Some of us may sweat more than others, but sweat stains are something everyone must deal with in their laundry. When white clothes start to get a yellow tinge around the armpits, you might assume that sweat caused the stain, and that's only half right. The real cause of these yellowish stains is a mixture of the minerals (especially salt) in sweat mixing with the ingredients in antiperspirant or deodorant (primarily aluminum). This is the combo that makes the yellow stains on white clothes and discolors the armpit areas of colored clothes.
Sweat stains can be stubborn and may require more than one treatment, but you don't need any fancy stain removers or strong chemicals to erase them. Simple household solutions and ordinary laundry products usually work best.
|Stain type||Protein and chemical|
|Detergent type||Enzyme-based laundry detergent|
|Water temperature||Warm or hot|
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. Just dampen a white cloth or a cotton swab with peroxide (or another stain remover or cleaner you'd like to use) and dab it onto an interior seam, hem, or inconspicuous area 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.
Equipment / Tools
- Sponge or toothbrush
- Baking soda
- Hydrogen peroxide
- Enzyme-based stain remover (optional)
- Laundry detergent
- White vinegar (optional)
- Chlorine bleach (optional)
Sponge the Stain
Make a mixture of equal parts baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, and water. 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.
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.
Rinse With Water
Rinse out the solution with cold or warm water.
Do not rinse with hot water because it can set the stain.
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.
Wash as Usual
Wash the item as you normally would, using the hottest water that is safe for the fabric.
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.
Prevent sweat stains by using less deodorant so the built-up layers do not soak into the fabric. Or consider a new deodorant that is aluminum-free or with less aluminum than other brands which may help prevent stains.
As a last resort for stubborn sweat stains, submerge and soak the garment in a solution of cold water and 1 1/2 cups of white vinegar, then let it sit for at least 30 minutes, rinse and launder. For white fabrics that are bleach-safe, wash with chlorine bleach to help remove the stain's yellow tinge. Once you know the sweat stain is gone for good, you can resume drying the clothing in a dryer.