How to Remove Armpit Stains and Odor from Clothes

Methods to Remove Underarm Stains

The Spruce

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 10 - 15 mins
  • Total Time: 1 - 2 hrs
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $10 to 15

Armpit stains on clothes are generally caused by a reaction between antiperspirant ingredients and sweat. Many antiperspirants use aluminum, which causes yellowing of white or light-colored fabrics. Untreated, these unsightly sweat stains can eventually ruin your favorite shirts. Luckily, as long as the garments are machine washable, you can remove them fairly easily with basic household items.

Follow these easy steps to prevent and reduce armpit stains and odor on clothing.

 Stain type  Protein and chemical
 Detergent type  Heavy-duty
 Water temperature  Warmest safe for the fabric
 Cycle type  Varies depending on fabric
1:08

Watch Now: How to Remove Underarm Stains and Odor From Clothes

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

For All Methods

  • Soft bristle brush
  • Washing machine
  • Non-metal mixing bowl
  • Rubber gloves

Materials

Baking Soda Method

  • 1/4 cup Baking soda
  • 1/4 cup Hydrogen peroxide (3% solution)
  • Water
  • Heavy-duty laundry detergent

Oxygen Bleach Method

  • 2 tablespoons Oxygen-based bleach powder
  • 2 tablespoons Household ammonia
  • Heavy-duty laundry detergent

White Vinegar Method

  • 1 cup Distilled white vinegar
  • Water
  • Heavy-duty laundry detergent

For Collar and Cuffs

  • Solvent-based stain remover
  • Laundry soap bar
  • Water
  • Heavy-duty laundry detergent

Instructions

Remove Armpit Stains Using Baking Soda

Baking soda often works wonders at getting the yellow hue out of white shirts and restoring them to their original brightness. Success will depend upon how old the stains are and the fabric content of your shirt; cotton clothes whiten best.

  1. Make the Mixture

    Mix one part baking soda, one part hydrogen peroxide, and one part water. (A quarter cup of each for this mixture is enough to clean one shirt.)

    Making a mixture for underarm stains

    The Spruce / Ana-Maria Stanciu

  2. Rub the Stain

    Rub the mixture thoroughly into the stained area with a sponge or an old toothbrush. Allow the item to sit with the solution for up to 30 minutes.

    Rubbing the sweat stain with baking soda mixture

    The Spruce / Ana-Maria Stanciu

  3. Wash the Shirt

    Wash the shirt as usual with heavy-duty laundry detergent in the warmest water setting that is safe for the fabric.

    Washing the garment like normal

    The Spruce / Ana-Maria Stanciu

Tip

If you notice the beginnings of armpit yellowing, but don't have time to tackle the stains yet, don't put the garment into the dryer after washing. The intense heat can set in residual stains, making them almost impossible to remove. Instead, line-dry the shirt until you have time to treat the stains.

Remove Armpit Stains Using Oxygen Bleach

Aside from baking soda, a combination of oxygen bleach—not chlorine bleach—and ammonia is another great method for removing yellow armpit stains. This should only be used on white fabrics, as it will remove color from dyed garments. It should also be a last resort, since it can weaken fabrics.

Warning

Never use chlorine bleach with ammonia, as deadly fumes can occur. This method calls for oxygen bleach.

  1. Mix Ingredients

    Find a well-ventilated room to mix ingredients. Be sure to put on rubber gloves.

    Mix one part oxygen-based bleach (OxiClean, Nellie's All-Natural Oxygen Brightener, or OXO Brite) and one part household ammonia in a non-metal bowl. Use about two tablespoons of each ingredient per shirt.

    Oxygen-based bleach mixed with ammonia in glass bowl

    The Spruce / Nelly Cuanalo

  2. Rub Into Fabric

    Rub the solution thoroughly into the underarm stains with a soft-bristled brush. Rub for at least one minute.

    Oxygen-based bleach solution rubbed into underarm stain with old toothbrush

    The Spruce / Nelly Cuanalo

  3. Let Mixture Soak In

    Allow the solution to work for at least 10 minutes before washing away.

