How to get detergent stains out of clothes

Nothing is more annoying than washing a load of laundry only to find that they are covered in white stains. This post discusses how to get detergent stains out of clothes using household items you already have in your home. 

laundry detergent on a pair of genes

What do detergent stains look like?

Detergent stains may look like blue or white patches, waxy or rough in texture. Different detergents sometimes leave different types of stains, and the process of removing the stains will depend on the type of detergent you use. These stains are more than likely detergent from your powder pod or liquid that hasn’t dissolved properly during the washing cycle. 

What causes detergent stains in clothes?

  •  Using too much detergent. will cause the water in the washing machine to become a saturated solution and is difficult to rinse away. This then stays on your garment, making those annoying stains. Read this post to find out how much detergent you should use in each load. 
  • Too many clothes in the machine. Overstuffing clothes in the washing machine means the detergent or powder gets stuck between the clothes. If the detergent doesn’t dissolve properly and the water cannot get to the powder to rinse it, the detergent dries and stains the clothes. Read this post to see if you are overloading your machine. You should be able to fit a full hand above your clothes in a front-loading washing machine. 
white clothes soaking to remove detergent stains stains

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How to prevent laundry detergent stains

Prevention is always better than cure. It is easy to take a few steps to prevent rather than remove stains.  

Prevention is always better than cure. It is easy to take a few steps to prevent rather than remove stains. 

  1. Use the correct washing temperature.

    Most detergents tell you on the packaging what temperature to use to help the detergent dissolve properly. 

  2. Don’t overload the washing machine.

    Make sure your clothes have space to tumble and rinse properly. 

  3. Opt for liquid detergent instead of powder

    Liquid detergents tend not to leave as much residue as powder as they do not need to dissolve.

  4. Store your powdered detergent in an airtight box

    Keep moisture out of your laundry powder as lumpy detergent is difficult to dissolve in the detergent drawer. This airtight detergent box has an easy-to-pour spout and measuring cup.

  5. Use the correct cycle.

    Try to avoid quick washes if you have a larger load. Your clothes need time to tumble, agitate and rinse.

  6. Do not use more detergent than suggested.

    Using too much detergent is the most common reason for detergent residue and stains for your load or the clothes will not rinse properly. Read this post to find out how much detergent should be used for each wash.

  7. Check the hardness of the water.

    If you are using hard water with powdered detergent, you will most likely have noticed stains on your clothes. This is because the powder doesn’t dissolve well in hard water and is more difficult to rinse. It may be time to switch to a non-toxic detergent or a liquid detergent. This post tells you how much detergent to use in hard water areas, you can also check here to see if you live in a hard or soft water area.

  8. Make sure you are using the correct detergent for your machine.

    Some detergents are high-efficiency, and some are non-high-efficiency. Your washing machine manual will advise you which is best for you to use. 

  9. Wash your clothes inside out

    If you struggle to prevent detergent stains on your clothes, it may help if you wash your clothes inside out to reduce the appearance of stains.

  10. Airdry your clothes

    It is often better to air dry your clothes, as heat from the drier sets most stains and makes it more difficult to remove them. Find out how to save money by drying your clothes indoors in this post.

  11. Dissolve the detergent before washing.

    If you use powdered laundry detergent, you could always try dissolving it in a small amount of water before adding it to the detergent drawer. This is a good idea if your powder is particularly lumpy.

  12. Use eco-friendly laundry detergents.

    Eco-friendly laundry detergents use less toxic chemicals and are kinder to the environment. Check out why you need to change to a non-toxic laundry detergent here.

Please note: Spot check in a discrete area of the clothing first to ensure any method you use doesn’t cause issues with dye.

How to remove different detergent stains from your laundry

Powder detergent stains 

powder  laundry detergent

Sometimes powder detergent residue may be left on white clothes such as shirts and sheets. While you may not be able to see the residue, you will be able to feel it as your clothes will feel stiff and almost waxy.

To prevent powder stains, you could :

  1. Alternate between powdered and liquid laundry detergent, which will help stop the build-up of detergent.
  2. Add an extra rinse to your laundry load if you prefer not to swap to a liquid detergent. An extra rinse will help to get rid of any excess powder.
  3. Use the correct amount of detergent in each wash. 
  4. Do not overload the machine to allow your clothes to agitate and get clean properly. Add the right amount of clothes to your washing machine.
  5. Wash your clothes at the correct temperature for the detergent.
  6. Add a cup of vinegar instead of softener to the detergent drawer to help to prevent any build of detergent.

