Laundry Perplexion: Sourcing Mystery Spots

Dear Home Ec 101:
I don’t use softeners or softener sheets and every piece of clothing we own is being ruined by these grease stains. I have no idea what it is but I can only assume its from the dryer. And I know, with kids, stains are highly likely but even their brand spanking new clothes are coming out with these stains (as well as my clothes and the hubby’s) Any ideas? At this point, I’m ready to just buy a new dryer because by the time I pay for a service call, labor and parts, it costs the same (if not less to replace!!) Crazy!! Any ideas??
~Spittin’ Mad At These Spots

dryer causing spots

Heather says:

There are several places from which spots may spring.

Dark spots of grease may be caused by a problem within the washer itself. Occasionally the transmission will leak oil, creating spots on clothing.

Light spots of grease may have several sources.

There may be something, such as last week’s chapstick, in the dryer’s drum spreading grease to the clothing. To check, dampen a spot free towel or rag and dry. Once dry check for spots.

how to remove stains from clothes

Click the picture for more tips!

If the dryer is the culprit thoroughly clean the drum. If you have an electric dryer, it is safe to use a solvent, but those with a gas dryer should not take the risk and are stuck using good old non-flammable elbow grease. Sorry, I am not going to be responsible for house fires.

Oils from towels and rags used to clean up spills may transfer spots to other articles of clothing. Do not wash your kitchen rags with clothing.

As mentioned in the question both liquid fabric softeners and dryer sheets may also leave spots.

Send your domestic questions to helpme@home-ec101.com





18 Comments

  1. Faye on July 9, 2016 at 2:34 pm

    I’m not getting grease marks but am having light brownish stains appear on everything. I’ve thought it might be mouse pee but unless we have thousands of mice, that’s not likely considering there are 9 cats residing here. No, it’s definitely not cat pee either. Bleach won’t budge the stains. Towels become ruined immediately with numerous faint brownish marks larger than a mans hand appearingas if by magic. I wash in warm water using a minimum amount of a trusted name brand “natural” soap. I’ve had these stains occurring for 40 years and was told my Amway (at the time) soap was leaching mineral salts from the water and depositing them on the clothes. Well, many washers and dryers, and numerous brands of soap later, it’s still an issue.

    • Heather Solos on July 13, 2016 at 12:15 pm

      If you live in an area with hard water, it is highly possible that it is the minerals staining your clothing. A non-precipitating water softener should help.

  2. SusanneFuhrIntrone on August 3, 2011 at 12:41 pm

    I have a problem with my laundry, it’s not grease stains, it looks like some spots of my bed sheets and towels have been bleached. I never use bleach, so there can’t be any leftovers ruining my laundry. Just bought new Egyptian sheet set, first wash was fine, 2nd time – bleach like stains… What am I doing wrong? I was in cold water.

  3. andres on June 1, 2011 at 10:58 pm

    If you have a gas dryier and it is not venting well you might be getting burned lint gas (smoke) in the circulating air inside the tub. The wet clothes ger pregnated with the particles getting a fairly even gray stain on everything. There is usually evidence in the tub specially near the center of the doorand the inner vent griddle. Solution clean everything and make sure theer are no obstructions in the exit air tube before triing again. The silt stains are hard to elbow out, Paint thinners will make the perfect explotion heat-vapor-spark-air. Cocacola or other no solvent degreaser migh help. Run drier witrhout gas first if smoke stain come back is time to calibrate the flame by a pro.

  4. SLS on October 24, 2010 at 9:12 pm

    Mine too started when I began using the concentrate detergent. It has ruined almost all of my whites including my sons uniform shirts.

  5. Flea on October 12, 2010 at 2:26 pm

    A friend pointed out to me that she never got these stains or heard of them until the concentrated washing detergent came out. SHe now adds water to the detergent before putting it in her washer and uses less detergent. Claims she hasn't been getting the spots.

  6. Anne on October 7, 2010 at 5:29 pm

    Has anyone figured this out???? I just turned in my old washer/dryer thinking they were the culprit and it is still happening with a brand spanking new one!!! The repair man told me to use use very little soap which I do. I have been doing laundry for 20 years and have not had this happen. Laundry should not be so difficult! It is costing me hundreds of dollars in clothes for my family! Frustrated!!!!!

