Grease Marks on Clothes

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May 10, 2021
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Have you ever had a piece of clothing that went in your washing machine fairly clean and came out with a stain on it? Probably at one time or another. There are many things that can stain your clothing, besides you. The most prevalent washing machine caused stain is most likely rust. If you have a washing machine basket that is chipping, your clothes can push up again the rusty basket during the spin cycle and create those beautiful little orange stains that never come out. I have also been reading a lot about grease type stains on clothing. They say there are two main causes for this: 1. Your shaft bearing and seal are worn and the transmission oil is creeping up to get in your water. Once this happens, it gets on your clothes to cause staining, and 2. You have a buildup of fabric softener that comes loose off to put a greasy like substance in your water and on your clothing. Once you put your clothes in the dryer and the old fabric softener melts, wham, you are hit with a few stains.

I have read about a few others, but I forget what they are. That is probably because I have my own problem…and unfortunately, no one on the planet has heard of this particular problem. That is why I am putting it out to you.

Here is it – we are getting stains in the form of brown lines or “streaks” on our clothing when each article comes out of the washing machine and dryer. I usually notice them after I pull the clothes out of the dryer, but I am sure the staining is occurring in the washing machine. So here is the dilemma: What in the world is causing the staining? The lines look very much like they are brown creases. I need to find out if something is coming through the water pipes into the washer or if it is coming from the washer itself. We have a new greensand filter installed, so I am pretty sure it is not in the water. Unless of course, the purple potassium backwash is flowing through the pipes into the washer. If I can isolate the problem to the washer, I can pull it apart and look for the culprit. I will take a look at the shaft going into the transmission to see if there is any grease or oil on it. If so, I will buy a new washer. The picture below is my actual shirt that came out of the dryer with this mark on it. It is about 6 inches long, so you can understand why we are getting so frustrated with this problem.


So, my question to you is: Have you ever had, or known anyone, with brown stains or streaks that look like “creases” come out of their washing machine? I beg of you…


Okay, this is an update to the above post I wrote about 6 hours ago. I came home tonight on a mission. After going to Home Depot this afternoon with a friend of mine, I had a few things to look at. We decided that perhaps the problem can be isolated to the water lines or the washer. It is pretty important that I figure out what is causing the problem, because purchasing new parts and a new washing machine can get quite expensive. Then, the possibility that you haven’t even fixed the problem still remains.

I came very close to purchasing two $33 water filters…one for each water line of the washing machine. I figured that maybe the pipes still had gunk in them from all the years the previous owners ran the water with iron sediment building up in them. My friend talked me out of that. We agreed that before I purchased the filters, I would go home and take off the rubber hoses that attach to the back of the washer. Then, I would snake a wire through each one and pull a small piece of cloth through them, to see if there was gunk built up in them. I came home this evening and did this. The cloth came out completely filthy. Bingo…I thought. I pulled the cloth through a few more times until there was no dirt left. I reattached the hoses and put the washer back in place. I took the front panel of the washer off so I could see what happens when it runs. I tried to simulate a real wash, so I filled it with clothes. The outer tub on this particular GE washer is clear, so I could get a good picture of what was happening. I was looking for little beads of grease floating up in the water. If the problem wasn’t the hoses, I would catch it here for sure. I wanted to find out something before my spouse got home.

I ran the wash and watched the machine go through all of its cycles. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. This wasn’t much fun. As I sat there, I started to think about how our new strategy to avoid these stains was to turn our clothes inside out and wash them that way. That way, the stains wouldn’t show on the visible side of our clothing. It has been working well. Wait a second…what difference does it make whether or not we wash our clothes inside out? If there is something in the water, it makes no distinction between which way our shirts and pants are situated. The oil would get in any which way.


My partner came home and we started talking about this horrible issue. I told him what I found and told him about the inside out dilemma. We both started getting a little quiet. I mentioned how this never happened where we used to live (where we lived a year ago). He also mentioned that he never got any stains on his scrubs (he wears them for work). Hhhhmmmm. In our last place, we had a different dryer. Also, he never puts his scrubs in the dryer because if he gets a stain from the washer, he doesn’t want the dryer to “set” it.


