What causes yellow Stains on Clothes & how to get rid of them

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Probably each of us has experienced them: yellow stains on white clothes. The origin of these annoying yellow discolorations on your laundry can have various reasons. In today’s article, we want to get to the bottom of the stains. You will learn what causes yellow stains on clothes and how to avoid them and what helps to get rid of yellow stains on white shirts.

We’ll give you tips on how to care for and store your clothes so that such discolorations don’t occur in the first place. Of course, you will also learn what to do if yellow stains appear on your textiles and how to remove them.

What causes yellow Stains on Clothes

why yellow stains on white clothes, yellowed collar

Yellow stains in textiles can have various causes. The discoloration can be caused by external influences such as sweat or cigarette smoke, detergent residues, whitening products or incorrect storage, and the like.


Sweat is one of the most common reasons for yellow discoloration on light-colored uppers. You’ll notice such stains mainly in the armpit, back, or neck area of your white tops – precisely the places where you sweat a lot.

Besides sweat, your deodorant can also trigger a chemical reaction that causes discoloration of your laundry.

Cigarette smoke

Like white wallpaper and curtains, beloved white clothing can also turn yellowish due to cigarette smoke. In most cases, the entire item of clothing is affected.

The longer the textile is exposed to cigarette smoke, the more the yellowing is visible.


Grease and oil can also cause yellow stains on your clothes. Such grease stains often occur during cooking. When frying or eating, the warm fat often splashes onto your clothes and soaks deep into the fibers of the textile.

Anyone who has ever had a grease stain on their clothes knows how stubborn they can be. Because it is not so easy to remove grease stains and their smell from clothes, especially on white clothes, the grease or oil stains can turn yellowish afterward.

Often the grease stains also have a small rim surrounding them.

Too much detergent

It almost seems ironic, but perhaps the yellow stain on your clothes was also caused by your detergent. If you use too much detergent in the machine, you risk causing detergent residue to build up on your clothes.

It is precisely this detergent residue that can subsequently cause a yellowish discoloration on your clothes.

insufficent detergent

But the exact opposite can also be the case because using too little detergent can also cause yellow stains on clothes. If too little detergent is used for the wash cycle, stubborn stains, such as sweat, may not be appropriately cleaned out.

insufficient water

Similar to washing with too much detergent, washing with too little water can also cause discoloration of your laundry. If you use too little water, you risk that dirt and detergent residues cannot be thoroughly rinsed out of the textiles.

The remaining bacteria, dirt particles, and detergent residues can cause yellowish staining on your clothes.


Whiteners and bleach may also cause yellowish stains because such chemical substances are usually quite strong. The strong whitener attacks the textiles and turns them back to a proper white.

When removing the discolorations, it additionally attacks the delicate fabric. Unfortunately, such reactions can also have the opposite effect, namely discoloration.


However, not only conventional bleaching solutions but also other types of detergents, e.g., chlorine-based, can cause the oxidation of fabrics. While this helps dissolve discolorations, such a chemical reaction can unfortunately also have the opposite effect on more sensitive materials: namely, clothing discolors after a short time.

How to avoid yellow stains on white clothes

white linen, four bottles of detergent next to white towels

Now that you know how yellow stains are caused in the first place, in the next part of the article, you will learn how to avoid the yellowing of the laundry in the future.

Washing regularly

Often, the annoying yellowish spots appear when the laundry is left in the closet for a long time. Chemical reactions, sweat, detergent, or other residues on the textiles usually cause such stains.

To avoid this kind of yellowing, the clothes should be washed regularly.


The way you wash your clothes can also affect their color. If you use a program unsuitable for your textiles, the formation of stains is favored.

In case of heavily stained or sweaty laundry, e.g., white tennis socks, your textiles should be washed appropriately hot to dissolve the stain even from the deepest fibers.

The same applies to the amount of water used and the washing time. If soiled laundry items are only washed on a short cycle, dirt particles may remain in the fibers.

But washing sensitive fibers too long and too hot can also promote the formation of nasty stains and discolorations. Therefore, before washing, check the washing instructions on the label of your clothes.


The selection of the right washing program is crucial, and the amount of detergent added can influence the color of your laundry.

You can add a little more detergent to the machine for heavily stained laundry or long-wash programs. Especially with short wash programs, however, you should be particularly careful with the detergent.

“Less is more” does not apply when it comes to the cleanliness of your textiles. Detergent residues can accumulate in the fibers of your clothes and cause yellow stains. That’s why it’s important to always remove detergent residues from your clothes.

Extra tip: Detergent residues can also accumulate in the washing machine. Therefore, you develop a regular cleaning routine for your machine and the washing machine rubber.


