Sunscreen causing ring around the collar

stbonnerJuly 2, 2007

About three months ago I traded my old TL for a new Bosch Next 500 FL washer. At the same time I changed from using Tide detergent to either Charlie's Soap or Bi-O-Kleen detergents. When I wash white clothes I add Oxyclean to the detergent. I have been very happy with my wash results with one exception - my husband's white t-shirts have developed nasty orange ring around the collar. I'm sure these stains are from sunscreens, as he usually wears these shirts when he is fishing and he always wears sunscreen when out in the sun.

With my old washer and detergent I could see a faint yellowish discoloration on his older t-shirts, but with my new washer I am seeing a very distinct orange stain that shows up even on new shirts.

Does anyone have any suggestions? I'm not sure if my new washer or my new detergents are to blame. Other than this white t-shirt issue I am very happy with my new washer, as I feel that my clothes are cleaner and look better than when washed in my old washer. Suggestions, anyone?

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I've always had good results with Shout or Spray-'n'-Wash pretreat.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2007 at 11:43AM
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Does his sunscreen have any self tanner in it? That stuff will cause an orange stain.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2007 at 10:39AM
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No, there is no self tanner in the sunscreen. In fact, the collars don't turn orange until after they are washed and dried. With my old machine and detergent the collars would eventually turn a little bit yellow, but never orange - so I think the orange collar is coming either from the more natural detergents or from the higher temperatures that my new washer uses for washing.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2007 at 3:23PM
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Is he using Coppertone? That brand will turn things orange. Have him try another brand. I use Banana Boat without any sort of issue.

If the stains are appearing after washing, it's possibly due to the oil of the sunscreen not being totally washed out. That could explain why it has gotten worse since you stopped using Tide, as it's a good detergent for removing grease stains. Try rewetting the shirts, spray the orange areas with some WD-40 and then rub in some Dawn dishwashing liquid (it's a grease cutter). Wash again. That works on grease stains in general, so it might work here.

If the t-shirts are pure white, you could also try using Rit Color Remover.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2007 at 6:56AM
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I know exactly what this is! I had the same problem last summer.

You have a lot of iron in your water, don't you? The orange stains are a chemical reaction between a certain sunscreen ingredient and the iron in your water. That's why they don't show up until after you wash the item. The culprit is avobenzone (aka Parsol 1789). It is an oxidizer, and it oxidizes the iron in your water. So the stains are basically rust. You never had this problem before because avobenzone just started showing up in run-of-the-mill sunscreens in the last year or two. Water temp, detergent type, etc. don't matter. It's all about the iron in your water.

As for the stains, they'll probably be a challenge to remove. Find a rust remover that's safe for the fabric, and use that. I've had good luck with a product called Magica. You spray it on and the stains just disappear. However, you aren't done. You have to make sure you have removed ALL traces of avobnezone, otherwise the stains will re-appear with the next wash. Sometimes it takes an agressive hand scrubbing to get everything out. And of course, you're scrubbing with.... your iron-rich water, which makes the stains re-appear as you're scrubbing. Gah! It's frustrating! It takes a few cycles of apply rust remover then scrub like crazy, but they can usually be removed. Although, depending on the shirts, it might be more trouble than it's worth.

One of the sunscreen manufacturers suggests that the stains are easily removed by using a detergent with chelating agents, and suggests ALL or Fab. Personally, I have found that this isn't enough for extreme cases like mine but YMMV. A small bottle of All is, what? $4? Might be worth a try.

To avoid having to battle these stains in the future, buy a different sunscreen. Read the ingredient list carefully, and choose one that doesn't contain avobenzone/Parsol 1789. If you must use something with avobenzone, wash your hands thoroughly after applying and make sure it is dry before putting on clothes.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   July 9, 2007 at 12:42PM
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Nisi, good explanation about avobenzone and iron causing stains. I had the same problem and stopped using avobenzone products and switched to products containing titanium dioxide or zinc oxide.

The avovebezone is a UVA ray blocker. UVA rays are the skin-damaging rays that lead to skin cancer. UVB ray blockers prevent you from tanning as quickly, but do not block UVA rays. Ideally, you want a sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays.

The only three ingredients approved by the FDA that can protect skin from UVA damage are avobenzone, titanium dioxide, and zinc oxide. Avobenzone may appear on labels as butyl methoxydibenzoylmethane. (Outside of the US, Tinosorb and Mexoryl SX are also UVA-protecting ingredients.)

If you're going to avoid avobenzone, then look for sunscreens that use titanium oxide or zinc oxide.

I like Paula's Secret products (I buy them online) because they are unscented and don't have that awful (to me) sunscreen perfume scent. Some of the sunscreen products do not contain avobenzone (for example "Extra Care Moisturizing Sunscreen SPF 30+" and "Essential Moisturizing Sunscreen SPF 15 With Antioxidants"). All the ingredients are listed on the web site.


Here is a link that might be useful: Paula's Secret Sunscreens

    Bookmark   July 9, 2007 at 4:57PM
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Wow! Great information y'all! Thanks so much for the replies. This solves the mystery of why this is happening now and didn't in all the years previous. I've been buying sunscreens with the UVA/UVB blockers this year, as that is what my dermatologist recommended. I think I'll try the ALL or FAB detergents before I switch sunscreens, since ring-around-the-collar is unsightly but at least doesn't cause cancer or premature wrinkling. Again, thanks for the great replies.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2007 at 7:25PM
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BTW, I did try the Spray N Wash and it worked great. I will also try the detergents suggested. Thanks everyone.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2007 at 8:35AM
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A resounding "me too!" So any ideas what might cause so much iron in the water? Rusty pipes? Crud in the water heater? Bad water from the well?

