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Mysterious Stains on Laundry

Category Laundry
Stains on laundry are frustrating to get out but can especially difficult if you don' know the source of the stain. This is a guide about mysterious stains on laundry.


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December 6, 20161 found this helpful

This is a guide about mysterious grease stains on clothing. Sometimes clothes come out of the washer with strange grease or oil-like stains on them that were not there before washing.

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By 0 found this helpful
March 6, 2011

I have spots on clothes. Please can anyone help?

Here is a little background. The last few years I have replaced my soft water unit. I have changed my detergent, from liquid to powder and brand several times. I stopped using fabric softener in both my washer and dryer.


I had maintenance work done and cleaned both units inside and out. Finally I got so frustrated I went out and bought a new traditional washer and dryer, as I thought maybe soap was dripping down some how with my front load washer.

Guess what? I am still getting the spots! I have never used fabric softener in my new washer and dryer. And I have again used both liquid and powder and switched brands. Help!

By Steve from Mid MI


March 6, 20110 found this helpful

Could it be that you have mineral deposits in your city water that is leaving stains on your clothes.

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March 8, 20110 found this helpful

What color are these spots?

Grease spots often appear on cotton t-shirts after they are washed. These have been deposited on your shirt when you are eating or cooking, but you don't notice them until you wash the shirt. These can be removed with a product like Shout.


If these are spots where the color is removed, than it could be caused by some product that you are using on your skin. Acne medication will take the color out of clothing along the neckline or where your hands touch, or where perspiration washes it onto. You do not notice this until the garment is washed.

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December 14, 20150 found this helpful

there is no answer to this problem yet! the brown spots cannot be washed out, they appear anywhere over a garment, not just in front where you might have slopped food, can't be rust not in the machine long enough, th
e mystery remains

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July 30, 20090 found this helpful

I get mysterious stains on my laundry and am beyond frustrated. Hundreds of dollars of clothes have been stained and most don't come out all the way. The stains do tend to fade with a lot of work. They look like the fabric is wet, so the fabric color, just darker spots. We have bought a new washer, tried different types of detergent, fabric sheets, liquid fabric softener, taken out our soft water system, etc. I have tried all tips people have given. Many thought it was liquid softener, but I always used fabric sheets. We have our own well and don't know if we should have someone look into our pipes or move.


Rhonda from Holmen, WI


Mysterious Stains on Laundry

My friendly Hancock Fabrics lady told me that many fabrics were not for liquid detergents or fabric softeners. Have you treated them as if they were grease stains? Have you had the washer/dryer checked by an appliance repairman? He might be able to just look at your stains and tell you what the problem is. (07/07/2006)

By gale join eer

Mysterious Stains on Laundry

Dear Rhonda, I was having the same problem and it turned out to be the fabric softener sheets I was using in the dryer. I didn't want to switch to liquid fabric softener, so I've just quit using fabric softener altogether. My clothes do get staticy but at least no more of those darn stains! (07/11/2006)

By Lynn Marler

Mysterious Stains on Laundry

I had the same problem when I was using powder detergent. Turns out I wasn't letting it dissolve before adding the clothes. I heard this is a common problem in hard water areas. I currently start the tub filling, add liquid detergent, give it time to combine, then add my clothes. No more spots. (07/11/2006)


By Cheryl from Missouri

Mysterious Stains on Laundry

I had the same problem and noticed that it was usually with new shirts. I found that the new fabric was not absorbing water well during the wash cycle so I started stopping the washer after it filled and taking the new shirts and swishing them around until I was sure the water had absorbed into the shirt in all places. This seemed to help. It's almost as if all of the shirt had faded except the spots that didn't absorb the water. (09/06/2006)

By Stacy

Mysterious Stains on Laundry

We had the same darned problem! After much frustration, I came up with this solution. Treat those mysterious little spots with any spray stain remover. Then, use no soap in washer. Buy some Calgon powder or liquid and---here's the bizarre part---add some to the final rinse! Dry only on light heat and line dry the rest of the way. It worked for us. A pain in the back side, but it worked. Best wishes! (12/09/2006)


By Roland Cook

Mysterious Stains on Laundry

Instead of dryer sheets, I use a cup or so of white vinegar added in the wash water. The clothes are soft and I have not had any more of those little stains. You might want to try it. Good luck to you! (01/05/2007)

