How To: Remove Sweat Stains
No matter how many times you run your shirt through the wash, a regular rinse just won’t get out unsightly armpit stains. But don't sweat it! Keep reading to learn how you can clean up your favorite shirts.
Yellowing on your favorite dress shirt or old tee typically suggests that it’s time to add it to your rag collection. Though it’s common to call sweat the culprit behind these unsightly stains (especially those around the armpit areas), the real reason is more than just salty water. “Those ‘sweat stains’ are made from a combination of things—not just perspiration, but also body oil, skin flakes, and any chemicals in your deodorant,” said Mary Gagliardi, also known as Dr. Laundry. Because of that, Gagliardi recommends pre-treating any affected areas with an enzyme-based stain remover before laundering them as the most effective means of how to remove sweat stains.
Alternatively, you can use a combination of baking soda and hydrogen peroxide—two all-natural powerhouse cleaners—for a homemade stain treatment that can break down the buildup and get your shirt to look new again. Follow the steps below on any clothing with dingy or even crusty yellow stains, and you may just save it from the toss pile!
Place your shirt into the large, empty bowl inside out. Make sure the shirt is situated with the underarm stains facing up.
Check to see if your shirt has any spandex in it before soaking the sweat stains with water.
- If it’s made with spandex, dampen with cold water—boiling water can damage those fibers—and proceed to Step 3.
- Otherwise, hot water is most effective for removing stains: Bring water to a boil either on the stovetop or in the microwave and, wearing gloves, pour this hot water onto the yellowed spots. This should start to melt (and therefore loosen) the sweat stains.
In the small bowl, thoroughly mix a solution of one part baking soda, one part hydrogen peroxide, and one part water. The baking soda draws the sweat stains out and traps it, while also whitening the fabric and absorbing odors; meanwhile, the hydrogen peroxide is used as an oxidizing agent that disinfects. About 1/4 cup of each ingredient is needed for one shirt. Unlike other homemade cleaning solutions, this is not one to be made ahead and stored. Instead, keep each key ingredient handy in the laundry room for use.
Scoop out the liquid solution onto the stain. Let it sit for a few minutes, then gently work it into the stained area with a scrub brush, then rinse it away.
Launder the shirt as you normally would, and check the stain. If it isn’t all the way gone, repeat Steps 1 through 4 then run it through the wash again. Otherwise, you run the risk of setting the remaining sweat stains with the heat of the dryer. Only dry once you see the yellow stains are gone.
Going forward, make sure you pretreat any problem areas—like the underarms or the back of the shirt—regularly before laundering. By catching the sweat stains early, you can have an easier time removing them. Another way to prevent stains is to choose a deodorant with low-aluminum, which is an ingredient that contributes to these yellow stains.