help with washcloth centers turning dark gray

heloise_fanSeptember 28, 2009

I have an Asko front loader and wash all my washcloths & towels on high heat. For over a year every washcloth soon ends up with a big dark gray center, worse when held up to a light.

NOTE: I do not wear any makeup nor does anyone living/staying here. I do not use tooth whitener. I do not clean with the washcloths, only shower or wash my face. I use Purpose face cleanser (pure) but I do use the Aveeno shower gel that is lavender scented and comes out of the bottle white. I use Tide HD Free and run them on 7 rinses in the Asko and dry in the dryer.

Any ideas? I am stumped and tired of buying new ones only to see them all end up the same way. This has really been going on through about 5 packs of washcloths, some white, some cream. They are from various makers.


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Mine do the same thing. It's a common problem, I understand related to use of liquid body wash and bath gels. Adding some phosphates (STPP, see the Laundry Room FAQ) to the wash helps but doesn't completely remove/prevent the graying in my experience with it. Although it's a bit unsightly, graying doesn't prevent a wash cloth from doing its job.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2009 at 11:07PM
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The Aveeno wash in particular stained about a half-dozen of my kids washcloths before I realized what was going on. I sent an email to their support folks but never heard anything back -- perhaps you could try a call?

Oh, and after 6 months of washing with just-about-everything, the stains are still visible. Sorry! As you can imagine, I dumped all their products when I discovered what the cause was...

    Bookmark   September 28, 2009 at 11:28PM
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Now I'm going to have to start watching my washcloths. I just purchased the Aveeno body soap at Costco last week. Does this show up after so many rounds of use?

    Bookmark   September 29, 2009 at 12:10AM
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I thought my washcloths that looked dingy and dirty were due to my DH not rinsing the cloth out fully when finished and the combination of the dirt and soap not being rinsed and left to sit on the wash cloth, was the problem.

I hadn't bought any new ones to try for just myself. I bought brown ones for him to use from now on. Makes me sick to see my expensive washcloths that are still perfectly good, so ugly and dingy. My cleaning rags look better!!

We use a variety of different liquid soaps because it keeps the tub and shower area so much cleaner. If I can't cure the dingy problem I'll just have to resort to buying brown or other dark colors for our wash cloths. I hate seeing the white ones so dingy and dirty looking.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2009 at 1:48AM
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I go to Target or Kohls and get a pack of 12 washcloths for $2-4. They have them in various colors depending on the season. I use them once to wash my face then put them in the laundry basket. (This is supposed to help keep bacteria off of your face - don't know if it helps.) But, you don't ruin good washcloths with the face cleansers and scrubs. After a while they get pretty tattered, but I keep them in a cabinet and can't see them so it is OK. When I can't stand them anymore I buy new ones when I see a sale.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2009 at 5:04PM
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I usually always put 1/4-1/3 cup of powdered dishwasher detergent in my white towel/sheet loads... sort of like bleach, high phosphate levels (sort of like stpp)... my whites are usually very sparkling... except for the very old stuff...

    Bookmark   September 29, 2009 at 10:32PM
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I've used shower gel for, geez decades now and don't have this problem although my washcloths aren't white. I used to always use borax and dishwasher detergent but now I don't use additives much. I just bought a package of white ones. Guess I'll see what happens there. I tend to use 2-3 washcloths when I shower, rinse them well, although sometimes I'll leave the liquid hand soap in them to "pretreat" stains. A lot of times I use cheap dish soap to make hand soap.

Maybe you could try a presoak for a while with dishwashing detergent and/or borax?

BTW, out of curiosity, between 7 rinses and the washing and prewash if you use it, any idea how much water that unit takes? I'm just curious.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2009 at 11:25PM
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I was able to remove the graying on my washcloths with the use of 20 Mule Borax. It took about 4 to 6 washes to completely reverse the staining, but it did eventually all go away.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2009 at 9:59AM
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The particular problem I had was with the Aveeno Oatmeal body wash -- no other gel/wash/soap had ever caused anything like this. It was almost like a chemical reaction between the leftover soap on the washcloth vs. the detergent because it came out dark grey / black after washing in the exact spots I'd used the wash, right down to the fold pattern.

Someone posted the exact same issue on the Clorox 'Dr. Laundry' site -- scroll down a bit in the window to see. I'd even tried chlorine bleach on mine and they didn't come out, btw.

Here is a link that might be useful: Clorox - Dr. Laundry

    Bookmark   September 30, 2009 at 12:01PM
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I noticed the same thing with my white wash clothes. I found using a bit more laundry detergent and longer, hot washes solved the problem. I still use much less than recommended on the detergent bottle.

With my water, it is not easy to find the exact amount of detergent to use with my white towels. If I use a bit too much, I have to run extra rinses. If I don't use quite enough, then over time the wash cloths start looking dingy in the middle.

You could try running a long, hot wash with extra detergent, even if it means you have to run extra rinses after the cycle is over to get all the detergent out. At least you can see if that fixes the problem.


