Weird oil stains on laundry
October 18, 2021 7:34 PM   Subscribe

The title sums it up. Often after we do laundry, our clothing will get these weird oil-looking stains. They ruin shirts :(. We haven't washed a chapstick or anything like that. We use liquid arm and hammer detergent. Any ideas?
posted by bookworm4125 to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Have you noticed if they appear after washing but before the dryer? Potentially could be oil leaking from the washing machine itself, if one of the seals inside the transmission is leaking.
posted by Wretch729 at 7:55 PM on October 18, 2021

I have troubles with the gasket on my cheap front loading washer. It happens when I over fill the washer and try and take them all out at once. Large white blankets especially.
posted by nathaole at 8:21 PM on October 18, 2021 [2 favorites]

Are they a specific shape or in a specific place?
posted by bq at 8:23 PM on October 18, 2021

I sometimes have issues with this, and I haven't figured out the cause. However, sometimes rewashing helps (I use a laundromat, so there is a period of weeks before I can do that.)

One of my guesses is that it's about detergent (or a detergent pod, in specific) pooling in a weird way.

Using a stain remover on the spots, letting it soak on the long side for the instructions, and then washing has worked best at recovering from the stains. (I've had the best luck with Grandma's Secret Stain Remover, but a Tide pen has also worked in some cases.)
posted by jenettsilver at 8:43 PM on October 18, 2021

I encountered this years ago, and as I recall it’s usually caused by old detergent or fabric softener built up in the innards of the machine. Running cycles with water and white vinegar may clean that out.

If it’s a top loader, you may be able to pull up the spindle to see if there’s gunk under it.
posted by schoolgirl report at 8:54 PM on October 18, 2021 [3 favorites]

I get this. It almost always comes out on the next wash if I use some product on it. I always thought it had something to do with the way I loaded, and how much I loaded, the detergent. Upon reading some of the answers about leaky gaskets, I am not convinced that is the explanation for my spots. Maybe for theirs. I just repaired my washing machine myself, Had the top off and the basket very moveable. No oil anywhere in the inside.
posted by AugustWest at 10:40 PM on October 18, 2021

I get this from liquid detergent getting in contact with clothes direct before they have been saturated in the water, I’ve switched to powder detergent and don’t have this problem anymore. I never got the stains out, sadly.
posted by pairofshades at 10:58 PM on October 18, 2021

I too associate those stains with undiluted liquid detergent touching the clothing. I usually put the liquid detergent into the bottom of the machine and throw a towel or jammies or some other robust, un-wreckable item over the puddle of soap, before filling the rest of the way with clothing and water. That keeps the undiluted detergent away from any clothing I like.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 11:32 PM on October 18, 2021 [2 favorites]

The pre-treatment I like is Goop Hand-Cleaner, used with a vegetable brush. Wait.
posted by tmdonahue at 5:33 AM on October 19, 2021

This has happened to me with pods. Included with the laundered clothes was a not-completely dissolved pod. Per advice found on the internet, I put the offended clothes through a full wash cycle, warm water, no detergent. To my surprise, the spots came out.
posted by lhauser at 5:57 AM on October 19, 2021

My housemate started having mysterious oval shaped grease marks on the front of his shirts. We figured it was something at his job he was leaning over but could not figure out what. Couldn't get the grease out, so a number of the more tatty work shirts ended up in the rag bag. About three months later he was making popcorn and put the bottom of the popcorn jar against his belly to stabilize it while he closed the tight lid and saw the grease stain appear. It was oil from the bottom of that jar which stood on top of the fridge beside the dribbly oil bottle he uses to make popcorn.

If the oil stains are all on shirts consider a possible source like this.
posted by Jane the Brown at 6:59 AM on October 19, 2021 [1 favorite]

Are you washing your laundry at home, on your own equipment, or in a laundromat? Many laundromats will have machines designated for oily rags (shop rags, mechanic's overalls, etc.), but not everyone follows those guidelines. If someone washes a load of oily rags, overalls, uniforms, etc. in a machine, anyone who follows after is going to have a very bad day.
posted by xedrik at 8:04 AM on October 19, 2021

Response by poster: We have our own washer/dryer, stacking (front loading). It has a compartment where you pour in the detergent, so I dont think we can add the detergent to the washer before the water starts. We use liquid arm and hammer, not pods or powder. Maybe I should try powder. I think we replaced the gasket recently but I will double check. Thanks for several ideas.
posted by bookworm4125 at 10:12 AM on October 19, 2021

Response by poster: Ack, sorry for second response. They look like oil spots on the fronts (and maybe backs?) of shirts, usually t shirts. Several of our t shirts have been ruined b/c of these stains. They're circular-ish/blobby.
posted by bookworm4125 at 10:14 AM on October 19, 2021

I used to have this issue quite a bit and eventually pinned it down to the often silicone-based anti-foaming agents in HE detergents--Seventh Generation was the worst offender for me. For us it may have been the fact that our water is on the softer side (not machine softened but naturally softer). I've had better luck with both pods and powdered detergent.
posted by pinwheel spark at 10:46 AM on October 19, 2021

FWIW, I have been using this powder in our HE front-loader and it's been great. Cleans clothes well, no stains or issues. 40-pound tub for $30-ish and it's lasted the pair of us two and a half years and counting. I use 1-2 tablespoons per load, depending on soil level and load size. About once a week or so, I'll run a hot water load with just bleach in it, to help clean things out and freshen the machine, and as always, when the load is finished, I leave the door ajar and either remove the pull-out soap tray or leave it open enough to get some air in there.
posted by xedrik at 11:30 AM on October 19, 2021

Response by poster: Thanks xedrik! Just ordered it.
posted by bookworm4125 at 4:26 PM on October 19, 2021

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