Out, Out Damn Spot!

For a while now these mysterious stains have been appearing on our clean clothes when they emerge from the washer and dryer. The stains look like someone spilled cooking oil on the clothes. But if they actually were cooking oil, a little Shout and another trip through the washer ought to get the clothes clean. Unfortunately, once one of these mystery stains shows up, it’s there to stay.

As you know, I like to keep my clothes for as long as I can. So it’s frustrating when something, especially something I like, gets torn or stained beyond repair.

This morning my husband found a large mystery stain on his nearly-new pants. He declared that we must buy a new washer and dryer, because our current ones are destroying our clothes. I’m not sure whether that’s the solution, though I admit I never had this problem before we bought our current washer and dryer (7-year-old Kenmore high-efficiency front-loader set).

Has anyone else ever had this problem? Do you have any suggestions for getting rid of or preventing these troublesome, persistent stains?

I’ve circled the stain on my husband’s pants.
The one on the red shirt isn’t showing up well in this photo.


  1. It’s either the washer or dryer or something in the water at your house. I’ve recently had some water issues and rust-stained laundry was one of the first signs.

  2. I have really hard water at my home, so most spots like that are rust. Have you tried mixing some borax or washing soda with your water before adding clothes (make sure it’s dissolved before the clothes go in)? For lighter colored stuff, I found a sleeve of denture cleaning tablets makes them all bright again, but I wouldn’t try it on darker things…

  3. I remember when this kind of thing happened to me when I was using the coin-op machines in my apartment building. The dryer was the culprit. Maybe you can line dry everything to help you determine if it is the washer or dryer.

    Take the pants to the dry cleaner and see if they can do anything. Good luck!

  4. You know, I don’t remember seeing any spots on the clothes that I always line-dry. I’ll see if the Sears service techs have any recommendations on the dryer. Ours has been broken and repaired in the past, so maybe something didn’t get fixed properly.

    I’m also going to try adding borax. I used to do it before I lost our box of borax in the move, since it’s good for sanitizing things the baby’s made messes on.

  5. Elizabeth says:

    I’m wondering if they used oil on something in the dryer and got a little overzealous.

  6. Maybe dishwashing liquid as well to get rid of the spots you have now. You know: “D*** takes grease–out of the way!”

    Hope everything in your laundry gets back to normal.

  7. Vildy says:

    could one of them be leaking transmission oil?

  8. Stumbled across this just now while researching why my washer stopped spinning last night:

    “That washer put oil spots all over my clothes. I’m gonna sue!”

    * Take a chill pill, Prudence, it’s probably not the washer’s fault (unless it’s a GE/Hotpoint). Now, get ready to have your little mind blown: most of time, spots on clothes are from a chemical reaction between the fabric softener and the detergent. Oh sure, don’t believe me, go hire a lawyer, I don’t give a rip. But you might unbunch your panties just long enough to do this little test: try handwashing a spotted garment in warm soapy water. If the spots come off, they were caused by fabric softener/detergent interaction. I know, I’m a genius. But talk is cheap–thank me with your wallet, not your lips.
    * Transmission oil leaked back into the tub. This is most common with the older GE/Hotpoint washers. Test by applying solvent to a section of a spotted garment. If the spots come off only with solvent but not with soap and water, then they are oil spots. If you do have a GE/Hotpoint washer, take it to the dump and buy a Maytag or a Whirlpool.

  9. I can’t believe it’s your washer making the stain but you ought to have it checked out by a technician if you think it really is. You might try some borax (of 20 Mule Team fame) with your laundry soap and cut back on the soap use – front-loaders really don’t need much. Anyway, the borax boosts the cleaning action of your detergent(helpful if you have hard water) and it’s cheap and a natural product.

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