    • Brighton Walker on December 13, 2012 at 6:28 pm

      Anne- Wondering if you ever got a response or figured out your laundry stain/grease looking spots issue. Mine have started to do the same thing. I cannot find any answers! I started by using different detergents, getting rid of dryer sheets, and I never use fabric softener which seems to be the reason everyone states on the internet. Anyway, I actually did the same thing as you and bought a NEW washer and dryer- just did my first load of darks and STILL have spots!! If you ever figured it out PLEASE help!

      Thanks,
      Brighton

      • Robin L H on March 20, 2013 at 10:58 pm

        Hi — I’m dying to know if you’ve figured out about these stains. I’m relieved to see all the posts all over the internet about it (so I’m not the only one and it’s NOT our new w&d) but no one really seems to have the answer. It’s insane!! I do NOT understand why it just started happening – I’m wondering if everyone compared the fabric – would they be the “same clothes”? I’m desperate!

        So hope you reply –

        Best wishes for our resolution – for each and everyone of us!!

        Robin L H

    • Suzanne on April 15, 2016 at 5:28 am

      I had the same thing happen. 2 Samsung front loaders and one maytag later and still happening! All purchased brand new! I used free and clear detergent and (1 tsp to 1 tblspoon of it) no fabric softener. I have ran afresh. Poured hot water after my detergent. Ran an extra spin cycle. Had the tech come out. I’m going crazy here! My washer still has warranty but My sons friend is giving away hers that is like the old one tht fills the tub up with water! (not an HE!!!) so I’m taking it and ditching mine or putting it in storage! My HE has ruined everything I owned. I am tired of dragging my clothes up to moms to wash them in her dependable old time washing machine! Her washing machine don’t leave any spots! This has really exhausted me because I can’t figure out what’s going on! I do know….I’ve done laundry for years before HE with no problems! If anyone has a clue please respond! This is exhausting!

  7. Bmoney on August 8, 2010 at 11:01 pm

    My shirts will randomly get these. Only thing that removes them is Shout stain removing gel.

  8. Judith on July 30, 2010 at 4:01 pm

    Sorry, after 4 months not 54!

  9. Judith on July 30, 2010 at 4:00 pm

    I am getting these spots on my clothes and I don't use bleach, fabric softener, and little soap. The washer is less than a year old and started doing this after 54 months. It is a GE top loading HE.

  10. MissouriRural on January 6, 2008 at 11:56 am

    I have a NEW HE washer and on occasion I get these greasy type spots…only on my darks, I’m guessing because they wouldn’t be noticeable on my whites, but I do use Bounce dryer sheets in my dryer, I don’t know how else to avoid static cling and what not without using these products that I think may be the culprit behind the spotting…can anyone give me some ideas, I honestly don’t think my washer and dryer are to blame. Thanx

    • Grace Peters on April 2, 2013 at 10:22 am

      At Norwex, we have amazing Dryer Balls. They are oblong and have nubs on them. The remove static and fluff the laundry. No need for fabric sheets that are full of chemicals. We also have laundry detergent without chemicals or fillers. A little goes a long way! Check out my website for all of our amazing products that reduce the use of chemicals in personal care and cleaning!

  11. Margolis on December 4, 2007 at 2:58 pm

    oh man, this was the death knell of my former washing machine! I had a few loads with some random dark grease stains on the clothes (never did get them out and cut those duds up for rags), and my dad diagnosed the transmission problem. We took the washer to the dump and got a new one. Good luck!

  12. Milehimama on December 4, 2007 at 2:21 pm

    You can try to clean your washer from grease spots by washing a couple of old towels (to rub against the sides)in hot water with a little bit of detergent and a two-liter of Coca Cola BRAND soda.

    Sounds crazy, but Coke will take grease spots out (my husband worked at an oil plant for a while and came home with industrial strength grease on his clothes. A can of coke got his jumpsuits clean).

  13. tink on December 3, 2007 at 9:44 pm

    We had the transmission issue with our washer, grease spots galore! Our grease spots were yellowish in color.

    Good luck!

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