

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By guest (Guest Post)
December 10, 20060 found this helpful

it's worth the money (what a $1 or $2) to run a load ahead of you rather than ruining shirts that cost what -- at least $40 total (ok I guessed at the amount but you get the idea).

Use the extra 20 minutes to study :)

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By guest (Guest Post)
December 10, 20060 found this helpful

Do your whites in the machine first. If there is any residual bleach in the machine it won't hurt anything. Then you can feel safe washing darker clothes the next load.

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By guest (Guest Post)
December 14, 20060 found this helpful

Thanks! My girlfriend set her jeans down on my laundry for a sec and it had bleach on it! I had distracted her with something else and she went back to find 5 bleach spots on her designer jeans! So we are gonna order those Marvy Fabric Pens and everything is ok! Thanks!

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By guest (Guest Post)
May 31, 20070 found this helpful

to prevent bleach stains is simple... dont use bleach. there are many effective non-bleach alternatives out there without the risk of permanently ruining clothes

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By guest (Guest Post)
April 12, 20080 found this helpful

Bleach spots on dark clothes. I have not used bleach in my washer for at least 6 loads and I am still getting bleach spots on my dark clothes. Can this problem be fixed?

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By 0 found this helpful
July 26, 2012

I have a new light blue sleeveless t-shirt. I pulled it out of the wash and now has white dots and white streak on it. It seems nothing is taking it out. What is this? How did it happen? Can I do anything to fix it? Thank you.

By flower51

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By 0 found this helpful
April 14, 2016

It's been quite a while since I've posted here, so I'm back for more of your good advice. This isn't the first time I've had this problem and I gotta tell you I'm getting tired of ruining my clothes. This time I have a brand new GE stackable washer/dryer combo, but it happened on my past Kenmore also. I do a load of whites with a little pre-diluted (1:3) Chlorox liquid bleach, but any brand will do it. The next load after that is colored and I specifically wipe off all areas where previous bleach was poured in.

Results of this load: Tiny bleach spots, but not on every item in the tub, just 1 or 2. It's making me wish I drank again! Anyway, this 70 year old bachelor is fuming. I'm sure it's me doing something wrong. I hope I'm not told to do an empty load after the whites to remove any bleach remnants. Can anyone help? Thanks in advance.

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March 20, 20060 found this helpful

My daughter has a problem with her laundry. She randomly gets bleach stains on her wash. She has stopped using any bleach and fabric softener and it still happens. Does anyone have any ideas what might cause it. It doesn't seem that the machine would hold bleach for months. Very strange.

Thanks for your help,
Sally from South Berwick, ME

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ThriftyFun is one of the longest running frugal living communities on the Internet. These are archives of older discussions.

September 26, 20100 found this helpful

My daughter has a problem with her laundry. She randomly gets

bleach stains on her wash. She has stopped using any bleach and

fabric softener and it still happens. Does anyone have any ideas

what might cause it? It doesn't seem that the machine would hold

bleach for months. Very strange.

Thanks for your help,
Sally from South Berwick, ME


Random Bleach Stains on Laundry

Had this trouble with several of my face cloths. Dark colors

ended up with light blotches on them. Turns out it was from skin

cream with a hydrogen peroxide type of chemical in it. Put the

facecloth in the hamper once and apparently it even transferred

onto a blouse as it ended up with a lighter blotch on it, too.


By Tracy

Random Bleach Stains on Laundry

Is she cleaning with anything containing bleach? One time I

cleaned my stove with Soft Scrub and it had bleach in it, and

when I threw it in with my clothes it bleached them.

A lot of items have chemicals in them that can bleach clothing,

maybe she can watch what chemicals she uses (if any) and pin-

point the problem.

Good luck! (03/21/2006)

By profile=thr721229">katieandjeffy

Random Bleach Stains on Laundry

My daughter had this problem (still does). I figure it's the

face creams or perfumes she uses. The stains are mostly up

around the neck area on shirts, and on pillow cases, and the

tops of her sheets. (03/21/2006)

By profile=thr523346">marinewife5

Random Bleach Stains on Laundry

Occasionally this has happened to me. I have found that this

blotching can occur when laundry soap goes directly on the

clothing versus putting the water and soap in before any

clothing. Also, some detergents have a "whitener" in them that

can cause blotches when put directly on the clothing.


By Sheri

Random Bleach Stains on Laundry

This sometimes happens with my daughter's tees, I'm beginning to

think it could be from one of her many hair styling products.


