Why Are My Gray Towels Turning Orange?

Figuring out what's ruining the towels throughout your home can feel like an endless maze. For example, have your grey bath towels been turning orange recently, and you can't figure out what's wrong? Is there a specific product that someone might use that causes the orange marks to appear?

We've done plenty of research and have the potential cause below.

One of the main reasons gray towels turn orange is if you use a face or body product containing benzoyl peroxide. This powerful ingredient works wonders for acne and clearing other skin irritation; however: it also destroys fabrics.

Furthermore, your water may also have high iron, which can cause rust-looking spots on your towels and bedding. Bleach can also turn gray towels orange, which is a common issue for many homeowners.

As we start this article, we'll discuss what causes gray towels to turn orange and explain how to remedy this problem. Whether you run a short-term rental, have teenagers using benzoyl peroxide, or need extra help maintaining your things, we're here for you. With that said, let's dive right into this topic!

Up close photo of a gray towel, Why Are My Gray Towels Turning Orange?

What Causes Gray Towels To Turn Orange?

White folded towels on a table

For anyone struggling with orange-stained gray towels, this is a pretty common issue. One of the main reasons for this is if someone in your home uses benzoyl peroxide products.

You might find this bleaching ingredient in skincare like face or body wash for acne. Unfortunately, this effective product can wreak havoc on towels, bedding, and clothing, which can become an expensive problem.

For example, if you or a family member/roommate use an acne-targeted body or face wash with benzoyl peroxide, expect orange stains on your towels if you use them afterward.

You need to be extra careful when using strong products around your fabrics. Try and keep one towel for your acne wash, which can get as stained as you want. That spares the others in your home.

Additionally, orange spotting or staining on colored towels can be due to the following:

  • Coming in contact with bleach
  • Being washed in hard water
  • Washing machine rust
  • Water with high iron
  • Other harsh chemicals
  • Improper storage

So, you can see how your gray towels stain for countless reasons. Before making an action plan, check if any of these apply to your home and towels.

Can You Get Orange Stains Out Of Gray Towels?

Pouring bleach

If your gray towels become ruined by orange staining, hope is not all lost. Luckily, there should be a way to reverse this damage, as long as the stain didn't come from a bleaching agent.

Unfortunately, if an acne wash causes the orange spotting, it will be nearly impossible to fix.

However, if you believe your orange stains came from something different, here's what to do:

  • Presoak your gray towels in warm water in a solution of 1 quart of warm water, 1/2 teaspoon liquid dishwashing or laundry detergent, and one tablespoon of white vinegar.
  • Let your gray towels sit in the mixture for 15-20 minutes.
  • After that, rinse your towels thoroughly and run them through the washer.

Of course, if your water is causing the spotting, this can make fixing the stains harder. You may want to invest in a water purifying system for your house to help filter those minerals out.

As we mentioned, bleaching agents (acne wash, chemicals, etc.) can also turn gray sheets and towels orange, so you might need to switch products and towels.

Unfortunately, orange stains can form on nearly all towel colors, so this isn't the fault of your grey product. Think of the orange as either rust/water damage or bleaching by heavy chemicals.

We recommend switching to more natural ingredients for your skincare and cleaning, which will be kinder to your skin and towels/bedding.

Are The Orange Stains On My Gray Towels Permanent?

Six sheets of grey folded towels

Depending on where the orange stains on your gray towels came from, they may be permanent. Usually, orange spots or blotchiness on towels means they have been bleached.

Whether that's from actual bleach or a chemical in your skincare, it can't typically be reversed. That said, if the orange staining came from the water or rust inside your laundry machine: there could still be hope.

Most often, you can soak your rust-stained fabrics in vinegar, and that will lift them. The key here is fast action. When you notice a stain, don't let it sit on your gray towels for long.

You also want to try and trace where and what is causing this orange staining. For example, if only one person's towels turn orange, they're likely using chemical face and body products.

Acne-prone skin is already damaging enough, so using chemicals to treat it may also ruin your towels. The best policy is if you don't understand or can't read a product's ingredients: don't use it.

