How to Remove Deodorant Stains (Both Old and New)

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Deodorant may keep B.O. at bay, but when it combines with the body’s natural chemistry, it can really do a number on clothing. In other words, your armpit’s best friend can leave behind some not-so-attractive stains (and no, it’s not just you). Since this dilemma is a common one, there’s a good chance you’re curious about how to remove deodorant stains from some of your own prized apparel. Well, you’re in luck, because we’ve got the answer. Spoiler: You don’t have to part with your favorite white T-shirt just yet.

How to Remove Fresh Deodorant Stains

In a hurry to get out the door, you slap on some deodorant, pull on a black blouse and are about to grab your keys when you realize your once clean top is now covered in unsightly white streaks. Good news: You don’t even need to change your clothes because these fresh stains are especially easy to remove. According to the College of Family and Consumer Sciences at the University of Georgia, just a little bit of dish soap will do the trick and the method is super simple.

how to remove deodorant stains step 1
Sofia Kraushaar for PureWow

Step 1: Wet A Washcloth

Get started by thoroughly soaking a washcloth with cold water. Then, gently wring out some—but not all—of the excess water. (You want the washcloth to be wet, not damp, but not so wet that your shirt will get soaked in the spot-cleaning process.)

how to remove deodorant stains step 2
Sofia Kraushaar for PureWow

Step 2: Apply Dish Soap

The CFCS recommends regular full-strength dish soap for deodorant stain removal, so grab your Dawn and apply a few drops to the washcloth. If you plan on wearing the shirt out the door, keep in mind that dish soap is potent—don’t overdo it or you’ll end up replacing the deodorant stain with soap residue. Gently rub the soap into the washcloth to form a lather.

how to remove deodorant stains step 3
Sofia Kraushaar for PureWow

Step 3: Remove The Stain

Using the soapy area of the washcloth, gently rub the stained areas until the deodorant is no longer visible. Once the stain has been removed, rinse and wring out the washcloth. Now dab the previously stained area with the damp washcloth to remove any remaining soap from the fabric.

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Sofia Kraushaar for PureWow

Step 4: Air Dry

If you want to wear your now-clean blouse ASAP, you might be tempted to dry the damp areas with a hair blow-dryer, but the CFSC says that’s a bad idea: “Never iron or apply heat to a material with a deodorant stain. The combination of chemical and heat interaction will ruin most fabrics.” Hopefully the spot treatment will have removed any deodorant from the fabric, but it’s still best to avoid heat in the off-chance that some still remains.

How To Remove Old Deodorant Stains

Fresh stains are a cinch to take care of, but what about the crusty, discolored pit stains from last week? (You know, the ones that are especially evident on light-colored articles of clothing). Antiperspirant has a bad habit of rubbing off on fabrics, and because this residue is not always adequately removed with regular washing, build-up often occurs over time. Moreover, the CFSC explains that antiperspirant contains acidic substances (aluminum chloride, for example) that can affect the dyes used in certain fabrics. (Psst: That’s why white shirts can take on a yucky yellow color in the underarm area.)

Per the CFSC, dish soap can also effectively treat old, stubborn deodorant stains, but you’ll need to apply the dish soap directly to the dry stain and gently work it into the fabric with a damp toothbrush before laundering. If you go this route, keep in mind that you may need to repeat the process several times and even then, success isn’t guaranteed. So is there a better option than dish soap? Yes. The American Cleaning Institute (ACI) says there are some targeted products on the market that can combat old deodorant stains more effectively, and they’re easy to use. Once you scoop up a stain remover that’s potent enough to get the job done (we like this deodorant stain remover from Gal Pal, $13), follow these simple steps.

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Sofia Kraushaar for PureWow

Step 1: Read The Label

Before using any stain remover on a piece of clothing, it is important to identify what kind of fabric you’re dealing with and how it should be cared for. Specifically, you’ll need to know whether the article is dry clean only—because if it is, this method is out.

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Sofia Kraushaar for PureWow

Step 2: Pretreat By Applying Stain Remover To The Stain And Letting Sit

Follow the instructions on the label of the stain remover to pretreat the article of clothing. Once the stain remover has been applied to the problem area it will need to sit for a period of time. (In general, the older the stain, the longer it will take for the stain remover to work its magic.)

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Sofia Kraushaar for PureWow

Step 3: Wash The Clothing In The Machine

After the stain has been pretreated, wash the article of clothing using the hottest water setting that’s safe for the fabric.

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Sofia Kraushaar for PureWow

Step 4: Dry The Clothing

Proceed to drying the piece of clothing as you normally would...and don’t be discouraged if the stain hasn’t disappeared completely. As long as you see some improvement to the stain, the process worked—it may just need to be repeated.

That’s all there is to it, friends. With a little TLC, even the crustiest white tee can be restored to its former glory, so go forth and launder.

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Freelance PureWow Editor

Emma Singer is a freelance contributing editor and writer at PureWow who has over 7 years of professional proofreading, copyediting and writing experience. At PureWow, she covers...