What Can You Do When Your Washing Machine Leaves Stains?

Your washing machine is supposed to be the hero that gets your clothes sparkling clean, but sometimes it can be the villain that leaves behind mysterious stains and discolouration. Nothing is more frustrating than pulling a load of laundry out of the machine only to find that your favourite shirt or pair of pants has been ruined by an unsightly stain.

If you’ve ever experienced this problem, you’re not alone. Washing machine stains are a common issue that many households face. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to identify the cause of the stains and get your machine back to performing at its best. In this article, we’ll explore the most common causes of washing machine stains and provide practical solutions to help you get your clothes looking fresh, and clean best.

Washing Machine Leaves Stains

The Causes of Washing Machine Stains

There are a few key reasons why your washing machine might be leaving stains on your clothes. Identifying the root cause is the first step in resolving the issue. Here are some of the most common culprits:

Mineral Buildup

One of the leading causes of washing machine stains is mineral buildup inside the machine. Over time, minerals from hard water can accumulate on the internal components of your washing machine, including the drum, hoses, and seals. This buildup can then transfer to your clothes during the wash cycle, leaving behind unsightly stains.

The degree of mineral buildup will depend on the hardness of your water. Homes with extremely hard water are more prone to this issue. Signs of mineral buildup include white, crusty deposits on the machine’s interior and grey or yellow stains on clothing.

To combat mineral buildup, you can use a washing machine cleaner or descaler regularly. The Affresh Washing Machine Cleaner is a popular and effective option that helps remove built-up residue and grime.


Another common cause of washing machine stains is rust. This can occur if there are any metal components inside the machine that are starting to corrode. As the rust builds up, it can rub off onto your clothes, leaving behind orange or brown stains.

Rust is more likely to be an issue in older washing machines or machines that haven’t been properly maintained. It’s important to regularly inspect the interior of your machine for any signs of rust and address the problem promptly.

If you do find rust in your washing machine, you can try using a rust remover like the Whirlpool Affresh Washing Machine Cleaner and Freshener. This product is designed to help break down and remove rust stains from both the machine and your clothes.

Detergent Residue

Believe it or not, your laundry detergent could also be the culprit behind those pesky washing machine stains. If you use too much detergent or don’t properly rinse it out, it can leave a sticky residue behind that will transfer to your clothes.

This is especially common with powdered detergents, which can be more difficult to fully dissolve and rinse away. Over-sudsing can also lead to detergent residue buildup inside the machine.

To avoid detergent residue, be sure to use the recommended amount of detergent for your load size and machine type. You can also try switching to a high-efficiency (HE) liquid detergent, which is formulated to produce fewer suds and rinse away more easily. The Tide HE Turbo Clean Liquid Laundry Detergent is a popular HE option.

Grease and Oil

Washing greasy or oily items like cooking rags or motor oil-stained clothes can leave behind a film that coats the inside of your washing machine. This film can then transfer to other laundry items during subsequent wash cycles, creating new stains.

Grease and oil stains are notoriously difficult to remove, so it’s important to treat these types of items carefully and avoid washing them with your regular laundry. Pre-treating with a degreasing agent like the Zep Heavy-Duty Degreaser can help break down the oils before washing.

Mold and Mildew

If your washing machine isn’t drying out completely between uses, it can create the perfect environment for mould and mildew to grow. This can lead to unsightly staining on both the interior of the machine and your clothes.

Mould and mildew thrive in dark, damp conditions, so making sure your machine gets thoroughly dried out after each use is crucial. Front-loading machines are especially prone to this issue due to their enclosed design.

To prevent mould and mildew growth, you can use a washing machine cleaner like the Lysol Washing Machine Cleaner that contains disinfecting agents. Leaving the door or lid open after each use can also help improve air circulation and drying.

Solving the Stain Problem: Practical Solutions

Now that we’ve identified the most common culprits behind washing machine stains, let’s explore some practical solutions to get your machine and your laundry back to their clean, stain-free best.

1. Clean the Washing Machine Thoroughly

The first step in addressing washing machine stains is to give the entire machine a thorough cleaning. This will help remove any built-up residue, mineral deposits, or rust that may be causing the problem.

Start by running a hot wash cycle with no clothes, using a washing machine cleaner or a mixture of hot water, vinegar, and baking soda. This will help break down and flush out any gunk or buildup. You can also use a washing machine cleaning tablet or powder for a more heavy-duty clean.

