How to get laundry detergent out of clothes

Updated April 17, 2017

Using too much laundry soap or not properly loading clothes in the washing machine can cause detergent residue on clothing. Hard or soft water can also contribute to problems with rinsing out washing powder, leaving clothing dull and stiff and causing itchy skin or rashes. If your clothing or body is exhibiting signs of detergent overload, take care of the problem in an inexpensive fashion.

Read the care labels on your clothing.

Sort your clothing by colours. Place white items together and put colours in a separate pile.

Look over each piece of clothing for blue or white streaks. Set items with streaks aside.

Fill a bucket with lukewarm water. Place one streaked clothing item in the bucket. Brush the streak areas gently with a toothbrush until stains are no longer visible. Repeat for each item that has detergent streaking. Place clothing items back into original piles.

Fill your washing machine to the largest load setting with the warmest temperature recommended per the instructions found on the care labels.

Read the directions on the back of your laundry water softener product. Dump in the recommended amount for your load. Swish your hand around to distribute the softener throughout the water. Softener additives are designed to help detergents work properly.

Fill the washing machine with one of your load piles. Swish your hand around to make sure that clothes can move freely without being clustered. Remove a few items if necessary. Close the lid on the washing machine and allow to cycle.

Dump in ½ cup of vinegar to the final rinse cycle. Vinegar helps to remove soap from the clothing and aids in the removal of hard water deposits in fabric fibres.

Repeat the above steps for each laundry load.


Consult with a water professional company in your area and have someone from the business pH test your water if you suspect that it may be hard. You may need to have a water softener system put in to stop ongoing laundry issues. Buy clear liquid laundry detergents to stop blue streaking from occurring in the future. Clean out the lint trap on your washing machine after each use. Lint may build up and your clothes may not be properly rinsed as a result.

Things You'll Need

  • Bucket
  • Water
  • Toothbrush
  • Measuring cup
  • Laundry water softener additive
  • White vinegar
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About the Author

Based in Pennsylvania, Jayme Lee has been a freelance writer since 2007. Her articles have appeared for various online publishers and through private clients. She dual-majored in social studies education and business administration with a minor in history at the University of Pittsburgh and Edinboro University of Pennsylvania.