How do I make my clean clothes look clean?
October 19, 2012 10:55 AM   Subscribe

How do I get rid of residue on my clean clothes when I'm using a shared washer in an apartment building?

I live by myself so laundry only happens every few weeks. I usually separate loads into lights and dark/colors. Based on past Asks I've read I fill my detergent to the lowest level marked on the cap. Still, I get white residue on some of my dark clothes. As you can see from the linked pictures, it happens with 100% cotton, spandex and synthetic blend fabrics. All of these examples were not put in the dryer. I haven't noticed it on white clothes, or even all my color clothes, but I can't say it's not there. I currently use All Free & Clear Oxi-active, and like to use something without perfumes since I'm allergic to perfumes, dyes and other nasty stuff.

My building has two old industrial washers and two dryers in the basement with very basic controls (ie. no extra rinse cycles). They are used by 6 units, and I can't control what my neighbors put in them. Because I have to pay for every load I don't run machines to clean them. My landlord is quick to fix big problems, but this is not the kind of big problem I can come to him with. What might be causing this to happen and what can I do to stop it from happening in the future?
posted by Bunglegirl to Home & Garden (17 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Vinegar has worked for me.
posted by decathecting at 11:06 AM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yeah I came in to suggest vinegar. If you do a load of jeans, the vinegar will just help set the dye, and I've not noticed that it makes my jeans any more or less "soft" than fabric softener (right, you just put it in the way you would fabric softener, FYI).

In my front loading machine, running vinegar through it with a load has really cleaned it up.
posted by Medieval Maven at 11:08 AM on October 19, 2012

Also came in to suggest vinegar. I slosh some into the top-loader once it's almost done filling, and it really helps my darks wear well, as well as keeping yicky remnants off the stuff I don't throw in the dryer.
posted by Urban Winter at 11:32 AM on October 19, 2012

And maybe do the towels first ....
posted by tilde at 11:40 AM on October 19, 2012

In this scenario, I would definitely do the linens first, then do the clothes with vinegar.
posted by batmonkey at 12:07 PM on October 19, 2012

Response by poster: I generally throw a towel or two in with my lights every time and if I'm doing linens I usually include white clothes because I don't have that many lights to begin with. Do people washing for one really separate out to that degree? Is this really causing problems?

I don't use fabric softener or dryer sheets because my skin doesn't like it and my doctor as told me to skip it because it's too irritating.

Should I only use vinegar with darks, or with all loads?
posted by Bunglegirl at 12:27 PM on October 19, 2012

This looks like an issue with hard water to me. Probably there is some mineral build-up in your machines. Vinegar or water softener in each load will probably help, but it might be more efficient to actually clean out the machines if possible. I have no experience with this, but here are a couple of links that look like a place to start:
Hard Water and Laundry Problems
How to Clean Hard Water Deposits from the Washing Machine
posted by zadermatermorts at 12:29 PM on October 19, 2012

I use vinegar instead of fabric softener. I have incredibly sensitive skin (to perfumes) and find it actually helps.
posted by pixiecrinkle at 12:33 PM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

To answer your question about sorting - I wash new items separately (or with a load of towels) to see if they are going to run, then after that, I sort my laundry more by weight than color. Socks/underwear in one load, jeans/sweatshirts in another. T-shirts and polo shirts get moved between those 2 loads depending on which one has more space available, or they become their own separate load if both are full.

Everything goes in cold water.
posted by CathyG at 12:50 PM on October 19, 2012

I soften water by adding borax to my loads. It really helps the detergent to be more effective and also kills dust mites on bedding.
posted by quince at 1:17 PM on October 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

I generally throw a towel or two in with my lights every time and if I'm doing linens I usually include white clothes because I don't have that many lights to begin with. Do people washing for one really separate out to that degree? Is this really causing problems?

I generally do what you're doing--I don't separate towels or linens from my other clothes, unless I have enough for a full load. But in your case, I would follow the advice above and do your linens/lights load first, with a vinegar rinse, to clean out the machine before washing your colors/darks.
posted by donajo at 1:20 PM on October 19, 2012

Best answer: My grandfather was a scientific laundry expert. He had a research lab in his house, and this residue issue was how he distinguished his services. He sent a new handkerchief to every cleaner in Dayton Ohio, and all but his came back heavier than they started.

Firstly, he determined by testing that 1/2 of the amount of detergent recommended on the package is optimal.

Depending on the machines you use, this might be possible: start the wash cycle with the lid open and the machine empty. It will fill up, and then it will pause until the lid is closed. Add your detergent, close the lid until it agitates a few cycles, pause the machine, open the lid and then add your laundry to the soapy water.

If your machine can be paused and opened, you can go in there halfway through the rinse cycle, and using a laundry paddle, also known as a stick, re-position the laundry that is clumped up.

He warned all of us heirs not to expect a big future in the kind of business he was doing. The reason, he said, was Woolite. He said it was an amazing product, by his tests. Woolite makes a number of laundry machine products, not just delicates.

Depending on the economics of your machine access, you might consider as I sometimes do, running the load again with no soap, cold only, max fill.
posted by StickyCarpet at 1:24 PM on October 19, 2012 [8 favorites]

That looks to me like what happens when the washer is over-filled with clothes. The clothes need to be able to really move around and get their groove on in the sudsy water; if the basket is crammed so full they can barely wiggle a little, they're not going to get rinsed well.
posted by xedrik at 1:28 PM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

This problem happens to me, too!

If no one minds a tiny threadjack, would someone please clarify if vinegar is just for odors or also for the weird residue? And you just...pour it in, with detergent? I don't have a Downy Ball, like mentioned in decathecting's link.
posted by troika at 2:32 PM on October 19, 2012

Best answer: These are the step-by-step directions for cleaning out a washing machine with vinegar - bonus, it should also help if hard water's the problem.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 2:38 PM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

This may seem obvious, but are you checking the machines before you put the clothes in? In my apartment building I discovered that someone and/or something was occasionally leaving the washer tub covered in white streaks of...white stuff, and realized that's what would occasionally get on my clothes.
posted by Room 641-A at 3:03 PM on October 19, 2012

Cleaning the machine should really be the landlord's mission, so it might be a good idea to just ping him with a cheerful note asking when he does that particular bit of maintenance.

As for using vinegar, I put it in with the soap while the machine is filling, before the clothes.

I really do separate clothing from household linens. I learned the hard way when I was younger that linens and clothing don't get along very well and have different experiences in the washer and dryer, so something ridiculous would happen from time to time making this division worthwhile. I've been known to handwash something that I really wanted/needed to wear again if it hadn't seemed worth taking that load in, yet.

Good note about not cramming the washer basket above. Also, don't dry dark clothing with anything light coloured or fluffy.
posted by batmonkey at 5:01 PM on October 19, 2012

« Older What legal recourse is there for a seller who...   |   How do you recognize a gifted chemist? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.