I ran downstairs with a white sock in my hand. I opened the dryer door, took the sock and rubbed it hard, up and down, against the rear corner, between the rear wall and the drum. I pulled the sock out and looked at it. Well, well, well. I nice brown grease-like streak that looks identical to the photo above. I guess when the dryer heats up, it makes this, what ever it is, get gooey and easily transferable to clothing.

Now that we figured out what is causing the stains, I can start pricing out new dryers.


The above post came from my blog. I wrote it back in 2006 and since then, it's garnered quite a hefty number of comments. I'll list most of them below in one post. If you have a comment of your own, please feel free to do so down below. Thanks!

Emily: HELP! We just got our washer replaced and we are still getting dark brown / black stains on our clothing. I’m pretty sure its the washing machine as that seems to be when the staining occurs. It is really only about 1 month old, so I’m going crazy trying to fix this situation. Any thoughts?!?!

Me: Are you sure it’s the washing machine and not the dryer?

Justin: I have the same problem and what can I do to erase the stains??

J.Mac: For 22 years I have had intermittent rusty grease stains on my laundry from my washing machine. I don’t use the dryer and even though I replaced the first washer, the problem continues. It is hit or miss whether the wash will come out stained or not. I can bleach out the stains on white garments with a lot of work. The colors are ruined. The stains vary from a fleck to a streak to a messy ink blot and are completely random. Two garments in the load might have spots and the rest of the wash is unaffected. What is this stuff? Is there a product that will work on my colored garments to get them clean?

Angela Biggs: I too had brown pencil like streaks on my clothes. I have a Whirlpool Duet Washer/Dryer. At first, I thought it was the dryer. There is some brown areas around the felt of the dryer, but I don’t dry a lot of my clothes in the dryer and I still had streaks on them. At this point, I do not own a single white shirt w/o a streak and all of my husbands and son’s white t-shirt have streaks. So then I was convinced it was the washer. I have cleaned the rubber seal and ring, but that did not fix the problem. This has been going on for about two years now. So my son bought four new shirts last weekend, all light colored, and I put them in the wash to only have them all come out with streaks. Talking about frustrating! So I sprayed them with some CLR (Calcium, Lime & Rust remover) and they came out. So tonight, I read this blog and decided to look on the small exposed area of the drum. I took a white sock and with a finger, rubbed around that rim and what do you know? Loads of brown gook that was like pliable play-doh. It took a little while, but I managed to get the entire rim wiped down with a multitude of brown gook coming off. Then I put a cup of CLR in the machine and ran it through a cycle. The first load had no streaks. We shall see how long this lasts. This is the first and last front loader I will every own! So much upkeep just to wash some laundry. I clean the washer as much as I clean clothes.

Chris: I hope the CLR really works. I will give it a try! I own a hotel and I have about 100 lbs of towels and sheets with these grease stains. I can not use them for obvious reasons so I have been trying EVERYTHING to get these stains out. If not, if you see towels on craigslist, it might me mine.

PTW: Over the last month we started having dark streak problems on our clothes. thought it was the washer because it had been making loud noises on the final spin. Lo and behold in the dryer are some streaks coming down from the back upper quadrant, as well as flaking near the seal on the front door. Not going to have it repaired because these are about 12 years old. Don’t want to ruin more clothes so intend pricing new dryers. I have had a substitute washing machine for the last year and will plan to re-hook the hoses to that even though it’s not huge like the older breaking down Elite unit.

Paul: Hey! A nice bit of detective work. I never had this problem, but I will file this away for future reference.

Ed: Interesting article. You are not alone! I have a fairly new bosch washing machine and I have also noticed brown stains (spots) on some of my shirts (but not the large streaks that you describe.). I will try the ‘sock test’ on the drums of both washing machine and dryer. Thanks for the tips.

Household Man: hey ! great job i had this same problem replaced the drum seals and it is gone.. good work!!

Carrie: Very interesting Ed – I have a reasonable new washing machine and drier and have ruined hundreds of Euro’s worth of clothing with horrible brown spots, lighter on the inside with a dark ring around it and then a third lighter ring. Did you every solve the problem?

Natalie: HELP!!!! I have been getting what look like grease stains on my dark clothing for the past year. During this time I have gone through 3 brand new washing machines. It only happens when I do laundary at home. My plumber is stumped. Where do I go from here? I will take any advice anyone can give me!

