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Your Home Environment Resource - University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension in Lancaster County

Household Hints & HELP!


submitted by Lorene Bartos, Extension Educator
This article appeared in the Lincoln Journal Star Newspaper.

Have you noticed a white substance left on clothes at the end of the wash cycle? It doesn’t brush off easily. Maybe, over time, you’ve even noticed clothing colors have dulled.

Perhaps the problem is in the washing machine’s rinse cycle. The rinse cycle is designed to flush water through fabric removing soil, suds and detergent residue. Evidence of proper rinsing is the final washing and drying results. Residue on freshly washed clothes usually appears as streaks and is more noticeable on dark-colored loads.

To examine reasons for these streaks, first consider the type of detergent used. Detergents that contain only sodium carbonates will affect laundering results. A lint-like, white residue may be deposited on clothes from a reaction with hardness minerals in hard water. This is true especially if the water is harder than 14 grains per gallon, which is considered very hard. Soft water is considered zero to three grains.

Look for a detergent label with a combination of sodium carbonate and aluminosilicates to act as water softeners. The amount of detergent to use is recommended on the label for a normal load and average hardness of water from four to nine grains hardness. Use more detergent if the size of the laundry load is larger, the degree of soil is heavier and if the water is harder.

If using a rinse-added fabric softener, a chemical reaction between rinse-added softeners and detergent may create white deposits on clothes. To avoid this, dilute rinse-added softener with warm water in the dispenser, clean any spilled detergent from the dispenser before adding any softener and don’t use fabric softener in every load.

The next time you launder a load of clothes, reconsider what it is you do and use so your laundry will come out of the dryer looking great.

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