How to Remove Laundry Detergent Stains from Clothes

I recently switched to a high-efficiency (HE) washer, and I noticed that there are times when my clothes don’t come out great after washing. They are supposed to be clean, but my colored clothes have white streaks, and some whites have blue spots!

Have you ever experienced the same issues during laundry? What do you do when laundry detergent – the cleaning solution, becomes part of the problem? 

Don’t fret, though. Frustrating as they may be, laundry detergent and fabric softener stains are not permanent and can be avoided easily or removed. Follow our guide on how you can prevent and remove those messy white streaks on your colored fabric and unflattering blues on your whites.

What Is a Laundry Detergent Stain Anyway?

If you ever washed your colored clothes and you observed a few white streaks or spottings, or your whites turned blue in someplace, then your fabric got laundry detergent stains.

Aside from powdered laundry detergent, an undispersed fabric softener can also leave stains on freshly washed clothes. Fabric softeners are responsible for the waxy residue you may find in your towels after wash.

What Causes Laundry Detergent Stain?

1. Using Excess Detergent

Go easy on that detergent! One of the main culprits of having laundry detergent stains after washing is your excessive use of detergent. Using too much detergent, especially if using a high-efficiency (HE) washer, causes excess soap buildup hence the messy stain. Clueless if you’ve used enough laundry detergent for your laundry? Click here to find out.

2. Undissolved Detergent

Using powdered detergents can be tricky. If you don’t use them properly, they may not dissolve completely. Remember to pour your powdered detergent at the bottom of your washer before adding your soiled clothes and water. The same goes for laundry detergent pods or packs.

A clogged automatic dispenser may also be a culprit for undissolved laundry detergent. Clean the dispenser using a mixture of 1/2 cup white vinegar and two cups of hot water.

3. Using Hard Water

Hard water contains more minerals compared to soft water. This can lead to mineral buildup in the washer and poor performance of detergents. The minerals found in hard water don’t mix well with laundry detergent. This causes detergent stains.

You can add borax to hard water to prevent dingy-looking clothes after washing. Borax contains sodium that softens hard water.

4. Overloaded Washing Machine

In a rush to wash your clothes? Before you stuff that washer with your weeklong worth of laundry, ponder on this first: washing too much clothing more than what your washer can handle is never a good thing. Fill the washing machine with clothes up to the brim, and it will not do its job correctly. By cramming excessive garments in the washer, soap residue and soil can’t go down the drain after washing. You’ll waste your time as this will only leave more problems with your clothes.

One easy way to know that you’ve filled enough clothes in your laundry tub is to eyeball it. Add loosely-packed garments to the washer until it is about two-thirds full.

How to Avoid Laundry Detergent from Leaving Residue on Clothes

Probably the easiest way to avoid laundry detergent residue from staining your clothes is to agitate the laundry detergent soap with water. Take this extra step before you do your laundry, and you will decrease the chance of having a detergent stain on the fabric.

  1. Dissolve the detergent with enough water and mix them thoroughly. Make sure that the detergent has dissolved adequately in water to avoid the powder from clumping.
  2. Pour the mixture at the bottom of your empty washer.
  3. Fill up the drum with your load of laundry and start the wash cycle.

Agitation is a step you shouldn’t miss, especially if you are doing the laundry during a cold climate or using the cold cycle in your washer. If you will be washing your clothes with cold water, dissolve the detergent in hot water and mix it. Then you can pour it onto the washing machine and start the cycle.

Fabric softener also leaves residue and waxy stains on your clothes when it doesn’t rinse properly. Like laundry detergent, you can mix fabric softener first with water before adding it to the dispenser.

How to Remove Laundry Detergent Residue from Clothes

1. Alcohol

If a stain from laundry products persists after you rewash a fabric, you can choose to use this method to get rid of those hard-to-remove stains.

  1. Use hot water to rinse off the soap residue.
  2. Wring the fabric to remove the excess water and lay it on a flat surface.
  3. Use rubbing alcohol and spot-test the inside fold of the fabric. If the alcohol doesn’t create more damage, then proceed to the next step.
  4. Apply alcohol to the entire affected spot to treat the stain.
  5. Soak the fabric with alcohol for more than 10 minutes.
  6. Rinse the fabric with hot water.
  7. Repeat if the stain persists.

2. Bar Soap

green soap bar against brown background

Removing laundry detergent streaks and spotting on clothes can also be done using regular bar soap. If you want to use bar soap to remove unflattering stains:

  1. Wash the fabric in the sink with cold water.
  2. Rub the bar of soap on the fabric with spotting.
  3. For materials with jellied fabric conditioner residue, use a soft-bristle brush to remove the stain physically.
  4. Handwash the stained clothes.
  5. Rinse the cloth and check the stain.
  6. For persistent stains, you can add 1/2 cup of vinegar diluted in cold water.
  7. Soak the fabric in the solution for around 15 minutes.
  8. Wash the material without using detergent and air dry.

3. Liquid Dishwashing Soap

hand soap against blue background

Liquid dishwashing soap can also help remove detergent stains when used correctly. Make sure you use dishwashing liquid with grease-fighting properties to achieve the best results. To use it as detergent stain remover:

  1. Wet the stained fabric.
  2. Squeeze a few drops of liquid detergent to the affected area and work your fingers and hands by vigorously stroking the fabric until you remove the residue.
  3. Repeat the process if it still doesn’t come off.
  4. Soak the fabric in the solution for 10 minutes.
  5. For persistent stain, work the soap again.
  6. Wash and rinse the fabric without using detergent.
  7. Ensure you check for stains before you dry the cloth, as the heat from the dryer will help set the stain.

4. Baking Soda

bottle of baking soda and a spoonful of baking soda against brown background

Baking soda is a surefire way to clean and deodorize clothes even without using detergent. If you observed those pesky detergent stains after washing with laundry detergent, then all you have to do to remove it is to rewash it, but this time use baking soda instead of more detergent. To remove stains caused by laundry detergent, use this guideline:

  1. Put the clothes in the washer and begin the wash cycle.
  2. Add half a cup of baking soda.
  3. Wash as normal.
  4. Add another 1/2 cup of baking soda as you start the rinse cycle.

5. Vinegar

bottle of white vinegar against blue background

One of my favorite multipurpose household staples is white vinegar. Aside from being a pantry essential, vinegar is great for deodorizing, cleaning, and even removing stains. All you need to remove laundry detergent stain is a cup of white vinegar. Here’s how:

  1. If your garment can handle warm water, fill the sink with it and add a cup of white vinegar.
  2. Mix the solution well.
  3. Soak the garment for not more than an hour.
  4. Remove the residue using your hands during the soaking process at different time intervals.
  5. Wring out the fabric and wash it without using a laundry detergent.
  6. Double-check if there is still spotting or streaking before you dry the fabric.


It can be frustrating to see that the number one household item you expect to help you achieve perfect-looking clothes after wash becomes the problem. If you want to avoid having laundry detergent stains in your fabric, follow our advice above. However, if you find yourself in this dilemma, save yourself and check out your cupboard and look for the possible stain removers we shared. If the tricks helped you somehow, don’t forget to bookmark our page and help your friend who may be having the same laundry issues by sharing our post on your social media!

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