Bob: Katie – I know this is too late for you but for anyone else…

Same situation here, intermittently started a couple months back. Finally found the “smoking gun” a few days ago. Opened the dryer to find a pair of summer shorts with string ties for the waist hanging from the drum seal – jammed there. When I pulled on them the string broke, it was brown looking like rust but was actually friction burn. The smaller/thin clothes usually would get these marks randomly (of course they were usually WHITE so it was really obvious). The dryer drum seal basically wore out after 12 years. The dryer was rattling a little when it ran too.

If you reach inside and feel around the lip of the drum closest to you where it meets the front door & panel assembly it should be tight and you can’t get your fingertips between the drum & panel. For about a third of the way on mine it had a gap of about 1/4 inch. I thought the metal lip had somehow bent from a jacket zipper or something. When I tore it down the felt (I think) seal was just worn away on the door panel assy. in that area. It was now a rusty brown color instead of the grey in the good section. It also has a couple of nylon “glides” for the drum to slide along – these pretty much fell off when I took the door panel off. This is a Sears 28″ laundry center, washer on the bottom with dryer on the top. Actually am going to Sears parts center today to order the seals & glides. Will pick up a new dryer belt too although the original still looks OK. Looks like the seals have to be glued on and nylon glides clipped over them (maybe?). I’ll give an update in a week or so when parts arrive and get replaced. With Sears they never seem to have all the stuff on hand.

Good luck to all you other home handymen/women!

Bob: Well, I guess I have to eat my words. Sears DID have everything on hand plus a tech in the back room to handle a few questions. Wound up getting a new drum belt, a drum glide kit (top seal w/glides attached + hi-temp adhesive), lower seal and bearing bracket/bearing/hi-temp grease kit for the drum to spin on. Ran a total of $94 for the parts. Hi-temp adhesive (~1 oz tube) was enough to do both upper and lower seal. Hi-temp grease was enough to do 4 drums! Guess I’ll hang onto that. It was a hassle to clean off the old seal from the front door assy, used clothes pins to clamp the new seal after gluing for about a half hour. Hassle to get the drum back in place but it finally all came together. Naturally I cleaned all ducts, vents, inside – anywhere there was dust blobs. Probably took a total of 3 hours to get it done but my wife is back in business! (I’ll clarify – I can only repair them, not allowed to run them. Who knew!) That’s it for another few years I hope!

Pete: Hi,

I have recently started getting some phantom brown spots on clothing too.

Fully checked the washing machine and the inlets. It was a relatively new machine and nothing was amiss. I eventually tracked down this webpage and it may well have something to it relating to certain types of pollen/plant sap that leaves rusty orange/brown marks on clothes that are only visible once the clothes are washed.

It certainly makes for interesting reading when you consider how many gardeners have suffered from the problem!


Juju: I get similar streaks but a bit thinner, I know they are coming from the washing machine. There is a rubber piece that is all the way around the opening of the washer that catches junk like pennies and stuff in your pocket, it cannot be removed and it is dirty inside, I recently tried to clean it with a rag. The streaks to come off with stain remove-they are very annoying!. I think the streaks are coming from this dirty, hard to clean peace of rubber.

Trevor: Brown Streaks (look like rust), some claim comes from the glue that holds the felts on to the dryer housing that the drum spins on. Feeling around the inside of the dryer, 1/4 inch gap, plus I can easily lift the dryer drum up 1/4 inch. I guess the solution is to take the dyer apart and replace the felt the dryer drum spins on. White westinghouse dryer, Im not impressed. (only 6yrs old). For those whom think these streaks come from the washer, do the white sock test around just inside the dryer door. Now off to find replacement felts.

Karen: I wish that I had found this earlier. I have had the same grease marks for more than a year and knew it was the dryer, but thought it was the way the fins were attached. Thanks for the info. GE makes a drum that the whole thing turns instead of the back being stationary. Would that be helful for future dryers?

