stains on clothes from detergent

5 Ways to Get Laundry Detergent Stains Out of Clothes

In Cleaning, Home Tips by Jamie

One of the most annoying things that can happen when you are washing your clothes is when your laundry detergent actually stains your clothes rather than getting them clean. Why does this happen, and how can you fix it? How can you get laundry detergent stains out of clothes?

There are many methods for you to try, including using white vinegar, baking soda, bar soap, and more. There are also many wash steps to try as well, such as not filling your washing machine as full and using dye-free detergent.

But why does laundry detergent even stain your clothes in the first place? And what steps have proven the most effective for removing laundry detergent stains from your shirts and pants? Let’s take a look at some preventative measures now.

How Does Laundry Detergent Stain Your Clothes?

There are many ways that laundry detergent can stain your clothes. You may be surprised to hear this, given the fact that most laundry detergent is designed to remove stains. However, many circumstances can result in a nice smelling but still visible stain.

Pods sometimes do not properly dissolve. If you are a frequent capsule or pod based laundry detergent user, you may recognize this as an issue already. Depending on how hot your water is as well as how full your machine is, you may notice pods staining your clothes more often than not.

Colored detergents can also potentially stain. You may think that laundry detergent manufacturers would have thought about the color of their soap long before making it available to consumers. However, many colored detergents have been known to stain clothes, especially in very full loads of laundry.

New washing  machines (or just some types of washing machines) with low water usage can also cause stains from detergent. This is primarily due to the fact that low water usage machines can struggle when it comes time to dissolve the soap properly.

Hard water can also stain your clothing. This often happens when used in conjunction with powdered detergent. The granules have a difficult time dissolving efficiently and thoroughly, especially when paired with hard water.

You may also notice laundry detergent staining your lighter wash clothes, or your white cotton shirts. You may want to take special care when washing white or light-colored clothing next time.

Let’s discuss some detergents that are well-known for staining clothing, so that you can avoid them in the future!

What are the Some Known Detergents for Staining Clothes?

There are many common household laundry detergents that have been known for staining clothes. Some of those brands include:

  • Tide Pods. The capsule structure of these detergents has trouble dissolving properly in some machines.
  • Most blue detergents. The added dyes and chemicals found in blue detergents can discolor your laundry, especially lighter wash or white clothes.
  • Gain Flings. Another pod-based form of detergent, Gain Flings have difficulty dissolving fully and often get wrapped up in your clothing in the washer
  • Persil Discs Laundry Detergent Pacs. These capsules are designed to dissolve, even in cold water, but they still struggle to fully incorporate.

There are no doubt many other brands and styles of detergent that struggle to dissolve or incorporate. Any detergent that doesn’t fully blend with your water will lead to staining or potential dyeing of your clothes.

The most important step you need to take in order to avoid this happening? Check out some of our tips and tricks now.

Tips to Prevent Clothes Staining from Detergent?

If you have been struggling with detergent staining your clothes for quite some time, check out some of these tips that should help prevent your detergent from staining.  Using all of these steps will likely bring you the best results!

Avoid Using Pods of Any Brand

While pods are convenient, any type of detergent pod can struggle with dissolving in your washing machine. Whether the water isn’t hot enough or the capsule packaging is simply too powerful, pods end up being a lot more trouble than they’re worth.

The most common issue that happens with pods is that they can get trapped in an article of clothing and wrapped up in it. Even if the capsule bursts, the detergent will be concentrated on one particular article of clothing and more likely to stain that particular piece of clothing.

If you happen to enjoy the convenience of washing machine pods, you don’t need to feel obligated to change your detergent. However, if you notice consistent staining happening to your clothes, you may try a different liquid based detergent just to see if it makes a difference.

There isn’t an issue with a particular brand of pod- the inherent design of laundry detergent pods leads to their malfunction. I will leave it up to you to determine if laundry detergent pods are worth the extra potential hassle of staining your clothes!

Avoid Colored Detergents – Use Clear Detergents

One of the easiest ways to avoid laundry detergent stains in your clothing is to use a clear and natural detergent.  I’m not saying make your own out of essential oils and castile soap, though this is also a great option.

