Dear Home Ec 101:
It seems like all my colored T-shirts come out of the washer with a few faint stains on the front. It looks like I spilled a drop or two of water on me when I put them on. It’s on them all, no matter what load they went into or what they were washed with. Sometimes I can spray and wash the area, and it comes out. They almost look like grease spots. Could it be a liquid fabric softener? Other ideas? I don’t want to continue to ruin shirts or look like I spilled water down my front when I leave the house.
Just call me,
Spotty in Sparta
Dear Spotty in Sparta:
You hit the nail on the head. The problem very well could be your liquid fabric softener.
How to Prevent Spots from Fabric Softener
Liquid fabric softeners are notorious for leaving spots on clothing. If you have a top-loading machine, you could be overloading it with clothing. The softener needs room to be sloshed evenly over the clothing. If you are using a front-loading machine, significantly reduce the fabric softener you use. If you use a high-efficiency water-saving machine, you are using too much fabric softener and need to reduce the amount. Over the next few loads, reduce the amount of softener you use until the spots no longer appear while you still maintain the fabric feel you desire.
Use an Alternative to Fabric Softener
I just add white vinegar to the rinse cycle, but I’m one of those sensitive types whose skin doesn’t tolerate much. For what it is worth, many appliance repair people also recommend sticking with white vinegar, as it doesn’t leave the problematic residue that fabric softeners can.
How to Fix Fabric Softener Spots
Now let’s rid your shirts of existing spots on your t-shirts. Rub the spots with dishwashing liquid. Yes, good old Palmolive or original Dawn will be fine. Whichever you choose, be 100% sure it does not contain any bleach. Please note we are not saturating your entire garments with liquid soap, just rubbing a small amount directly into the spots. And re-launder without detergent. Dryer sheets can also cause spotting, but they will be clear, much like a grease spot. Rub these with a wet bar of soap, such as Ivory, and wash as usual.
Where to Learn More about Spots in the Laundry
We cover a lot of laundry questions here at Home-Ec101 in the Wash It section.
Send your domestic questions to email@example.com.