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When Laundering Leaves Spots on Towels

Question: I know I am not the only person with this problem. How do you keep bath towels from developing white, colorless spots in the washing machine? I've just purchased some new towels and I would like to prevent this recurring problem. Can I set the color in a vinegar-water combination before washing? I use an energy-efficient washing machine.


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Answer: Towel "spotting" — new or not-so-new towels washed with proper water temperature and detergent that nevertheless come out of the washing machine discolored — remains one of the cleaning world's greatest mysteries.

As with most mysteries, theories abound as to the cause and solution. Some laundry sages (I'm assuming there are such sorts) point to leftover bleach in the washing machine that is sopped up by extra-thirsty towels in a subsequent load; others swear by the jammed-full machine as being the obvious color-culler of any fabric. I'd say the truth is probably in there, somewhere.

I've had readers write who swear they run a tidy, bleachless home — but their towels are spotted nonetheless. Others adhere religiously to the three-quarters-full loading rule, and they still get spotty results.

While generations of laundresses have offered salt and vinegar (separately) as solutions to the problem, neither salt nor vinegar in quantities that would fit in a washing machine can set dye colors, unfortunately. Which puts us back at square one.

My solution? Keep it simple and keep it separate. I wash bright-colored towels (or bold-colored anything, actually) separately in cool water using the "regular" or "delicate" setting. And I always choose a gentle, no-bleach laundry detergent for these items (especially important for that first welcome-home wash).

When Laundering Leaves Spots on Towels:  Created on July 26th, 2005.  Last Modified on January 21st, 2014


About Tara Aronson

Tara Aronson

Tara Aronson is author of Housekeeping With Kids. Her San Francisco Chronicle column entitled "Coming Clean" — focusing on household cleaning and maintenance — reaches 1.5 million readers. Aronson is an expert in home cleaning and organizing. Her advice has appeared in numerous national and regional publications, including Ladies' Home Journal, The Washington Post and Woman's World. Visit Tara's Web site.

Aronson is fast becoming a familiar face on national television (Living It Up with Ali & Jack, Soap Talk, The Other Half, CNNfn, etc.) and is also a much sought-after lifestyle expert for local television news and radio programs nationwide.

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