Dear Home-EC 101;
I have a weird question for you.
A few times lately, I’ve pulled whites out of my washer with yellow stains. Not on the neck or underarms like you might expect, but looking more like I washed a highlighter with everything. Streaks on hems or sleeves, where there were no stains before the wash.
I’m wondering if this is due to some kind of grease. My man works in a greasy environment and while I run towels or sheets between our clothes to make sure no diesel remnants touch my work clothes, I’ve ruined quite a few things lately.
Any help or advice? I would really appreciate it.
Yellowed in Yuma
Mystery stains aren’t fun. To try to help pin down the culprit I contacted this reader and it seems as though the likely culprit for the random yellow stains is sunscreen. Sunblock when it first splashes or smears onto clothing usually isn’t noticeable, but once it comes into contact with minerals in water, some of the ingredients in the sunscreen may undergo an oxidizing reaction (like rusting) and leave behind a yellow stain. This is more likely to occur in areas with hard water -as hard water contains significantly more minerals than soft.
Treating sunblock stains is somewhat hit or miss. Lemon juice and sunlight are typically the most effective strategy for dealing with sunscreen stains. Spray the stain with lemon juice and allow to react with the stain for several hours, preferably assisted by a bright, sunny day. Be aware that acids may weaken fibers. Since the clothing is already compromised by the stain, I wouldn’t worry THAT much.
Important! Do not try to use chlorine bleach on stains caused by oxidizing reactions, chlorine bleach is an oxidizing agent and will only make these types of stains worse. The same goes for oxygen bleach which is also an oxidizing agent.
Alternatives to lemon juice include CLR (Calcium Lime Rust remover) and vinegar and you should be aware that it may take several treatments to be effective. Rinse thoroughly between treatment attempts.
Sometimes the appearance of yellowish stains on clothing is a sign that a washing machine is about to fail.
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