how to get detergent stains out of clothes

How to Get Detergent Stains Out of Clothes in 9 Ways

I could list a thousand types of stains, but I had no idea that laundry detergent stains were possible. I only took notice of them after I started using a HE washer. Literally, this felt like my worst failure, having known the strong record I have in my family for smoking all kinds of stains out of clothes, upholstery, carpets and everywhere else you can think of.

As an avid DIYist, I resulted to a trial and error journey that yielded some incredible results. It is through the process that I learnt several methods that you can use to get rid of detergent and fabric softener stains effortless. But before it gets here, it is better that you start by learning how to keep detergent from staining your clothes.


The best way to get detergent stains out of clothes is by using a solution of vinegar and water. Add 1 part vinegar and 3 parts water into the washer and run the garment through a normal wash cycle. Alternatively, combine water and vinegar in the same ratio in a wash basin and soak the garment for 15 minutes before handwashing. Don’t like the smell of vinegar? Well, you can keep off this method by using lemon juice, lemon juice and salt, baking soda paste, rubbing alcohol, bar soap, dish soap or bleach.

6 Ways to Prevent Detergent Stains

There are many methods to remove detergent stains from clothes successfully, but why not learn how to avoid them in the first place? Causes of detergent stains are as many as the stains removal methods. Having the causes at your fingertips helps you reduce the chances of leaving detergent stains on clothes as much as possible.

1. How Well Do You Rinse Your Clothes?

If your clothes do not rinse properly, there is a high chance of ending up with detergent stains. This might happen when handwashing or machine washing your clothes. If you hand wash clothes, ensure that you inspect every part of your garment for stains during rinsing.

One way to determine whether you have rinsed off all the detergent is by looking the final rinsing water. If it has soapy residue, this is enough cause for alarm.

Rinse the garment again and inspect it on the outside and in the inside to determine whether it has detergent stains.

When machine washing, detergent stains are common among HE washers. High efficiency machines utilize less water as compared to traditional machines. If you use more than the recommended amount of detergent in this kind of a washer, it is almost impossible to stay away from detergent stains because clothes do not rinse properly.

2. Are You Using Warm or Cold Water?

The composition of most detergents has changed over time and this creates a problem when using the cold water setting. Some liquid detergents do not disperse well in cold water and some powdered options do not dissolve completely.

The warm water setting reduces the chance of experiencing this challenge significantly.

3. Are you Using Powdered Detergent with Hard Water?

powder detergent

If your local area has had water issues, this could be the source of your problem. Hard water does not combine well with most detergents, and powdered detergent most of all.

Use liquid detergent only and ensure that you combine it with water first before placing your clothes in the machine.

4. When do you Place Clothes in the Drum?

Do you begin by placing clothes in your washer’s drum then follow up by adding the detergent or the other way round? The best way to avoid detergent stains is by adding detergent first. Preferably, ensure that it disperses properly in the water before throwing your clothes in.

If it is powder detergent, let it dissolve in the water first.

This prevents concentrated detergent from ending up as stains on some sections of your clothes. You also use less water in the rinse cycle.

5. Are You Overstaffing or Overloading your Washer?

Whether the capacity of your washer is small, medium or large, always load it with the recommended amount of weight. Overloading a machine prevents detergent from distributing properly and the load from washing as well as it should.

There should be enough room in the machine’s drum for clothes to clean thoroughly and become stains free.

6. Do you Use the Right Amount of Detergent?

Using too much detergent can leave stains on your clothes. Detergent lathers in water and when there is too much lather, clothes become excessively soapy. This can prevent traces of detergent left on the clothes from getting absorbed into the water.

How to Get Detergent Stains out of Clothes in 9 Ways

Removing detergent stains out of clothes isn’t difficult. And the best part is that you can choose your preferred method depending on the cleaners you have at home or other factors known to you.

Method 1. Water and Vinegar

Vinegar is a magical cleaner for an array of stains, laundry detergent stains included. If your garment comes out of the washer looking bad with blue laundry detergent stains all over, just grab a bottle of vinegar and follow the steps below to make it look as good as new.

  1. For hand washing, mix three parts warm water and 1 part vinegar in a sink or tub.
  2. Gently place the garment inside and ensure that it is completely submerged.
  3. Let it soak for 20 minutes then gently scrub the stains with hands by rubbing one part of the garment against another. Alternatively, use a soft brush to scrub the stain.
  4. Continue to scrub until the stains clear.
  5. Empty the tub and fill it with clean water.
  6. Rinse the garment and hang to dry.
  7. If using a washer, mix water and vinegar in the ratio of 3:1 and presoak your garments for 20 minutes.
  8. Run the clothes through a normal wash cycle, ensuring that you do not overload your machine.
  9. Rinse and dry as usual in the tumble dryer.

Method 2. Use Dish Soap

Dish soap gets all sorts of stains from clothes, and works even better when mixed with vinegar and baking soda. This combination is perfect when dealing with dry detergent stains, which are relatively harder to remove with other methods.

  1. Mix liquid dish soap with vinegar in a spray bottle in the ratio of 1:1 and shake the mixture well.
  2. Sprinkle baking soda on the stain and spray the spot with the vinegar solution.
  3. Wash the stain with your hands or use a soft brush to scrub it repeatedly.
  4. Rinse the spot under running water and observe whether the stain has disappeared.
  5. Repeat the steps until the stain disappears completely and do the same with each stain if the garment is covered with multiple stains.
  6. Finish up by handwashing the garment or running it through a normal laundry cycle in the washing machine.
  7. Dry as normal

Method 3. Use Bar Soap

In the presence of a wide range of home cleaning agents, bar soap takes the trophy for the most trivial tasks. But surprisingly, unscented bar soap removes fabric softener and detergent stains with ease.

