Dear Home-Ec 101,
I have been using my new front-load washer for over a year now, and all my towels are ruined. It doesn’t matter what color they are or were. They now all have large spots that look like I used chlorine bleach on them. Can you help? I have not changed the detergent or softener. I have always used Gain or Tide for cold water and Downey softener.
I would like to buy new towels but don’t want to waste my money!
Bleached in Blean
I think front-load washers often get blamed for mystery bleach stains when the culprit may not even be in the laundry room. While it is certainly possible that bleach from one load is, unfortunately, got into the next, there are simple steps you can take to reduce the occurrence of bleach stains from a front-loading washer.
How to prevent the bleach from one load from affecting the next load.
Wash your clothing from white to dark. If you run a load of whites with chlorine bleach, ensure the next load is light-colored fabrics and go ahead and fill the bleach dispensing cup with water to flush out the dispenser. The concentration of bleach should be low enough not to damage colorfast fabrics. If you want to be extra cautious, follow a white load with a load of rags or an empty load and add water to the bleach dispenser. Running an empty, hot load is actually good for your washer and should be done occasionally.
What else can cause mystery bleach spots?
Bleach and bleaching agents have crept into our cleaning and personal hygiene products.
Do you happen to have a teen or preteen in your household? If so, the culprit could be in their face wash or acne medication.
Speaking of unfairness, that’s the culprit in my house. How the heck am I 33 and still dealing with this crap? I quit if grey hair shows up before I grow out of acne. I just quit.
If no one uses acne products, do you have whitening toothpaste? What about mouthwash? Any of these products can easily be transferred to your towels. The trouble is the stains don’t show up immediately. They often take hours before any noticeable change appears. It usually goes something like this, apply acne medication before bed, wipe your hands on the towel, then throw the towel in the hamper as you pick up the bathroom before bed.
The hamper is unloaded right into the washer without a close inspection. The washer then takes the blame. Rinse and repeat.
Before replacing your stained bathroom towels, ensure everyone in the home understands that these products can and do stain. Personally, I’ve given up on “pretty” towels for the foreseeable future and have just gone with functional ones.
2023 update – still using functional towels. We’ve got a much larger household. There’s a gaggle of teenagers up in here. No, there will not be pretty towels for a while yet.
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