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How to Remove Deodorant Stains Before They Ruin Your Favorite Shirts Forever

Mary Grace Garis

Mary Grace GarisJune 1, 2020

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Photo: Getty Images/LaylaBird

There’s sweater weather, and then there’s sweating (all the effing time because you have a garbage air conditioner) weather. While both of those types of weather involve the root word of “sweat,” it’s during that latter calendar timeframe when you might find yourself loading up more than usual on your signature deodorant in an effort to not drip through all your clothes. Except, oops…you’ve gone a little overboard and are now left with streaky, chalky, starkly white deodorant stains on basically all your warm-weather garments. So, in light of you being today years old and the sweaty-season being upon all of us, let’s learn once and for all how to remove deodorant stains.

Before we learn how to remove deodorant stains, though, let’s remember why you get left with them in the first place. “The white residue you see comes from your deodorant’s antiperspirant properties,” says Gwen Whiting, co-founder of eco-friendly detergent and fabric-care company The Laundress. “The aluminum salts used in antiperspirants often leaves a chalky film on the skin, which can then transfer to clothes and leave white marks. These can build up overtime and cause set-in stains.”

Since that’s not the most desirable look, to say the least, you probably want to know how to remove deodorant stains (or just keep them from happening in the first place). So to keep you fresh, clean, and stain-free, keep reading for all the intel (and products) you could possibly need.

How to prevent deodorant stains in the first place

“To avoid those pesky white marks, apply deodorant after you put on your top by applying beneath your shirt, from the bottom hem,” says Lindsey Boyd, co-founder of The Laundress. “Avoid pulling at the neckline to apply deodorant, because this can stretch out the fabric. If you apply deodorant before dressing, be sure to wait a couple of minutes for it to dry before putting on your clothes.”

“To avoid those pesky white marks, apply deodorant after you put on your top by applying beneath your shirt, from the bottom hem.” —Lindsey Boyd, co-founder of The Laundress

Likewise, you can consider trying a deodorant that doesn’t contain aluminum salts, which is the culprit behind white streaks. Or, you can try the following nifty hack with your sleeves: “Another trick is to fold over the hem of the garment before slipping it on,” says Boyd. “This way, it’s less likely you’ll get a mark on the outside of the garment.”

How to remove deodorant stains from clothes

In the event you’re past the stage of working to prevent stains and the damage is done, all isn’t lost. According to Whiting and Boyd, removing deodorant stains boils down to three easy steps.

  1. Apply a stain solution on the garment itself, and scrub at it with a brush or towel.
  2.  Fill a wash tub or sink with hot water for cotton pieces and cool water for silk, wool, and cashmere. Let the item soak in the water for up to 30 minutes.
  3. Launder as normal with a fabric-specific detergent on the appropriate washing-machine setting.

To make the most of those relatively straightforward instructions and ensure you don’t end up with permanent stains in the underarms of your garments, routine washing can help by stopping the deodorant marks from getting more severe over time. And if you’re dealing with wool, silk, or cashmere, you might want to call in some experts.

“Washing or dry-cleaning your blouses and shirts after every use helps prevent buildup and damage to the fibers and lasting odor,” says Katie Brown, owner of Rytina Fine Cleaners in Sacramento, California. “If you go to a dry cleaner, they can spot-clean shirts to treat underarm stains depending on the fabric. Otherwise, there are many over-the-counter products that can be used to pre-treat the armpit area prior to washing.”

8 alternative methods for removing deodorant stains yourself

If you’re going the DIY route to pre-treat your deodorant stains and don’t already have a go-to stain remover in your arsenal—or you’re simply looking for alternative methods to take care of them—there are several methods you can try.  a few ways to approach. Below, find eight expert recommendations that’ll help treat your deodorant stains and keep your clothes fresh.

1. THE LAUNDRESS WASH & STAIN BAR, $6

“Our Wash & Stain Bar is the perfect product for dealing with stains when you’re in a pinch,” says Boyd. “It’s travel-sized and has a reusable wrap that makes it handy for stashing in a bag or clutch. Simply run the bar under water and work into the fabric until the stain has lifted.”

2. The Laundress LINT-FREE CLEANING CLOTHS, $20

This towel (or a similar clean hand towel) is involved in step two of removing deodorant stains with the bar. Boyd says to use a damp cloth (no paper towels or tissues, which will leave behind lint or residue) to remove the soap. Then, dry the garment with another clean cloth to absorb moisture.

3. HYDROGEN PEROXIDE, $10

“For those built-in yellow armpit stains, try spraying hydrogen peroxide, which can be found at any pharmacy, directly to the stain,” Brown says. “Wait about 30 minutes, and then wash according to the care label.”

But don’t douse your sleeves all at once. Rather, Brown says, when trying this hydrogen-peroxide hack or any other home remedy, it’s safest to test a small area of a garment before treating the whole stain. This helps to ensure the hydrogen peroxide doesn’t cause damage to the fabric.

4. Natural Pit Stop, $14

This organic spray can also tackle those yellow pit stains on your shirts. Give the stain a spritz, and then scrub with a brush until the problem area is saturated. Then wait 20 minutes before scrubbing again, and washing separately from your regular clothes. While you can use it to tackle tough-to-remove stains from things like ink and pasta sauce, steer clear of silk fabrics, says Brown.

5. OXO GOOD GRIPS ALL-PURPOSE SCRUB BRUSH, $8

This all-purpose brush is a helpful tool if you choose to tackle stains with a cleaning spray. It’s a good buy if you usually turn to spray removers and want to get deep in into those fibers.

6. Hollywood Deodorant Removing Sponge, $14

If you need a quick solution for when your white deodorant smears a really great dress that you still intend to wear—like, soon—these deodorant-removing sponges are clutch to have available. They can be used without water and stashed in any purse or travel bag, in case of a deodorant-stain emergency. Just rub it fervently and you should be good to go.

7. Oxiclean Max Force Gel Stain Remover, $7

This gel stick isn’t targeted for sweat stains, specifically, but is more of a cure-all solution for people who tend to get sloppy. The tool’s precision nubs fight common stains like ice cream, grease, oil, and even blood (which is more of a general FYI, seeing as those types of stains aren’t super likely to show up in your armpits). And if you weren’t planning on doing a load of laundry right now, this gel stick is your friend because it lets you pre-treat the stain now, and wash the garment up to a week later.

8. UNDERARM SWEAT PADS, $16

If you know that you have the tendency to sweat, like a lot, this tool is likely a worthy investment for you. These underarm sweat guards are great prevention method to try if you, say, don’t have easy access to a washer and dryer for treating any stains that may crop up.

To wit, there a variety of “correct” ways to remove deodorant stains. You can certainly be mindful of how you apply your chosen stick, or choose a product that’s unlikely to stain in the first place. But, in the event that a deodorant stain does land in your armpits, remember that regular cleanings can help keep them from building up to permanent features on your garments. Furthermore, plenty of spot-treatment sprays and scrubs are available to tackle the stain at the source.

And if none of these strategies work at all for you, perhaps it’s time to just switch to tube tops and call it a day.

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