    Oxygen-based bleach solution soaking in underarm stain on white shirt

    The Spruce / Nelly Cuanalo

  4. Wash the Shirt

    Wash as usual with heavy-duty laundry detergent in warm or cold water, depending on the washing guidelines for the shirt.

    Oxygen-based bleach shirt placed in washing machine

    The Spruce / Nelly Cuanalo

Remove Armpit Stains Using White Vinegar

Underarm stains are very evident on white shirts because the fabric turns yellow. While they might not be as apparent on dark-colored shirts, they may still be there. The underarm stains from deodorant and body oils trap bacteria, create odor, stiffen fabric, and eventually cause discoloration. If you notice a colored shirt is no longer as fresh as it used to be, even after regular washing, take the following steps.

  1. Pretreat the Stains

    Mix a one-to-one solution of white distilled vinegar and water. A couple of tablespoons of each should be enough to treat one shirt. Use a soft-bristled brush or an old toothbrush to scrub the armpits thoroughly.

    White distilled vinegar and water mixed into underarm stained shirt with old toothbrush

    The Spruce / Nelly Cuanalo

  2. Mix the Ingredients

    Fill a sink or large bucket with cool water. Add one cup of white distilled vinegar.

    Plastic bucket filled with white distilled vinegar

    The Spruce / Nelly Cuanalo

  3. Soak the Shirts

    Add the colored shirts. Allow the shirts to soak for at least 30 minutes.

    Gray shirt soaking in bucket with white distilled vinegar

    The Spruce / Nelly Cuanalo

  4. Drain the Water

    Drain the vinegar/water solution from the bucket or sink.

    Plastic bucket pouring out white distilled vinegar in sink

    The Spruce / Nelly Cuanalo

  5. Wash the Shirt

    Wash the shirt as usual in cool water with a heavy-duty detergent.

    Gray shirt with stain placed in washing machine

    The Spruce / Nelly Cuanalo

Removing Collar and Cuff Sweat Stains

Similar to armpit stains, stains on collars or cuffs—ring around the collar—can be difficult to remove thanks to a combination of sweat, body oil, and daily soil. The key to keeping collars clean is to tackle these oily stains after every shirt wearing. 

  1. Pretreat the Stain

    Pretreat stained areas using a solvent-based stain removal product, or a laundry soap bar like Fels-Naptha or Zote, or a bit of heavy-duty liquid detergent like Tide or Persil.

    Heavy-duty liquid detergent pretreating collar on white shirt

    The Spruce / Nelly Cuanalo

  2. Brush in Stain Remover

    Work the stain remover into the fabric with a soft-bristled brush. Allow the stain remover to work at least 10 minutes before washing.

    Heavy-duty liquid detergent working on white shirt collar

    The Spruce / Nelly Cuanalo

  3. Wash the Shirt

    Wash the shirt as usual in the highest water temperature appropriate for the fabric using the recommended amount of a heavy-duty laundry detergent.

    White collared shirt placed in washing machine

    The Spruce / Nelly Cuanalo

  4. Repeat if Necessary

    Inspect the washed clothes before drying at high heat. If stains remain, do not dry. Repeat treatment if necessary.

    White collar inspected for stains before drying

    The Spruce / Nelly Cuanalo

Additional Tips for Handling Underarm Stains and Odor

Fighting underarm stains before they happen reduces the need to deal with these ugly marks later. There are two ways to cut down on armpit stains on your shirts, and both have to do with the way you use deodorant. Switching to an aluminum-free deodorant can help. In addition, after applying any type of deodorant or antiperspirant, allow it to dry before dressing to prevent rub-off on fabrics. If pressed for time, use a hairdryer for a couple of seconds (this will also eliminate deodorant marks on the clothes).

If heavy sweating or sweat odor are regular problems, baking soda can boost the cleaning power of your laundry detergent. Baking soda helps regulate the pH level in the washer's water, and adding one-half cup to each laundry load helps detergent work more effectively and reduces bacteria.

For heavy perspiration odors, use baking soda as a presoak. Dissolve one cup of baking soda in warm water. Fill the ​washer tub or a large sink with cool water and add the dissolved baking soda. Submerge stinky clothes, and allow them to soak overnight. Then wash as usual. 

Article Sources
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Facts about Chlorine. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.