Removing Perspiration & Sweat Stains
When life gets tough and makes you sweat, you inevitably come away with a broader knowledge of the world around you, and a lovely yellow armpit stain on your shirt.
But while the knowledge should hopefully remain with you for years to come, it’s not necessary for the not-so-charming perspiration stain to stick around as well.
But don’t sweat it; we’re here to help you remove those perspiration stains for good!
Take Care with your Fabric
There are certain fabrics that are best left to the professionals. These home-based treatments are likely to do more harm than good to fabrics such as silk and wool.
Always take a few moments to read the care label; if the manufacturer recommends professional cleaning, that’s our recommendation as well.
In addition, perspiration stain removal can be fairly harsh in nature. Ensure that you test the fabric ahead of time with whatever cleanser you choice to guarantee colorfastness.
Is it a Perspiration Stain or a Deodorant/Antiperspirant Stain?
It can sometimes be confusing as to whether that underarm or armpit stain is from perspiration or deodorant/antiperspirant.
If the stain is yellow or green in color and has a crunchy or crispy texture, it’s due to perspiration.
If the stain, however, is white or clear with a greasy texture, it’s due to the antiperspirant and should be treated as a grease stain with the appropriate solvent.
Step Away from the Bleach!
Although it’s counterintuitive, chlorine bleach is one of the worst things you can use to treat perspiration stains, even on white cotton fabric.
The chlorine in household bleach will react with the proteins in the perspiration and cause the remaining stain to darken even further.
You thought the pale yellow stains gave you pause – just wait until your collar and underarms are almost mustard in color!
Stain Removal Option #1 – Start Simple with Detergent
There are so many great liquid laundry detergents on the market today that specialize in treating tough protein stains; the simplest first step in removing perspiration stains is to use liquid laundry detergent.
Use one that’s labeled as having oxygenated powers or concentrating in protein-based stains such as food and grass stains.
- Treat the affected area with full-strength liquid laundry detergent.
- Let sit for 30 minutes.
- Launder as usual and air dry.
Stain Removal Option #2 – Solar-Powered Stain Removal
If liquid laundry detergent alone doesn’t remove those nasty perspiration stains, try using detergent combined with the ultimate natural treatment option, the sun.
- Dampen the affected area and treat it thoroughly with full-strength detergent.
- Lay the item out in the sun.
- Be sure to check on the garment regularly and keep it damp with a misting bottle.
- After a full afternoon in the sun, launder on cool and air dry.
Stain Removal Option #3 - Hydrogen Peroxide to the Rescue
With white fabrics, 3% hydrogen peroxide is one of the best possible solutions for perspiration stain removal.
Hydrogen peroxide will react with the proteins in the perspiration and break them apart, helping to prevent the gradual darkening of the area over time.
You can use the hydrogen peroxide either full-strength or diluted to half-strength (half water, half hydrogen peroxide). Since less is more, we recommend always starting with half-strength and adding more if necessary.
- Pour your hydrogen peroxide solution onto the stain
- Allow it to soak for 30 minutes.
- Launder on cool and air dry.
- If the stain remains, soak it for another 30 minutes in a stronger solution using full strength hydrogen peroxide.
Hydrogen peroxide is like chlorine bleach in its whitening properties, but it doesn't remove color so it's safe for both white and colored fabrics.
Stain Removal Option #4 – Vinegar and Water
If hydrogen peroxide is not effective for your colored fabric, another option that is also safe is a solution of vinegar and water to clean out stubborn perspiration stains.
- Mix 1 Tablespoon of white vinegar and a half-cup of water.
- Allow the affected area to soak for 20-30 minutes.
- Launder on cool.
- Repeat if necessary.
Stain Removal Option #5 – Cream of Tartar and Aspirin
If you just can’t get the stains out with detergent, hydrogen peroxide or vinegar, make a paste using aspirin and cream of tartar and scrub it in with your old toothbrush.
Make sure to use full-strength aspirin and ensure that they’re white and have no colored coating that can stain fabric.
Form a paste:
- 1 Tablespoon of Cream of Tartar
- 3 crushed aspirins
- 1 cup of warm water
Using an old toothbrush:
- Work the paste gently into the fabric.
- Let the treatment sit on the stain for 20 minutes.
- Rinse the affected area in warm water until the paste is completely removed.
- Repeat if necessary.
Perspiration stains can turn your favorite shirt into the one you reach for only when everything else is dirty. But this doesn’t have to happen.
Reclaim your favorite shirts by removing perspiration stains without sweating much at all!
Image courtesy of fivehanks, CC BY.