How To Get Rid Of Sweat Stains

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Laundering doesn’t dissolve the protein bond that causes sweat stains. You can get rid of them using a few household ingredients to loosen that bond first.

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

Yellow stains under the arms of your shirts result from a chemical reaction between the proteins in your sweat and the aluminum in your antiperspirant. When you wear sweat-stained clothes, your body’s heat reactivates the odor. It’s one of those tough stains that doesn’t always come out in the wash, especially on white t-shirts if you use cold water. But, you can eliminate yellow pit stains with a bit of effort and a few household ingredients.

Steps To Remove Sweat Stains from Clothes

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.

Step 1. Make a Sweat Stain Remover

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

Step 2. Treat the Stain and Wait

Apply a generous amount of the homemade sweat stain remover 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. Wait 10-15 minutes for fresh stains or overnight for older ones.

Step 3. Rinse with Vinegar

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.

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Step 4. Air Dry

Let the garment air dry, then inspect it to ensure the stain is gone. Stubborn stains may require another treatment, and putting it into the dryer before complete stain removal can make it harder to remove the perspiration mark.

Other Things That Remove Sweat Stains

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

Oxygen Bleach

Unlike chlorine bleach, oxygen bleach does not make sweat stains permanent. Try filling a sink or deep basin with cool water and stir in a half scoop of oxygen bleach until dissolved. Soak affected garments for an hour, then launder at the warmest temperature recommended on the care label. (You can use homemade liquid oxygen bleach instead of the powder.)

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.

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 material can handle. The aspirin’s salicylic acid will dissolve the protein bonds between the stain and fabric, making it easy to launder away.

Lemons and Sunlight

To get rid of old armpit stains on a white t-shirt, 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 area and get your shirt white again.

Salt and Peroxide

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 and launder the garment at the warmest temperature allowed on the fabric label.

Let garments air dry after treatment, then check to ensure the stain is completely gone. Putting them through a dryer can turn stains permanent.

How To Prevent Sweat Stains

Since yellow underarm stains result from aluminum in antiperspirants acting with sweat proteins, switching to an aluminum-free deodorant is the easiest way to prevent them. Many people find damp armpits unpleasant, though. So, if you want to continue using your favorite antiperspirant, try one or more methods to prevent pit stains on your shirts.

Pre-treat Sweat Stains After Wearing

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 Undershirts

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. That means wearing an undershirt in cooler weather, 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. You can make sweat guards from a “light days” sanitary pad in a pinch.

Shave

Body hair helps protect our skin but can also trap moisture and bacteria near your sweat glands. The warmer your armpit area, the more it will sweat — which leads to more sweat stains. If you don’t like a shaved armpit, consider trimming the site 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.