Laundry Problems? It's Not Your Washer's Fault

Person loading clothing into the washer

The Spruce / Ana Cadena

Wouldn't it be grand if you could blame all your mistakes on machines? You would never have to face the fact that often people are at the root of our problems. Think of entering data into a computer, "garbage in equals garbage out."

The same theory applies to your laundry and washing machine. The problems that you encounter in your laundry efforts can't always be blamed on the washer. Most of the time it's you.

So here's a list of laundry problems, their possible causes, and what you can do to fix the problem and prevent it from happening again.

Dingy Clothes

laundry detergents

The Spruce / Ana Cadena

Using the Wrong Detergent

Dingy clothes are caused by using the wrong detergent. Inexpensive detergents do not contain enough cleaning ingredients such as surfactants and enzymes to remove many types of stains and sweaty body soil. If the soil is not lifted off the fabric, suspended in the wash water, and then flushed away, it will redeposit on clothes leaving them looking dull and grey. Take the time to read the ingredients on the bottle to be sure that you have the correct product for your laundry needs. It is best to use a heavy-duty detergent for loads with lots of soil and a less expensive detergent for lightly soiled clothing.

Improper Sorting

Grey-looking clothes are caused by not sorting clothes correctly. If you wash everything together, jeans with undies, black leggings with a pink shirt, yellow towels with navy towels, eventually everything will look grey. Even with the promised miracle color catcher sheets, colors bleed and settle on other fabrics. Sort correctly to keep whites white and colors bright.

Overloaded Washing Machine

Dingy and dull-looking clothes are caused by overloading the washer and not using the correct water temperature. If you cram everything that needs washing into the washer at once, it will be overcrowded and the detergent you use will not be able to reach every surface, pick up the dirt, and let it be flushed away with the water.

Improper Water Temperature

Using the correct water temperature will also keep your clothes their correct color. There are detergents formulated to work in cold water for every type of soil and stain. However, most detergents need warm or hot water to remove ground-in soil.

Poor Water Quality

Dull-looking clothes are caused by using hard water that contains an excessive amount of minerals. If the water supply for your washer provides hard water, you will need to use a water conditioner to protect your clothes and help your detergent to work efficiently.

Yellowed Whites

white towel with yellow tint

The Spruce / Ana Cadena

Body Soil Left in Clothes

Yellowed whites are caused by body soil that has not been removed from the fabric. Body soil is hard to remove if you are using an inexpensive detergent and cold water. Take a look at a white bedsheet. If the hem and edges are white but the center is yellowed, it is due to body soil trapped in the fibers. Switch to a heavy-duty detergent and use warm or hot water to effectively remove the soil. You may need to use a laundry booster to whiten the stained sheets.

Too Much Chlorine Bleach

Yellowed whites are caused by using too much chlorine bleach. It can whiten white clothes; however, using too much in a load of clothes can damage the fabric and even cause the fibers to yellow. Many cotton and human-made fibers have a yellow inner core, and excessive bleaching can expose that surface.

Iron Bacteria in Water Supply

Yellowed whites are caused by too much iron in the water supply. Iron bacteria in your water supply will settle on clothes and cause them to yellow or eventually turn brown. Install a water filter to keep clothes white.

Mysterious Holes in Clothes

garment with open zippers

The Spruce / Ana Cadena

Chlorine Bleach Splashes

Mysterious holes in clothes can be caused by using chlorine bleach too often. Just a drip or splash can cause a hole in clothes.


Bleach is quite powerful and must be diluted with water to be safe for use on fabrics.

Open Zippers

Holes in clothes can be caused by improper preparation of clothes before loading. If you leave zippers open or hooks unlatched, snags can happen and cause holes in thin or soft fabrics, especially knits. Objects left in pockets can also cause a tear. Always check the clothes before washing because a small hole can become a large one quite easily.

Excessive Lint on Clothes

lint on clothing

The Spruce / Kori Livingston

Improper Laundry Load Sorting

Excessive lint is caused by improper sorting. Some fabrics are shedders and some are lint attractors. Proper sorting will make a significant difference in the amount of lint clinging to garments. Knits and permanent press fabrics attract lint; terry cloth, cotton, and natural fibers shed more lint. These fabrics should not co-mingle.

Excessive Wrinkling of Clothes

person selecting a wash cycle

The Spruce / Ana Cadena

Still Sorting Clothes Incorrectly

Excessive wrinkling is caused by improper sorting. Mixing heavy items such as jeans with lighter weight shirts will cause lots of wrinkles. If you do mix the two, separate them before you put them in the dryer. Give every item a good shake to loosen fabrics before placing them in the dryer.

Selecting the Wrong Washer Cycle

Excessive wrinkling is caused by using the wrong washer cycle or water temperature. Select the right cycle for the type of fabrics being washed. Do not use the heavy-duty cycle for lightweight items. Excessive spinning can set wrinkles in clothes. Always use a cold rinse for clothes to help prevent heat from setting in wrinkles.