Weird spots showing up on my cotton T Shirts after washing--HELP!

mwkbearJuly 9, 2009

Hi all,

I wear a lot of cotton T-shirts. When I take them out of the wash, I notice that most of them seem to develop these weird "oily" spots all over them, that were NOT there before I washed the clothes. This drives me crazy. I end up having to put stain stick on the spots and re-wash everything constantly.

I have a Maytag Neptune MAH5500, which is about 5 years old. I've had no trouble with it and otherwise it seems to clean my clothing just fine. I've heard that fabric softener might be the cause, but I don't like fabric softener, so I don't use any ever.

I always use a name-brand HE detergent, mostly liquids, but occasionally I will use Tide powder. The detergent doesn't seem to matter; the spots appear no matter what. I always use the measuring cap, but I usually just fill it to the top. Is it possible I'm using too much?

I've tried adding borax, Clorox II, Oxy Clean etc. to the wash, but none of that helps either.

Am I doing something wrong?

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I don't know anything about the Neptune washers, but many years ago my wife kept accusing me of wiping my greasy hands ( worked on our car a lot) on the towels. It turned out the grease was coming out of the top of the agitator on our GE top loader and getting on clothes. Replaced it with a Whirlpool and never looked back.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2009 at 1:42PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

There are only two things that I have seen cause this, one is fabric softner, you don't use it so we can rule that out, the other is cold wash temps, are you using at least warm? If you normally wash in warm water make sure that the water entering the machine is acutally warm by interupting the cycle and feeling the temp with your hand. Occasionally a hot water valve on a machine will either plug up or fail to open. Some machines can detect these water faults and alert you, but older machines may not know the difference. Oh and if you do only cold washes then oxi-clean is not going to really work, sodium percarbonate which is the active ingredient in oxi-clean is activated by warm or hot water. To much detergent could also be a cause, try cutting it in half and see if that helps. Hope this helps.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2009 at 2:29PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

The owners of the smaller 3.1 FriGEMores always complained about greasy spots on clothing and the usual culprit on those machines was premature bearing failure. But if it's ONLY on cotton T-shirts that doesn't make sense.

As far as the detergent amount, the Neptune was a medium capacity 3.3 machine so I would say a full cap is probably too much detergent.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2009 at 3:27PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo


Because I don't have a heater on this machine, I always run it with the hot water. I see steam coming out of the water input and it feels hot going in, so I'm pretty sure that's OK. I suppose it's possible that it's not hot enough, because I keep my home hot water at 120 degrees.

I will try using less detergent, though. I went back to look at the cap and it does have a line about 2/3 of the way up, so maybe I am using too much. I'll see if that helps.

The spots could possibly be happening on other clothing as well, but I haven't noticed it. On my T shirts, it's immediately noticeable. It looks like I spilled food all over myself :(


    Bookmark   July 10, 2009 at 11:51AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Do you cook a lot? I do and I find I have to inspect all of my t-shirts and stain spray every little speck and spot before washing to make sure they don't turn into grease spots. I think teeny little splats morph into bigger splats throughout the laundering process.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2009 at 3:18PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Well, you can rule out the detergent by washing some clothes by hand and see how they turn out. I guess it could be some type of grease or lube used in the machine for the parts, but you said you've had it for a while so it seems unlikely.

Are they like actual round spots or smears? Are they the clear type that just destorts the regular color of the fabric or are they brown or black? The answers to those questions may help narrow down the cause.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2009 at 10:31AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I also get spots- they are sometimes the size of a 'quarter', and sometimes'long-ish'. I don't cook, and sometimes it is the very first time I wash a new item. I notice on the t-shirts the most because they are usually a solid color.
I thought it was the grease in Downy, but you don't use fabric softner...
Please let us know what you find out-PLEASE!

    Bookmark   July 13, 2009 at 1:53AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Are you sure the spots are developing during the wash? What about the dryer? Try drying the t-shirts some other way and see if the spots are there.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2009 at 4:58AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Hi again,

The spots are clear and they are a bit difficult to see, until you shine a bright light on the shirt, then they pop right out.

The best way to describe it is some sort of oily stain that has dried on the shirt. I had thought it might be a weird reaction to my sweat and the detergent, perhaps, but I'm not sure now.

I've tried using less detergent, but that doesn't seem to be helping; I'm still seeing the stains.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2009 at 5:28PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

OK, this is weird... I just found a few greasy spots on a three cotton t-shirts this weekend, too. One splotch was huge! The others were like 1/8" in diameter.

I don't use fabric softener either... and I definitely don't overload on detergent. I used bi-o-kleen premium powder.

I do usually hang everything out on a clothesline, but this load went into the dryer... I hope it's not leaking oil on stuff... I don't use the dryer much at all in the summer months.

The good news is that a rewash with Dawn dish detergent as a prespotter on the spots took them right out.

Keep us posted... I'd like to know what you figure out.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2009 at 8:05PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

could it be purfume ? I know i spray myself everyday.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2009 at 8:57PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

My kids and I used to get these all the time. I was washing dark colored t-shirts twice because after they dried the first time, I'd see the grease spots and have to pre-treat and rewash. I cook but my kids certainly don't so I don't know what causes this. I started ordering STPP from the Chemistry Store and adding that to all my laundry and it's taken care of the problem.


