How To Get Rid Of Sweat Stains

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Here’s why that sweat stain didn’t come out in the wash and how to get rid of it using ordinary kitchen ingredients. Once it’s gone, find out how to protect your shirts from pit stains, too.

Woman wearing a t-shirt raises arm to reveal a sweat stain that needs to be removed

The steps below will help you get rid of yellow stains on clothing, including underarm stains on your shirts and brown rings around the collar. Then check out the tips to prevent sweat stains that are further down on the page, and you can keep them from happening.

What are Pit Stains?

Yellow stains under the arms of your white t-shirt or other favorite top aren’t entirely due to sweat. That yellowing is a chemical reaction between the proteins in your sweat and the aluminum in your antiperspirant. And, though we sometimes call the brown ring on your collar a sweat stain, it’s usually the product of sweat combining with skin cells, detergent residue, lotion, and bacteria.

Can You Get Rid of Armpit Stains?

Ordinary laundering in the washer does not always dissolve the protein bond between your perspiration and the shirt’s fabric, especially if you use cold water cycles. You can get rid of pit stains on shirts, but you’ll need to use a few household ingredients to loosen that bond before laundering.

Why Not Just Ignore them?

When laundering doesn’t get rid of yellow armpit stains, you might be tempted to wear the stained shirt anyway. Something to keep in mind, however, is that underarm stains result from body oil and bacteria getting stuck in your clothes. When you wear sweat-stained clothes, your body’s heat reactivates the odor. If you want to avoid smelling strongly of perspiration, you’ll need just a few household ingredients and around 20 minutes to dissolve those pit stains.

How To Remove Sweat Stains from Clothes

Time needed: 20 minutes.

Use these DIY sweat stain removers on cotton and synthetic fabrics to get yellowing sweat marks out of fabrics or remove greasy rings around the collar. But take wool, silk, and other nonwashable garments to the dry cleaner for professional treatment.

  1. Combine ingredients

    For white shirts, mix 1/3 cup each of hydrogen peroxide and water. Then stir in 1/2 cup of baking soda (bicarbonate) to make a paste. Adjust ingredients as needed.

    For all colored shirts, combine 2 tablespoons of liquid dish soap and 1/4 cup of baking soda to make a paste. Add more soap or baking soda as needed to get the right consistency.

  2. Apply the paste to the stain

    Apply a generous amount to both sides of the fabric using your fingers or a sponge. Gently rub it in with an old toothbrush or by rubbing the fabric together in your hands.

  3. Wait

    For fresh stains, wait 10-15 minutes for the ingredients to break down the protein bonds in the stain. For older sweat stains, let the sweat stain remover sit overnight.

  4. Wet with vinegar and rinse

    Lay the stained area of the fabric in the bottom of a sink or deep bowl and pour 2-3 tablespoons of white vinegar on top of the treated area. This will produce a slight fizz which loosens the paste and helps lift the stain. Once the fizzing stops (about 2 minutes) rinse the fabric under cold water and immediately launder it. If you don’t have enough to machine wash a full load, hand wash the item in warm water.

  5. Air dry to check

    Let the garment air dry then inspect it to make sure the stain is gone. Putting it into the dryer before complete stain removal can make it harder to remove the perspiration mark.

  6. Retreat stubborn stains

    If the stain persists, soak it in a bowl filled with 1 part white vinegar and 2 parts warm water for 30 minutes to further loosen the stain’s bond to the fabric. Then combine 1 tablespoon each of table salt and hydrogen peroxide with enough baking soda to form a paste. Use an old toothbrush to rub this formula on both sides of the stain. Wait 30 minutes then launder the garment at the warmest temperature allowed on the fabric label.

Other Ways to Remove Sweat Stains

If you don’t have the ingredients to make the sweat stain remover recipes, don’t fret. There are still several other ways to get rid of armpit stains and ring around the collar.

Bar soap: To remove a greasy brown ring around shirt collars, rub it well with a bar of soap like Fels Naptha or Zote then machine wash it using the hottest setting the fabric can handle.

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Liquid laundry detergent: Rub a tablespoon of detergent into both sides of the stain using an old toothbrush. Launder immediately using the hottest setting permitted by the fabric label.

Aspirin: Dissolve 8 aspirin tablets in 16 oz. of warm water. Put the stained fabric in a shallow bowl and pour the aspirin mixture over it. Let it soak overnight, then launder the shirt using the hottest setting the fabric can handle. The aspirin’s salicylic acid will dissolve the protein bonds between the stain and fabric, making it easy to launder away.

Liquid dish detergent and hydrogen peroxide: Stir 2 teaspoons of liquid dish soap into 1/4 cup of hydrogen peroxide. Rub this mixture into both sides of the fabric and let it soak for an hour, then rinse in warm water and launder as usual. The liquid detergent will dissolve the bond between the greasy stain and the fabric, while hydrogen peroxide helps lift it away.

Lemons and sunlight: To get rid of old armpit stains in white t-shirts, squeeze lemon juice onto the fabric and put it in a sunny spot for the day. The lemon’s acidity helps dissolve the bond between the stain and clothing, while sunlight helps bleach the yellowing spot and get your shirt white again.

How To Prevent Sweat Stains

Yellow sweat stains result from aluminum in antiperspirants reacting with the protein in your sweat. So, the easiest way to prevent pit stains is by switching to an aluminum-free product that only contains deodorants, not antiperspirants. Many people find the feel of damp armpits unpleasant, though. So, if you want to continue using your favorite antiperspirant, use one or more of these methods to prevent pit stains on your shirts.

Pre-treat Sweat Stains Right Away: The longer a stain sits on fabric, the harder it is to get out. So, make a point to pre-treat sweat stains when they happen. The easiest way to pre-treat laundry stains is by keeping a stain remover stick or a spray bottle filled with equal parts water and white vinegar near your hamper. Use the pre-treatment on stains then toss the garment into the hamper.

Wear an undershirt: A simple way to protect your favorite shirt or blouse from sweat stains is by adding a layer between your skin and the shirt’s fabric. In cooler weather, that means wearing an undershirt but you may want to opt for a tank top or camisole in warmer temperatures.

Use armpit shields: Adhesive armpit guards can also protect your clothes from sweat stains. You can find them at many clothing retailers or online. In a pinch, you can make sweat guards from a “light days” sanitary pad.

Keep Underarms Hairless: Body hair helps protect our skin, but it can also trap moisture and bacteria near your sweat glands. The warmer your armpit area, the more it will sweat — and that leads to more sweat stains. If you don’t like a shaved armpit, consider trimming the area to help it keep cool and reduce sweat stains.

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2 Comments

  1. Thanks for all your helpful tips! What do you recommend for stains on the inside of shirt collars? Do I treat them as a combination of sweat and skin oils?

    1. Katie Berry says:

      That’s how I treat them. The liquid dish detergent and hydrogen peroxide combination gets rid of sweat stains on white collars almost immediately. For stains on the inside of colorful shirts a little extra liquid laundry detergent or liquid dish detergent usually does the job.

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