House Cleaning Tips > Stain Removal > Removing Sweat, Antiperspirant and Deodorant Stains

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How to Remove Sweat / Perspiration / Deodorant & Antiperspirant Stains

“Don’t pet the sweaty things, and don’t sweat the petty things.”

That's a funny saying but, like it or not, sweating is a necessary part of living – it’s the body’s way of keeping cool and involves the largest organ of the human body – our skin.

There are many biological functions that are social taboos. Sweating is one of them.

Perspiring is something that every BODY does at one time or another. As much as we try to cover up the fact we are sweating, it's not always possible. Even worse than having someone see our perspiration darken our clothing under the arms – is if odor is present- called body odor or “B.O.”

So if there's odor, we need to use antiperspirant or deodorant to help with the B.O and reduce wetness- now there's even more chemicals that interact with the sweat soaked fabric and can become embedded into the material over time.

All of this talk is making me sweat!

Just kidding- But the fact remains that sweat and antiperspirant stains can ruin clothing- and that does give me a headache.

But don't worry-- after 25 years of marriage, 3 kids and countless sweaty underarms and dirty, smelly shirts- not to mention running a cleaning company- I know just how to clean all those nasty sweat stains up.

Join me as we run off to the land of stain removal and clean up any stains caused by: sweat, light perspiration, deodorant or antiperspirant on your clothing!

Are you ready, then? Let's get busy cleaning!

What is Sweat?

Human beings are built with a very efficient air-conditioning system: We can produce up to 6 pints of sweat every hour from over 2.6 million sweat glands that are located all over our bodies.

As do most mammals, we regulate our temperature by sweating.

The very act of evaporation removes heat from our bodies and allows it to be carried away (that's called thermal radiation). The process of evaporation/perspiration decreases our core temperature.

Our "problem" sweat glands can vary- While women are mostly troubled with underarm perspiration, men often experience perspiration between their shoulder blades, the groin area, feet and hands.

Believe it or not, sweat is very similar to urine at a chemical level.

Both sweat and urine contain “urea” – which is ultimately broken down into the chemical ammonia. Urea is defined as the end product of protein decomposition and key component in human and animal urine.

The difference between sweat and urine (besides the obvious) is that the amount of urea in perspiration is very dilute, 1/130th, compared to the concentration in urine.

Yes, these facts are rather gross, but it just means we need to clean it all up!

Why Does Sweat Stain?

Sweat contains salts, minerals and trace elements that remain on our body and clothing after all the liquid is evaporated away.

You probably know that sweat (and tears) contain salt, but there's more than just sodium contained in sweat. Sweat contains minerals and trace elements such as: chloride, potassium, urea, sugars, lactate, calcium, magnesium, zinc, and the list goes on....

Sweat stains are caused by those same minerals and trace elements left behind. The minerals bind together after the liquid has evaporated away and become embedded into the fabric.

Have you ever heard of hard water spots? Hard water deposits are white discolorations that form on many surfaces when they are not wiped dry. The white spots are just minerals that are naturally contained in the water but they are too heavy to evaporate away. It's the same kind of problem, the same kind of stain... That's the reason chlorine bleach won't remove the stain. You can't bleach those minerals with chlorine. Minerals won't bleach.

I'd usually use some kind of abrasive to remove hard water deposits, but that obviously won't work with clothing. Any deodorant or antiperspirant used will add additional chemicals that can make the stain harder to remove than just the minerals alone.

Toss all these facts together and the result is hard-to-remove sweat and perspiration stains.

No worries, we'll use chemical instead of physical abrasives to dissolve the minerals, so they can be washed right away. It makes perfect sense, doesn't it?

Why Does Deodorant and Antiperspirant Stain?

Deodorant and antiperspirants stains are tough to remove.

Both deodorant and antiperspirants contain aluminum salts (aluminium chloride, aluminium chlorohydrate and/or aluminium-zirconium) which are the active ingredients used to stop us from sweating.

Over time the aluminum salts combined with the minerals in your sweat become soaked and embedded into your clothing and a discoloration begins to show.

Deodorant and antiperspirant stains can be a hazy white or yellowish appearance. I've seen heavily stained white t-shirts where the stain looks very dark and almost green looking even though the shirt was freshly laundered.

Removing Sweat, Deodorant & Antiperspirant Stains from Washable Clothing

If your fabric is dry clean only take the garment to a dry cleaner.

Sweat stains don't come out easily because they are biological and the minerals from your sweat combined with the chemicals from the deodorant become embedded in the fabric.

Chlorine bleach does not remove these stains, as I'm sure you are well aware. You could bleach your shirt until "kingdom come"- the chlorine bleach would disintegrate your shirt into nothing but tatters, but the sweat stain would still remain!

To remove stains on washable clothing use the following stain removers:

Ammonia and water

ammonia-parsonsHousehold ammonia is a general purpose cleaner and is great for loosening tough stains and grime.

Ammonia smells terrible, so you will need to open the window when using it to remove your sweat stain.

Because ammonia is so alkaline, it is very corrosive and an oxidizer. Ammonia will help to break up the minerals that bind to the fabric causing the deodorant or sweat stain to start with.