By Cora

Mysterious Stains on Laundry

I had the same problem as you to the point where I thought I would have to move from my home. Finally, 10 years later, I have found the source of the problem. I wash my floors with Murphy's Oil soap. I would take the dirty rags and wash them in my washing machine. Apparently the Murphy's oil was leaving a residue in my machine; thereby causing spots on all of my clothes. Needless to say, I am not using Murphy's Oil Soap and I am never washing a rag again. (04/13/2007)

By batya

Mysterious Stains on Laundry

Okay, I too have thought I was going nuts and have searched for answers. I have tried a few things. Try putting a mild soap (I use dove in bar form) directly on the stains and then wash without detergent or softener of any kind. I also recently switched to Dreft and it cleared it up for a while, but now the stains are reappearing. I have an HE washer and soft water, so I only use about 2T detergent. And try not using any detergent every 4 washes or so. Hopefully one day someone can actually tell us what the real issue is. (05/25/2007)

By stephanie driscoll

Mysterious Stains on Laundry

I, too, have had this problem. Try Goo Gone; it can be found at hardware stores or sometimes even in grocery stores. It is a gold liquid that comes in a bottle. On dry fabric, soak the stain for 5-10 minutes, then launder as usual (cold water usually works, but if not, try hot). The stain should be gone. (12/30/2007)

Mysterious Stains on Laundry

Wow, I thought I was losing my mind, because it seems to only happen to my dark clothes, not my husband's. I'm going to try the white vinegar trick and see if it works. Thanks for all the input. Take care. (02/02/2008)

By Dee.

Mysterious Stains on Laundry

I kept finding thin brown stains on my light/pastel clothes. Turns out after much investigation that it is from the dryer. Must be from a gluey residue left from dryer sheets that forms around the sealer part of the drum (door side). I am at a loss as to how to remove these stains. This has ruined so many of my nice clothes and now some new sheets. I am furious. Nothing works to remove them. Any suggestions anyone? (06/06/2008)

By Marion

Mysterious Stains on Laundry

I have the exact same problem. Stains that are the same color as the clothes, but darker. And it doesn't appear on whites. I bought a new dryer today and am so frustrated that there are still stains on my color cotton clothes! I cried. We replaced the washing machine last year hoping it would help. It didn't. I have also changed detergents, but it didn't help. I can get the stains out if I put liquid dish detergent (Dawn) on it and rewash the clothes. I found that when I wash the darks and hang them up to dry, it helps. But I have three small children, who has the time for that? So frustrating! (07/26/2008)

By Jennifer

Mysterious Stains on Laundry

I went back to where we bought our machines from. I believe the stains originate in the washing machine. It was suggested by the repair man that it could be protein stains, food on the kid's clothes transferring to other clothes (rinse all food of your clothes). It could be a problem with your water. We are on well water. The stains do fade with time, so don't throw your clothes (who can afford to do that). I also use vinegar in the wash to help remove/prevent the stains, about 1/2 cup per load. Hope this helps some. (08/08/2008)

By jacquie.

Mysterious Stains on Laundry

I had this problem before, dark grease stains on white clothing. Check the hoses where the water comes into the machine. Old hoses can cause this problem. We had the hoses changed and that solved the problem a few years ago. (08/26/2008)

Mysterious Stains on Laundry

I have been getting these stains for years with different washers and in different homes. I don't know what it could be, but it always seems to appear on dark cotton knits, and it seems to affect every family member. Sometimes just a tiny little darkened spot, sometimes it looks like someone splashed a bunch of water on something. I don't use fabric softener or dryer sheets, but I put white vinegar in the fabric softener cup to get soap residue out. We have an HE top-loader right now. To me it seems almost as if liquid detergent got splashed on there, but I don't know how that could be since it mixes with water before it reaches the clothes. I may try switching to powdered detergent just for kicks, but I think I have tried that before without success.

What gets these stains out for me is the Spray N Wash Stick. I do get frustrated when we seem to have a "flare-up" of the situation and I'm re-washing several items from a load. (01/12/2009)

By Christine

Mysterious Stains on Laundry

Good luck, I have been dealing with this same problem for years. I have just been told to try a product called Affresh which is a front loader washing machine cleaner. He told me that the cloths will rub against the front door gasket and get the stains that way. If this does not work, the rep told me to have my front bearings checked because if there is a leak, the oil will get on the clothes during the wash cycle. (07/22/2009)

By Lorelei

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March 6, 20110 found this helpful

Please help. All of the suggestions for how to clean stains from clothing are wonderful, but I'm trying to solve the mystery of what is causing stains on my laundry.

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