It can be a terrible disappointment when an item that is supposed to come clean and dry from a washing and drying cycle comes out stained. Many consumers believe that gas dryers are to blame, but this may not necessarily be the case.
Whether this stain encompasses the entire article of clothing or it presents itself as small, yellow dots determines whether the dryer or the washing machine is to blame. In addition, both electric and gas dryers can cause staining.
Widespread yellow discoloration is due to oxidation of detergent/softener residue on clothing. The oxidation process is sped up by the dryer heat. Causes are using too much or the wrong soap, insufficient rinsing, and/or poor washer drainage. Yellow spots are likely due to lubricant leaks within the dryer.
Dryer Heat Baking Detergent/Softener
Although detergent and softener are meant to clean and condition clothing, if any remains after the washing cycle, it may bake into the fabric with the heat of a gas dryer and leave clothing with a widespread yellowish stain.
There are a variety of reasons why detergent or fabric softener may remain on a load that has been washed.
We will get to these reasons shortly, but whatever the reason, as long as the residue is present in a high-heat environment, a chemical reaction is bound to happen to cause the residue to turn yellow.
You should note that the residue may not be visible to the naked eye when transferring the clothing from the washer to the dryer, so don’t beat yourself up thinking that your clothes are stained because you were distracted.
What Makes It Turn Yellow? (It’s Not About the Gas)
Although many homeowners seem to believe that gas dryers are the only kinds of dryers that lead to this problem, this is most likely not true.
The problem that leads to clothes yellowing is high heat, which causes a chemical reaction. Thus, the issue is not related to the use of gas, and electric dryers could also cause stains.
However, gas dryers may be more likely to reach higher temperatures faster, so yellowing due to heat may be more likely in these models, which contributes to the misconception that it is only a gas dryer problem.
Heating up more quickly is one of the pros of gas dryers, but in the case of clothes turning yellow, it becomes a possible con.
The chemical reaction that leads to clothes yellowing is oxidation. Oxidation is actually a very well-known reaction when it comes to discoloring objects and items. Oxidation is what causes silver iron to turn red (rust) or copper to turn green.
Like many chemical reactions, the process of oxidation is sped up by heat.
The heat that a dryer creates can speed up the oxidation of detergent or fabric softener, causing a new chemical compound to be made in the form of a yellow substance coating the fibers of your clothing.
Using Too Much Detergent/Softener
Just like clothes shouldn’t be too wet when they are entering the dryer, the clothes entering the dryer also should not be soapy.
In theory, the wash cycle should remove detergent and fabric softener from your clothing so that all that is saturating the clothing when it is transferred to the dryer is water.
However, if too much detergent or fabric softener is used, it will be more difficult for your washer to remove the substances completely during the wash cycle.
Using too much detergent or fabric softener can happen for a variety of reasons.
Let’s say you’re washing a very small load of laundry, but you put in the amount of detergent or fabric softener needed for a large load of laundry because you’re so used to doing this.
It is likely that not all of the detergent or fabric softener will be washed off since the clothes were overly-saturated in these substances. In addition, in modern machines, the amount of water used is based on weight, so there is just less water to rinse this smaller load.
Another scenario where too much detergent or fabric softener is used is if you have a very dirty load of laundry. To try to correct this, you may use far too much detergent.
Although more detergent can help with dirtier clothes, there comes a point when the amount of detergent or fabric softener used is far too much, and the washer will not be able to handle it.
Whatever the reason, using too much detergent or softener for a load can cause the product to stick to the fibers of clothing after a wash and lead to yellow stains when heat is applied during a drying cycle.
If you use the recommended amount of detergent or fabric softener for a load of laundry, there can be other reasons why your gas drying is turning the clothing yellow.
The problem may not lie in the amount of detergent or softener but rather in how well the clothing was rinsed.
If you wash your clothes by hand and then use a dryer to dry the clothing, this would be human error.
It is possible that the hand-washing process wasn’t thorough enough and some soap remained on the clothing when it was transferred to the dryer.
However, if the washing process was done with a machine, there is most likely a problem with the rinse cycle.
If your washing machine’s rinse cycle is not effective, there are a variety of problems that may exist. These problems include broken switch assemblies or other mechanical problems.
Poor Washer Drainage
Although you may use the correct amount of detergent or fabric softener and your washing machine rinses sufficiently, poor washer drainage may negate these two parts of the process.
Dirty or soapy water must be removed efficiently in order for the washer to do its job.
If soapy water is not allowed to drain during a washing cycle, even a good rinsing cycle will not be able to remove the residue that will be stuck on the clothing if the clothing was to sit in soapy, dirty water.
Poor washer drainage can happen for a variety of reasons. These reasons include a broken or clogged drain pump and a bent or clogged drain hose.
Drain hoses and pumps can be clogged with small articles of clothing such as socks. It may require professional help to unclog drain hoses and pumps.
You should notice if your washer is not draining properly as the clothes will be far too wet after washing.
Using the Wrong Detergent/Softener
For most washing machines, whatever approved detergent is out there will work.
However, if you use a high-efficiency washer, you must also use a high-efficiency detergent.
High-efficiency washers are meant to use less water for the same amount of cleaning effect. Because they use less water, they require detergents that have low suds.
A normal detergent with far more suds used in a high-efficiency washer that is not equipped for this will most likely lead to soapy residue on your laundry.
The reduced water used by high-efficiency washing machines would most likely not be able to rinse out all of the soap, leading to yellow stains on your laundry when they are put through a drying cycle.
Yellow Spots From Dryer
The reasons above are often the accurate cause of clothing that is experiencing general yellow discoloration.
However, these reasons may not apply if the stain is more spotty rather than a general discoloration.
In this case, the stains may be the fault of the dryer rather than the washing machine.
If there are small, yellow spots, there may be something leaking into the dryer.
The leaking substance is most likely a lubricant or oil that is used in the dryer.
For example, ball bearing lubricant is used to keep the drum turning with negligible friction.
However, if the ball bearings are over-lubricated, it is possible that the lubricant will drip into the drum and onto the clothing inside, creating small, yellow stains.
Another leak that can happen in a dryer that can lead to small, yellow stains is a motor oil leak.
Oil can leak from your dryer and onto your clothes when the dryer motor fails.
Along with small, yellow, oil stains, you may notice that the motor is making odd noises when the dryer runs.
For each of these issues, some maintenance is required to prevent the stains from happening again.
For the ball-bearing lubricant, the ball-bearing joint must be examined. This resembles a screw in the center of the dryer drum.
Once it is located, use a clean, dry cloth and wipe it around the ball-bearing joint. If the lubricant is coming off onto the cloth, the ball-bearing joint is over-lubricated.
To remove this excess lubricant, continue wiping around the ball-bearing joint until the lubricant is no longer transferring onto the cloth.
For the motor oil, the fix is a bit more complicated.
If your motor’s oil is leaking, it is very likely that the motor has failed. It would be wise to contact a dryer repair technician if you suspect that your motor has failed.