Get Underarm Stains Out of Shirts in 3 Easy Steps

Experts share how to ditch pesky streaks and yellow armpit stains once and for all. 

It happens to everyone: You plan a great outfit, slip your shirt over your head, and boom—white deodorant stains ruin the look. Those pesky streaks are an instant buzzkill when you’re getting dressed, and—to make things worse—they’re often difficult to remove permanently. Plus, as hot summer temperatures propel us to lather on antiperspirant, deodorant stains are even more prevalent than they are the rest of the year.

What’s possibly worse than those annoying white streaks on dark fabrics? Yellow deodorant stains on white shirts. White T-shirts and tanks are summer staples, but armpit stains can force us to leave those shirts hanging in our closets—or ditch them altogether. But don’t worry: We tapped experts to eliminate these frustrating fashion issues so you can wear whatever you want to this summer.

What causes yellow armpit stains?

“Body oils can bind with the aluminum and zirconium in antiperspirant, leading to yellowing over time,” says Jennifer Ahoni, scientific communications manager at P&G. “Body oils alone can also stain clothes yellow. Normally sweat won’t stain clothes on its own, but the combination of sweat and body oils will turn clothes yellow over time.”

To limit or slow down the process of yellowing underarms on white shirts, opt for an aluminum-free deodorant. Ahoni recommends Secret Aluminum Free and Native Deodorant, while Gwen Whiting and Lindsey Boyd, cofounders of The Laundress, recommend Megababe, Corpus, or Schmidt’s Naturals deodorants.

how to get deodorant stains out of shirts

Secret Aluminum Free Deodorant

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If your white shirts are riddled with yellow underarm stains, don’t worry—there are ways to remove them. Experts explained how to remove deodorant stains using products we already have in our pantry as well as with strong products that will make useful additions to your laundry room.

How to get deodorant stains out of shirts:

It’s a tried-and-true ingredient for both cooking and cleaning: vinegar. Nine out of 10 times, you’ll have vinegar in your home, so take advantage of this easily accessible product and use it to remove deodorant stains. According to Ahoni, vinegar has a low pH, which loosens yellow deodorant stains by dissolving metal and mineral residues that can bind body soils to fabrics.

“Vinegar can help decrease bad odors caused by the breakdown of body soils trapped in fabrics into small, stinky molecules that cause musty, stale mildew smells or odors,” Ahoni explains. “In combination with vinegar, you still want to use a high-quality detergent that is designed to wash away the greasy body soils that can lead to odors present in underarm stains.”

Ahoni recommends 9 Elements Laundry Detergent because it is formulated with cleaning ingredients for stain removal, vinegar for odor fighting, and citric acid for whitening. However, she warns that we should avoid using vinegar on fabrics that contain rayon fibers since the ingredient can be damaging. Always check the labels on your clothing for warnings and instructions for washing specific fabrics.

how to get rid of deodorant stains

9 Elements Liquid Laundry Detergent

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How to remove deodorant stains from clothing:

Ahoni, Whiting, and Boyd walked us through a step-by-step process for how to get deodorant stains out of shirts. Read their tips and tricks for pretreating and washing clothing below.

How to remove yellow underarm stains:

  1. Brush any excess deodorant off of your clothing. Then, rinse it with warm water to dilute the stain.
  2. Mix Tide Plus Febreze Sport Odor Defense with vinegar. Pour the mixture directly onto the yellow underarm marks, covering the entire stain. Rub the fabric together gently and let it sit for 20 minutes.
  3. Without rinsing off the detergent, place your shirt in the washing machine. (It’s fine to wash other items at the same time.) Check the label on your clothing, and wash in warm water if possible. If not, wash in cold water. For super strong odors, include Tide Odor Rescue with Febreze Odor Defense in the wash.

How to remove deodorant stains:

  1. Apply Stain Solution to the deodorant stain and sprinkle All-Purpose Bleach on top to create a paste. Work the products into the fabric using The Laundress Satin Brush or a soft-bristled toothbrush. Do not use All-Purpose Bleach on silk, wool, or cashmere.
  2. Fill a sink with hot water for cotton pieces and cool water for silk, wool, and cashmere. Add 1/4 cup of Scented Vinegar and let the item soak in the water for up to 30 minutes.
  3. Wash your clothing as normal with a fabric-specific detergent and water setting. Whiting and Boyd recommend Signature Detergent for everyday cotton and linens, Delicate Wash for silk, and Wool & Cashmere Shampoo for woolens and cashmere pieces.
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