The Cause of Yellow Armpit Stains

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With the advent of summer, more people are shedding the remains of their winter wardrobe in favor of lighter and less bulky clothes. Unlike winter clothes, which tend to be all encompassing, summer clothes often leave little to the imagination. As a result, unsightly occurrences like yellow sweat stains are all the more obvious. Yellow sweat stains are most visible on light colored shirts, however they are also present on dark shirts, although darker colors mask them quite well.

Young woman in white t-shirt.
Young woman in white t-shirt. (Image: Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

The Facts

The cause of sweat stains is not the sweat itself as it is colorless. The discoloration in the underarm area of a garment is caused by a chemical reaction that takes place between urea, which is a component of human sweat, and deodorant. Most people apply several layers of deodorant to their armpits prior to dressing in the belief that it will keep them dry and odor free all day. However, deodorant only clogs the sweat pores for a certain period of time. A large amount of sweat can push the deodorant from the pores and right onto clothing. Due to its acidic nature and high aluminum content, the deodorant combined with sweat causes the yellow discoloration on light colored clothing.

Young woman sweating after a workout.
Young woman sweating after a workout. (Image: Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Implications

The social implications of sweat stains can make the person with the offending garment the center of unwanted scrutiny by friends, family and co-workers. Sweat stains denote laziness, lack of proper hygiene and all around dirtiness. It can be embarrassing for the person affected by the stains and cause great emotional distress if brought into the public arena. Clothes that are free from stains and wrinkles are the hallmarks of proper cleanliness.

Sweat stains can offend.
Sweat stains can offend. (Image: Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Prevention

There are many preventative measures that one can take to avoid sweat stains altogether. Instead of using store-bought aluminum based deodorants, all natural deodorizing products can help keep sweat at bay without staining clothes. Talcum powder, a few sprinkles of baking soda or a dampened salt rock rubbed across the armpits can help keep the area dry and fresh all day. Organic deodorants are also viable non-yellowing options for deterring sweat, as they do not contain aluminum.

2 open deodorant sticks.
2 open deodorant sticks. (Image: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Considerations

In addition to the awkwardness of yellow sweat stains on clothing, special consideration must be given to possible health risks from the prolonged use of aluminum-based deodorants. Several studies have been conducted to prove a link between increased breast cancer risk and the use of beauty products containing aluminum. And while a conclusive link has not been proven, aluminum is a toxin and should be used sparingly.

Deodorant can have aluminum as an ingredient.
Deodorant can have aluminum as an ingredient. (Image: Jupiterimages/Pixland/Getty Images)

Stain Removal

Clothing that already bears the signs of yellow sweat stains around the armpit area can still be salvaged. Store-bought stain removers work the best. White vinegar is also an excellent stain removing option. It can be applied to a shirt right after it is taken off and then washed directly. Direct sunlight for several hours can also remove the yellowing. Chemical bleaches are not recommended as they can intensify the yellowing instead of removing it.

Stain removal prior to washing clothing.
Stain removal prior to washing clothing. (Image: Grata Victoria/iStock/Getty Images)

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