Why Do I Have Clothes Discoloration After Washing?

A pile of discolored clothes after washing in a laundry room

It’s so frustrating when you wash white clothes only to find them looking dirtier when they come out of the washer! If you have clothes discoloration after washing, it may be time to look past the stain treatments and detergents and into your water quality.

We can help you with this problem! Keep reading to learn:

  • Why your clothes are discolored after washing
  • Potential problems of washing with hard water
  • How to get rid of clothes discoloration after washing

Why are My Clothes Discolored After Washing?

Two likely reasons for this discoloration are hard water or rusty water. Hard water is excess calcium or magnesium in your water. Rusty water contains high levels of iron.

Hard water problems are found in 85% of the US. Furthermore, Northern Illinois has some of the hardest water in the country at over 15 grains per gallon! The buildup of calcium and magnesium can find its way into your water in a few different ways. However, it’s usually a natural result of the minerals accumulating during the water cycle.

Alternatively, rusty water most often occurs in private wells. But your municipal water system may also have high iron levels due to old cast iron pipes that are corroding. The combination of water and oxygen causes iron to deteriorate, which commonly happens in the casings and pipes of well water supplies.

These types of water cause clothing to discolor because the excess minerals don’t mix well with laundry detergent. They combine to form a residue that sticks to the clothing. Not only can this residue discolor the clothing, but it can also make the clothing feel uncomfortably rigid and grimy after washing. In excessively hard water, you might also see the fabric fibers of your clothing breaking and creating holes!

What are the potential problems of washing with hard water?

While hard water and rusty water are technically safe to wash with, they can still lead to inconvenient, embarrassing and costly problems.

Washing with hard water can leave you with problems like:

  • Dinginess, graying or yellowing of fabrics
  • Soil build-up on clothes that doesn’t wash away
  • Stiff, harsh to the touch fabrics
  • A weakening of fibers, causing tears
  • White or gray streaks on colored fabrics

Additionally, hard water and rusty water cause your water appliances to work harder, making your bills increase. You may have also found yourself putting your clothes in for longer amounts of time with hotter water. Usually, it takes up to 30 percent more detergent and a much higher water temperature to get satisfactory results.

Not only can hard or rusty water mess up your clothes, but you may notice ugly, rust-colored stains on your faucets or scale build-up in your plumbing. Other common signs that your water has a high mineral content are that your water will taste slightly metallic and your skin will feel rough and scaly after taking a shower.

A graphic illustrates the common symptoms of hard water on clothes

How do I get rid of clothes discoloration after washing?

Luckily, there are solutions to be found for hard water and rusty water! You can fix your clothes and prevent hard water from ever discoloring them again.

How to Get Rid of Stains

To remove hard water laundry stains from clothes, use this step-by-step guide:

  1. Fill your washer with the hottest water appropriate for the type of fabric you have.
  2. Add 4X the normal amount of detergent and one cup water conditioner.
  3. Agitate just long enough to wet the clothes.
  4. Soak overnight or for about 12 hours.
  5. Drain and spin without agitating.
  6. Launder the garments, using a regular cycle, no detergent and one cup of water conditioner.

If you have rusty stains on your clothes, you can use a commercial rust remover. However, you should never put your clothes with rust stains in the dryer because the high heat will set the stain and make it extremely hard to clean. Additionally, don’t use chlorine bleach on rust stains because the bleach will set rust stains permanently.

How to Keep Stains Away for Good

To prevent this problem and avoid getting clothes discoloration after washing, we recommend investing in an NSF certified water softener. Water softeners remove the excess minerals that create hard water. In addition to fixing your clothes, a quality water softener will extend the life of your water heaters, washing machines, dishwashers, coffeemakers, humidifiers and the whole plumbing system by at least 30%.

Need More Assistance?

Our filtration and water softener systems are ready to do the tough job of preventing that nasty build-up and keeping your clothes looking their best. Angel Water in Barrington, IL provides solutions that are best for your family, the environment and peace of mind. Call us today at 847-382-7800 or fill out the form below to get the healthy water you and your family deserve!

Tired of stocking up on bottled water?

Get your water tested and find the solution to producting your own water today!