Many laundry detergent companies and manufacturers have a free and clear detergent option. These are ideal for anyone with allergies, young children, and if you have been having trouble with laundry detergent stains in the past.

These detergents are simply designed without dyes or color, and they are usually made with less harsh ingredients overall. Some consumers may find that clear detergents don’t clean as effectively, but most brands have this issue solved nowadays.

Don’t Overload Your Washing Machine

Don’t Overload Your Washing Machine

Did you know that simply loading your washing machine correctly can yield you better results? If you often over fill or overload your washing machine, you are more likely to have issues with your detergent staining your clothes.

This is no doubt because the detergent gets trapped among your clothes instead of evenly distributing in the water. You may notice this happening with the water itself: if you notice that some of your laundry is wet and some of it isn’t, you know that you are over-filling your washer.

I recommend putting your laundry into the washing machine one article of clothing at a time. You can always add a bunch of socks or underwear all at once, but taking your time and adding in your laundry slowly can lead to less chaos during the wash cycle.

You should also make sure that your laundry isn’t bunched up or balled up when going into the washer. Be sure to give it a shake and toss it in with your detergent. While it may add an extra minute or so to your loads of laundry, it may be worth it to avoid detergent stains.

Use the Recommended Amount of Detergent (Measure!)

Sometimes laundry detergent stains happen because you are simply using too much detergent. Following your detergent manufacturer’s specific Instructions for how much detergent to use can make a huge difference.

You may think that you know the amount of laundry detergent that you need, or have been using the same brand for so long that you’ve stopped measuring. I recommend taking the time to always measure your detergent for every load.

Depending on the specific wash cycle selected and the water temperature you are using, you may need to alter the amount of detergent you are putting into the machine. Again, always double-check with your manufacturer, and alter the amount that you are using if you notice staining.

Are Laundry Detergent Stains Permanent?

Laundry detergent is designed to be washed out, so thankfully, most laundry detergent stains aren’t permanent. However, if you have been putting off removal of a particular detergent stain, it may have set in more than you expect.

If you catch a laundry detergent stain early on, it is more easily removed using any of our 5 ways for how to get laundry detergent stains out of clothes. The longer you wait, or if you happen to not notice a stain, the more difficult it will be to get out.

You may need to try multiple methods, or adjust the temperature of your water or the amount of soaking time. Most laundry detergent stains do come out, though you may be surprised at the amount of elbow grease it takes if you have let the stain set in!

How to Get Laundry Detergent Stains Out of Clothes

Looking for solutions for your existing laundry detergent stains? Let’s take a look at some DIY options that may work for you for how to get laundry detergent stains out of clothes!

1. White Vinegar

Heinz Cleaning Vinegar (1 gal Jug)

White vinegar is a homeowners dream, capable of cleaning many different names without breaking the bank. You can add a cup of white vinegar to your wash cycle, without detergent, and allow your laundry detergent stain clothes to wash in it.

I recommend setting up a soak for any laundry detergent stains, especially ones that have been allowed to sit. Fill your bathtub or sink with lukewarm water, add a cup or two of white vinegar, and let your clothes soak in the mixture for at least an hour.

You may want to take a toothbrush or fingernail to the existing laundry detergent stain. Rub the vinegar solution further into the stain for best results. Then, you can either wash as normal, or wash in the vinegar solution.

Remember, soaking often goes a long way! If you are having trouble with laundry detergent stains, sometimes all your clothes need is a good soak.

2. Rubbing Alcohol

Dealmed Isopropyl Rubbing Alcohol 70% USP, First Aid Antiseptic, 16 fl. oz, (1 Pack)

Rubbing alcohol is another useful homeowners tool. You can use rubbing alcohol on a variety of stains, and you can even use it to melt ice in your driveway or on your wooden deck. And it can be used to remove laundry detergent stains as well.

