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Ask Dr. Laundry

Ask Dr. Laundry

Pale Green Spots

By Dr. Laundry December 18, 2008

Q. Pale green areas have appeared on my white laundry and they won’t go away! I use a standard liquid detergent with Clorox® UltimateCare® Bleach. As the water is running into my traditional washing machine, I pour the bleach into the dispenser, add the detergent and then the clothes. The green areas don’t appear on all the whites and not all over, just big spots. We recently moved to a house that uses well water — could that be it? And more importantly, can I remove the stains? So far they have appeared on some sheets, a blanket and a shirt, all which are 100% cotton.

A. My best guess would be that indeed the metals dissolved in either the well water or from a reaction between your pipes and the bleach (sodium hypochlorite active) ended up depositing on the different items in spots.

Your best chance at removal is probably using a rust remover product. Summit Instant Rust Out and Whink Rust Remover are two such products. These can usually be found in Home Depot/Lowe’s or hardware stores. A word of caution — ALWAYS read the label directions and pretest the products as they should only be used on whites/colorfast colors (check on hidden color area before using).

Also, you might consider a good water softening/treatment system since this problem could also manifest itself in other cleaning areas. Until this is corrected, I would consider refraining from liquid bleach usage to see if the problem disappears. This would tend to confirm my guess regarding the bleach. If the problem continues, then we need to do some more detective work.