How to Remove Detergent Stains

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Frustratingly, the very product you wash with can leave stains when it contacts laundry in concentrated forms. Blue or white stains from liquid or powdered detergents congeal on laundry items when not sufficiently rinsed out or dispersed in the washer because of overloading.

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Luckily, it's easy enough to remedy this stain issue. Here's how to get rid of detergent stains — and how to prevent them in the first place.

How to Remove Detergent Stains with Vinegar

Like many other stubborn stains, detergent can be removed with some white cleaning vinegar and some elbow grease. Here's how:

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  1. Add 1 cup of distilled white vinegar to 1 quart of water in a laundry sink or tub and place the stained item in the solution.
  2. Rub the stained area against itself to loosen some of the dried detergent.
  3. Let the item sit in the vinegar-and-water solution for up to an hour.
  4. Set your washing machine cycle for a normal wash load.
  5. After the load has completed, check for stains.
  6. Repeat, if necessary.

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Dealing with Detergent Stains and Hard Water

Some powdered detergents don't completely dissolve in hard water, leaving white powdered streaks on clothing after washing. These streaks may not show up on lighter clothes but make an appearance on darker-colored items. To avoid this, completely dissolve the powdered detergent in top-loading washing machines, filling the tub with water before adding clothes.

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Stiff Laundry and Detergent Residues

Some powdered detergents don't leave stains but can stiffen the laundry in hard-water conditions or leave a detergent residue. When colored fabrics appear faded or you notice increased wear or abrasions on laundered items because of hard water, switch to a liquid detergent instead. Some powdered detergents just don't mix well with hard water. You can also add a laundry water softener agent if you're not willing to give up your favorite brand of powdered detergent.

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How to Eliminate Fabric Softener Stains

Undispersed fabric softeners can leave a waxy-like feeling on clothes or laundered items as well. Here's how to eliminate these stains:

  1. Scrub the area with a bar of soap and soft-bristle brush to loosen the jellied fabric softener.
  2. After removing as much fabric softener as you can, wash the item with the next regular laundry load.
  3. Repeat as necessary.

Tip

Fabric softeners coat clothing, towels, and laundry with a waxy residue that actually makes towels less absorbent. Add vinegar in place of fabric softener or 1/2 cup of baking soda to wash water to make the laundry soft and give it a fresh, clean smell without unnecessary chemical fragrances.

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