What Causes Those Mysterious Stains on Your Clothes That Appear Only After Washing?

Updated on April 19, 2019
WAHmom profile image

I enjoy giving tips on laundry and on how to remove annoying stains.


Commonly used laundry, skin care, beauty, and personal hygiene products can cause stains and color changes in white or yellow garments. Toothpaste, perspiration, facial soap, deodorants, and hair sprays are often the cause of stains on garments.

Makeup, strong perfumes with alcohol, and even rain (acid rain especially) can leave spotty stains. All these stains may eventually dry up, not causing any visible stains. However, age and exposure to heat will cause them to reappear.

What Causes Yellow or Pink Stains on Clothes After Washing?

Your clothes are just out of the washer or just home from the dry cleaners and you suddenly spot a stain. You remember looking at the garment before it was washed or before it was taken to the cleaners, and you don't remember seeing any stain. How did that mysterious stain get on your clean clothes?

Each year, the International Fabricare Institute analyzes thousands of garments with mystery stains in the laundry.

Spills from all kinds of beverage and food that dry without leaving any spots cause a great number of unknown stains. Common invisible stains are soft drinks, corn syrup, some fruit juices, and honey. If the stain is not pre-treated before the garment is laundered or dry-cleaned, it may oxidize into a yellow stain from the heat from the cleaning process and the stain may appear.

Water soluble dyes used to color garments can cause stains to appear after a garment is washed or dry-cleaned. Dye transfer can occur in both expensive and inexpensive items. Price does not determine colorfastness. If a garment is cared for as stated on the label and there is a dye transfer, return the item to the store.

What Can You Do About It?

On the day there doesn't seem to be time to check the pockets before doing the laundry, that's the day you will find crayon or lipstick stains on white garments. If the crayon or lipstick gets into the dryer, the drum may be stained. Use a spray cleaner, a laundry pre-treat product, or a mildy abrasive cleanser. After cleaning, tumble a load of wet rags or dry towels on regular temperature for at least three minutes. There may be signs of the stains on the drum, but they will not transfer to future loads.

For items stained with crayons, rewash in hot water as hot as possible with an all fabric bleach and detergent. If the stains are from lipstick, use a solvent-based cleaner on the spots and add cleaner to the wash water.

Be Careful About Which Stain Removal Method You Choose

Some stain removal solutions can cause more problems than they solve.

Club soda is only useful if applied immediately before certain stains have set. It is not effective on oily stains and may cause problems on fabrics sensitive to water such silk and rayon.

Alcohol from hair spray is what removes some ink stains, but it can also remove some fabric dyes. Be safe and use rubbing alcohol and test in an inconspicuous area.

Your grandma may have told you to hang clothes out on a bright sunny day to get the clothes white. This practice of our grandmothers was effective in making their white clothes whiter long before manufacturers would add optical brighteners to fabric softeners to enhance the whiteness of white clothes.

Today, hanging the clothes out in the sun may in fact cause garments to turn yellow. This is due to the optical brighteners used in many fabric softeners and detergents today. These brighteners actually break down in sunlight, which can cause a yellowing of the garments which could cause those mysterious stains on clothes.

Substances That Can Stain Your Clothes

This is a list of substances that can stain your clothes that you should watch out for:

  • Ink
  • Blood
  • Red wine
  • Mud
  • Coffee
  • Chocolate
  • Ketchup
  • Tomato sauce
  • Fruit juice
  • Grease/oil
  • Grass
  • Perspiration
  • Chewing gum
  • Rust

Questions & Answers

  • Does illness cause yellow stains on clean clothing?

    Are you asking if an illness or getting sick cause yellow stains to appear in your clean clothes? I need to make sure I fully understand your question before I give you an answer.

© 2011 Zee Mercado


Submit a Comment
  • WAHmom profile imageAUTHOR

    Zee Mercado 

    9 years ago

    Hi Marie, thanks for the welcome message. Do i need to sign up for that hubmob site?

  • MPG Narratives profile image

    Maria Giunta 

    9 years ago from Sydney, Australia

    Welcome to hubpages WAHmom and you are doing well already with 4 hubs. If you do want more info about hubbing visit the learning center or for more of a challenge why not join a hubmob, https://hubpages.com/info/hubmob. Topics change weekly so choose one that interests you. Enjoy being part of this great writer's site, cheers Marie, member of hubgreeters team.


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