How To Get Detergent Stains Out Of Clothes

Ever stuck your clothes in the washer only for them to come out with stains they didn’t have when they went in?

It’s a weird feeling… aren’t washers supposed to clean clothes? It makes no sense for them to come out with new stains, right?

Well, believe it or not, your detergent could be staining your clothes. Again – detergent is supposed to clean clothes, so how does that make sense?

It doesn’t make sense, but it can happen. It’s probably happened more times than you realize, but you passed it off.

How To Get Detergent Stains Out Of Clothes

In the end, while it does matter how it came to happen, you probably just want to get rid of the stains.

Lucky for you, you’re in the right place at the right time. Here, we will be going through three key things: how the staining happens, how to get rid of it, and how to avoid it.

By the end of this post, you should be a pro. There will be no detergent stains that are too powerful.

Detergent Stains In Clothing

So, yes – detergent – the thing that’s supposed to clean clothes – can also stain them. We live in a bizarre world, and this is one of the many things we don’t understand.

It’s better not to dwell on it. Instead, it’s important to know what causes these detergent stains to form in the first place.

Thankfully, these strange stains can actually be removed pretty easily. We will get into those a little later, though.

First, we need to find out why our favorite shirts now have detergent stains on them. Let’s get learning.

Can Clothing Even Get Stained From Detergent?

As you may have concluded – yes. Detergent staining is a pretty common occurrence. If you’ve managed to get this far in life without it happening to you, you’re doing well!

The same can be said for many people. However, it’s essential to note that detergent staining can happen very easily if you don’t know the tips and tricks.

Knowing what kind of water you have plays a key role in detergent stains (this means hard or soft water).

On top of that, knowing how much detergent to actually use, and how much clothing you should be stuffing in your machine.

Once you know all the basics, you are way less likely to have to deal with detergent stains ever again. Luckily, you will know everything you could possibly need to by the end of this post!

How Staining Can Occur

There are four main reasons why you could be dealing with insufferable detergent stains.

Those are: too much detergent, too many clothes in the washer, combining hard water with powder detergent, and using the wrong wash cycle.

We’ll go through each of these in detail so that you can get a better idea of where the problems lie. Once you figure out how to work around these, you should be able to live stain-free!

Too Much Detergent

How To Get Detergent Stains Out Of Clothes

You can get detergent stains by using too much detergent when you do a load of washing. This is especially true if you use powdered detergents.

Too much detergent creates an environment where bacteria thrive. When there are loads of bacteria in the laundry, they start producing acids and other chemicals, which then turn into stains.

If you have a concern with detergent stains, try making sure you only put about half as much detergent in your load of washing.

That should cut down on the amount of staining. You might even consider switching to liquid detergent instead.

You’re Putting Too Much Clothing In Your Washer

If you’re having issues with detergent stains, chances are your clothes are too big. Larger pieces take longer to dry than smaller ones.

As such, they soak up more detergent. If you have a lot of larger items, try putting them in the dryer after you finish washing them.

You may also simply be putting too many items of clothing in the washer, even if they are small.

The more clothing you have in the washer, the less the detergent will likely be able to move around. It will sit in one spot until it dries out.

Then, it will create a permanent stain. The more clothes you have stuffed in the washer, the more the detergent will struggle to make its way around the space, so it will fit on fabrics and stain them.

The Combination Of Hard Water And Powder Detergent

Some people have trouble getting rid of detergent stains because their water contains high levels of minerals.

In addition to being difficult to remove, these types of stains are known to cause permanent damage to fabrics.

If you experience detergent stains due to mineral content, you should look into buying a water softener. Alternatively, you can switch to liquid detergent, which will make your life a lot easier.

It’s important to remember that some brands of detergent are not compatible with certain kinds of water. For example, you shouldn’t use Tide in hard water areas.

Be sure to read the label first before purchasing any detergent. If you aren’t sure what kind of water you have in your area, you should be able to look it up online or get it tested.

Once you find out, you can then pick the detergent that is best suited for it.

Using The Wrong Washing Cycle

The last reason you could be experiencing detergent stains is by accident. Some people mistakenly set their machines to “spin” mode rather than “wash”.

Spin mode spins the clothes at a higher speed than normal. If the wrong setting is used, there won’t be enough agitation inside the machine.

This will result in the detergent sitting on the surface of the fabric, rather than penetrating it.

To avoid this problem, make sure you check your settings. It’s easy to forget to change the cycle. The best thing to do here is to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for washing cycles.

There will typically be a picture on the box showing what each cycle does. You should also always check which cycle the clothing you are washing does best in.

This could have an effect on the probability of detergent staining. 

Getting Rid Of Detergent Stains

Lucky for you, there are ways to get rid of these pesky detergent stains. Start by checking out the different methods below.