Liquid laundry detergent stains

 two bottles of non toxic liquid detergent and some detergent stained clothes
  1. Soak the stained garment in warm or hot water, depending on the care label instructions. To read what those little symbols on your laundry mean check out this post.
  2. Use an oxygen-based pre-treatment. Such as Vanish Oxyaction or Astonish Oxyaction
  3. Wash as usual. This method may also be used to remove detergent stains from white garments. 

How to get blue detergent stains out of clothes 

Some detergents may leave a blue-colored stain behind. Luckily these blue stains are not permanent and are easily removed by following these steps:

  1. Dampen the stain with warm water 
  2. Apply a pre-treatment directly to the stain.
  3. Allow the pre-treatment work for at least 10-15 minutes
  4. Rinse with warm water.
  5. Repeat the steps above if the stain is still there.
  6. Do not dry your garment until removing all the detergent stains, as a tumble dryer can set the stain.

5 other ways to get detergent stains out of clothes

Ingredients to remove detergent stains from clothes , baking soda , vinegar , Castile soap and washing soda

 To remove laundry detergent stains from clothes, you can also use items you already have in the house: 

Bar soap or Castille Soap

If you prefer using something gentler to remove detergent stains from clothes, you can use a bar of odorless soap. I like castile soap as I find it a very effective stain removal. 

  1. Dampen the stained area of clothing.
  2. Gently rub the bar soap or Castille soap on the stained area. 
  3. Gently agitate the stain with a soft brush or by rubbing the cloth together, ensuring you do not spread the stain onto other areas of the garment.
  4. Rinse the area and wash with cold water to remove the soap residue. 

Rubbing alcohol

  1. Dampen the stain with warm water 
  2. Gently rub the stain with a small soft brush to agitate the stain and open the fibers of the garment.
  3. Apply rubbing alcohol to the stain. 
  4. Allow the rubbing alcohol to sit for about approximately 15 minutes. 
  5. Rinse the garment to check for laundry detergent residue removal and launder without detergent. 
  6. Check before drying to ensure the detergent residue is gone. If it persists, repeat the procedure.


  1. Fill a bowl with warm water.
  2. Add half a cup of white vinegar and stir well. 
  3. Soak the garment in the solution for at least 15 minutes, preferably longer if you can 
  4. Put the garment in the washing machine. 
  5. Add baking soda or soda crystals to the drum instead of your usual detergent.  
  6. Wash the clothing in a normal setting
  7. Check the stain, and if it has not gone, repeat the above.

Dish soap 

  1. Always choose a good quality dish soap, like Fairy Platinum or Dawn.  (Or Castille soap if you prefer)
  2. Dampen the stain with warm water 
  3. Pour a few drops of dish soap over the stain.
  4. Work the dish soap into the stain using a soft bristle brush to agitate the stain and allow the garment’s fibers to open. 
  5. Fill a bowl with warm water and add a couple more drops of dish soap to create a lather. 
  6. Soak the garment for about 20 minutes or longer if you can. 
  7. If the stain is still noticeable, repeat the process 
  8. Then wash as normal to finish. 

Baking soda 

Baking soda absorbs and removes stains, deodorizes, and helps eliminate the buildup of powdered laundry detergent. Baking soda also helps remove any detergent buildup in your washing machine.

  1. Put the stained clothing back in the machine.
  2. Do not add laundry detergent to the cycle. 
  3. Add a cup of baking soda directly into the drum with the garment
  4. Add 1 cup of vinegar to the fabric softener dispenser for an extra boost to the rinse.
  5. Wash as normal 
  6. Repeat the process if necessary. 
  7. You can replace the baking soda with washing soda crystals if you prefer  

How to remove fabric softener stains from clothes.

  We’ve covered detergent stains but what about fabric softener stains? Fabric softener makes clothing soft, but because it may contain sheep, pig, or cow fat, it can leave greasy stains behind. Fortunately, in most cases, you can remove the stains with soap and water, so they’re seldom permanent.


Do laundry detergent stains come out?

Sometimes the dryer may set the stain and may make it more difficult for the stain to come out. Laundry stains will come out using many of the methods listed above, but you may need to repeat the process if you find they don’t come out the first time.

How can dry cleaners get stains out of clothes?

Dry cleaners can remove most stains from clothing. To read all their secrets, read this post!

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