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Ask Dr. Laundry

Ask Dr. Laundry

Gray-Brown Stains on Whites

By Dr. Laundry July 22, 2010

Q. I have a 1 1/2 yr old Maytag Epic HE washer & dryer. I wash all whites together (socks, t-shirts, pants, shorts, etc.). The last load came out of the dryer with grayish-brownish stains on them. This has happened in the past, but only a couple of times (since I got this washer and dryer) and I was unable to get the stains out of the clothing. I use Tide and Downy. I also use the new Tide stain release packets with my whites (because the socks are so dirty, I also do an auto soak for my whites).

This load did sit in the washer for about a day and half because I became sick & forgot about them. So I re-washed them before drying because they sat in the washer so long. All t-shirts and a pair of capri pants came out with discolorations on them. The socks seem to come out fine. I just don’t know what else to try, and am tired of new cloths being ruined after washing 2 times. Do you have any answers for me? I have been able to find a cure for every other satin that comes up, but I am at a total loss for this one.

A. Thanks for your question, and all the background information to go with it. It is especially helpful knowing what kind of HE washer you are using. I looked up product information and consumer reviews for your Epic washer, and found that many people report a mildewy smell when there are several days between loads, which is actually pretty common for lots of different HE washers. Your machine includes a dispenser for bleach, but you didn’t say that you use Clorox® Regular-Bleach with your whites, so I am assuming you don’t. Since you don’t usually have this problem, and the stains appeared on a load that sat in the washer for at least a day and a half, they are likely mildew stains. You said you washed them a second time before drying them, so if they have been through a machine dryer cycle, the stains may be more difficult to remove, since hot dryers can set stains. At this point, since the items are white, I would first try using our Clorox® Bleach Pen Gel to target each stain directly. This handy dual tip pen lets you decide whether to use the fine tip or the wide tip with the soft scrubber. Just squeeze a little of the bleach gel onto each stain, rub it in, and then wash immediately in hot water. I would definitely also add Clorox® Regular-Bleach to the load using the dispenser on the washer. I would also make sure that the Tide you are using is the HE version so you get the most out of your machine. I really hope you can get your stains out; please let me know how it goes!