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Here's how to stop white spots from appearing on your clean dark clothes

This is SUCH a common laundry problem.

Common laundry mistakes everyone makes Credit: Getty Images / gerenme

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Have you ever noticed white spots on your dark clothes after you washed them? Maybe you even blamed your washing machine for this annoying problem. But there’s probably nothing wrong with your washer. You might be adding too much detergent.

When there's too much detergent in the wash, instead of washing away, it ends up back on the clothes. And it’s a major time waster to have to rewash a load you’ve already run once. So, how much detergent is too much? We took to our laundry labs to find out.

Washing the socks
Credit: / Jonathan Chan

In our tests, we washed a pair of gray socks in a standard-sized load of laundry, adding too much laundry detergent. We wanted to see whether our socks would end up with white spots.

Why it happens

The fill lines on the dispenser or cap of the detergent bottle might lead you to add too much. To prove it, we washed a pair of dark gray socks in a 8-pound load, and added way too much detergent.

This happened

The gray socks in the load with too much detergent didn't just come out spotted—they felt greasy and slippery.

The pair in front has white spots
Credit: / Jonathan Chan

The pair of socks in the foreground shows white spots. They appeared after we washed them with much too much detergent. The pair of socks in the back were our control. We washed them with the right amount of detergent.


Since using more detergent makes your laundry dirtier, use less detergent to get cleaner clothes.

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• If you use detergent pods, use only one for a medium size load of laundry.

• If you use liquid laundry detergent, never fill the bottle’s cap to the top. Filling the cap more than one third full is a waste. And those measurement lines inside the cap? They correlate with the amount of detergent the detergent manufacture recommends for each size wash load. But feel free to add a bit less.

• If you find the bars in the cup hard to see, leave a clear glass or plastic measuring cup in the laundry room, and use a Sharpie on the outside to mark off the right amount of detergent for each size load.

• Or, try leaving a set of measuring spoons in the laundry area. Medium size loads can generally get clean with only 2 tablespoons of detergent.

What to do about the white spots

Once you have white spots on your clothes, it’s hard to wash them out. Here's what you can do: Wash them again, without using detergent. Pour a half cup of vinegar in the final rinse, to help dissolve the stains.

And, wipe out your dryer, too. If you’ve been using too much detergent for any length of time, the dryer may have detergent residue on the sides of the drum, which will end up back on your clothes.

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