  1. If the stained garment is wet, rub bar soap on the stain repeatedly. If it is dry, begin by wetting the stain under running water then rub repeatedly with soap.
  2. Rub the stain with your fingers until the soap begins to lather.
  3. Wash with hands under running water while rinsing and reapplying the soap as needed. The stain will thin gradually.
  4. Wash until the stain disappears.
  5. Rinse the spot thoroughly and hang the garment to dry.

Method 4. Baking Soda Paste

As opposed to some objecting arguments, baking soda is a real and reliable cleanser. You can brighten your clothes with it, remove some tough stains and even improve the smell their smell.

There are two ways to use baking soda to get rid of laundry detergent stains. The first approach applies to hand washing and the second one is applicable to machine washing.

  1. Mix a tablespoon of baking soda with water to form a consistent paste.
  2. Wet the detergent stain under running water and use a tooth brush to cover it with the paste.
  3. Let the paste sit on the stain for five minutes then scrub the spot gently with a toothbrush until the stain disappears.
  4. Rinse the spot well and hang the garment to dry.
  5. To remove the stain with baking soda in the washing machine, throw the garment into the drum and use a ½ cup of baking soda in the place of detergent.
  6. Wash the garment under a normal cycle and rinse as usual.
  7. Inspect if the stains have disappeared completely before transferring it into the dryer.

Method 5. How to get Detergent Stains out of Clothes with Lemon

Lemon is your main ingredient for lemonade but it can also come in handy as a natural cleaner. Lemon juice is a mild acid with cleaning, disinfecting and deodorizing properties. Not to mention, the fresh aroma of lemon juice leaves your cleaned surfaces and items smelling nice and fresh.

As a cleaning agent, lemon removes different kinds of stains from clothes and it can as well brighten garments that appear dingily. Detergent stains, rust and fruits stains are some of the spots that you can easily remove with lemon juice.

  1. Remove wet detergent stains by applying lemon juice directly on each stain.
  2. Simply cut a lemon into two halves and squeeze out the lemon juice in a small bowl. Follow up by applying the juice generously on individual stains.
  3. Alternatively, take a half lemon and rub each stain with it while pressing it with your fingers so that it can release some juice on the stain.  
  4. Scrub the spot gently with your hands and rinse repeatedly under running water.

Method 6. Lemon Juice and Salt

When you mix lemon juice with salt for cleaning or stain removal, lemon juice provides mild bleaching properties whereas salt acts as an abrasive. The combination is powerful for detergent stains especially when removing them from whites and brights. Further, this is a better method for removing dried detergent stains as compared to using lemon juice alone.

  1. Cut a lemon into two halves. Take one half and squeeze a few drops of lemon juice on the stain.
  2. Take a pinch of salt and rub it over the stain covered with lemon juice.
  3. Scrub the stain gently with your hands and rinse repeatedly under running water.
  4. Repeat the above steps until the stain disappears.
  5. Rinse the spot thoroughly under running water and hang the garment to dry.

Method 7. Salt and Warm Water

You sure might be wondering what salt and warm water got to do with stain removal. But remember, you are not dealing with some protein or oil based stains in this case. You are dealing with mess that your reliable dirt removing detergent created. So, this is a stain that can potentially disappear by just scrubbing the garment under running water (This can actually happen with some fabrics).

But since you cannot begin by combining water with salt because salt will dissolve and lose its abrasiveness, follow the steps below.

  1. Wet the stain slightly with warm water.
  2. Sprinkle the section with a generous amount of salt.
  3. Scrub the stain with a toothbrush in circular motion repeatedly. As the salt dissolves, it will clear the stain gradually.
  4. Add salt as needed and continue to scrub until the stain disappears.
  5. Rinse the spot thoroughly under running water and hang the garment to dry.

Method 8. Rubbing Alcohol

Rubbing alcohol removes spots with ease because its composition comprises of degreasing agents. And although laundry detergent stains are not greasy, you can still lift them easily with rubbing alcohol.

  1. Begin by making the garment or at least the stained section wet under running warm water.
  2. Wring out excess water and spray the stain generously with rubbing alcohol.
  3. Let the garment sit for 15 minutes then scrub the spot with your hands.
  4. Rinse repeatedly and continue scrubbing until the stain disappears.
  5. Dry the garment as normal.

Caution: Test rubbing alcohol on a hidden part of your garment before use to ensure that it does not ruin the fabric.

Method 9. Bleach

Bleach whitens, brightens and removes stains from clothes. But can it remove laundry detergent stains? According to Clorox, mixing bleach and detergent leads to a reaction that reduces the effectiveness of the latter. That being the case, you can depend on bleach to weaken the laundry detergent stains on your clothes.

  1. Begin by checking the care tag to determine whether your garment in bleach washable.
  2. Next, dilute bleach by mixing it with water in the appropriate ratio. Use chlorine bleach if you intend to remove stains from a white garment and oxygen bleach if the plan is to remove stains from a brightly colored garment.
  3. Place the garment into the bleach solution and ensure that it is completely submerged.
  4. Let the garment soak for at least 15 minutes and inspect if the stains have faded completely. If they are still visible, let it sit in the solution for 15 more minutes.
  5. Remove the garment from the bleach solution, wash slightly with warm water and rinse.
  6. Hang or dry as normal.


The presence of laundry detergent stains on clothes comes down to how you use detergent. The main problem is usually pouring detergent directly on clothes. Correcting this mistake is likely to eliminate the problem completely. However, challenges could come from elsewhere as we note in the article, and that is why we provide nine methods that you can use to remove the stains.

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