Preventing and Removing Sweat Stains

Person looking at their underarm sweat stain
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We all sweat. It's a fact of life. Some of us may sweat more than others, but sweat stains are a fact of life in our laundry. Because sweat stains can be so difficult and time-consuming to remove, it's best to start with prevention. But if this stain has already reared its ugly head in your laundry, there are some techniques that can help.

When white clothes start to get a yellow tinge around the armpits we might assume that it is our sweat that has caused the stain. We'd be 1/2 right. The real cause of these yellowish stains is a mixture of the minerals, especially salt, in our sweat mixing with the ingredients in our antiperspirant or deodorants, mostly aluminum. This is the combo that makes the yellow stains on our white clothes and discolors the armpit areas of our colored clothes.

Preventing Sweat Stains

One way to help prevent these stains is to wear a less expensive undershirt. This undershirt will absorb more of the residue, keeping our nicer outer shirts from becoming stained. Another option is to use dress shields. These fabric or paper underarm inserts act as a sponge, soaking up the sweat and preventing the moisture from reaching your clothing.

If none of these options seem appealing, you can help prevent excess staining by not overusing your deodorant. Caking on a thick layer may seem like it will help prevent stains by preventing sweat, but that excess deodorant soaks directly into the fabric in your armpit area. It's also a good idea to allow the deodorant to dry fully before putting on your clothing. As a last resort, you could also try a new deodorant. There are deodorants that are aluminum free or have less of an aluminum content than others. That switch might help prevent stains as well. No matter what prevention methods you choose, make sure to wash or dry clean clothing that has been exposed to sweat quickly. Remember one of the general stain rules that a fresh stain is much easier to remove than a repeated and dried stain.

Removing Sweat Stains

As with most laundry, a lot depends on how long the stain has been there and the color of the clothing. If your item is dry clean only, take it to the dry cleaners and be sure to point out the area so that they will spend some extra time there. For machine-washable clothing, read on.

For white shirts that are machine washable, you can try applying 1 of 2 different homemade stain removers. Make sure to fully rinse between trying different methods.

Using Baking Soda and Hydrogen

Make a mixture of equal parts baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, and water. Start by using 1/4 cup of each. This should be enough to treat 1 shirt. You can do this in a sink or on a countertop. If you choose to use a countertop, lay a white towel out to protect your surfaces. Rub the mixture onto the stained areas using a laundry brush or old toothbrush. This will help work the solution into the fibers. Allow the item to sit for up to 30 minutes. Wash out the mixture using cold or warm water. Do not use hot water, since this can set the stain. If this doesn't work, you can try again, or move on to method 2.

If your clothes are beginning to be discolored by sweat stains, it's a good idea to hang them outside or inside to dry instead of drying in a dryer. Dryers will set the stains.

Using Vinegar

For dark colored clothes, soak them in enough cold water to submerge them and 1 1/2 cups of vinegar. Then wash normally and hang to dry. This method can be repeated as well.

For lightly colored clothes, you can try one of the methods for white clothes on a seam or hidden area to see if the color is affected. If it isn't, then the clothing is colorfast, and you can use one of the methods for white clothes. If it is, use the vinegar method for dark clothes.