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Why are there streaks of gunk on my washing?

Have you ever had the problem of your washing coming out of the machine with streaks on it?  I recently bought a second-hand washing machine and, even though I cleaned it before I started using it, this was what my clothes looked like 3 loads in.  I took it as a great sign, here’s why…

What are the streaks made of?

While the streaks may have a little bit of debris from your water supply or dust from clothing, they are generally made up of fillers and extenders from laundry products.  Fillers and extenders are the “stuff” most brands add to the active ingredients to dilute it down.  They are the reason you have to use so much with each load, because most of the scoop isn’t actually doing anything to wash your clothes.  They fill up the packet and make the product cheaper to produce.

In liquids, water is the most common filler.  In powders, fillers and extenders seem to largely be made of things that don’t dissolve.  If you want to test this yourself, you can watch how I did this simple experiment myself here.

These particles of non-dissolvable stuff build up, over time, in your machine and in the fibres of your clothes.  The reduce the life of your machine, make your fabrics stiff and scratchy and are the cause of many skin irritations and reactions.   Fillers and Extenders also leave streaks on your fabrics.

Why are the streaks slimy?

Some of the sliminess may be due to bacteria but it’s more commonly silicone from fabric softeners.  Fabric softeners work by coating your fabrics in a layer of silicone to give them a smooth feel.  The irony here is that you really only need fabric softener to make the fabrics feel softer because of the scratchiness of the fillers and extenders trapped in them.

Why are the streaks coming out with my natural, concentrated brand?

When you switch over to a herbal brand without fillers and extenders, like Tri Nature, a few loads in and you find the existing fillers and extenders built up inside your machine start to break down and come out on the wash in bulk quantities.  A herbal concentrated laundry product will help to clean out your machine.  This is a terrific side benefit but you don’t want it to happen all over your clothes.

How can I stop the streaks?

The best way to stop the streaks on your washing is to clean out your machine thoroughly and only use a 100% concentrated, preferably herbal, brand of laundry product such as Alpha Plus.

When I say clean out the machine, I mean with a proper descaler, not just vinegar and bicarb.  An empty hot, hot wash cycle and the instructed amount of descaler in the machine is all you need to do.  It may take several goes, depending on how many years’ worth of build up you need to clear.  It took 3 descales for my new machine but it’s as good as new now and it smells terrific!

If you still want to use a fabric softener, look for a plant based one that has no silicone in it, like Tri Nature’s Angelica.

The other benefits include that you will find your clothes much brighter and less scratchy after a couple of washes, as the fillers and extenders are washed out.  Those with sensitive skin will find significantly less to no irritation.  And you will be able to use all your grey water on the garden!

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