LuAnn: I too have had brown steaks on my light colored clothers for a year now! Some were a half inch long and others were up to 2″. I was told today by a repair man that it was the dryer. Clothes brush through the gaps in the drum seal. He didn’t mention replacing the seals. He hinted that the whole drum needed replace. I was considering buying a new dryer, but now after reading some of these posts, I may try to replace the seal. I’ve had to toss out SO many things!!

Denise: THIS IS the best information!!! I was having this awful problem with brown streaks randomly on clothes when taken from the dryer. Well TODAY I had it with this problem I searched and found this information. I went down to the dryer with an old white t-shirt and did the test around the inside of the drum. Sure enough there it was…the brown stuff that caused the staining, and there was ALOT of it all around the whole opening of the dryer(you have to reach inside with the cloth and kind of push the cloth inside of the tiny gap) you can feel the felt, just be careful the metal is sharp in places. Well my husband is going to take it apart as soon as he gets home and off to the local appliance store he will be first thing in the morning. THANK you so much for starting this discussion, it saved me from buying another dryer right at this time.

Dana: We have been having a problem of brown/rusty spots on our clothes and sometimes blue stains. Not the streaking/crease you’ve pictured, but stains nonetheless…I am beyond frustrated. My hubby did the sock test and that was not the issue, so if anyone figures out the brown/rusty spot issue, please contact me as soon as possible.

Judy Melville: I have a Bosch Washer that is just over one year old. I started seeing small, 1/2 inch, brown spots on my nice uniform shirts about 6 months ago. I assumed I had done something wrong. The spots look like someone wore make up and it rubbed on the out side collar and lapels? This doesn’t make sense. Plus no one in my house wears foundation makeup? What’s the deal? It continues to happen. And, nothing gets it out. I put straight bleach right on the stain, it discolored the white, but the stain remained.
A mechanic was just here and he told me maybe the outside of my drum was having problems (which was not covered by the extended warranty) and I should do some cleansing washes with special front load soap. I did it twice. Ran two sets of towel through and then the nice shirts, got a bigger spot. Help.

Christina: I’ve had this problem for a few months now. It started off with marks showing up on the clothes every once in awhile with maybe 2 items out of a whole load. This past month with every white/light load I did, the marks showed up and look exactly like the pic you posted! I’ve been reading it’s definitely the washer, the detergent, fabric softener, etc. So, the past month my husband and I have been trying it all, but these marks kept coming. Before resorting to using the laundromat, I did a test load the other night of old white t-shirts right-side-right in the washer and turned them inside out for the dryer. There were only marks on the inside of the shirts, so it had to be the dryer! But I didn’t know where to look until I found your post. Sure enough, I took one of those ruined white t-shirts and wiped around the inside in the cracks and the grey gunk was there!
THANK YOU! There seems to be a light at the end of my laundry frustrations!

Sue: I had the dryer brown streak problem one year ago with my whirlpool duet. I knew it was the dryer from the beginning but had trouble convincing the repair people who kept wanting to fix my washer. Finally replaced the drum seal and it was fine….until now…one year later iti s happening again. It is not even 4 years old. Will I have to spend 300 every year to fix this repeatedly? IT is very frustrating. I am going to contact who ever I can at whirlpool for some compensation.

Bill Clausen: I have the same problem with little orange/brown streaks. It seems to happen only after I dry my clothes. Very frustrating. -Bill Clausen-

Terri Steck: These comments are very helpful; however, has anyone had the rubber/belts replaced recently? My washer is 10 years old so I’m trying to figure out if it’s more economical to have Sears replace the parts or buy a scratch-n-dent new one. Thanks in advance for your help.

Lori Griffin: I, too, had experienced the “brown streaks” on my clothing. If you’ll use a little sudsy ammonia on the stain, pour it on there and rub it in and rewash it, it will come out. Also, Shout works really well on these stains if you apply it as soon as the stain is discovered, then rewash. Drying the clothing with the stain on there will not keep it from coming out if you use these suggestions….they worked for me. Good luck!!!!

Jan: I was so glad to find this blog! I kept searching online to try to solve this problem and they just kept talking about spots from fabric softener (which I don’t use). Then when I saw the picture you had posted it was EXACTLY like what I have been getting (except mine are small–about 2 inches)are only about 2 inches long) This has been driving me crazy and I always felt it was the dryer. My dryer is about 12 years old and I guess it’s time to bite the bullet and buy a new one.