From there, you’ll want to experiment with each method until you find something that works for you.

While all the following solutions work great, they are not 100% guaranteed to always completely eliminate your detergent stains.

You might find that some methods work best on some fabrics, so it’s always worth testing a couple of different methods out!

Use A Bar Of Soap

How To Get Detergent Stains Out Of Clothes

You can try to remove detergent stains from your clothing by using a bar of soap! Many people think that soap is only for cleaning dishes, but it actually has many other uses.

One of those uses is removing detergent stains. Before you start trying to wash your clothes with soap, however, you need to make sure that you’re making the right choice. 

This is a great method to try out if you don’t have any vinegar or rubbing alcohol to use. Hey, maybe you just don’t feel like using either of these ingredients on your favorite clothes!

If you are planning on using a bar of soap, make sure it is plain and unscented. Anything with vibrant colors or scents could have the opposite effect.

To remove detergent stains using a (plain) bar of soap, all you need to do is as follows:

1) Find a suitable sink or bucket to use. Fill it with cold water and add the detergent stained clothing.

2) Get your plain soap and rub it all over the area where you can see stains.

3) Gently work the soap into the stained fabric. Use your fingers to do this and rub the fabric together.

4) When you think the detergent stains are out of the fabric, rinse it under clean water. Do this to remove all the soap residue.

You might have to rinse the fabric a number of times to get rid of all the residue.

5) Allow the soapy water to drain.

6) Rinse the sink or bucket, then fill it up with fresh, clean water. 

7) Add about half a cup of vinegar to the water. Mix the vinegar into the water so that it is evenly spread.

8) Place the clothing into the vinegar water and leave it to sit for around 15 minutes.

9) After 15 minutes have passed, squeeze out all the excess water. You can now add the clothing into the washing machine to be washed.

10) DO NOT add any detergent to the washer. If you want, you can add some baking soda.

11) Use your normal setting to wash your clothing. Once they are washed, check them to see if the detergent stains were removed.

If you notice that there is still some staining on the fabric, repeat the process.

12) If there are no stains in the freshly washed fabric, you can add them to the dryer to dry as you normally would.

Try Dish Soap

 Next, you can try using dish soap to get rid of your detergent stain. Dish soap is usually used to clean dishes.

However, it also comes in liquid form, which means you can use it to remove detergent stains. All you need to do is follow these steps:

1) Depending on the size of the detergent stain, you will either want to wet the entire item of clothing, or just a small section.

You can do this using either cool or warm water – just check what temperature the fabric you’re cleaning prefers.

2) Next, add one or two drops of dish soap to the affected area. Remember that dish soap will produce a lot of suds, so it’s better to add too little than too much. 

3) Gently work the dish soap into the stained fabric. Use your fingers to do this and rub the fabric together.

4) Next, fill up your sink or bucket with some water. Add a few drops of dish soap to it, and mix it together thoroughly. You should produce some suds while doing this.

5) Add the stained clothing to the water. Leave it to soak for around 10 minutes before doing anything else.

6) Check the item of clothing. If the stain is still visible, you can add some more dish soap and work it into the fabric.

7) When you do not notice the stain anymore, you can add it to your washer. Wash it as you normally would, but DO NOT add any detergent.

8) Check to see that the stain has been removed after washing. If you notice that it is still there, repeat the process to get rid of it.

If there is no longer a stain there, you can add it to the dryer and allow the clothing to dry. 

Rubbing Alcohol Will Do The Trick

How To Get Detergent Stains Out Of Clothes

This might be one of the most popular methods to remove detergent stains. It works well for both powder and liquid detergent, and it’s so easy to do!

This ingredient is strong enough to get rid of most stains, but not so powerful as to destroy or damage the clothing. It’s a winner all-round!  

 To get rid of those pesky stains using rubbing alcohol, follow the steps outlined below:

1) Find a suitable sink or bucket for your cleaning.

2) Fill the sink or bucket with warm water. Add the item of clothing to it.

3) Find the stained area and try rubbing out the stain with a rag or your finger. You can do this just to double-check if you really need to use the rubbing alcohol.

4) If the stain doesn’t budge, you can move onto using rubbing alcohol. 

5) Squeeze out the excess water from the clothing, but don’t stretch the fabric. Some fabrics can easily stretch and tear if they get wrung too hard.

6) Get your rubbing alcohol and dip a cotton swab into it. Do a spot test on the fabric in a place that you will not see.

You should do this to ensure that the fabric can handle the rubbing alcohol. Wait a couple of minutes to see if any damage occurs. If it doesn’t, you can move onto the next step.

7) Get a rag or sponge and soak it with the rubbing alcohol. 

8) Rub to squeeze some rubbing alcohol onto the stained fabric. It’s better to do it this way, as you can easily pour too much if you pour the rubbing alcohol directly onto the fabric.

