Cleaning Tips to Remove Sweat and Deodorant Stains
What in the world did the "genteel, civilized" society do before underarm deodorant was invented?
I guess there’s a pretty simple answer to that question - maybe there WASN’T a genteel society ’way back then! If there was, they probably could have smelled a whole lot better.
When we talk about deodorants, most of us tend to think in terms of personal deodorants and antiperspirant’s. There are, however, other types of deodorants besides what you apply under your arms.
Today, we have "designer" deodorants for just about every application you can think of. As a "for instance," you can buy a spray deodorant for your car that is scented with "eau of new car" that makes the inside of your old beater smell like a brand new car!
There are spray room deodorizers, odor absorbents, "air-wick" varieties that claim to both absorb unwanted odors while exuding its own, more pleasant scent. There are also "heat-released" deodorant units that you plug into electrical outlets and, when the tiny little element heats up, it releases a nice fragrance into the room masking musty or otherwise unpleasant odors.
Unless there’s a thin or thick liquid involved that may spill or leak, the aerosol, odor absorbents or air wick varieties seldom create a stain that needs to be removed.
I've seen all types of sweaty deodorant stains, and I've become quite an expert at removing them too.
The good news is that deodorant is easy to remove from clothing and I've laid out all the important facts that you need to know so you can become an expert stain remover too.
Are you ready then? Let's get busy cleaning!
Why Sweat and Deodorant Stains Clothing
When you know what has caused the stain, it’s easier to know how to remove it.
Deodorants only work on the odor caused by perspiring or sweating. Deodorants may contain heavy amounts of perfumed scents that can be as annoying as the perspiration itself.
It's the antiperspirant in the deodorant that actually stops the sweat glands from doing their job. The sweat gland's job is to cool you off by heat evaporation.
The biggest culprits in deodorants that cause stains are the very ingredients that make it effective at stopping you sweat.
Aluminum salts (aluminium chloride, aluminium chlorohydrate and/or aluminium-zirconium) are added to deodorants to diminish the production of sweat. The salts mix with electrolytes in the sweat creating a gel that plugs up the duct of the sweat gland, temporarily preventing it from sweating.
Normal exercise or an excess of humidity in the air help to cause the effects of the antiperspirant to very literally "wear off" and "wear out" -and so you begin to perspire freely again.
The chemicals in the deodorant and the minerals in your sweat bind to the fabric fibers and cause the deodorant stains on your shirt, blouse or undergarments.
How to Avoid Deodorant Stains
If you use regular deodorant, the only way to avoid staining your garments is to change to a more natural method that does not contain aluminum salts.
If you are only concerned with underarm odor, simply keep your underarms clean by frequent washing followed by a light dusting of baking soda. Baking soda neutralizes acids from bacteria that feed on sweat.
Another remedy to combat underarm odor is to moisten a cotton pad with an alcohol-based, sugar free mouth wash. That’s a great tip to help prevent and eliminate underarm odor in an emergency - carry a small bottle in your purse or pocket!
How to Remove Deodorant Stains
There are a number of common household products that are effective in treating and removing deodorant stains on your clothing.
Check to see if you have any of these natural stain removers on your pantry shelves:
- Baking Soda
- Meat Tenderizer
Acids, bases, minerals and enzymes ALL HELP to remove deodorant stains from fabric.
Chlorine bleach won't do a thing to remove sweat or deodorant stains, so don't even try it!
While common perspiration/sweat can leave a slight yellowish stain on fabrics (especially cotton), the stain is often temporary and can be easily washed away by rinsing with cool or cold water first, then tossing the garment into the washer and running it through a cycle at the hottest temperature recommended by the manufacturer.
Sweat stains that appear yellow or greenish (depending on your fabric color and type) need a little more effort.
General Deodorant Stain Removal Tips
- Try one cleaning solution at a time before moving to try the next stain remover.
- Rinse the cleaning solution completely before trying the next solution.
- Harder is not better when removing stains. Treat the fabric gently.
- Sweat and deodorant stains are mostly minerals bound to the fabric. Allow the stain remover time to dissolve the minerals and soak away the stains.
- The darker the stain, the harder it will be to remove it.
- Check the fabric label to be sure it does not need to be dry cleaned before trying these solutions.
Homemade Deodorant Stain Removers
- Dilute 1/2 cup of ammonia with 1/2 cups of water.
- Daub the solution on the stain repeatedly until it is lightened or removed entirely.
- Launder as usual
- Crush two aspirin.
- Mix together with 1/4 cup of hot water.
- Pour directly on the stain.
- Allow it to sit for 2 hours.
- Laundre as usual.
Baking soda is very good for removing odors too. If the stain is really smelly, let the baking soda paste remain on the garment for an extra hour or more.
- Mix 1/4 cup of baking soda with just enough water to form a runny paste.
- Apply directly to the stain and work it in.
- Let the baking soda work on the stain for 60 minutes
- Rinse in cold water
- launder as usual.
Lemon juice also helps remove dark underarm stains on t-shirts and undershirts.
- Use either fresh or concentrated lemon juice directly on the stain until it is quite wet
- Add 1 tsp. table salt.
- Rub between your fingers until the stain lifts.
If it is a bright sunny day, exposing the garment to the sun and allowing it to dry will enhance the stain removing power of the lemon juice.
Meat tenderizer is another one for Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! Meat tenderizer contains enzymes that help to dissolve the sweat stain.
- Moisten the sweat/deodorant stain with warm water.
- Sprinkle the stain liberally with meat tenderizer.
- Work the meat tenderizer in the stain with your fingers.
- Allow the stained garment to sit for 30-60 minutes.
- Launder as usual.
- Repeat if needed.
Salt & Vinegar
Salt and vinegar is a miraculous ingredient in removing stains too.
Mix until dissolved;
- 1 cup salt
- 2 cups vinegar
- 2 cups hot water
- 1 Tbs. dish washing liquid
Soak your stained garments for 1-2 hours then launder as usual.
Plain White Vinegar
Mix the following solution;
- 1 cup of white vinegar
- 1 cup warm water
Dip the stained garment in vinegar solution and scrub between your knuckles.
If the stain is persistent, you may soak the entire garment in the vinegar solution for a couple of hours before running through a normal wash cycle.
Oxi-Clean is a wonderful product for eliminating many clothing stains. Follow manufacturer's directions for garment type.
To remove sweat and deodorant stains;
- Mix 1 Tbs. oxi-clean with 1 cup of hot water
- Apply to the stained area.
- Let the oxi-clean work on the stain for 30 minutes
- Launder as usual
Borax is an old-time cleaning remedy that is still appropriate today - plus it's a whole lot cheaper than some of the costly products on the supermarket shelves.
- Run warm water through the stain.
- Sprinkle on a generous amount of Borax - don’t go crazy, but use enough so that you can see it like a good shake of salt on the stain.
- Rub it together with your fingers.
- Launder as usual.
Sweaty deodorant stains? No problem!
Now you have expert cleaning tips to remove deodorant / antiperspirant stains from your fabric, just like a professional cleaner!
Image courtesy of DVIDSHUB, CC BY.