Allow your clothes to soak in a lukewarm sink or bathtub. Once they have been fully saturated, remove from the soap and rub in a tablespoon of rubbing alcohol. You may need more depending on the size and severity of the stain.

Rub the alcohol into the stain gently, and place the clothes back in their soak for another half an hour. Rinse the article of clothing, and check to see if the stain has been removed. I recommend washing your clothing as usual, just to get rid of the rubbing alcohol smell.

3. Dish Soap

Palmolive Ultra Dish Soap Oxy Power Degreaser, 32.5 Fl Oz (Pack of 4)

Dish soap might be a surprising contender on this list, given that it is also a soap that often has dyes or coloring involved. However, dish soap has the potential to cut through many surprising stains, including laundry detergent ones.

Before soaking your clothing, dab a teaspoon of dish soap on the stain. Wet the soap and work it into the fabric with your fingernails or scrub brush. Then, soak your clothes in a sink or bathtub with lukewarm water. You won’t need to wait for long, only around 15 to 30 minutes.

Rinse the soap from your clothes and take a look at the stain. Wash the clothing as you normally would, or repeat the dish soap process if the stain still remains. You may want to consider using a dish soap that doesn’t have any colors or dyes present in it just to ensure that your clothing remains unstained.

4. Baking Soda

Arm & Hammer Pure Baking Soda Shaker - 12 Oz

If you notice that your clothes have laundry detergent stains, but that the stains aren’t very deep or prominent, using baking soda may be all you need to remove the residue! Baking soda is another fantastic home remedy for many cleaning projects.

Add half a cup of baking soda to your washing machine and wash your same clothes as you normally would. Do not add detergent, but feel free to use your preferred water temperature and laundry settings for this process.

Once the wash cycle is complete, check and see if your clothing still has staining or any other marks. You can also try a baking soda soak in your sink or bathtub before washing your clothes as normal. Baking soda may not be able to do the job on its own, but it is great when paired with other cleaning tips.

5. Bar Soap

Castile Bar Soap by Kirk’s | Natural Soap for Men, Women & Children| Premium Coconut Oil | Sensitive Skin Formula, Vegan | Original Fresh Scent | 4 oz. Bars - 6 Pack

The benefit of using bar soap on your laundry detergent stains is that you can use the bar to rub at the staining in your clothes. While bar soap may not be powerful enough to clean your clothes on its own, it is a great one to use in conjunction with baking soda or white vinegar.

Get your clothing damp in either a cool water soak or simply rinse and wring it out. Take a bar of soap, preferably without dyes or coloring, and rub at the residue. Rinse the clothing and check the stain- you may need to repeat this process again.

Castile soap is also a great soap that you can use during this process. Its natural cleaning abilities are less likely to stain your clothes. Use castile soap the same way that you would use bar soap, and keep in mind castile soap’s concentrated nature.

What are the Best Laundry Detergents that Don’t Stain?

Looking for a long-term solution for your laundry detergent staining problems? Check out some of these brand names that are known for being dye free and otherwise useful for not staining your clothes.

1. Method Laundry Detergent, Free and Clear

This Method Laundry Detergent is plant based and free from dyes, preservatives, and colors. This means that you have even less to worry about when it comes time to wash your clothes, and you know that you are using a biodegradable liquid soap to boot!

Method Laundry Detergent, Free + Clear, 53.5 Fluid Ounces, 66 Loads, 2 pack, Packaging May Vary

Consumers mention this soap as being perfect for their skin allergies and many other hypoallergenic uses. If you are having persistent staining issues with your current laundry detergent, try out Method next.

2. All Liquid Laundry Detergent, Free Clear for Sensitive Skin

all is a popular laundry detergent brand name and they have made a dye free liquid soap for sensitive skin and allergies. This laundry detergent still packs a punch, despite being free from so many traditional cleaning agents and ingredients.

all Liquid Laundry Detergent, Free Clear for Sensitive Skin, 58 Loads, 88 Fluid Ounce

The all Free Clear Liquid Laundry Detergent is a perfect addition to your laundry room if you are struggling with laundry detergent stains. This brand also offers free and clear detergent options with boosts: odor elimination, OxyClean, and even an eco-friendly choice.