9) Allow the rubbing alcohol to sit on the fabric for around 15 minutes. This gives it time to work and break down the pesky stain.

10) After 25 minutes, rinse the rubbing alcohol from the fabric.

11) Check if the stain is now gone, or if it is still visible.

12) If you can still see the stain, you can either repeat the process or add the clothing to the washer. Washing it should remove the remainder of the stain.

13) When washing, wash clothing but DO NOT add any detergent. 

14) If you can still see the stain on the clothing after it has been washed, repeat the whole process to get rid of it.

15) When the stain is gone, you can add the clothing to the dryer and allow it to dry.

What About Vinegar?

Vinegar is another handy ingredient you can use to get rid of those unwanted detergent stains. It can also be used to help get rid of other types of stains, such as food spills.

You can even use vinegar to clean your kitchen countertops. It’s a favorite among cleaners because of how diverse it is.

This product is a great cleaner, but it is also gentle enough to not damage clothing when diluted with water.

You can get rid of detergent stains using vinegar by:

1) Find a sink or bucket suitable for your cleaning. Fill it with water at the temperature that your fabric can handle.

2) Get white vinegar and add one cup to the water. Evenly disperse the vinegar with the water with your hand.

3) Add the detergent stained clothing item to the water. Allow it to soak in the liquid for around an hour.

4) Check on the clothing every 15 minutes. You can rub your finger on the stained area to help the vinegar work at removing it.

This will also allow you to check how much of the stain the vinegar breaks down.

5) After an hour, you can carefully squeeze and wring the clothing. Do this carefully so that you don’t stretch it. Don’t worry about the vinegar odor, when the clothes are washed it will disappear.

6) Add the clothing to the washer and wash it as you normally would.

7) DO NOT add any detergent to the washer. 

8) When it has been washed, check the clothing for any stains. If you notice that there are still detergent stains on the fabric, repeat the whole process.

9) When the stains are eventually gone, you can add the clothing to the dryer and allow it to dry as it normally would.

All Hail Baking Soda

How To Get Detergent Stains Out Of Clothes

Baking soda is another favorite among the cleaners of the world. This item can be used to get rid of stains and grease, so it’s another winner!

Not only that, but baking soda can help deodorize fabrics, and make them smell fresher. 

To get rid of detergent stains using baking soda, all you need to do is as follows:

1) Check for any detergent stains on clothing that has been freshly washed. Separate any stained clothes and place them back in the washer.

2) Instead of adding detergent to wash them again, and half a cup of baking soda. You can add the soda straight into the wash.

3) Wash the fabric on the setting that you would typically use for the stained clothes. You do not need to use any particular wash, or else you risk damaging the fabrics.

4) Allow the washer to run as usual. You can add a cup of vinegar during the rinse cycle, or even add it into the fabric softener dispenser, so it can be released at the right time.

Adding vinegar will just help the stain be removed and add a little oomph to the process. 

5) When the masher has finished, you will need to check the fabric to see if the detergent stain is still present. If you can still see some staining, simply repeat the process.

6) If there are no stains left after washing, you can add it to the dryer to dry as it normally would.

Agitation Is The Key To Success 

The most important thing you need to do while using any of the aforementioned processes is agitation.

Using the correct wash cycle is essential, or else there won’t be enough agitation to even make a difference.

Fabrics that aren’t delicate do not need to be washed on a delicate wash, and delicate fabrics shouldn’t be washed on a cycle that will damage them.

This isn’t only essential to get rid of stains, but to avoid them in the first place. If you are using a cycle that doesn’t have enough agitation and movement, detergent will sit on the fabric and stain it.

If that happens, you will have to pick one of the above processes and go through everything again. 

Preventing Detergent Stains

Preventing detergent staining is pretty easy when you know what to look out for. We will be going through how you can avoid messing up your favorite clothing below.

Once you know the basics, you’d be surprised by how easy it is to avoid the staining scenario! 

Use The Correct Setting

As we just mentioned – too little agitation and movement in the washer will lead to detergent staining.

All the settings have different levels of agitation, and they each require slightly different amounts of water and soap.

You will want to choose the appropriate setting based on the type of fabric you’re trying to clean. 

Use the setting that is right for the particular types of fabrics that you’re trying to wash. By following the rules set out on the clothing labels, you should be able to avoid detergent staining pretty easily!

Don’t Use Too Much Detergent

How To Get Detergent Stains Out Of Clothes

Too much detergent will also cause problems with staining.

The best way to determine how much detergent is needed for your laundry load is to measure out the amount of detergent that’s recommended on the product label.

It may differ from brand to brand, but this measurement will give you an idea of what the total amount of detergent should be.