    Bookmark   September 30, 2009 at 12:56PM
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Holy cow! 7 rinses in the Asko, phosphates, powdered dishwasher detergent, 20 Mule Borax for 4 to 6 washes, chlorine bleach, more laundry detergent and longer, hot washes. All to get washcloths white? Seems like a lot of time, water, energy - both human and electric - and chemicals to get small squares of cloth spotless. I know there are folks here who take their laundry seriously but this seems extreme. And a bit obsessive. Save the earth, buy colored linens.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2009 at 7:08PM
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Thanks for telling me about having the same problem with the Aveno. We use the lavender one for the last 2 years, that's when it started. I have bought plenty new ones since, mostly the cheap packs at BB&B, but some better, always end up the same.

I just wanted to know why it was happening. No other towels or linens, just the washcloths. I think it's the Aveno, I squirt it right in the middle of the washrag before using it, that's just where the stains are. I may try an experiment and buy a pack of cloths that I use for everything except Aveno and find out for sure.

As for longer washes, I don't think you can go longer than the Asko on stain cycle 180 and higher degrees, it takes about 2 hours to wash one load.Colored washcloths couldn't be sanitized at that heat, over time they would show color damage too. Anyhow the cheap ones are always white or cream. I don't want fading and buy only white and cream towels and washcloths so I can wash all of them together on high heat for sanitizing instead of bleaching.

Joe in Philly, do you only get it on the wash cloths and do you use any shower gel or Aveno?

    Bookmark   October 16, 2009 at 4:12AM
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7 rinses in the Asko, phosphates, powdered dishwasher detergent, 20 Mule Borax for 4 to 6 washes, chlorine bleach, more laundry detergent and longer, hot washes. All to get washcloths white?

Sort of takes the "high" out of HE, doesn't it? ;-)

    Bookmark   October 16, 2009 at 10:01AM
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I had the same problem with the Aveeno body wash. It turned the centers of my brand new white washcloths grey, the very first time I used it. It must be a chemical reaction, becuase the aveeno itself is a white liquid. Also, it seems that body washes in general have made my washcloths stiff, crusty and slimy, even after washing. It's like the laundry detergent can't get all of the body wash residue out.

My husband loves aveeno, so I am just going to have him use colored wash cloths. But I still want to get the grey stains out of the white ones. I have tried hot water with oxyclean, I tried vinegar, and of course bleach. These reduce, but not elimate the crusty, slimy feel, but do nothing for the grey stains.

Has anyone had any luck getting their washcloths white again after using aveeno?

    Bookmark   January 9, 2010 at 2:31PM
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As for any brand liquid body soap will cause graying in the center of your wash cloths. I stopped using them because of this embarrassing problem.

Increase your detergent amount or change your HE detergent for your whites for a little while.
I know it sounds stupid but think of detergent as an antibiotic, if it used all the time it will stop working.

When I use my TOL TLd'r I used Tide with Bleach for the the soak cycle and for the main wash with LCB and the stains never came out.
I've switched washers and detergents and what a difference, all my face cloths are back to white again.

Since you already using a FL'r, stop using liquid body soap and change detergents for a little while and get back to us.....

Currently I'm using Tide Powder He Original, Era He, Liquid Tide He with Bleach Alternative, STTP, LCB (when needed) Vinegar and Downey Total Care.

Here is a link that might be useful: Look at Post # 354797

    Bookmark   January 10, 2010 at 10:12AM
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we prefer the liquid body soap and just use the cleaning 'poofs' instead of washcloths. after using we rinse thoroughly in the shower (until no soap is left and then for a few second longer) to clean. and then we just replace them periodically - when we buy new soap at costco we get a new one, or occasionally i'll just pick one up at the drug store. if you like the Aveeno you might think about switching to the poofs and avoiding the washcloth problem altogether. they ick some people out but i haven't had any issues with them

    Bookmark   January 10, 2010 at 10:27AM
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I completely agree with aboc1212 on this one!

I am a bath freak and use a multitude of products. Some of them leave various stains from either oils or colorants in them. I started using a bath puff for liquid soaps and I have a soap saver bag I use with bar soaps. I no longer have an issue with stains on washcloths. It makes life a whole lot easier. Once in a while I run these through the wash (but not the dryer) with a load of whites and a bit of bleach. It keeps them sanitary and saves a lot of staining headaches.

Either switch to poofs/puffs or get off the aveeno and onto another product that won't stain your washcloths.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2010 at 9:09PM
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I have had the same problem with my white washcloths. I have tried just about everything including long hot washes with STPP, high quality European detergents, LCB, presoaking, prewashing and just about everything else short of soaking them in gasoline and setting them on fire.

One Saturday I actually boiled all of my white washcloths in a large stock pot on the stove for an hour with a generous dose of STPP, and then washed them on on the Sanitary cycle in my LG with good detergent, STPP and sodium percarbonate.

They turned out quite nice, but they really don't stay that way when you use them with liquid body washes!

