How to Remove Deodorant Marks From a Shirt

No More Zebra Stripes!

White spot on the dress armpit and deodorant on a wooden background. Top view.
Mukhina1 / Getty Images

We've all done it. Pulled a shirt over our head only to later find, and always at a most inopportune time, white deodorant stripes on the sides of our clothes. What can you do to quickly remove them?

How to Quickly Remove Deodorant Marks and Stains on Clothes

Most of those white zebra stripes and smudges are simple to remove and you don't even have to take off your shirt. Here are four easy tips:

  1. Rub the deodorant residue stripes and smudges with a pair of pantyhose or knee highs. Just use some brisk wrist action, no heavy scrubbing needed.
  2. Grab a piece of foam rubber from a dry cleaning hanger and rub out the evidence.
  3. Erase all traces of deodorant with a new or used fabric dryer sheet by rubbing with quick, short strokes. A used dryer sheet is best because a new one may leave some white residue on dark fabrics. Make sure that the dryer sheet is completely dry.
  4. If you don't have anything on hand and as a last resort, grab your shirt and briskly rub the fabric together against itself to loosen the deodorant residue and then brush it away. I say last resort because the rubbing can cause wrinkles and even stretch or snag some delicate fabrics.

There are commercial deodorant mark removal products that you can purchase. Any of these tools can easily be stored in a desk, tote bag, or car and are items you should probably have on hand.  

If you look closely when you're shopping, you'll see that all of these commercial sponges are simply foam rubber. The key is to rub the deodorant marks with a dry, textured material that will loosen the residue from your clothing without damaging the fabric.

If you use a wet baby wipe or stain removal wipe to tackle the deodorant residue, the residue may come off but the moisture in the wipe can sometimes adhere the waxy deodorant even tighter to the fabric. Plus, you now have a damp spot to contend with on your shirt. If you must use a damp wipe, blot the wipe with paper towels first to remove as much moisture as possible.

Once you get home, just remember to launder your shirt even if it looks clean to remove all traces of the deodorant residue and prevent staining.

Once deodorant residue becomes embedded in the fibers of the shirt, you'll begin to see yellowing or stiffness of the fabric in the underarm area and smell trapped bacteria odor. The yellowing happens as your body salts react with the aluminum-based antiperspirants that are contained in some deodorants. It is much easier to remove the deodorant stains when they are fresh than the older stains.

How to Prevent Deodorant Marks on Clothes

Now that you've managed to get the white marks off your clothes and save yourself from an embarrassing situation, I'll bet you never want to have that happen again. What can you do?

Here are five tips on how to prevent deodorant marks on clothes:

  • Allow the deodorant you apply to your armpits to dry completely before dressing. If you must speed the process, a quick blast of warm air from a hair dryer can help.
  • Avoid applying too much deodorant. If it is not working and you think more is better, change brands!
  • Switch from a solid white product to a clear gel deodorant formula. Aerosol sprays are also a good choice and less likely to leave marks on clothes.
  • Slip on an undershirt first to prevent staining your outer shirt.
  • As you pull a knit shirt or dress over your head, roll up the bottom hem outward before putting it on. Once it's on, unroll the hem.If you've gotten any deodorant on the fabric, it will be on the inside where no one will see it.

Some people recommend putting on the shirt before you apply deodorant then reaching under the shirt to roll on deodorant to your armpits. That might prevent stripes but you're also going to have lots of deodorant residue on the underarms which will lead to odor and probably staining.