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To understand where stains that are on your laundry are coming from and what is actually causing them you first have to understand a little bit about how a washing machine is constructed and, what from to eliminate many possibilities.

However the upshot of this is that your washing machine cannot actually create stains on your laundry. Only what you put in the washing machine can and in almost all cases it requires a little detective work to figure out what the actual problem is.

In almost all cases you will find the answer in this section of the website.

  The Washing Machine Tub Unit

The view of the inside of a modern washing machine in a cutawayAll modern washing machines have stainless steel inner drums which is the drum basket that you actually place laundry into that is constructed from, even in cheap washing machines, is a reasonable grade of stainless steel that will not rust.

This is connected to the bearings in almost all cases using a cast allow "spider" at the back of the drum with a shaft that the washing machine bearings run on allowing the drum to turn. The bearings are sealed by way of a water seal sometimes (but not often) that has a tiny amount of special bearing grease used that won't stain, there is no actual "grease" as such used on any washing machine really.

The outer tank is, these days, almost always made from a polycarbonate or polypropylene based substance often referred to as a "plastic tank" in the industry or, it is made from stainless steel on high quality washing machine models. Many years ago we had enamelled outer tanks but these have not been seen in many years due to polarisation within the industry but these could rust after many years of use although, it was rare. The first two types, cannot rust.

Anything in the drum that is exposed to water is rated for such and, even if the components did degrade, it would take many, many years of exposure to water or some sort of catalyst to speed the degradation.

  Hoses And Soap Drawer

All the hoses in a modern washing machine are made from a silicon based material in the main, not rubber. This means that they last much, much longer than hoses in years gone by and as they don't degrade as such they will not introduce any staining into the water or laundry.

Soap drawers or, detergent draw, is made from plastic and cannot degrade or stain things either.

These elements along with the tub unit is where water is in the washing machine and where the wash process takes place. In these areas there is nothing that can actually stain as such without a bearing failure which you would be aware of due to the noise or, something being used in the machine that is causing the problem.

  Washing Machine Design

Manufacturers or washing machines design their machines in such a way so as to not cause staining, using components that could allow staining through them degrading or failing would be tantamount to gross stupidity on their part so, they don't do it. Even after many hundreds or even thousands of cycles, they do not degrade in a way that would allow staining to occur.

We have already written extensively about the perils of plastic outer tanks and sealed tanks that you see on a huge number of washing machine due to the cost reduction it affords but, even at that, the problem is caused by the way in which the machine is being used, not the machine itself as such.

All the hoses in your washing machine, the drum, the paddles, the heater and all the other parts that are exposed to water are designed specifically to not cause any staining and to be as inert as possible.

  Using Your Washing Machine

With all the above in mind and bearing in mind that there's no actual components that can cause stains the logical conclusion to reach if you get any odd stains on your washing is that it isn't from the machine itself. So, it has to be caused by what has been put in it.

As service engineers it is pretty common to get the complaint that "my washing machine is staining my clothes" when, the truth it, it isn't.

A cotton wash program on a Hotpoint Aqualtis washing machine can take over three hoursIt's also really hard for a service engineer to tell a customer that they are sorry but, it's what you're doing that's causing the problem, not the machine. In fact when working contractually for a manufacturer etc we'd get hung, drawn and quartered for telling people the truth in some cases.

The thing is that washing machines and detergent technologies change all the time and, frankly, most people simply do not bother to read the instructions and simply assume that somehow, as if by magic, that the washing machine will sort it out and compensate in some way. The reality is, it won't and you will get poor results if you use either incorrectly.

The washing machine and the detergent work in close harmony with one another, use one incorrectly and you might not get the best results. Use both incorrectly and you could face a laundry disaster. Add into the mix not washing your garments according to the care labels and you will have problems, we guarantee it.

Another favorite, that we often learn through conversation, is that people try to shortcut the now longer program times by using quick wash programs a lot if not all the time. This is bad, very, very bad indeed for your clothes and your washing machine. You need to wait and do it properly if you want to get the proper wash results and not damage your washing machine. Again, if you don't follow this advice you will probably need a service engineer in the not too distant future or, a new washing machine.

