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Ask Dr. Laundry

Ask Dr. Laundry

Orange Spots on Green Items

By Dr. Laundry July 2, 2009

Q. We are having a problem with our dark to light green towels and bed sheets getting orange spots and blotches in the wash. Can you advise what may be causing this to happen to our towels and sheets? We use a whole house filter and do not have any problems with “rust” or other spotting on any other colors we wash. We use Tide and only on occasion will we use Clorox bleach, and then always on whites ONLY, diluted with the wash water before adding whites.

A. This a tough one without seeing the specific items. A couple of possibilities after you ruled out the mineral/rust possibility:

  • Most likely it is something reacting with the dark green color which is being oxidized to orange. It’s possible the spots are the result of liquid bleach spotting — though your diluting approach would seem to make this a low probability. It is possible that some residual bleach from pouring has been left in the washer, and the items contacted it while being placed in the washer. Sometimes other materials like medicine or cosmetics can be acidic or have oxygen bleach, which could produce this affect. I have seen this especially with acne medicines, but there are a lot of other items which can produce the same reaction. Being on towels and bedding is a clue that this might be the case.
  • Less likely would be some type of bacteria which should produce some odors. Using liquid bleach routinely should control bacteria in your washer.