    Bookmark   July 29, 2009 at 9:51AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I am researching the same issue only with my Fisher & Paykel Eco Intuitive washer. Clear oil/grease spots that appear after a wash. Appear on air dried clothes so I know it's the washer vs. the dryer. I'm glad I'm not alone but would love an answer too!

    Bookmark   August 6, 2009 at 5:12PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I have the exact problem. I discovered it was the fabric softener and a certain brand of soap. When I changed detergent brands, or added color-safe bleach, they disappeared.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2009 at 2:38PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I also get these spots... My mom told me a LONG time ago to just wash my tees with Ivory bar soap every once and a while (in the tub with hot water) and it will take them right out. Its always worked.

Also for tees to keep them bright and blacks very black you should wash them once a month in warm water with NO soap and half a cup of white vinegar! don't worry they wont smell bad after.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2011 at 5:10PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I have seen these spots on anything made of cotton (not just t-shirts) but have found they are most obvious on my cotton t-shirts. After some experimenting with my wash, I have learned that detergents for high efficiency (HE)washing machines contain a silicone oil called dimethyl polysiloxane that is used to make the detergent less sudsy.
The spots occur when the detergent comes in direct contact with your cotton clothes before it has completely dissolved in the wash water in the washing machine. Cotton loves to soak up this silicone oil...

What will help: If you have an older washing machine that is not high efficiency, use a laundry soap that is not made for HE machines (I found cold water versions are best). OR you can use as little HE soap as possible and add it to the washing machine first along with a few inches of the warmest water for what you are washing before you add the clothes. If all else fails, repeat the wash cycle with no detergent added before drying the clothes.

If you have an HE machine, you don't have control over when the detergent is added: use as little detergent as possible with the warmest water possible. If the spots are still occurring, try changing detergents or check your washing machines instructions for using detergent not made for an HE machine (most do). You can also repeat the wash cycle without any detergent.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2013 at 10:03AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

@ag925: THANK YOU!!!! I have been driving myself crazy for years now with this problem. I tried every HE detergent available, even the Mrs. Myers and nothing helped. Based on your information about the silicone oil, a friend told me that he makes his own detergent and I found a recipe online for one.

The problem is solved! No more spots on the t-shirts. I am so thankful to you; you don't know how many shirts I've tossed out and how much money I've probably spent on rewashing everything.

For other people who have found this issue, I'd suggest you try the homemade detergent solution. There are many links online for recipes. I'm using the powdered one because it's easier to make than the liquid. My clothes are coming out nice and clean and fresh. I still keep a bottle of commercial detergent on hand for really tough stains, but I don't know if it is necessary really.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2014 at 10:02AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

"If you have an HE machine, you don't have control over when the detergent is added..."

Not necessarily true. That might be your experience, but our HE front-load machine adds the detergent immediately through the soap dispenser.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2014 at 1:34PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Closet Factory

Interesting! I have been wondering for years about this... The spots are only appear on the dark colored cotton shirts in my house. I have used a couple different machines due to moving, but they just been there and following me wherever i go. What's weird is that they usually disappear after the second wash. I've been using all kinds of detergents, usually what's on sale at the time, and mostly top loading machines. If the washer would leak any kind of oil I think it would appear on the lighter colors too. I will experiment mixing the detergent with water by filling up the machine all the way first and then adding the clothes. Sometimes I saw light blue marks on my clothes from the liquid softeners so I stopped using them and it never happened again. Bottom line is I think it's the detergent not diluted enough.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2015 at 1:47PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I once had a GE top load washer that lost the seal on the agitator shaft. My wife kept accusing me of putting clothes with automotive grease on them in with the sheets. We found out the black grease was coming up the shaft and out from under the agitator. What a mess. The good thing was that we replaced it with a Whirlpool top loader that was built like a tank it lasted 19 years and would still be going if there wasn't a bad spot in the tub enamel where the hoses entered. Rusted out there. Got another one with a plastic tub and gave it to my son. It was still running after 25 years when his wife wanted a front loader. Wish I still had it.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2015 at 3:21PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Does Persil Liquid ProClean from Walmart USA contain....
optical brighteners. Their website is next to useless...
Whirlpool Cabrio top loaders vs LG?
Hi all. I am interested in Whirlpool because we can...
Official Cheer HE Powder...Finally
I was so happy to find that P&G now offers Cheer...
How to access Program Mode in Miele W3038
After almost four years without a washer yesterday...
New Tide Turbo Clean HE
Seeing coupons for this in my paper. Is it their response...
Sponsored Products
Designers Fountain 1257M Decorative Flushmount Medium Flushmount - 1257M-WH-AL
$23.50 | Hayneedle
Suction Pad Hook in Chrome, Gold
School's in Session Blackboard
$57.99 | Dot & Bo
Luxury Gold Square Vanity Vessel | Diamond Pattern Bathroom Sink
Rizzy Home Sage 18 Inch x 18 Inch Pillow Cover with Hidden Zipper
$37.00 | Bellacor
Porcelain Vessel Sink
MR Direct Sinks and Faucets
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™