Yes, we know that a lot of the new programs can take hours and we explain why that is in this article about wash times but, the bottom line is that you cannot save energy and use less water without a trade off in the program time.

Continual incorrect use will ultimately lead to problems with door seal mildew or mould, bad smells from your washing machine and a host of other issues.

Whilst is it fair to say that cheaper washing machines will generally do a a poorer job of avoiding these issues as they are limited by costs and can't use stainless outer tanks so tend to suffer more from build ups inside the tank. Washing machines with stainless outer tanks suffer from this far, far less in our experience.

  My Washing Machine Is Damaging My Clothes

If we had a fiver for every time that we heard that phrase in conversation with customers...

The reality is that if there is a fault with your washing machine it wil damage everything in the machine every single time. It cannot discern different fabrics within the drum, it can't decide that it will only damage light items and leave heavy ones untouched and so on. Your washing machine just isn't that smart, even if the sales literature may lead you to think otherwise.

What your washing machine will do is exactly what you tell it to do. If you tell it to do the wrong thing for the items you put in it then expect to get damage to your clothes.

Likewise, if you use the incorrect detergent for the items that you are washing, expect them to get damaged.

People doing the wrong thing and not following the care label instructions is way more common than washing machine machines being faulty by an order of magnitude.

  Kitchen Chemistry 

Washing your clothes in a washing machine should not need a chemistry setIt cracks up service engineers that many people use what appears to be a mini chemical laboratory to do laundry. You walk into a kitchen and open the cupboard next to the washing machine only to be greeted by a plethora of pseudo detergent and stain removal products, most of which you don't actually need.

You see, there are companies out there (some very large ones) that have the sole intent of selling you as much as they possibly can.

People not understanding modern washing machines and detergents has been an absolute boon to them. They get to sell you "add on" items like tubs of stain remover and so on that, if you took the time to learn and used the detergents and washing machine correctly in the first place you wouldn't need at all. But instead some companies will quite happily sell you another product to make up for your lack of knowledge and, profit greatly by doing so.

One of the most stupid ones we see regularly is people using non-bio detergent and, in the cupboard there's a tub of additional powder stain remover. The additional stain remover is, in reality, a tub of bleaching agents and some enzymes, exactly the stuff that you took out by making the choice to buy non-bio detergent in the first place.

It gets worse though when you see that and some cheap no-name brand detergent as, all you've done is pay extra to get the stuff that's in the good detergent brands as standard. And, you've paid handsomely for the privilege into the bargain.

Then we have the people that use soap nuts, ecoballs and other items of hocus pocus that, so far as we are concerned hold about as much cleaning power as hanging out your laundry in the rain to get clean. They don't work, period.

And, when theses things and even some more mainstream "eco" products like Ecover etc are used you still find that there's "add ons" in the kitchen cupboard in order to make them work even remotely well.

You don't need a chemistry set to wash your clothes but, you do need to follow the instructions and actually heed the advice from people that know a whole heap more about this than you do.

  How You Can Get Help With Laundry Problems

To offer support in helping people to determine the cause of laundry problems please use the washing machine support forum.

It’s fast, free, easy and normally someone will pick up on the post that can assist you often with a few experts chipping in if needed. Just register if you don’t have an account, we don’t mail you, send you spam or any of that stuff.

Post up your question and give images if you possibly can and the guys in the forums will do the rest for you and try to identify the problem you have.

Cost you nothing, might save you some embarrassment or worse, a charge for a service visit that wasn’t needed.

  Photographs Of Damage

If you can post photographs of the damage or problem you are having this can be really helpful in allowing the technicians to see what the problem is.

Barbara Brookes
dark brown stains on washing
Dark brown stains (dark brown ground coffee colour) on clothing etc. Unable to remove stains. What is the cause ?
Miele front loader in immaculate condition 3 years old.
Looking forward to your help.

Trudy riehl
I have brown/Gray stains getting on my white clothes. I have a top lading Samsung with no agitator. This happens with and without chlorine bleach. I always wash whites in hot water. I cannot find a filter to clean manually. I have set my washer on self clean cycle but do not do it regularly. This did not ever happen with my old machine. This machine is only about 3 years old. Soap drawer is clean and I only use HE detergent. Help!

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