3. Tide Free & Gentle Liquid Laundry Detergent

Tide is a well-known brand for laundry soap. It may be one of the most popular detergent brands on the market today, so it is only natural for them to have made the Tide Free & Gentle Liquid Laundry Detergent.

Tide Free & Gentle Liquid Laundry Detergent, 64 loads, 92 fl oz, HE Compatible

Fragrance, dye, and color free, this product can deliver a powerful clean to your clothes without you having to worry about staining or allergies. While Tide is often a pricey choice of laundry detergent, you may be pleased with this product’s overall results.


Related Questions

Still have questions about laundry detergent stains in your clothing? Let’s check out some related questions now so that you can get the answers you have been looking for.

Can Fabric Softener Stain Your Clothes?

Yes, fabric softener can stain your clothes. Much like laundry detergent, fabric softener can often get trapped or doesn’t distribute evenly in your washing machine water. If your fabric softener happens to concentrate on one particular article of clothing, it will potentially stain it.

You can treat fabric softener stains very similarly to laundry detergent stains. You may even be able to remove fabric softener stains by simply rewashing your stained clothing. Try our above methods first, or simply soak your clothes in warm water.

What to Do if the Detergent Stain Won’t Come Out?

If you have left a laundry detergent stain on your clothes for too long, the chances are high that it potentially won’t ever come out. You can try taking your clothing to a dry cleaners or professional launderer to see if they have any advice.

If you can’t afford a dry cleaners or they also don’t have any results, you may have to get rid of your clothing or reserve your stained shirt for your yardwork or paint clothing options. Most laundry detergent stains come out, but bad luck happens to the best of us!

Can Powdered Detergent Stain Your Clothes?

Yes, powdered detergent can stain your clothes just as well as liquid detergent. This is largely due to the fact that powdered detergent can struggle to dissolve in certain washing machines or wash cycles, especially water saving modes.

You can use any of our five tips and tricks to remove powdered detergent stains just as easily as liquid detergent stains. If none of these steps above work, you may consider soaking your clothes for longer or getting in touch with your local dry cleaner.

Can Hard Water Be Causing Stains?

Yes, hard water can cause stains on your clothes. This is primarily due to the fact that most laundry detergents struggle in hard water environments. Powdered detergent in particular doesn’t perform very well in conjunction with hard water.

You can use any of the above methods to attempt to remove hard water detergent stains. However, the overarching issue has to do with your hard water. You may consider looking at ways to adjust this in your home.

Can Black or Dark Clothes Get Stained by Laundry Detergent?

Yes, black or dark clothing can get stained by laundry detergent, though it is often less likely to appear. However, powdered detergent can often leave streaks of whites on your clothes, so your black clothing may indeed be suffering!

If you need to remove laundry detergent stains from your dark clothes, you can use any of the above methods. However, when soaking these clothes, be sure to use lukewarm or cold water so that the dye doesn’t run out of your dark rinse jeans.

Is Warm or Cold Water Better to Prevent Laundry Detergent Stains?

Warm water is usually best when it comes to preventing laundry detergent stains. This is because most laundry detergents incorporate warm or hot water more evenly than cold water. However, it depends on the type of detergent that you use and if you are over-filling your washing machine.

You should also keep in mind that warm or hot water is more likely to make your existing dyes and colors run in your clothing. Always be sure to wash your laundry in a batch of similar colors, and washing new clothing on its own can help mitigate that issue.

Final Thoughts

Removing laundry detergent stains from your clothes doesn’t have to be difficult. With just a few steps, and a few future recommendations for your next loads, you can avoid laundry detergent stains from here on out!

About the Author

Jamie

Jamie is the Founder of My Home Dwelling. He is a homeowner and enjoys sharing his homeowner tips with others. He has real estate experience working as a new home construction Realtor. Jamie has worked on numerous residential construction sites helping with interior and exterior renovations. He loves refinishing furniture, DIY home projects, and sharing his knowledge online.