Here's What Causes That White Residue on Freshly Washed Clothes

It's not necessarily the result of too much detergent.

Doing the laundry, it’s not quite as straightforward as one might think. Chuckle all you want, but fading, discoloring, strange smells, and more can all be signs that something’s not quite right with your laundry situation. But getting to the bottom of the issue is oftentimes easier said than done. One such problem? A white residue left on freshly laundered clothes. If you’ve ever seen this and immediately thought your detergent usage is to blame, you could be right—or wrong. There are a host of reasons why your laundry might not be coming out of the washing machine perfectly crisp and clean, and we’re here to help you get to the bottom of it.

Laundry Room with Blue Doors

Laurey W. Glenn

Hard Water

White residue can be a side effect of hard water, but so can that stiff feeling that’s most noticeable when laundry is left to air dry. Hard water can also cause detergent, soap, and dirt to get trapped in clothing fibers, resulting in quicker wear and tear. The best course of action is to switch to a hardworking liquid detergent if you’re currently using a powder formula. From there, The Spruce recommends using ½ cup laundry borax in each load. The laundry booster will soften the water while working double-time to remove stuck-on stains. As with all laundry products, make sure to keep out of reach of children.

Powder Detergent

If powder detergent doesn’t dissolve the way it should, it can leave streaky patches on clothes. The best course of action is to adjust the amount of powder being used and/or increase the water temperature. If that doesn’t work, switch to a liquid formula. Using a non-high-efficiency formula with a high-efficiency machine could also have similar results. Refer to your machine’s manual for the detergent variety best suited for your washer.

Overstuffed Washing Machine

It’s tempting to pack that drum full of as much laundry as possibly, but your time-saving technique might just cause more problems than it’s worth. The thing about an overloaded washer is that it can inhibit proper water flow and drainage. Soap might not make it throughout the load, and it could be difficult for laundry to properly wash clean. Leftover dirt, grime, and suds can leave a white residue that will require another wash. For that reason, it’s best to err on the side of a smaller load size.

Dirty Washing Machine

If your machine smells, it’s probably time for a clean. If you can’t remember the last time you gave it a good scrub, it’s probably time for a clean. If your fresh laundry is coming out with a white residue and none of the above culprits are to blame, it’s probably time for a clean. Lucky for you we’ve perfected the process.

How To Get Detergent Stains and Hard Water Stains Out of Clothes

According to Whirlpool, the best course of action for getting out detergent stains (and the hard-water variety, too) is to soak laundry in a sink or tub filled with 1 cup of vinegar mixed with 1 quart of water. Scrub the laundry together to loosen up the stains, then let it soak for up to an hour. Run the laundry in a wash load by itself. When the cycle is complete, ensure there are no more stains before placing in the dryer. If stains are still present, repeat the process until they’re fully removed. A word to the wise: Placing laundry in the dryer prematurely can set stains for good.

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