Mel: Just washed a lot of all NEW whites. They came out with brownish streaks. I too have a 6 year old Whirlpool dryer. Will have the hubster try these suggestions. Thanks for this info. Maybe time for another new dryer……………ughhhhhh.

Mohammed Tasleem: I too having the same problem i.e. light brown spots on the white clothes after using dryer.
I will also try these methods and share the outcome.

Thanks for the detailed information.


Jaime: I’m getting these bluish dark spot stains on just some clothes per load. I thought I was using too much detergent or softener. I bought free and clear detergent and white softener. I still get the stains. I’ve used the bleach and vinegar cleaning method and haven’t noticed any difference. The stains only appear on some of the clothes, doesn’t matter if they’re light colored or not (aside from jeans or dark colors). I’m not washing greasy clothing so I don’t know what the stains are. Any help with this would be nice.

Gail: I have a whirlpool duet dryer. Same brownish rust steaks. It has absolutely ruined so many of my family’s clothes. It is definately the dryer and not the washer. You would think with all the websites listing these issues that whirlpool would step up and give a solution to this very costly problem. They know what’s going on but if they admit to it maybe they would have to be responsible in some way.
Not reasonable to just go out and buy another dryer. Pissed off!

Gail: Never buy whirlpool again. Rust stains o clothes. Not an option to just go and buy another dryer. Has ruined so many expensive clothes. All the blogs out there and you would think whirlpool would make it known that there is a defect with the whirlpool duet dryer causing brown rust stains. This has been a problem for years now. I think whirlpool should be held responsible for the repair and costs.

Lauren: We have been having the problem of thin brown streaks on clothes for several years now. Didn’t notice them until pulling them out of the dryer but thought they came from our front load washer because of the gunk that collects around the front seal. I’m now thinking the dryer is the culprit. Thanks for all the great posts. I do however, have a slight curve ball to throw at that theory. We stopped using liquid fabric softener a year or so ago and the brown streaking pretty much came to a halt (we switched to dryer sheets). For the last month we’ve gone back to using liquid fabric softener and voila, the brown streaks are back with a vengeance. Maybe the liquid softener in the clothes “burns” easier than dryer sheets??? Guess we have further detective work to do.

Faust: I had the same spots. Grease like marks on my clothes, more frequently, and brown streaks every so often. I just tried the white sock test and wha-lah! The culprit appears but for me it is my washer and dryer. I need to get the two checked and cleaned. I would try the sock test, recommend it to all. I would search for home cleansing methods for my washer too, just to make sure that the problem doesn’t come back These comments were very helpful. Thanks to all. FP

Rich: Glad to have found your blog. Our washer was barely 6 mo. old and we’re getting black streaks on heavy white clothes. I thought a bearing problem pretty unlikely for something so new. Nearly of the loads we do are full cycle warm water. We found the culprit. It was the fabric softener dispenser. What a mess inside of it! Hope others recover from their lot too.

Mike Connor: We had a similar problem. I did as suggested and used a white sock to “wipe” the surfaces. Nothing came off. Then I noticed that in the washing machine there is a gap between the top of the washer and the gasket and the actual wash basket. I took the sock and wiped around the outside lip of the basket and the gasket. I was rewarded with an amazing amount of gunk of the same color that appeared on the clothes. If my suspicions are correct, the clothes were getting into that gap and the gunk was then transferred to the clothes.

Houston: Thank you for the blog… the stain on your picture are identical to mines. My dryer is a Kenmore and I have had it about 6 yrs and I was going nuts with these stains, but I believe it would be cheaper to buy a new one.. Here in Houston they sell them used of course for about $150-200 .. saves me the trouble of buying parts and labor. Just going to replace it. THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!

Susan: I get the same long, black streaks that look as if they are grease, but don’t feel greasy. Did Paul of the photo above have to replace the dryer and/or washer? Did all the 3 hours of work replacing all those parts (not to mention the driving/ordering/shopping for them) fix the problem permanently or temporarily? I’m wondering whether to go through the work of cleaning the washer stem area (scrapping off gunk for hours) and/or replacing dryer seals or if I have to buy new ones (if the repairs don’t last).