By yankeesgryl

Random Bleach Stains on Laundry

I am the daughter! So I stopped using fabric softener and

switched to All Free, no dyes or perfumes. Also I started

wearing gloves when I clean. I am happy to report that no stains

for 3 months or more! (04/03/2007)


Random Bleach Stains on Laundry

I heard from my neighbor the other day that some newer washers

that have a dispenser for the bleach. Some of them do not

completely empty out so they can be dripping bleach onto the

next loads. If you use a bleach dispenser or have this type of

washer, it's a possibility. Run only water through your bleach

dispenser for a load or two and see if it makes a difference.


By profile=ver1000140">ThriftyFun

Random Bleach Stains on Laundry

So I only use All Free and Clear, no fabric softener and I clean

in one outfit. I am happy to report that almost 6 months have

gone by and no more random bleach stains, Woo hoo! (07/23/2007)

By Barbara

Random Bleach Stains on Laundry

We too had the same mystery. Finally I realized it was not only

our son's acne wash, but also the Scrubbie Bubbles used to clean

tubs and our jacuzzi. Now I leave a special laundry container

for these items and the problem has gone bye bye! (12/11/2007)

By Mary

Random Bleach Stains on Laundry

I have this very same problem. It's sending me mad. It started

first with our towels, my husband and I had nice brown towels,

and they all started to get random orangey bleach marks. Then,

it was the hand towels, face towels and even my pillowcase and

the top of my sheets. I have since noticed some spots on our

carpet in our bedroom (in front of our mirror) and on some of

our clothing. I went and stayed at my mum's house one night and

she rang me up the next day to tell me that I had bleached her

towels too!

Having read what everyone has posted, I am convinced it has

something to do with me using Clearasil cream and/or a few face

washes. I thought maybe it was Johnson's Holiday skin, but other

people I know use it and they don't have any problems. I too

don't use bleach products around the house and hadn't really

started using any new products, except for Clearasil. I think

this could be it for me. The Clearasil is going in the bin. It's

wrecked too many of our nice towel sets. (02/18/2008)

By Abby

Random Bleach Stains on Laundry

I think it could also be from toothpaste. When you wipe your

mouth of toothpaste on the towel and then it sits there until

you clean the towel. (02/23/2008)

By Melanie

Random Bleach Stains on Laundry

Had the same exact problem and just figured out for sure what it

is. The cleaning spray I use in my apartment has bleach in it.

So, I could have been getting the spray directly on my clothes

while cleaning and secondly (definitely more likely) is after I

clean I throw the rag I used into the hamper with my clothes! As

a test I just sprayed some of the cleaner onto an old black

sock, sure enough, it was instantly covered with the orange

stain. I feel like a complete idiot now, but at least I know how

to put an end to this. (02/28/2008)

By Jeff

Random Bleach Stains on Laundry

I always use the same creams, detergents, etc., but my husband

found a large bleach-like stain on my tan pillowcase the other

morning. The only thing that has changed is that I had inpatient

surgery and was medicated. That night I experienced night sweats

partially due to a heating pad I was using. My thoughts were

leaning more towards the ingredients in the body/shampoo wash

that the hospital provided. (03/15/2008)

By Jennifer

Random Bleach Stains on Laundry

While having lunch with a coworker she mentioned that her

dermatologist told her to keep the prescription face cream away

from color clothes like towels and pillow cases. I have been

having that problem the the towels in the girls' bathroom only.

Now I know. There is Proactiv in there and prescription cream.


By profile=thr815886">nbruegirls

Random Bleach Stains on Laundry

My goodness. Finally, after years of random, bleached out spots

on towels. I Googled the problem, generally it is liquid soaps

of any kind. I recently visited a friend's home and found the

towel I had used the night before after washing my face was

"bleached" out in spots. Since the towel wasn't washed in my

home, we looked at what I had used. Simple liquid soap we all

buy for the convenience and use in lieu of bar soap. To test our

theory we put it on a new towel and washed it. Produced the

white bleach spots. I have gotten rid of all liquid soaps and

with them went the problem. (07/17/2008)

By Rosemary

Random Bleach Stains on Laundry

Same problem here! I'm almost positive my last episode of

bleached towels came from my hand soap "Method" located in the

bathroom. Don't wash your hands with that stuff and dry your

hands on a nice towel. That's the only thing that it could be.


