The Mystery of the Blue Spots: Why do my clothes get stains in the wash?
October 18, 2013 3:04 PM   Subscribe

In the last few weeks, blue stains have shown up on my daughter's shirts after washing them. They weren't there before I washed the clothes. They don't show up on anyone else's clothes. I can't get them out. Any ideas about how to get the stains out and how to prevent other shirts from getting stained?

A little more info:

I wash all of our family's laundry together. The spots only show up on my daughter's tops (shirts/sweaters).

Laundry is sorted into lights and darks.

The tops are all 100% cotton.

My daughter is a preschooler, and it's pretty typical that she gets her shirts messy, but none of these blue spots were on her shirts when they went into the washer.

The spots have all shown up on the front or cuffs of the shirts--prime spots for my daughter to get something on them. No spots on the backs of shirts.

Google tells me that greasy stains that appear after washing might be due to a problem with the machine, but these stains aren't greasy. They're just blue spots.

I was using Purex free and clear until a few weeks ago. Spots started appearing after I started using Seventh Generation free and clear.

I do the wash in cold water.

OxyClean soaks in warm/hot water don't get these stains out.

OxyClean in the wash cycle doesn't prevent/undo these stains. (Realizing that this might be due to the cold water.)

It's a front-loading washer.

I'm thinking that my next step is to run the washer's pure cycle, which is supposed to remove mold from the machine (haven't seen any, but, hey, can't hurt, right?), and then try a load with Purex, OxyClean, and warm water, but I am a bit afraid to sacrifice another batch of her clothes to experiments.

Would be grateful for any help/advice/ideas you might have about how to save the affected shirts and/or how to prevent any more shirts from suffering the same fate.
posted by TEA to Home & Garden (12 answers total)
Are they all the same size or random? And perfectly round spots or random shapes?
posted by bowmaniac at 3:18 PM on October 18, 2013

Sometimes, I put Finish dishwasher tablets into the machine by mistake instead of Calgon, and I get blue spots on my clothes.
posted by tel3path at 3:19 PM on October 18, 2013

Response by poster: Bowmaniac: different shapes, mostly roundish, no bigger than a quarter

posted by TEA at 3:53 PM on October 18, 2013

Do you use fabric softener? This happened to my laundry for a while and I figured out it was the Downy I was using. In my machine there is a receptacle for fabric softener. In an unrelated matter, the cup for it broke and I could see a lot of blue gunk inside the dispenser--must have had years of buildup.

I stopped using the dispenser and now just add the fabric softener to the rinse, making sure to swish it around well. No spots since.

I use bulk-sized jugs of Downy, and it gets a little gunky at the bottom. I dilute it a bit and I think that also prevents more blue spots.
posted by methroach at 3:57 PM on October 18, 2013

Also, if most/all of the all-cotton clothing that you wash in the machine happen to be your daughter's then that could explain why you only notice the stains on hers. Natural fibres, especially cotton, 'take' dyes better.
posted by methroach at 4:01 PM on October 18, 2013

Do you give your daughter hand sanitizer? That has been known to stain clothing, and it seems consistent with the location.

Or she doing something at preschool that is perhaps staining her clothing, but isn't showing up until it is washed/dried? Based on location, it seems like it could be something that splashes a bit on her clothes during the process, like rinsing a paintbrush in water or something.
posted by SpacemanStix at 4:46 PM on October 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

I have not had good luck with Seventh Generation laundry detergent, myself. I use Arm and Hammer unscented with vinegar.

What really helps is those color and dirt catchers. Carbona makes them and they are cheaper than other brands.

You could try spot cleaning one of her shirts with Dawn, but once they are set, it might be hard to get out.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 5:14 PM on October 18, 2013

I was using Purex free and clear until a few weeks ago. Spots started appearing after I started using Seventh Generation free and clear.

Laundry soaps have contained bluing for hundreds of years.

My guess is that some kind of colorless fixative or mordant used in the art sessions at your daughter's preschool got on her clothes, and when you washed them, it pulled in some bluing from your detergent.

I looked at the Seventh Generation website, but I couldn't find out whether their laundry detergents use bluing or not.
posted by jamjam at 8:41 PM on October 18, 2013

Are these stains visible when they are dry?

My husband gets something similar on his white work shirts. When they dry, the stains disappear. I don't know what the heck they are, but as long as they go away, I have decided not to care.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 9:31 PM on October 18, 2013

Why don't you just switch back to the old stuff, or to vinegar+baking soda?
posted by oceanjesse at 11:55 PM on October 18, 2013

Does she stick crayons in her pockets?
posted by SillyShepherd at 5:02 AM on October 19, 2013

I've gotten similar stains from detergent or softener not dissolving properly. Add detergent directly to the water as it's filling, then add the clothes, and make sure the dispenser for softener isn't clogged. Also make sure the loads you are doing aren't too big. I've found that prevents detergent from distributing evenly, too.
posted by catatethebird at 7:27 AM on October 19, 2013

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