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How to get detergent stains out of clothes

If you pull out your laundry and notice new stains have appeared in the wash, they may be detergent stains. Fortunately, you may be able to get rid of detergent stains with the help of a few household products and some elbow grease.

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What do detergent stains look like?

Stains from your detergent can appear in a few different forms, such as blue or white splotches, a waxy finish or rough texture. Different detergents can leave different stains, and the process of removing the stains depends on the type of detergent you use.

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Why do my clothes have detergent stains?

Detergent stains can occur when your laundry detergent does not properly dissolve during the wash cycle. This can be caused by using more than the recommended portion of detergent, washing your clothes in cold water with powdered detergent or using the wrong type of detergent for the dispenser (powdered detergent in a dispenser meant for liquid detergent and vice versa).

Detergent is supposed to help remove stains, but sometimes it leaves a mark (or two) of its own. If a washing machine is overloaded or detergent is not properly loaded, it won’t properly dissolve in water – meaning it ends up on your clothes instead.

Laundry detergent stains are annoying, but they don’t have to be permanent. Use our guide to learn how to help remove detergent stains from clothes.

Laundry lathering in detergent in a top-load washing machine

How to remove different detergent stains from your laundry

Detergent stains can be a hassle, but you may be able to remove them with the right technique. Read on below to learn how to remove different types of detergent stains from your clothing.

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How to get liquid laundry detergent stains out of clothes

Liquid laundry detergent stains can show up if your detergent wasn’t properly rinsed away. Fortunately, it’s fairly easy to remove these types of stains. Start by soaking the stained garment in warm or hot water, depending on laundry care label instructions, then use an oxygen-based pretreatment. This method is also an effective way to help remove detergent stains from white clothes. Learn more about removing discolorations from white clothes.

 

Some detergents leave behind blue-colored stains. Fortunately, the artificial color of the detergent is no more permanent than clear or white detergent stains. You can get blue detergent stains out of clothes by dampening them with warm water and applying a pretreatment directly to the stain. Let the pretreatment sit for at least 10 minutes before rinsing with warm water. If the stain hasn’t completely dissolved, repeat the process before placing laundry in the dryer.

 

Don’t overstuff the machine – your soiled garment needs room to tumble and agitate so the detergent can work its way out of the fabric. After the item is done in the washing machine, pull it out and take a look. If the stain is still there, repeat the steps above. Don’t dry your shirt until all of the detergent is gone – heat can set the stain.

 

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How to remove washing powder stains from clothes

If you have hard water and use powdered detergent, you may notice stains on your dark clothes. To avoid this issue, be sure you’re using the recommended detergent dosage and water temperature and following your product manual guidelines for where to place powdered detergent. 


It is also important to make sure that you are using the proper type of detergent for your washer. These varieties include high efficiency, and non high efficiency detergents. Please consult the use and care guide for your machine to determine the best type of detergent for your needs.

 

You can also make the switch to a liquid detergent. We recommend Swash® Laundry Detergent.1 Swash® detergent keeps colors fresh and is specially designed to help boost your washer's ability to fight stains.

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How to remove laundry detergent residue on clothes after washing

While powdered laundry detergents may not leave stains on light or white clothes, they can sometimes leave a residue that can make clothes stiff. The best course of action in this case is to switch to a liquid detergent, like Swash® Laundry Detergent. Its Precision Pour Cap dispenses the amount of detergent needed for regular size loads in just one squeeze, and its pre-measured dose not only cleans your clothes, it helps limit residue and other build-up. Or you can alternate between powder and liquid to help keep residue from building up over time. If you do not wish to use liquid detergents, you can add an extra rinse to your wash cycle (if available on your washing machine). Be sure that you are using the recommended amount of detergent and the right water temperature to help dissolve the detergent and prevent stains.

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How to remove fabric softener stains

Fabric softeners help keep fabrics soft and supple, but they can leave their own stains if they come in direct contact with clothes. If you see or feel a waxy residue on your clothes after they’ve been washed, fabric softener may be to blame. To help remove these stains, soak your stained garments in warm water mixed with a couple of drops of dish soap. Gently rub each item against itself to loosen the stain, then rinse it thoroughly. If the stain remains, apply a pretreatment before placing it in the washing machine.

 

Powdered detergent/hard water stains can be removed by soaking the stained garment in warm or hot water, depending on the item’s laundry care label. While the garment is soaking, rub the stained section against itself to loosen the stain. Let it soak for about an hour before returning it to the washing machine to wash as normal.

 

This will loosen the stain and help to work it out of the fibers. After removing as much as you can by hand, place the item in your next regular load of laundry. Repeat this process as often as necessary until the stain is lifted.

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How to avoid detergent stains

You can help prevent detergent stains by using the suggested amount of detergent, avoiding an overstuffed load, washing your garments inside out, using the proper water temperature and selecting liquid detergent instead of powdered options.

Shop Swash® Laundry Detergent 

Swash® detergent is designed with zero phosphates and is highly concentrated, so you can get the results you want while using less detergent. The Precision Pour Cap dispenses the detergent for you to help limit residue from building up on your laundry over time. Browse the collection to find the right detergent for your laundry.

Explore Whirlpool® washers

Need a washing machine to help you care for your family's shirts, shorts, socks and more? Discover the powerful collection of Whirlpool® washers to find the right one for your home. And learn more about how to remove tough stains from paint, grease and detergent.

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1. Swash and the recommending brands are owned and distributed by Whirlpool Corporation.