Perhaps the stains are not even caused by dirt or oxidation. Sometimes discoloration from other clothing lies behind the annoying stains. Especially with light-colored laundry, you should ensure that your textiles are not washed together with different colored garments.

If there is no other way, you can add color catchers (e.g., these from Amazon) to the machine when washing. These catch the released color particles, so they can not contribute to the discoloration of the other clothing items.


Another mistake people tend to make that can affect the color of their laundry is folding laundry that is not yet completely dry.

I know this all too well: you have a few minutes to take off the laundry, but it’s still slightly wet. While you actually know that the laundry should be really completely dry, you then sometimes turn a blind eye and take the laundry off too early.

But this should be avoided at all costs to preserve the fresh smell of your laundry and the white color of the clothes. Because also, the humidity, which cannot escape from the folded laundry and the storage in the cupboard, provides for yellow discolorations.

The moisture can furthermore spread to other laundry items in the closet and cause unattractive odors and discoloration there. Therefore, you should make sure that you only place completely dried laundry items in the closet. This also applies if you dry your laundry indoors.


If you dry your clothes in the open air, you have a significant advantage that sun and wind usually speed up the drying process. However, you should be aware that not only dark clothes suffer in the sun.

The hot UV rays not only bleach dark colors but can also cause yellowish discoloration on your white laundry. That’s why it’s recommended to avoid the strongest sun hours in summer or to move directly to the shade. Your clothes will thank you.


In general, your laundry should not only be stored completely dry but also in a cool place if possible. Too warm temperatures in the closet can favor the growth of bacteria. This creates not only musty odors but also unattractive stains on your laundry.

How to get rid of yellow stains on laundry

blue liquid on white shirt

Have yellow stains appeared on your laundry despite precautionary measures? Here you can learn how to eliminate annoying stains with simple home remedies.


The first method of removing discoloration from your laundry is to wash it at higher temperatures. This option is especially beneficial for new light discolorations before the yellow stains get deep into the fibers.

Especially for stains caused by detergent residues, washing at higher temperatures might be enough to get rid of the discoloration.

Important: Please be sure to follow the washing instructions for the clothes. If the textile is not allowed to be washed at high temperatures, you should avoid this at all costs and instead try another option.


If simply washing at hot temperatures is not enough, or if washing at hot temperatures is not possible, special stain removers, such as this one, can help return the laundry to its original white color.

Apply the stain remover to the yellowish area before washing, and let it soak for a short time. The best way to do this is to follow the instructions on the package. After a few minutes, you can wash the discolored garment in the machine on the standard program as hot as possible.

Baking soda

An excellent solution to get rid of stains in clothes is baking soda. Place your yellowish piece of clothing in a container with some lukewarm water. Then you can add a few small teaspoons of baking soda.

Make sure the powder dissolves well, and let the stain soak for at least half an hour. After that, you can put the clothes in the machine as usual and wash them together with similar clothes.

Extra tip: For solid stains, mix the baking soda with some water to a paste and rub it directly into the stain. After about 2 hours of soaking, you can now wash the item in the machine.

Vinegar solution

A vinegar solution can also help to remove annoying stains from your clothes. Fill a container with water and then add a few tablespoons of vinegar. Mix the two liquids well and soak the stained piece in the vinegar solution for at least 30 minutes.

You can then wash the clothes in the machine using the regular washing program.

Important: Do not soak delicate garments (e.g., wool) with vinegar, as it can attack the soft fibers.


Put some toothpaste on the yellowed garment that you want to whiten again. Due to the whitening properties of the toothpaste, discolored parts of the clothing can often be whitened again.

After a short soaking time, you can machine wash the piece of clothing to rinse the toothpaste well.

Important: Please do not apply toothpaste to delicate or colored garments, as it can harm the gentle fibers.


One last option is to take advantage of the acidity of lemon. To do this, mix a little water and lemon juice in a container in which you soak the yellowed fabric.

Later, you can wash the clothes in a conventional washing program.

Important: Do not soak delicate clothes (e.g., wool) with lemon, as it can damage the fibers.

FAQ about yellow stains on clothing

What causes yellow stains on clothes?

The yellow stains on light-colored clothes can have various causes. Common reasons are sweat, oxidation, sun exposure, incorrect storage, and detergent residues in the laundry.

Yellow stains on the laundry – washing machine as a trigger?

Sometimes the yellow stains on the laundry actually come from the washing machine itself. Clean your machine regularly and use it at hot temperatures to prevent staining.

When do yellow stains on the laundry go away?

Once white laundry has become discolored, the stains rarely go away on their own. Usually, stain removers or specific home remedies help to get rid of the yellowing.

Can I get rid of the yellow stains in the laundry?

Yellowing in the laundry is annoying but can usually be cleaned with stain removers or a few simple home remedies.

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