How To Remove Laundry Detergent Stains From Clothes

Everyone trusts their laundry detergent to clean their clothes and remove any stains, right?

What happens to that trust, however, when the laundry detergent itself becomes the culprit of the new stain on your blouse?

Now, you not only have to worry about the original stain but need to learn how to remove laundry detergent stains from your clothes.

We have researched this problem, and there’s no need to worry because we have compiled all the materials you need and created a step-by-step guide on how to get laundry detergent stains out of clothes.

Can Laundry Detergent Stain Clothes?

Technically laundry detergent can’t stain clothes.

The spots and residue that you see on your clothes actually come from the incorrect use of the detergent.

If not corrected and removed immediately, those spots and residue can become stains themselves, which will become a much more complicated process than removing them as soon as you see them.

Because of this, quick response to the problem will be your best friend when dealing with these spots.

Since the problem comes from improper use, let’s go over some of the possible causes in detail and then discuss how you can remedy them.

Possible Causes Of Detergent Spots And Residue On Clothes

Adding Too Many Clothes In Wash

Each washing machine has its own load capacity, which is how many pieces of laundry you can put in the machine.

Exceeding this capacity puts stress on the agitator, and because of this, it can’t move the clothes around like it usually would.

When the clothes become stagnant, that’s when the spots or residue from the detergent form because the detergent is not allowed to dissolve properly.

Be sure to read your washing machine’s load capacity instructions if you are having difficulty with laundry detergent spots.

Using Hard Water With Powdered Detergent

Although drinking hard water is better for your body than soft water, the added minerals in it make it worse to use in your washing machine.

If you are using hard water with any powdered laundry detergent, sometimes the detergent will not dissolve properly, thus leaving spots or residue on your clothing.

Try to stay away from it if possible.

Adding Too Much Laundry Detergent

Contrary to popular belief, you can actually add too much detergent to your wash.

This can cause detergent to build up and to not dissolve properly, which will leave the spots or can even turn your whites into a gray color.

In extreme cases, too much detergent can cause a foul smell that comes from bacteria.

Be sure to read the recommended dosage on your detergent’s instructions.

Now that you know the causes of laundry detergent stains let’s go over the materials that you’ll need to remove them.

We go over four different methods later in the article and have listed the materials needed for all the methods below.

What You’ll Need

Hot Water

You will use hot water several different times throughout this process.

Rubbing Alcohol

Rubbing alcohol breaks down the detergent residue that hasn’t been dissolved.

Order yours here if you have run out.

Liquid Dish Soap

A strong degreasing liquid dish soap has a different formulation than the laundry detergent and is a very effective method of removing stains.

Bar Of Soap

If you choose, you can use a bar of hand soap to wash away the spots or residue.

Soft Bristle Brush

No matter which method you choose, having a soft-bristled brush will come in handy.

I like to use this laundry scrub brush that I found on Amazon.


White vinegar is effective at removing many different types of stains, including laundry detergent residue.

Lucy’s Family Owned brand is very effective and gets great reviews on Amazon.

Step By Step Instructions For How To Remove Laundry Detergent Stains From Clothes

In this section, we give you the detailed steps of four different methods to remove detergent residue from your clothing.

Method 1: Rubbing Alcohol

  1. Rinse the stained spot under hot water.
  2. Ring out the water from the clothing and lay it on a flat surface.
  3. Add the rubbing alcohol to the site.
  4. Let it sit for at least 10 minutes.
  5. Rinse the spot thoroughly under hot water. This should remove the stain.
  6. If it has not removed the spot or residue completely, repeat the steps above.

Method 2: Liquid Dish Detergent

  1. Wet the stained area with hot water.
  2. Pour a drop of your degreasing dish detergent onto the affected area.
  3. Rub in small circular motions with your soft-bristle brush.
  4. Keep rubbing with the brush until the stain is completely removed.
  5. Rinse the area with cold water after the stain is removed.

Method 3: Bar Soap

Note: Bar soap can be used by itself for lighter spots or residue.

  1. Wet the area with hot water.
  2. Lather it with bar soap.
  3. Using your soft-bristled brush, scrub the area in a circular motion until the stain is removed.
  4. Rinse with cold water.

Method 4: Vinegar

If you have a stain that you didn’t see right away and has set out for a while, vinegar works well for cleaning and deodorizing stubborn and set-in stains.

  1. Wet the stain with hot water.
  2. Scrub with bar soap until a good lather is built up.
  3. Rinse the area using warm water.
  4. Soak the clothing in white vinegar for between 15 and 30 minutes until the spot disappears.
  5. Rinse the clothing with cold water after the stains are completely gone.

Commonly Asked Questions

Can fabric softeners that are undispersed stain my clothing?

Undispersed fabric softeners won’t leave a stain, but they can leave a waxy or jelly-like feel to your clothing.

Using the bar soap method above should take that waxy residue out easily.


As you can see, there are a few different ways that laundry detergent stains can come around.

Learning how to remove laundry detergent stains and actually doing it is not hard at all.

With these methods and tips, you won’t have to worry about your nice clothing coming out of the wash with any residue or spots, and they will have the nice fresh smell they were meant to have.

If you’re looking for more fresh homemade smells, take a look at our article on how to make your own homemade Febreze.