Your favorite T-shirts have gotten a lot of love, which wouldn’t be such a bad thing if it weren’t for the fact that the evidence is there for all to see. Pit stains can be a serious pain. To make matters worse, this type of stain—the result of sweat and aluminum-based deodorant—can withstand both regular washings, and standard targeted stain removal efforts. You needn’t bid your favorite apparel adieu, though—just follow our guide on how to remove armpit stains and it will be like sweat never even happened.
How to Remove Armpit Stains (Because, Ew)
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How to remove stains quickly
Getting to the stain as soon as possible is one way to make sure that it doesn’t stick. But of course, it all depends on the severity of the stain. “Crusty underarm stains that take months to build up don’t have a quick solve, but a shirt with sweaty armpits after wearing once can be pretreated before washing to get rid of the stain and prevent build up in the first place,” says Mary Gagliardi (aka Dr. Laundry), Clorox's in-house scientist and cleaning expert.
What you use to pretreat depends on the fabric. Pretreat colors and white items that are made with Spandex with a color-safe bleach (like Clorox 2 For Colors) for extra cleaning power before washing. White bleach-safe fabrics like cotton and polyester should be washed with a disinfecting bleach in hot or at least warm water. The Clorox team recommends first applying a little dishwashing detergent to the stain, rubbing it in and waiting five minutes, then rinsing it. Once you’ve done that, you can soak the shirt in a bleach-and-water solution (check the bleach bottle’s instructions for the appropriate ratio) for five minutes, then rinse it and let it air dry.
How to get yellow armpit stains out of white shirts
Your go-to top was once as white as freshly fallen snow, but now it’s showing sweat stains like none other. In the past, when things went awry, be it from red wine or tomato sauce, you were able to restore your top to its former glory with a little bit of chlorine bleach. Alas, this solution simply will not do for armpit stains. In fact, chlorine bleach will not only fail to address the problem at hand (or underarm, as it were), it could actually make matters worse. But don’t sweat it because there’s another treatment that will get the job done in a jiffy. Here's a step-by-step guide and you can also see a video tutorial here.
What you’ll need:
How to do it:
1. Make your paste. Combine equal parts hydrogen peroxide, baking soda and water.
2. Apply the stain treating paste. Slather a generous amount of said paste onto the affected area.
3. Scrub. Grab your toothbrush and give the stained area a good, gentle scrub such that the ingredients get worked into the stain without causing damage to the fibers of the fabric.
4. Let the treatment sit. The older the stain, the longer you’ll want to let the paste linger: Thirty minutes will suffice for fresher stains that haven’t been allowed to set with a spin in the dryer, while older and more stubborn stains are best left alone for 24 hours
5. Rinse. After you’ve let the stain treatment work its magic, rinse the paste off of the stain under cold water.
6. Wash. Proceed to wash the shirt per the care instructions with a suitable laundry detergent—either in the machine or by hand—and allow it to air dry. (Hint: Dryer heat is the enemy when it comes to stain removal, so don’t tumble dry until you know you have successfully tackled the discoloration.)
7. Repeat. Very old and stubborn armpit stains might require more than one tango with said treatment, but you’ll get there in the end. (We promise.)
How to get armpit stains out of colored or dark shirts
Armpit stains on dark-colored shirts might not stand out quite as much, but the crusty feeling and subtle discoloration will alert you to their presence, nevertheless. The above method can actually work for colored shirts as well. That said, hydrogen peroxide—particularly when it has not been diluted with water—can result in fading, so you should avoid it unless you’ve checked the fabric for colorfastness first. Better yet, just play it safe with the following alternative method, which is guaranteed to be safe on colored shirts. (A full video tutorial here).
What you’ll need:
How to do it:
1. Prepare your stain-treating solution. Combine one part vinegar to two parts water in a soaking bucket or bowl.
2. Pretreat the stain. Dip a sponge or soft-bristled toothbrush into the solution and gently scrub the stain. Let sit for at least 30 minutes.
3. Soak. Now, dunk the problem area in the bowl or bucket of vinegar solution so that the stain is completely submerged. Allow the garment to soak for up to 24 hours.
4. Ring it out. Remove the T-shirt from the solution and gently wring out any excess liquid.
5. Wash. Send the item into the washing machine or wash it by hand in the laundry detergent of your choice.
6. Dry. Again, because the stain may require more than one treatment, it is best to air dry the garment. Upon drying, evaluate whether or not you need to repeat the process and take it from there.
How to prevent armpit stains
Unfortunately, armpit stains are pretty hard to avoid unless you are particularly vigilant. The fact is that these stains are not the result of mere sweat, but rather a chemical reaction that occurs between your body and the aluminum found in most anti-perspirants. Here are four ways to prevent pit stains:
1. Treat stains fast. Again, getting to that stain swiftly might just be the saving grace for your favorite tee. Rinse the sweaty pits of your T-shirt as soon as you take it off to prevent the sweat and deodorant from drying and settling into the fabric.
2. Try different antiperspirants. Your fave antiperspirant does a great job of leaving you feeling fresh all day long. But it may also be the number one culprit in staining your tops. Test out different types of antiperspirants without aluminum and see if that yields any results.
3. Trim or shave armpit hair. Hair retains moisture and odor. Add the stickiness of deodorant to that mixture and you have a disastrous recipe for stains on your clothes. Try grooming your underarms, because the less hair you have, the better.
4. Wear a sweatproof undershirt. Perhaps the best way to prevent armpit stains from forming is to literally create a barrier between your pit and the top. A breathable, sweatproof undershirt may come in handy, especially when you’re wearing a pricier blouse or dress.
How to reduce armpit odor
You’ve washed, you’ve soaked and the stains are starting to fade away...and yet, the area still smells like underarm funk. Fear not: Baking soda has your back. To address lingering body odor, a generous scoop of baking soda—either added directly to the washing machine or combined with cold water for a pre-wash soak—will work wonders when it comes to neutralizing odor.