If you don’t follow these steps, you will end up with clothes that are ruined because of the extra detergent you used.

This could happen in two ways: either you’ll use more detergent than is suggested, or you’ll use less detergent than is necessary. Both situations will result in stained clothes.

Use The Correct Method For Hard Water

Hard water is a big concern for many people. If you live somewhere where the water contains high amounts of minerals, then you’re going to have to take special care when washing your clothes.

These minerals can leave behind mineral deposits that will turn into detergent stains.

You should read the instructions on the package for hard water cleaners, and follow those directions carefully.

They will contain tips on how to prevent mineral deposits from forming on your clothes.

Some products recommend treating the dryer with a liquid softener, which will help remove some minerals from the clothes as they dry. 

If you know that you have hard water, you should avoid using powder detergent.

Using a liquid detergent is the best option, but you can still use powder detergent if you follow some rules.

If you want to continue using your powder form, you should allow it to dissolve in water before using it. You can let your washer fill with water, add the powder detergent, then add the clothes.

Don’t Over Fill Your Washer

Overfilling the washing machine is a common mistake that leads to staining. When you fill the drum to capacity, you will not only fill it with water, but also with detergent.

That means there is no room left inside for any other liquids. Since most clothes do not absorb all the detergent that is added to them, some of it ends up on the outside of the clothes.

This is especially true if you’re using a powdered detergent. Powder detergents are very dense, so they won’t mix well with water.

If you overfill a washer, you will get detergent stains on the sides of the tub. This is why it’s important to pay attention to the manufacturer’s recommendations when filling your washing machine.

Generally speaking, you shouldn’t exceed 50% of the capacity of the washer.

What Else Do These Stain Removing Methods Work On?

Is there anything else that these methods can work on? Of course there are! There’s a good chance that these methods will work with many stains, but we don’t have all day! 

Unfortunately, there are some stains that can’t be dealt with in any easy way. The worst stain you can get comes from bleach.

Bleach is one of the strongest cleaning agents available, and it works great at removing blood. Unfortunately, it doesn’t react well with fabric fibers, so it leaves residues behind.

The best thing you can do is to throw away the items that were affected by the bleach. You might be able to dye the fabric, but it will likely be weakened.

Bleach can still be used in a number of ways, but it is often heavily diluted, or else it can be dangerous.

Hand Soap

How To Get Detergent Stains Out Of Clothes

We thought we would include this because, let’s face it, we’ve all stained our clothes with hand soap. This is especially the case if the hand soap was strongly scented or colored.

You can remove hand soap stains from fabrics using any of the above methods. You might find that one method works particularly well for some hand soaps, so let us know!

Final Thoughts

And there you have it! We hope that you have found this useful and feel like you can handle some of those unpleasant detergent stains.

Remember that detergent stains aren’t the end of the world, and they can usually be dealt with pretty easily!

Acting quickly is always a good thing, but if you have some old clothes that have been stained by detergents, you can still try out these methods.

Hopefully you find one (or more) that works well for you, and you can wear your favorite clothes again!

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Detergent Stains Be Removed From Clothes?

Yes, they can. In fact, they can be removed from almost every kind of clothing.

The easiest way to deal with these types of stains is to use rubbing alcohol, baking soda, vinegar, a plain soap bar, or dish soap.

What Causes Detergent Stains?

Using too much detergent, too many clothes in a washer, and hard water mixed with powder detergent can cause detergent stains.

There are many reasons why people get detergent stains on their clothes. For starters, some people use too much detergent. It

‘s not uncommon to see people who have put twice as much laundry detergent into their washers than what the manufacturers recommend.

Overuse of detergent can lead to clogged pipes and other problems, which is why it’s important for people to follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Overloading washers and using powder detergent with hard water will also cause detergent staining. 

How Do You Get Detergent Residue Off Clothes?

You can use one of the methods mentioned above. Rubbing alcohol, vinegar, a plain soap bar, dish soap, and baking soda work well to get rid of detergent stains. 

Why Is My Detergent Staining My Clothes?

Detergent staining happens when detergent reacts with certain chemicals present in the fabric, such as chlorine bleaches, softeners, dyes, and preservatives.

A lack of agitation in a wash cycle will result in the detergent just sitting on top of the fabric. This will stain it.

Are Detergent Stains Permanent?

No, detergent stains can be removed pretty easily! You can use any of the above methods to get rid of the detergent stains that you find in your clothing. 

How Do You Remove Detergent Stains?

You can remove detergent stains by using vinegar, rubbing alcohol, baking soda, a plain soap bar, or dish detergent.  

Are Detergent Stains Common?

Yes, detergent stains are a pretty common occurrence. They happen when detergent reacts with chlorine bleach, softener, dye, preservative, or anything else that’s used in detergent.

Amanda Brown

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