  1. Mix a 1/4 cup of water with 1/4 cup of ammonia.
  2. Dab the cleaning solution on the stain.
  3. Let the ammonia work on the stain for 60 minutes.
  4. Then launder according to clothing manufacturer’s instructions.

It's very important that you NEVER mix ammonia with other cleaners.

Chemical reactions happen with all cleaning chemicals (ammonia included) and as an example ammonia mixed with chlorine bleach releases a deadly gas that can be fatal when inhaled.

Take two aspirins and call me in the morning … really!

aspirinAspirin (Acetylsalicylic Acid) is a great way to remove perspiration stains.

To remove stubborn sweat stains on white blouses or shirts:

  1. Crush and dissolve two aspirins into 1/2 cup of very hot water.
  2. Dab the aspirin solution onto the sweat stain.
  3. Let the solution work on the stain for 2-4 hours.
  4. Apply a few drops of full strength laundry detergent on the stain right before washing.
  5. Massage in gently.
  6. Launder as usual.
  7. Repeat this process if needed.

Be sure to wash your garment thoroughly after using this solution especially if the owner of the garment is allergic to aspirin!

Baking soda to remove stains and deodorize too!

baking-soda Baking soda is a great way to remove stains and odors.

  1. Make a paste of 4 Tbs. baking soda and 1/4 cup of warm water.
  2. Rub the baking soda solution into the stain with your fingers.
  3. Allow the baking soda solution to work on the stain for 2 hours or so.
  4. Apply a few drops of full strength laundry detergent on the stain right before washing.
  5. Massage in gently.
  6. Launder as usual.

This is also a good cleaning solution for removing “ring around the collar”.

  1. Spread the baking soda paste on the shirt collar.
  2. Let the baking soda work on the stain for 30-60 minutes.
  3. Right before putting your stained garment back in the washer, rejuvenate the paste by adding a small amount of straight laundry detergent or dish soap and rub the fabric between your knuckles to help remove the stain.
  4. Then proceed with the regular wash cycle.

We like “green” stain removers!

lemonsOr yellow stain removers... Take lemons, for instance.

  1. Squeeze the juice from a fresh lemon into a bowl and add an equal amount of water.
  2. Massage the lemon juice solution into the perspiration or deodorant stain.
  3. Let the lemon juice work on the stain for 60 minutes.
  4. Launder as usual.

If the sun is out, you might also put the garment in bright sun after applying the lemon juice. Together, they are great bleaching agents! This cleaning solution also works with plain white vinegar.

Meat tenderizer - for more than just meat!

Adolphs Meat Tenderizer

I use meat tenderizer frequently to remove tough set-in biological stains like blood and urine.

Meat tenderizer contains natural fruit enzymes called bromelain and papain that help to break apart protein stains so they can be laundered away with regular washing.

To remove sweat or deodorant stains using meat tenderizer:

  1. Moisten the stained area with water.
  2. Work in a half-teaspoon of meat tenderizer with your fingers.
  3. Let the solution sit for 60 minutes and then launder as usual.

DON'T use meat tenderizer on natural fibers like wool or silk!

Heavy Duty Stain Removal

Oxygen bleach (Sodium Percarbonate) is my secret weapon for removing sweat and deodorant stains.

Soda ash/washing soda and hydrogen peroxide are combined to form a shelf-stable oxidizer and natural bleaching agent. Oxygen Bleach releases oxygen when it's dissolved in water which makes it a cleaning agent that is very effective at removing sweat and deodorant.

The best part is that Oxygen Bleach will not damage fabric like regular chlorine bleach does.

Follow the manufacturer's instructions for your fabric type:

  1. Mix 1/8 scoop of oxygen bleach with 1 cup of very hot water.
  2. Stir the cleaning solution until the granules are completely dissolved.
  3. Add 1 Tsp. full strength dish detergent or laundry soap into the water and oxygen bleach solution.
  4. Massage the cleaning solution onto the stained area with an old toothbrush or your fingers.
  5. Let the stain sit for 2 hours out of direct sunlight.
  6. Launder as usual.
  7. Inspect after laundering.
  8. Repeat if needed.

Great job!

Now you know a professional cleaner's tricks and tips to remove sweat and deodorant stains. Don't toss your clothing, don't bleach it to smithereens or get stressed out because now you can clean it up and remove those stains quickly and easily.

Enjoy the luxury of clean and stain free clothing. I can't help you to stop your family from perspiring, but I can help you to clean up your clothing and stop those pesky stains from forming to start with...

CC Image Courtesy of http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1239807


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Born and raised in Seattle, Washington, Mrs Clean (Corina Wilson) is not only the owner of the company, but a very busy mother of 3 children.

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Mrs Clean realized long ago, that a clean home is a necessity, not a luxury when we are struggling to find the time in our day to cover the very basic levels of work and/or family obligations. The battle seems to never end... (but that's why we're here to help!)

When Mrs Clean is not busy managing her house cleaning company or running her kids back and forth to their events, she enjoys experimenting with natural and non-toxic cleaners and learning new techniques to remove stains.

She thoroughly enjoys sharing her valuable information with the readers of her blogs and various social media sites.

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