Our dark colored clothes are coming out of the laundry with wet or oily looking small, round stains. We do not wash oily clothes or rags -- either shop grease or kitchen grease. This does not happen to our light colored loads. You cannot see the stains while they are on wet clothes, so they are set in by the dryer before we can see them. We have a used Maytag Neptunefront-loading washing machine and dryer. This has been happening for the several months we have had it.

We have run several empty loads: some with hot water and bleach, some with hot water and baking soda, with vinegar in the softener dispenser. We use Sun "free&clear" environmentally friendly detergent "safe for HE machines" and cut down to using 1-2 tbs instead of the full recommended amount. Then we added about an equal amount of dish liquid to the detergent and cut the amount we use down to 1 tbs. We have tried large and small amounts of OxiClean in each load. We have always used vinegar instead of fabric softener. Nothing seems to prevent the oily stains showing up when we wash colored clothes in cold water. I'm stumped!

  • I have to suspect some particular article(s) of clothing as the source if it does not also happen on white loads. If you never wash whites on cold I suppose you could put a sacrificial white item in and run it on cold to see if that's somehow related, but it seems far-fetched.
    – Ecnerwal
    Commented Nov 24, 2013 at 4:22
  • Trial load with just a colored rag?
    – Bryce
    Commented Nov 24, 2013 at 9:00
  • 2
    I think this question is bordering on off topic (operation of major appliances). It mostly depends on why you're getting the oily stains, whether it's the detergent and clothing, or the washing machine itself. I'm just putting this out there in case others wish to use this as an example of a question we allow.
    – BMitch
    Commented Nov 24, 2013 at 12:54
  • 1
    I'm not sure if this is related, but we used to use fabric softener sheets in our dryer and these sheets were actually leaving some oil-ish marks on our cloths. These marks were more visible when ironing. In the end, we stop using those sheets and the oil-ish marks were after a couple of washes. This article discuss the issue we were having. Commented Nov 25, 2013 at 3:30
  • 1
    Have you seen this: ths.gardenweb.com/forums/load/laundry/msg071144497399.html
    – getterdun
    Commented Nov 25, 2013 at 3:33

2 Answers 2


Could it be the oily stains are just not visible on light clothing, or the loads are run at different temperatures, or some other variation in way of explanation for the different results? Otherwise it implies there is something about your dark clothing that is the source, which I find difficult to believe.

I really think the source is the machine itself. We once had a well used machine that started doing the exact same thing. It happened to all clothing. We never really determined the cause. We eventually gave up trying to stop the stains. As soon as we used a different machine, we never had this kind of staining again.

The only thing I can imagine is oil from the machine's mechanicals somehow found its way into the wash water. This could possibly be through a perished seal at the pump, or maybe solenoid valves, or maybe it was an external source, once introduced difficult to get rid of. If we could be sure of the source, a replacement part could solve the problem. But I'm just guessing and am not confident that replacing some parts would solve the problem.

Unless you hear of plausible fix, I would consider replacing the machine straight away. Blindly replacing parts gets expensive, that money could better go towards a replacement machine. Washers are not inexpensive, but neither is clothing. It doesn't take a lot of ruined clothing to start costing more than a replacement machine. Do consider any other plausible fixes first, this is the action of last resort.

I'm sure it seems extreme to suggest a complete replacement based on a brief Internet exchange, but I've been in your position. The thought of how many clothes we ruined still sickens me. I would never suggest this if it hadn't happened to me personally.

  • might it make sense to attempt to isolate the source of the stain to the washer or the dryer first?
    – mac
    Commented Nov 25, 2013 at 14:17
  • Yes, good point! Line dry some dark garments to isolate the cause. In my case we always line dried, so there was no question. I came into this with a distorted reference frame.
    – bcworkz
    Commented Nov 26, 2013 at 3:40

My mother in law used ammonia on our clothes after a day of working on the car. I swear they came out cleaner than they were when they were new.

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