How to Remove Sweat Stains From Clothes and More

Revive Sweaty Rings From Sheets, Pillow Cases, and Hats

How to Remove Sweat Stains From Clothing

The Spruce / Caitlin Rogers

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 10 - 15 mins
  • Total Time: 2 - 3 hrs
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $15-25

Some of us may sweat more than others, but sweat stains are a normal occurrence on clothing, bedding, and other fabrics that many people deal with in their laundry. These stains may even change the color of some materials. Since sweat stains can be stubborn, they sometimes require more than one treatment. Luckily, most sweat stains usually aren't permanent, and you won't need special stain removers or strong chemicals to erase them and revive your favorite clothing. Simple household solutions and ordinary laundry products usually work best.

Why Does Sweat Leave Stains?

Sweat contains high concentrations of salt and other minerals from our bodies. When it soaks into the fabric of clothing, bedding, and even pillowcases, this can change the color of the material. Your favorite black shirt may have white rings in the underarm area, or your bright white clothing can even turn yellow. However, sweat isn't the only cause of the stain.

When your clothes have sweat stains around the underarms, the real cause of these unsightly marks is a mixture of the minerals in your sweat mixed with the ingredients in antiperspirant or deodorant (primarily aluminum). This combination creates yellow stains on white clothes and discolors the armpit areas of colored clothes. When dealing with sweat and deodorant marks on clothing, treating the stains early is key. Once these inevitable spots appear on your clothes and bedding, it's best to rinse them in cold water before they dry completely.

Stain type Protein and chemical
Detergent type Enzyme-based laundry detergent
Water temperature Warm or hot
Cycle type Normal
1:08

How to Remove Underarm Stains and Odor From Clothes

Before You Begin

Test stain removers and cleaners, no matter how innocent they seem, on colored clothes before using them on sweat stains. Hydrogen peroxide, for example, is a mild bleaching agent that can lighten colored fabric that is not colorfast. Start by dampening a white cloth or a cotton swab with peroxide (or another stain remover or cleaner you'd like to use), then dab it onto an interior seam, hem, or inconspicuous area of the fabric to make sure no color comes off. If you see some color on the cloth or swab, use vinegar or a commercial stain remover that's safe for colors instead of the instructions below.

Tip

Instead of an enzyme-based laundry detergent, Dawn dish soap or lemon juice can be used to remove sweat stains. In place of detergent, simply mix one part Dawn to two parts water, or mix equal parts lemon juice and water. Use only cold water until the stain is completely removed, then continue future washes with hot water as needed.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Sponge or toothbrush

Materials

  • Baking soda
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Enzyme-based stain remover (optional)
  • Laundry detergent
  • White vinegar (optional)

Instructions

Sweat stain remover supplies
The Spruce
  1. Sponge the Stain

    Mix baking soda with enough water or hydrogen peroxide to form a paste. Rub the mixture onto the stained area, using a sponge or an old toothbrush. Alternatively, you can sponge the stain with undiluted white vinegar. Allow the item to sit with the solution for up to 30 minutes.

    Applying baking soda and hydrogen peroxide mixture to shirt stain
    The Spruce

    Tip

    Use a similar process to hand-wash sweat-stained baseball caps and other washable hats to keep their shape. During washing, scrub the stained area with an old toothbrush. Rinse well and let the hat air-dry.

  2. Rinse With Water

    Rinse out the solution thoroughly with cold or lukewarm water.

    Warning

    Do not rinse with hot water because it can set the stain.

    Rinse stain solution under water
    The Spruce
  3. Pretreat With Enzymes

    If desired, apply an enzyme-based laundry stain remover or laundry detergent (Tide and Persil are heavy-duty detergents with enzyme-based formulas) and let it sit for five minutes or as directed.

    Pretreat clothing stain solution
    The Spruce
  4. Wash as Usual

    Wash the item as you normally would, using the hottest water possible that is still at a safe temperature for the fabric. Do not use hot water until the stain has been completely removed.

    Clothes in washing machine
    The Spruce
  5. Line Dry the Garment

    Let the clothing air dry, then check for any evidence of the sweat stain. If the stain remains, repeat the treatment as before.

    Line dry clothing
    The Spruce

Tip

Prevent sweat stains by using less deodorant so the built-up layers do not soak into the fabric. Alternatively, consider a new deodorant that is aluminum-free or made with less aluminum than other brands which may help prevent stains.

As a last resort for stubborn sweat stains, start back at Step 1 and try an alternate stain fighter. For example, if for your first try you used a vinegar soak, try again with hydrogen peroxide and baking soda paste (unless, of course, if your garment failed the color fast test). Do not use chlorine bleach, as the reaction between bleach and the minerals from sweat can actually make the stains worse. Once you know the sweat stain is gone for good, you can resume drying the clothing in a dryer.

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