Can I Use Vinegar To Remove The Orange Stains From My Gray Towels?

Yes! If the stains on your gray towels come from rust or minerals in your water, soaking them in vinegar can lift the markings. Remember, vinegar is a powerful (natural) agent that works wonders for fabrics.

As we shared, you usually want to mix vinegar with warm water and soap before dipping your gray towels. This mixture will penetrate the fibers of your towels deeper than regular stain remover, lifting the orange marks off your towels.

With that said, you can't always depend on the vinegar method. If your towels become bleached, removing the orange spots is nearly impossible.

Harsh chemicals, like bleach and benzoyl peroxide, essentially strip the fabric of its color. Not only is this sad because your towels are ruined, but it also will keep happening unless you stop using the problematic products.

Moreover, orange staining on gray towels can start unnoticeable and worsen over time. Therefore, we recommend reading through the ingredients in your face and body products and seeing if any peroxides or acids are listed. If so, try swapping to a more natural, chemical-free alternative.

Do Gray Towels Resist Staining Better Than Other Colors?

When it comes to gray towels resisting stains better than other colors, that may not be true. Even though gray is the perfect neutral in most aspects/situations, it is still a deeper tone.

Therefore, stains from bleaching, chemicals, rust, water, etc., might be more attracted to the gray fibers and turn out easier/faster. Generally, white towels are the ones that hide chemical staining the best.

Most hotels use white linens, towels, and other accessories throughout the room because all you need to do to remove most stains is bleach them. Yes, we did say bleach.

If you have gray towels, bedding, or clothing, you cannot clean them with a bleaching agent. You want to avoid bleach at all costs with any non-white fabric.

So, gray might not be a good idea compared to lighter hues.

With that said, no towel is stain-free. Regardless of its color, your towels will see bad days. Whether you use harsh products, have hard, mineral-rich water, or don't store them properly: your gray towels will eventually change colors.

If not through staining, your gray towels are likely to fade the more you use and wash them, so there's no point in worrying. Use gentler products and soak your fabrics in vinegar if orange spots form.

Which Bath Towels Are Better: White Or Gray?

Between white and gray bath towels, this comes down to a few things. First, do you need towels to hide stains and be easy to clean? If so, white fabrics are what we suggest.

However, white towels aren't always bleachable and cleanable. If the stain is bad enough, you could struggle to get out spots like with a gray or colored towel.

Generally, white towels and sheets have a hotel-like feel. We think white is the best option for your bathroom if you're going for that aesthetic.

In contrast, gray towels work as a happy medium for people wanting color but also versatility. Even though some things may stain gray towels and bedding, this color is pretty durable.

Whether you use self-tanning products, makeup, or dye your hair often, gray towels will conceal light staining much better than white.

So, in that way, gray towels are better for stain-resisting. According to most experts, the cleaning stage is when you want to have white towels.

Is My Washing Machine Ruining My Gray Towels?

Pouring bleach on to a cup for washing cloths

Yes. Your laundry machine may be doing damage to your gray towels. As we mentioned, rust inside your machine can cause orange stains on gray and other colored fabrics.

This is usually because of iron in your water, which then corrodes the inside of your appliance. In this scenario, you want to inspect your washer and clean it thoroughly.

Use a scrub brush or sponge and remove any signs of rust you see. You might also want to start running empty "cleaning" cycles for your laundry machine, which will help clean the rust and prevent it.

It's generally easier to get ahead of a water/rust problem than have to repair the entire interior of your washing machine.

To Finish

Whether you have gray towels filled with stains or recently noticed this, it's always good to have a plan. We found that the main culprit for orange stains on gray towels is benzoyl peroxide.

Furthermore, bleaching agents and chemicals in skin and body care can wreak havoc on grey fabrics. Therefore, you might want to designate one towel for staining and stay far away from the others.

Your home's water may also have high iron content or minerals, which will cause orange spotting too. Try inspecting your washing machine before cleaning towels, and add vinegar to your mix.

Good luck with your laundry! Before you go, check out these other posts:

17 Curtain Ideas For The Laundry Room That You Should Try!

How To Remove Hard Water Stains From Shower Curtains