5 Foolproof Ways to Remove Detergent Stains From Laundry

Don't sweat detergent stains in your laundry. Fight them with our easy methods.

Updated July 19, 2024
Woman adding stain remover to clothes before washing them

Laundry detergent is supposed to get your clothes clean, but sometimes it gets on clothes in the wash and stains them instead. It's one of those weird things in life that can be utterly maddening — opening your washer only to see spotty clothes. Fortunately, detergent stains are pretty easy to get out. We have five different ways you can remove detergent stains and get on with your life.

Need to Know

Detergent stains when it doesn't dissolve, which can happen with too much detergent, powder detergent, or hard water. Only use the recommended amount of detergent and condition hard water. If staining persists, clean your washing machine and run the machine to add water to the drum before you add your laundry, particularly if you're using powdered detergent.

Use Alcohol to Remove Detergent Stains

The key to removing stains from concentrated laundry detergent is to break up the stains and then rewash them. You can use isopropyl (rubbing alcohol) for this, or cheap vodka will do in a pinch. 

  1. Put the entire garment in a bath of warm water. (Check the care tag to ensure the fabric can tolerate warm/hot water. If it can't, use cold.)
  2. Rub at the spot for about a minute.
  3. If the spot persists, wring out the fabric.
  4. Apply a generous amount of rubbing alcohol on the spot. (Spot-check rubbing alcohol on a discrete area of the garment first to ensure it doesn't cause issues with dye.)
  5. Allow the rubbing alcohol to sit for 10-15 minutes.
  6. Rinse the garment to check for residue removal. Launder without detergent.
  7. Check before drying to ensure the detergent residue is gone. If it persists, repeat the procedure.

Related: Ultimate Guide to Cleaning a Washing Machine

Remove Detergent Stains Using Vinegar

Vinegar is such a cleaning powerhouse, including keeping your laundry in top shape. White or cleaning vinegar can remove detergent stains. You'll need one cup of vinegar. 

  1. Fill a tub or sink with warm water. (Be sure to check that your fabric can handle warm temps. If not, use cold.)
  2. Add a cup of white vinegar to the mix.
  3. Swish everything around to agitate.
  4. Soak your garment for one hour in the solution.
  5. At varying intervals, check the garment and work the laundry detergent residue with your fingers to break it up.
  6. Wring out the fabric and launder without detergent. (Be sure to check before drying to ensure the stains are gone.)

Use Castile Soap to Remove Detergent Stains

A bar of soap, a soap dish and a bath robe

If you have Castile soap (bar or liquid), it's great at removing detergent stains. You'll also need ½ cup of white vinegar for this method. 

  1. Wet the items in a sink with cold water.
  2. Rub the stains with Castile soap.
  3. Work the soap in using handwashing laundry procedures.
  4. Rinse several times and check the stain.
  5. Drain the water.
  6. Add cold water and a ½ cup of vinegar.
  7. Soak the items for 15 minutes.
  8. Wring out the items and launder without detergent.

Use Baking Soda to Remove Detergent Stains

Baking soda is another cleaning powerhouse, and it works well to get out detergent residue. Plus, there's no handwashing involved.

  1. Put the clothing in the washer and set the wash as usual.
  2. Do not add any detergent.
  3. Add a ½ cup of baking soda to the wash.
  4. Wash as normal.
Helpful Hack

For even more detergent stain-fighting power, add a cup of white vinegar to the final rinse.

Get Detergent Stains out With Dish Soap

Person Washing Clothes

We love blue Dawn dish soap because it is so effective at cleaning a lot more than dishes. Like getting out detergent stains from your laundry. 

  1. Wet the fabric.
  2. Add a drop of Dawn dish soap to the residue.
  3. Work it in with your fingers.
  4. Wet and continue working the detergent residue out of the clothing.
  5. Allow it to soak in soapy water for 10 or so minutes.
  6. Work the soap into the stain again if it remains.
  7. Rinse and launder without detergent.
  8. Line dry or check before drying in the dryer. (Heat will set the stain.)

How to Prevent Laundry Detergent Stains

Now that you know what's causing those annoying detergent residue stains, it's time to look at how to avoid them. Because who wants to take an extra step to get rid of something that can easily be avoided, like a bleach stain?

  • Agitate the detergent and water together before washing clothes.
  • Dissolve the detergent in water before adding it to the laundry.
  • Avoid adding too much detergent.
  • Don't add too much clothing to the load.
  • Use liquid detergent with hard water.

Save Your Laundry From Detergent Stains

Detergent stains on your laundry are annoying, but they aren't the end of the world. Our helpful hacks make it easy to prevent stains in the first place and remove them if they do happen. 

5 Foolproof Ways to Remove Detergent Stains From Laundry