Once the wash cycle is complete, wipe down the interior of the machine, including the drum, gaskets, and detergent dispenser, with a damp cloth. Pay special attention to any areas that look discoloured or stained.

2. Descale the Machine

If you suspect that mineral buildup is the root cause of your washing machine stains, you’ll need to descale the appliance. Descaling involves using a specialized cleaning solution to break down and remove any accumulated limescale or other mineral deposits.

You can purchase a commercial washing machine descaler like the Affresh Washing Machine Cleaner and Freshener or make your solution using equal parts white vinegar and water. Run a hot wash cycle with the descaling solution, then follow up with a rinse cycle to ensure all the residue is flushed out.

Depending on the severity of the buildup, you may need to repeat the descaling process a few times to get your machine back to its optimal performance.

3. Check for Rust and Address It

If you suspect that rust is the culprit behind your washing machine stains, you’ll need to identify the source of the rust and take steps to address it.

Start by closely inspecting the interior of the machine, looking for any signs of corrosion or rust on the drum, hoses, or other metal components. If you find any rust, you may need to replace the affected part to prevent the problem from getting worse.

In some cases, you may be able to remove minor rust stains using a combination of baking soda and water or a specialized rust-removing product like the Whirlpool Affresh Washing Machine Cleaner and Freshener. Just be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully and avoid using anything too abrasive that could further damage the machine.

4. Adjust Detergent Usage

If your washing machine stains are being caused by detergent residue, the solution is to adjust your laundry routine. First, make sure you’re using the recommended amount of detergent for your machine and load size. Using too much can lead to excessive sudsing and residue buildup.

You can also try switching to a high-efficiency (HE) detergent, which is designed to produce fewer suds and rinse away more easily. The Tide HE Turbo Clean Liquid Laundry Detergent is a popular HE option.

Additionally, be sure to run an extra rinse cycle after each load to ensure that all the detergent is fully flushed out of the machine.

5. Pre-treat Oily or Greasy Items

To prevent grease and oil stains from transferring to other clothes in the washing machine, it’s important to pre-treat these items before washing. Use a degreasing product like the Zep Heavy-Duty Degreaser or a solution of hot water and dish soap to break down the oils and help remove them more effectively during the wash cycle.

You may also want to consider washing oily or greasy items separately from your regular laundry to avoid cross-contamination.

6. Maintain Proper Drying and Ventilation

Preventing mould and mildew growth is key to avoiding washing machine stains. Make sure to leave the door or lid of your machine open after each use to allow the interior to fully dry out. You can also run a fan or open a window to improve air circulation and speed up the drying process.

If you notice any musty smells or signs of mould or mildew, give the machine a thorough cleaning with a disinfecting solution like the Lysol Washing Machine Cleaner right away.

7. Consider Upgrading to a Newer Model

In some cases, persistent washing machine stains may be a sign that it’s time to upgrade to a newer, more efficient appliance. Older washing machines are more prone to issues like rust, mineral buildup, and mould growth, which can lead to ongoing staining problems.

If you’ve tried all of the troubleshooting steps and are still dealing with stains, it may be worth investing in a new washing machine that is designed with better corrosion resistance, more effective rinsing, and improved drying capabilities. The LG WM4000HWA Front Load Washer is a high-quality, energy-efficient option that can help prevent washing machine stains.

Maintaining a Clean, Stain-Free Washing Machine

Preventing washing machine stains is an ongoing process that requires regular maintenance and vigilance. By staying on top of cleaning, descaling, and other preventative measures, you can help keep your machine in top shape and your laundry looking its best.

Remember, addressing washing machine stains is not just about restoring the appearance of your clothes – it’s also important for the overall health and longevity of your appliance. A well-maintained washing machine will not only produce cleaner results but also last longer and operate more efficiently.

So, the next time you notice those dreaded stains appearing, don’t despair. Use the strategies outlined in this article to diagnose the problem, take corrective action, and get your washing machine back to its stain-fighting best. With a little elbow grease and some proactive maintenance, you can keep your clothes looking fresh and your machine running smoothly for years to come.

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As the founder of Clean It Spotless, I am Melissa Walker, a leading expert in removing tough stains from fabrics, carpets, and upholstery. With over 10 years of experience in the cleaning industry, I have developed my own natural, non-toxic stain-fighting formulas that lift stains while preserving the integrity of the underlying material. My stain removal tutorials are widely read online, and I have appeared on local TV segments demonstrating my techniques. I also present popular stain removal workshops at community centers and schools.

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