Help! There Are White Spots On My Clothes — How to Get Rid of Them for Good

When you take your favorite T-shirts or confidence-boosting dress pants out of the washing machine, you want them to look clean and fresh.

Sometimes, this may not be the case. Even if you did your laundry thoughtfully, you might notice white stains on your clothes after washing them. Why is this white residue there? You probably ask yourself how to get rid of white spots on clothes after washing them?

Below, we’ll offer some common reasons for white marks on black clothes after washing and how to address them.

There Can Be Detergent Stains On Your Laundry

detergent on dark pants

Detergents are robust chemical substances that manufacturers design to remove stains and grime from clothing. However, if you use them incorrectly, they can leave behind stains of their own. Sometimes those stains can leave smells even after washing your clothes.

Most often, detergents leave marks behind on your clothes for one of two reasons:

  • You overloaded your washing machine with clothes and soap.
  • You didn’t distribute the detergent properly.

Your detergent shouldn’t make more work for you. There’s nothing more annoying than having to put your clothes back in the washing machine for a second load.

If you already have white marks on black pants after washing, there’s no need to worry. These stains aren’t permanent, and they’re pretty easy to remove. 

Below, we’ll explore the differences between liquid and powdered detergent stains and how to remove them.

How To Get Those Detergent Stains Out

Stains can appear on your clothes if your washing machine doesn’t rinse away your liquid laundry detergent properly. 

It can be easy to blame the type of washing machine you own. There’s a lot of stigma around top-loading machines vs. front-loading. Even though top-loaders have improved over time, one study found that they are less efficient and perform a poorer cleaning job than their front-loading counterparts.

Even if your inefficient washing machine is at fault, you can still learn how to remove white streaks from clothes.

For liquid stains, follow these steps:

  1. Plug your sink.
  2. Pour 1 quart (4 cups) of water and 1 cup of vinegar into your sink.
  3. Stir the solution with a wooden spoon or another mixing tool from your kitchen.
  4. Place the soiled item in the sink and allow it to get thoroughly wet.
  5. Rub the clothing article’s stained area against itself (this process will loosen the detergent).
  6. Place the garment back into the sink and immerse it completely.
  7. Allow the garment to soak for up to one hour.
  8. Put the clothing article in the washer by itself or with a few other items. Allow it to go through a load.
  9. Once the load finishes, pull out your garment(s) and take a look. If your clothes still have stains, repeat steps 1-8.


  • If you have a lot of clothes with white streaks, you can perform this process in your bathtub instead of the sink. Follow the 4:1 cups of water and vinegar ratio to fill your bathtub appropriately.
  • In step five, don’t rub the stained area against a non-stained area. This practice may cause a new stain to develop on a previously unblemished area.
  • Get rid of stains efficiently by only washing a couple of stained items at a time. Under-stuffing your washing machine will give your soiled items the room they need to tumble and break up their detergent stains.
  • Don’t dry your clothes until you notice the white marks have disappeared completely. Excessive heat can cause a stain to set deeply into your garment and make it more difficult to remove in the future.

There Are Hard Laundry Detergent Stains Too

The culprit of white streaks on your clothes could also be powdered detergent. Powdered detergent doesn’t always dissolve easily in hard water, meaning it can leave white spots behind on your dark clothes. These streaks might not show up in light or white clothes.

Address this issue by dissolving the powdered detergent before you add it to your washing machine. If you don’t want to go through this process every time, you can switch to liquid detergent.

It Could Be Fabric Softener Too

If your washer leaves white residue on black clothes, your fabric softener might be the reason why. 

Even though it leaves your clothes feeling comfy and cozy, fabric softener isn’t something you can use as you please. You must add the appropriate amount based on your load and machine size. Otherwise, it won’t disperse and dissolve properly in the water.

Don’t eyeball the amount of fabric softener you use. Instead, refer to your washing machine’s user manual on how to use fabric softener optimally. This way, you can prevent white streaks from forming in the first place.

Vinegar Can Help You

You can use vinegar to prevent the accumulation of soap residue on clothes from washing machine cycles.

Try adding one-half cup of white distilled vinegar to either the wash or rinse cycle of your initial load:

  • Add vinegar to the wash cycle to prevent lint from sticking to your garments.
  • Add vinegar to the rinse cycle to remove soap scum.

If you’re rewashing your clothes to remove white residue, be sure to add one-half cup of vinegar to the rinse cycle.

Are you hesitant to use vinegar on your favorite clothes? Some people fear that vinegar will make their garments smell like a bag of salt-and-vinegar chips, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Vinegar will leave your laundry odorless, meaning you can use it without ruining your clothes.

Tissue Paper Could Be An Issue

Even if you’ve addressed all the above issues, you might still find yourself asking, Why do I still have white marks on black clothes after washing them?

You might be confused as to why your high-efficiency washer leaves white residue on clothes. Shouldn’t it be doing its job?

It likely is, but you might be throwing something unwelcome into your laundry load unknowingly: tissue paper.

Did you check your pockets before completing a load? If you didn’t, an old tissue or scrap paper might have ended up going through your washing machine.

Avoid this issue by emptying your pockets and double-checking for loose paper before washing your clothes.

If you already put your clothes and paper in the washing machine, you can still remedy the issue. First, take each garment out of the machine and shake it out to remove any loose pieces.

Clean your dryer’s lint trap before drying your clothes. Then, place the clothes in the dryer. You might need to empty the lint trap every ten minutes or so to remove all the extra lint.

Do You Still Want To Do Your Own Laundry?

Understanding how to get rid of white spots on clothes after washing them is a learning curve. You may not get it right straight away, and you may need to do a lot of experimenting to perfect the process. 

If you want to leave the task to the experts, enlist our laundry services at Judi’s Cleaners. We serve residential and commercial clients all across the Greater Sacramento area, so don’t hesitate to reach out. Not only will we leave your laundry smelling clean and fresh, but you’ll never have to worry about white residue on clothes after washing them.

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