How to Remove Underarm Stains and Odor from Clothes

  • 01 of 05

    How to Remove Underarm Stains and Odor from Clothes

    Shirt sweat stain
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    Underarm sweat or perspiration stains are certainly obvious on clothes and can be really embarrassing. Unfortunately, even if you manage to keep your cool next time, the odor and armpit stains can remain in fabric and add just a bit of warmth and the odor comes right back.


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  • 02 of 05

    How to Remove Yellow Underarm Stains

    How to Remove Sweat Odors from Clothes
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    Armpit stains on shirts are caused by the reaction between antiperspirant ingredients and the salts in your sweat. Most antiperspirants contain aluminum compounds to reduce wetness. It is the aluminum that causes the build-up and yellowing on fabrics. The stains don’t appear overnight, but without proper washing of shirts after each wearing the stains will start to show and the show will be yellow on white shirts.

    How to Remove Yellow Armpit Stains

    First, be certain that your shirt is washable. If...MORE it says dry clean only, believe the tag. Dry clean after each wearing to prevent armpit yellowing. If your shirt is white and washable, here are two methods for removing the yellow stains and stiffness. Success will depend upon how old the stains are and the fabric content of your shirt – cotton whitens best.

    Armpit Cleaning Solutions for White Shirts

    • The 1:1:1 – Use one part baking soda, one part hydrogen peroxide, one part water. Make a solution of the three ingredients. You will need about 1/4 cup each of baking soda, hydrogen peroxide and water to treat one shirt. Protect your countertop or work area with a thick white towel, rub the 1:1:1 solution into stains and allow to sit for at least 30 minutes. Use an old soft toothbrush or bristle brush to loosen any residue and then wash as usual in warm or cold water.

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    • The 1:1 – Use one part oxygen-based bleach (OxiCleanCountry Save Bleach, or OXOBrite are brand names) and one part household ammoniaDO NOT USE CHLORINE BLEACH as deadly fumes can occur. In a well-ventilated room while wearing rubber gloves, mix about 2 tablespoons of each ingredient per shirt in a non-metal bowl. Again, protecting your countertop or work surface with a thick white towel, rub solution into stains with a soft bristle brush for at least 30 seconds. Allow to sit for 5 to 10 minutes. Wash as usual in warm or cold water.

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    How to Prevent Armpit Stains on Shirts

    Wear an undershirt to help protect your more expensive outer shirt. If an extra layer is just not possible, try switching to an aluminum-free deodorant. Read the labels and you’ll find that antiperspirants have varying levels of aluminum compounds. Choose a brand with the lowest aluminum content that still provides the protection you need.

    After applying deodorant, allow it to dry before dressing to prevent rub-off on fabrics. If you don’t have time to wait, a couple of blasts of air from a hair dryer to the underarms will do the trick.This will also help with those white zebra stripes that happen when you pull a shirt over your head and your deodorant is not dry. Learn how to remove those stripes with these tips.

    If you have perspired on a garment, wash or dry clean it as soon as possible. Stains are much harder to remove once they become set in. Keep a spray bottle of undiluted white distilled vinegar handy and spray the underarm areas of both white and colored shirts before washing. Give the vinegar time to work - at least ten or fifteen minutes - before washing as usual. The vinegar will help cut through any deodorant residue and reduce odor.

    If you notice the beginnings of yellow stains, stop tossing the shirt in the dryer until you can treat the stains. The heat can set in residual stains making them almost impossible to remove. Dry shirts in the sun to increase whitening of fabrics and if that’s not possible, air dry indoors.

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  • 03 of 05

    How to Remove Underarm Stains on Dark Shirts

    Underarm sweat
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    Underarm deodorant stains are very evident on white shirts because the fabric turns yellow. While they may not be as apparent on dark colored shirts, they are there. The underarm stains from deodorant and body soil trap bacteria, cause odor, stiffness, and discoloration of the fabric.

    How to Remove Underarm Stains on Dark Shirts

    To remove the build-up and freshen a washable shirt, fill a washing machine or large bucket with cool water and add one cup white distilled vinegar. Allow shirts to soak...MORE for at least 30 minutes. Drain vinegar water and wash as usual in cool water. If the build-up is really heavy, mix a 1:1 solution of white distilled vinegar and water and use that old toothbrush to scrub the area before soaking.

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  • 04 of 05

    Get Rid of Ring Around the Collar

    Clean white shirts
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    If you are of a certain age, you remember the taunting ads and the shame of ring around the collar from a 1960s Wisk Detergent ad. "Ring around the collar" or cuffs is caused by a combination of sweat, body oil and daily soil and needs a bit of extra care to remove.

    The key to keeping collars clean is to tackle the oily stains after every shirt wearing. Allowing the stains to build-up will make cleaning much more difficult and sometimes impossible.

    How to Remove Ring Around the Collar

    Since...MORE the stain is oil-based with trapped soil, stains should be pretreated using a solvent-based stain removal product, like Shout or Resolve. Stain sticks are particularly convenient for collars and cuffs. Or you can use a laundry soap bar like Fels-Naptha or Zote. 

    If you don't have a solvent-based pretreater, apply heavy-duty liquid detergent like Tide or Persil to the stain and work it in by gently rubbing. Allow the pretreater to work at least ten minutes before washing.

    The pretreatment should be done as soon as possible after wearing the shirt. Keep a stain remover or laundry soap bar near the dirty clothes hamper. Just a quick swipe will get the process started and make the stain removal easier.

    After pretreatment, wash the shirt as usual in the hottest water appropriate for the fabric using the recommended amount of heavy duty detergent for a regular load. Inspect the garment before drying at high heat and repeat treatment if necessary.


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  • 05 of 05

    Use Baking Soda to Reduce Perspiration Odor

    Baking Soda
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    If you use a less expensive laundry detergent, it may not work well enough to remove the bacteria that embeds in clothes causing odor. Baking soda helps regulate the pH level in the washer's water by keeping it from being too acidic or alkaline. Adding 1/2 cup baking soda to each laundry load, will help detergent work more effectively and reduce bacteria.

    For heavy odor problems like underarm perspiration, use baking soda as a pre-soak. Dissolve 1 cup of baking soda in some warm water. Fill...MORE the ​washer tub or a large sink with cool water and add the dissolved baking soda. Submerge your stinky clothes and allow them to soak overnight and then wash as usual.