Why Do Clothes That are Stored for Awhile Get Yellow Stains?

Yellow Stains?

There’s nothing like the disappointment of digging into your (finally!) in-season spring wardrobe and finding that your precious pieces have been marred with yellow stains and discoloration! It’s happened to most of us. Yellowing in storage is a common phenomenon that is most noticeable on white clothing – but it can affect clothing of any color! Luckily, we know exactly what causes yellowing – and how to treat it!

What Causes Yellowing?

The first step to solving a problem is understanding what caused it in the first place. There are actually a few things that can cause your clothing to yellow while it’s in storage. Even if you’re storing your garments in a seemingly sealed and dormant environment, there is a constant bombardment of chemical reactions, decay, and breakdowns continuously taking place that are invisible to naked eye. 


When certain chemicals are exposed to oxygen, they create a chemical reaction that shows up as a yellow stain on your clothing. Often, oxidation stains are the result of not cleaning your clothing appropriately before storing it. Even if your white sundress looks clean, it may have (currently) invisible stains lurking in its fibers. White wine, for instance, rarely stains–but if left on white cloth, you end up with yellow and brown stains all over! 

To be safe, it’s best to properly launder or dry clean your wardrobe before you put it into storage for months at a time. This minimizes the chance that there’s a substance on the surface that will oxidize and set while the garments are in storage. 

Too Little Detergent

Make sure that you use enough detergent to  break down any grime, dirt, or invisible stains that may be lurking. A lot of people use the “Min” (minimum) line to save money by stretching their detergent out, but at what cost?? Buying a new white buton down will cost more than using an appropriate amount of detergent for the job. Not sure how much to use? Your detergent manufacturer should have recommended instructions. Some washing machines come with indicators as well! Somewhere between minimum and maximum should be fine – although you may have to fill it right up to the line for especially dirty jobs. 

And ALWAYS check the label on your clothing to see if there are special cleaning instructions.

Not Rinsing Properly

Rinsing may not seem like an especially glamorous part of the cleaning process, but it can have a huge impact on your wardrobe. Rinsing thoroughly flushes out the grime and dirt that has been lifted by the detergent, which keeps it from resettling on the clothing and re-staining. Rinsing also removes soap scum that can curdle and form a thin layer of guck on the surface of your clothing. This layer can oxidize and yellow over time. 

Rinsing thoroughly also removes any chemicals that could come into contact with our skin and irritate it. 

Over Bleaching 

Much like the irony of soap stains, bleaching – often used to whiten garments – can actually cause yellowing when it’s over-used. But how can this be?? Bleach is a very strong chemical. Because it is so harsh, it can actually break down the fibers of the cloth with repeated exposure. Weakened cloth is vulnerable to yellowing and staining. This decay can be accelerated if the bleach is left too long or not properly rinsed out of the fabric. 

If you’re dealing with delicate or antique cloth, dry cleaning is likely much safer than using bleach. 

If you are experiencing mysterious yellow stains on your clothing when you bring it out of storage, you may want to consider having it professionally cleaned before next season. You can also prevent damage and yellowing by storing your clothes in a temeraure controlled, specially sealed storage facility, like those offered by Hangers Cleaners! 

We’ll clean your seasonal clothing and then pack it safely away until you’re ready for it next year. The price may vary depending on the size and condition of your collection so contact us for a free quote!

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