By Ashley

Random Bleach Stains on Laundry

So here it is, and I can say this with certainty:

For years I have gotten those random bleach stains. After

finding this post, I did some experiments. Here's the findings:

Laundry Detergent: Yes, this can cause the stains. If you

have a detergent with "color safe bleach" or a "whitener", be

sure to shake the liquid before using, as you can get a

concentration of the whitener in a cap of soap. You can also add

the clothes AFTER you fill the washer with water and detergent,

to dilute the soap issue. If you use powder detergent, I highly

recommend the latter.

Acne medication: Absolutely the highest risk, however I think

there should be an addendum to this statement (mention it

below): Almost all the acne cleansers that are "not" salicylic

acid will cause the problem. Proactiv and Clean and Clear are

notorious. The experiment I did to test the theory was as


I used Clean and Clear in the shower, then made certain (on

an older towel) to dry my face only in one particular area of

the towel. Sure enough, that area proved to have stains upon

drying. To further test this, I asked a roommate to use his acne

product under the same circumstances (area of towel), and the

results, not surprisingly were the same (his Proactiv actually

seemed to make the stains worse).

Now, what about that addendum I mentioned earlier? Be wary of

antibacterial agents in your soaps. Hand soaps with many

antibacterial agents seem to cause the same result. Same

experiment as above was done to come to this conclusion. My

example comes, like a previous person mentioned, from the

"Method" brand foaming hand soap from Target.

I feel that the producers of these products should be held

liable for the damages caused, as no warnings, written nor

implied, are ever given.

I hope this helps people avoid the problem. Do what you can

in your own mode of living to accommodate these issues. In

talking to my doctor, he actually said that the whole

"antibacterial" agents in hand soap are a sham. Soap, in it's

most basic form is anti-bacterial by nature. I have switched my

handsoap to a nice smelling diluted mixture of dish soap

(Palmolive is great on the hands) and water. It's worked great,

and no more stained hand towels. I switched acne cleansers to

ones which use salicylic acid as the active ingredient, and I

always dilute my laundry detergent now, in addition to agitating

the bottle to make certain any whitening and brightening agents

are mixed well before use. Since those implementations, no

problems. (10/12/2008)

By Jason


G" width="400" height="300" alt="RE: Random Bleach Stains on

Laundry" />

Random Bleach Stains on Laundry

The one common denominator is the fabrics, which I think is the

problem. Whether towels or clothing, it never used to be a

problem, so what is different now? I think it's the overseas

manufacturing processes and dyes. My aunt died 2 years ago and

I got a beautiful set of rose colored decorated towel,

washcloth, and handtowels. I use the same products on my skin

that I use on my Ralph Lauren towels from Kohl's and the color

stays true with no spots on the old set, while the newer ones

are ruined. The towels, while put away and not previously used,

were made in the USA in 1987, while the Lauren and others I've

had with similar spots were made in India and other overseas

countries. I've always had oily skin and used benzoyl peroxide,

astringents, and Retin-A for years also, liquid hand soaps and

whitening toothpaste. It's only been in the last several years

the problem has shown up. The same is true for pillowcases, old

versus new. I've also had problems with sunscreen I use on my

neck turning my collars yellow. I think the alcohol in that and

colognes is the reason. These things never used to happen to me.

I really think it's all the overseas, cheap labor products.


By profile=thr886761">kshope

Random Bleach Stains on Laundry

My sister who is the authority for all my questions said it's

certain dyes that react to acidic oily skin, that bleach it that

pinky orange color, seen mostly on blues, browns, and khaki. I

once stood in acid rain in London in a khaki top and the

raindrops turned my top into orange polka dots. Now I know

there is nothing that can be done if the dyes are not set by a

process which is why your old towels are fine and the new ones

made overseas aren't. They obviously don't use the needed

process anymore. My blues ones are all ruined and my green ones

are fine. Anyone know if something can be added to the first

washing that would set these dyes properly so it wouldn't happen

later? (06/01/2010)

By profile=thr507550">Anonymous

Random Bleach Stains on Laundry

I have to agree with the folks that concluded the dyes in newer

towels (almost invariably made overseas) are inherently

unstable. I experimented with brand new hand towels that had

never been washed, and was able to produce the bleach stain

problem within a couple of days. It never happens on the towels

I bought 15 to 20 years ago (yes, I still have some of those.)


I don't use any medications containing benzoyl peroxide. I do

use daily sun screens, and I think the sunscreen left on my

hands may be the culprit, as I've seen the same problem with

sunscreen bleaching some of my less expensive (made overseas)

cotton tops.

Bottom line: the dyes used in towels are no longer stable. I

may give up and simply start buying white towels. Discouraging.


By profile=thr240332">djfoster

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April 30, 20080 found this helpful
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