    Bookmark   January 12, 2010 at 10:39PM
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We've had this happen with Burt's Bees No Cry Shampoo/body wash and Method's children's line, as well. I suspect that it is something related to the natural products (hence Aveeno) over other liquid soaps. We've never noted this discoloration with any other soaps/shampoos, including J&J's No More Tears.

I think we'll just go with grey washcloths from now on...

    Bookmark   March 14, 2010 at 1:50PM
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Best way to get stains out is to boil them out on top of the stove in small amount of water and extra detergent that has phosphates-even dishwashing detergent.
Better yet, buy colored ones!

    Bookmark   March 15, 2010 at 1:28AM
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Don't throw away the face cloths throw out the Shower Gels. I also have this problem down here in Pretoria, South Africa. I have a very sensitive skin and am concerned with not so much the grey mark left on the face cloth. but the chemical causing it from the shower gel..... What is doing this and what is its effect on our skins? (Old fashioned soap never left a mark like these new products.) Albeit that they are 'natural' thet still leave a mark after only one use. I have now decided to avoid all the gels with chemical ingreds and will only go for the ones that come clean on my cloth. (Like the natural oils). Funnily enough these are the very ones that don't cause' my skin to itch. .

    Bookmark   December 30, 2011 at 5:17AM
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Most of these so-called "natural" products (bath, skincare, dental care, cosmetics) have stuff in them that can be doing all sorts of things to our skin. And bodies. And washcloths. Read the ingredients on labels. If you cannot pronounce it or tell anyone exactly what it is without "Googling", it is likely not natural. Whatever touches our skin is absorbed into our system. Skin is our body's largest organ. Aveeno is not "natural", although few of its ingredients (oats) are. Same goes for a lot of other brands.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2011 at 9:37AM
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Had to laugh at the phosphates comments. you can't even get phosphate dishwasher detergents any more. they are now phosphate free--at least where I live! I bought several boxes of Finish WITH phosphates, before the ban. they will get me thru the next few years, as we only use a tiny amount with each cycle.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2011 at 3:11PM
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WOW, thank you for this. I thought i was going crazy. Accusing my poor boyfriend of wiping sinks and washing with his darks. I cannot believe the answer was so simple. It makes perfect sense. I just started using Aveeno original. I used it at my dads house and i liked it. Now , not so much. it makes me wander what it does to our skin? Thank s for so much info.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2014 at 10:30AM
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I did write about this problems years ago and there are photos to show that this is universal and it's not one manufacture of body wash, but all!

Use link and scroll down to see photos.

Here is a link that might be useful: Greying wash clothes

    Bookmark   July 6, 2014 at 11:11AM
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My nephew does his own laundry and my partner pointed out to me that the load in the dryer was washed and grey. Socks, towels and undershirts just looked awful and I will have to teach him how to properly wash clothes so they do not looked like ho-bo specials!

I rewashed those dirty looking items and after 3 hours of treatments they are bright and white!

Liquid Tide with Bleach for long pre-wash cycle.
(My pre-wash is the normal cycle warm water without the pre-wash being used)
Drain and cancel cycle.

Set washer to sanitary/white cycle.
Use Tide with Bleach powder and let wash for 15 minuets then add 3/4 cup of LCB directly into the wash and to the bleach dispenser. Make sure washer cycle is set for longest sanitary cycle.

Use Normal cycle without detergent to deep rinse.
No pre-wash.
Normal Cycle, light soil.
Turn off extra rinse.
Add fabric softener and dry.
And here are the proof of deep cleaning my way!

I know that this is excessive but this is the only way they come out close to perfect in a front loader.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2014 at 12:15PM
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These stains are definitely a chemical reaction from body wash...I don't use Aveeno, I use Dove. I have been disposing of washcloths after a time. and really not knowing why...until realizing that the mysterious stain on my tub surround was directly beneath where I hang my washcloth! Can we even to begin to imagine what these products are doing to our skin? I am switching back to bar soap! Will let you know if I receive a response from the manufacturer.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2014 at 11:59AM
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I use Dove liquid soap because I don't itch from it. But I have noticed that my white washcloths are all turning dark in the centers. I used to have dark cloths and must not have noticed. The reason I use liquid soap is because it makes supposedly doesn't scum up the shower like bar soap. I seem to have noticed a difference in the last 3 years Ive been using liquid soap. So I either have washcloths that are dark centered, or scummy shower. I hate cleaning tough scum.

When I wash the cloths, I use a bit of STPP and oxygen bleach, along with laundry soap and a very hot wash at 140 degrees. It seems to work fairly well.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 4:00PM
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Even though this is an old thread, I'm so glad to see this problem is not mine alone. I never had problems with washclothes until I moved to Florida 3 years ago. I bought new linens when I moved, so I was upset to see dingy washcloths. They aren't even a light color, but medium blue or orange. I too blamed my new HE Whirlpool washer and accused my husband of using the good washclothes as rags!

I am currently using a Nivea body wash, but I think the water here may be the problem. Our water has a lot of iron; maybe it's a chemical reaction with it?

    Bookmark   October 9, 2014 at 10:38AM
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