    Bookmark   July 15, 2007 at 5:26PM
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stbonner: I might have a solution, but I don't want to be a commercial and blurt it out here.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2007 at 3:14PM
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I realize this is an old post, but the exact same thing happened to me. New white shirt worn on July 4th, orange stains appears around the neck and at the chest. I've washed it 5 times so far (regular wash, White Out, White Out, Oxy, Oxy). So far the stains haven't budged. Very frustrating.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2009 at 9:42AM
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I have the same problem with my clothes. We have a lot of iron in our water even though we have a water softner. I just found that avobenzone is in all of my moisturizers that I use so now that explains why my clothes are turning orange around the necklines. The only thing that I found that takes the iron stains out of WHITE clothing is to soak them in "IRON OUT". You can't use it on colored clothing because it will take the color out.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2011 at 11:58AM
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I have switched to physical sunscreens instead of chemical sunscreens, and have no more problems with staining of clothes. I avoid Avobenzone and instead use sunscreens with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide instead.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2011 at 10:47AM
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To remove those orange avobenzone stains, try The Works bathroom spray cleaner. I have not had luck with the usual pre-wash sprays, but The Works seems! :-) The Works is kind of hard to find. We get it at Menards.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2011 at 10:19PM
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I would try using something like My Clean Shirt it seems to work on all the common stains so, Im thinking it would be worth a shot. You could alway try bleech, but that stuff is so harsh on fabric. I think the My Clean Shirt URL is
Good Luck!

Here is a link that might be useful: My Clean Shirt

    Bookmark   April 20, 2011 at 7:44PM
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i tried everything, pre treating, soaking in tide, dish detergent, wd-40( which lightened it). nothing took it out completely.
Then i tried Lysol toilet bowl cleaner POWER lime and rust. soaked my stains in that and then washed normally and EVERY single stain came out. hope this helps. only took 12 loads to figure it out

    Bookmark   May 30, 2011 at 6:10PM
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I have well water with lots of iron in the water. It stains whites even without sunscreen. So I use OxyClean. That works for everyday whites. But, if you have well water, do not use oxyclean on your whites if they have come into contact with sunscreen containing avobenzone, because you will get the awful orange stains that DO NOT COME OUT. I have found that Johnson's baby daily face & body lotion with SPF 40, does not stain. It contains 100% naturally sourced ingredients and has uva/uvb protection. And its tear free. The downside? Not labeled as waterproof.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2011 at 10:16PM
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Thank you for explaining this mystery. I knew I had iron in my water & suspected my sunscreen of causing stains, but never put the 2 together until now.

Here's my problem - just returned from a week at the beach with brand new clothes I am certain have sunscreen residue on them.

So, I've kept these shirts out of my regular laundry and will take them to the laundromat - which has city water - in hopes of removing the sunscreen rather than chancing it in my washer. Any suggestions on how to ensure the removal of the sunscreen?

What a bummer - I finally found a sunscreen I like & that keeps my very pale complexion from turning lobster colored. Back to the drawing board.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2011 at 11:45AM
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Here in Penna you can find "The Works" toilet bowl cleaner at Weis grocery store. It is not the spray version though. On the bright side you can buy if here for about $2 - so it is really cheap. I am gong to try using that on my organge stains. thanks for the tips!

    Bookmark   June 9, 2011 at 7:19PM
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I just found the answer!!! I couldn't get these awful orange stains out and on a hunch I tried applying grapefruit juice concentrate. I waited a half hour or so, washed them in a pot with dish detergent and they totally came out!!! I'm so excited I had to share this inexpensive and natural solution. :-)

    Bookmark   June 16, 2011 at 2:54PM
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@ Audra - thank you! I had no grapefruit juice concentrate so I tried applying lemon juice - it worked!!

    Bookmark   July 10, 2011 at 5:58PM
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Is avobenzone the same as oxybenzone?

    Bookmark   July 17, 2011 at 9:22AM
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@Theresa, NO.

While avobenzone has long been one of the best UVA absorbers available, it has had to be combined with other ingredients (such as octocrylene and oxybenzone) to remain effective for any extended length of time. On its own, since it was not photostable, it broke down after a relatively short period when exposed to sunlight.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2011 at 10:07AM
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Excellent posts, thank you for sharing your experiments and experiences. I have a couple of shirts where I'm noticing the discoloration my sunscreens (all 4 types have oxybenzone and avobenzone in them)have created,guess I'll have to quit looking for just price and SPF factor now :-p

Off to try a cleaning suggestion....

    Bookmark   August 7, 2011 at 1:38PM
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I have just got thru dealing with this issue.. it was on my husband's favorite White, Margarataville Tank top from Hawaii.. so I tried everything to get it out.. the ONLY thing that worked was spray CLR bathroom clenaer.. Zout did nothing, Spray N Wash did nothing.. I had read on a post that the cleaners for bath tubs work so tried the CLR and it works.. it really does, the tank is spotless white again..

    Bookmark   August 7, 2011 at 1:52PM
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We have used a variety of sunscreens over the years, and there is no doubt that some of that had - or still have - the ingredients mentioned above that are considered the culprits. I always pre-treat with Shout, let sit a couple of minutes, and then toss in the wash. Often these shirts (all cottons as well as poly wicking fabrics) sat a week before they were treated & washed.
For the past several years, our only detergents were All F&C and Charlies Soap. The ring around the collar, on DH's shirts, from sunscreen never became an issue.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2011 at 5:17PM
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