Washing Machines and Weird White Spots

Meredith Jameson

While washing machines are meant to clean clothes and other items, unusual problems can crop up in your laundry, which may leave you wondering what on earth happened. Such is the case with strange white spots that appear on clothes after washing.

There are a variety of possible reasons as to why white spots show up on items after putting them through the washing machine.


One possible reason why white spots might show up on items in the washer is if the detergent is poured directly onto clothes inside the tub instead of the detergent dispenser. If the detergent sits directly on fabric then gets wet while the washer fills with water, the detergent will begin to dissolve, often creating a targeted spot on the fabric. Always use the washing machine detergent dispenser and pour only the recommended amount of laundry detergent into the drawer. In addition, use liquid detergent, when running a low-spin speed cycle, as powdered detergents may not dissolve well at slow speeds.

High Efficiency Washing Machines

Many newer washing machines are energy-efficient and require the use of high efficiency (HE) laundry detergent. This detergent is more concentrated and foams less than traditional laundry detergent. If you use traditional laundry detergent in a high efficiency washer, there may be a residue left behind on the clothes, which can show up as white spots. Check your washing machine's operating manual to determine if HE detergent should be used.


The incorrect use of bleach in the washing machine is another reason why clothes may end up with white areas on them. When using the bleach dispenser in the detergent drawer, pour no more than 2/3-cup of liquid chlorine bleach into the drawer. Do not use regular bleach in the detergent drawer. If using powdered chlorine bleach, pour it directly into the washing machine tub before adding clothes. If the previous load in the washing machine was a white load with bleach, there may be a bleach residue in the tub that can affect subsequent loads of laundry. Run a “Rinse” cycle in between washes to rinse away any possible bleach residue that might leave spots behind.

Fabric Softener

Another reason why spots may occur on clothing is the improper use of fabric softener. Many high efficiency washing machines do not work well with fabric softener balls. Check the machine's operating manual for specific recommendations. Pour fabric softener into the fabric softener dispenser only and dilute it with water before adding it to the dispenser. Do not add fabric softener directly to the washing machine, during a wash cycle, as it may not dissolve correctly.