Why is my washing machine leaving grey marks on my clothes?

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Every single wash leaves your clothes with stains. Gray, black, ash, or whatever the color is, but one thing is for sure, the washing machine is the culprit. 

Why is my washing machine leaving marks on my clothes? You might wonder: 

Well here is the answer: 

Somehow oil from the washing machine has been sipping into the washing machine’s drum, during washing. This oil is the cause of the stains you find in your clothes. 

This is an abnormality or a malfunction of some sorts. 

The real issue now is, what causes this oil, and how can you prevent it? 

Of course this is not the only culprit. As we will soon see.

Stains do not necessarily have to be the end of your beautiful garment. I recommend using stain removing cleaners like this to remove stubborn stains.

Causes of oil spillage in washing machine

  1. Faulty transmission.
  2. Mold investation.
  3. Chemical reaction between personal care products and detergents

Faulty transmission

The major cause of oil spilllage is faulty transmission. Also known as gear case. 

Normally, the oil in a washing machine has is not supposed to enter your drum. The only time when it does enter your drum is when there is a leakage. 

This leaking oil find its way to the drum and contaminates the clothes in the drum. The swirling water helps to spread the oil round the clothes in the drum, hence you find most clothes, especially bright colored clothes coming out of the washer with stains.

Hot water when mixed with soap or detergent dissolves oil. When black oil mixes with hot soapy water is dissolves and looses some of its oil and color. This gives it a greyish look.

This is the reason why sometimes the stained cloth has grey stains instead of the black stains from the oil.

But if you use cold water for your laundry, or there isn’t enough detergent, chances are the oil will retain most of its color.

So whether the stains on your laundered clothes are black or grey, they are all caused by the same thing: oil leakages in washing machine.

How to determine a faulty transmission

The best way to check for a faulty transmission is to listen for a grinding sound. 

This is perhaps the most obvious way to determine a faulty transmission.

Also a bad gear case, another name for transmission, is leaks oil. So if you repeatedly find black or grey stains on your laundry, you should check for oil leakage on the washing machine itself.

One way to do so, is to check underneath the washer. Simply raise the front side of the washer from the floor and check for oil leakage on the floor.

If the washer is too heavy to lift, you can bend down and inspect the underside with a touchlight.

Mold investation

Why is my washing machine leaving grey marks on my clothes

Have you seen a spoilt bread or some spoilt meal. One substance that they all share in common is some grey, powdery substance on their surface. This is called mold.

Mold can also infest your washing machine. If you make it a habit to wash your clothes with warm water and then close the washer drum afterward, you would have unknowingly be creating a breeding ground for mold.

This fungi loves warm temperature and thrives in wet environment. A washing machine that is infected with mold will constantly leave grey stains on clothes.

How to prevent mold stains

  1. Always leave your washing machine door open after use
  2. Install washing machines close to air condition units or well ventilated rooms
  3. Manually dry washer drums after wash.
  4. Regular clean washing machine with washing machine cleaners.

Always leave your washing machine door open after use

This is perhaps the easiest way to prevent mold infection. Leaving washing machine doors open helps to remove the root cause of mold: moist and heat.

It is a good practice to keep a washer door open after wash. This allows remnant water from the washing process to evaporate. Also steam left behind from hot wash cools down as the temperature lowers.

As simple as this might sound, it is the single, most cost effective way to prevent mold and the resulting stains in clothes.

Install washing machines close to air condition units or well ventilated windows or a similar setting

This is probably an extension of the first suggestion, to leave washer door open. The idea is to take out the moisture from the washing machine.

Installing a washing machine in the vicinity of an air conditon will help to dry out the moisture from an open washer faster.

In the event that leaving a washer door can pose some safety hazard, this might be the best way out. 

  • Simply turn on the AC unit, if it is not already turned on, 
  • Set the AC to dry, powerful or any similar settings, and 
  • Keep the washing machine door open for 20 – 30 minutes or as long as it is safe to do so.

Doing this after every wash will go a long way to rid the washer of mold.

Manually dry washer drums after wash

Why is my washing machine leaving grey marks on my clothes

You don’t need an extra explanation. After a wash, simply take a dry towel or any water absorbing clean rag, and wipe the washing machine.

The downside of this method is that it will be difficult to reach tiny spaces  that are smaller than the human fingers.

This is the most vintage of all the techniques. And it is the least effective way to prevent mold, but then, it is a million times better than doing nothing.

Also you can assign this task to the children in the house as their after-washing chores. 

Of course, this should be done only under the supervision of an adult.

Regular clean washing machine with washing machine cleaners

The last way to prevent washing machine molds and the resulting stains is to regular clean your washer with washing machine cleaners.

This is the best option for busy people who do not have the time to maintain the washer on a daily basis. All it takes is apply cleaning solutions during your monthly or quarterly cleaning of the washing machine itself.

For suggestions on what cleaners to use, you can check out this washing machine cleaning solution.

Chemical reaction between personal care products and detergents

In an article on Electrolux support website, it was mentioned that chemical reaction between certain personal care products and detergent can result in stains to washed clothes.

This is a nice revelation, as many users have constantly asked if it is possible to use shampoo in place of soaps and detergent. While this is not out of place, the caution is to not mix this too substances as it can cause stains on your clothes.


I hope I was able to answer the question: Why is my washing machine leaving grey marks on my clothes?

But here is the summary: grey or black stains in clothes after washing is caused by these 3 common factors:

  • A faulty transmission or gear case
  • Mold infestation of washing machines, and
  • Mixing certain personal care products with detergents.

This is not an a-z guide to the different causes of grey or black stains on clothes after washing. But this a mention of the major causes of it.

To find answers to similar questions on laundry, check the Laundry FAQs section.

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