How to Get Sweat Stains Out of Shirts

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Get sweat stains out of your shirts.
Get sweat stains out of your shirts. (Image: Photodisc/Valueline/Getty Images)

Tired of blowing through undershirts like they're a disposable product? Sweat stains can be an unsightly addition to your wardrobe, but they're not a foregone conclusion, no matter how much you sweat. Follow a few tips to remove sweat stains from your clothing and learn how to take simple preventative steps to avoid future sweat stains.

Surprisingly, sweat stains typically do not come from the sweat itself. Most underarm sweat stains are caused by your antiperspirant, which is very acidic. The disruption in pH balance causes a yellowing in white fabrics and can leading to color fading in colorful shirts. The products that come in roll-on or gel forms tend to be the worst offenders, largely because they take longer to dry and are more likely to be transferred from your underarm to your clothes during or after application, resulting in the infamous underarm sweat stain. Sweat stains around the shirt collar are more likely to be caused directly by your sweat. You may notice collar sweat stains actually have a different hue than underarm stains, even on the same shirt.

A simple way to significantly reduce sweat stains is to apply your deodorant before getting dressed and allow it plenty of time to dry. Don't slather on deodorant. This leads to more product getting transferred onto your clothing, and does little to increase sweat and odor protection. If you tend to be in a rush in the morning, considering switching to a fast-drying antiperspirant, or drop the antiperspirant altogether and switch to an all-natural deodorant instead -- choose one that doesn't contain aluminum hydrochloride. While you may perspire slightly more, odor will still be controlled and your less acidic sweat will take less of a toll on your fabric colors.

If you find you frequently get sweat stains in areas that aren't exposed to your antiperspirant, you may want to test your pH levels to see if your sweat itself is a little acidic. You can purchase pH strips at many health stores. A healthy saliva pH should be around 6.5 to 7. If you find your saliva tests more acidic than this, working to regain alkalinity may even benefit your health and energy levels, in addition to reducing pesky sweat stains on your shirts.

As soon as you've noticed the stain, run the affected area under the faucet using cold water. Once you've removed as much surface stain as possible, rub the fabric together to work the stain out of the small valleys within the stitching. The cold water washes away the acidity left behind by your antiperspirant. You may wish to run cold water over the armpits of your favorite shirts before stains even appear. This way, they don't sit and yellow in the laundry hamper. Running your clothes through a washer and dryer cycle can hard-set the stains, making it much more difficult to remove them, so aim to pre-treat stains.

If cold water simply doesn't do the trick, you can try more aggressive methods. Keep in mind that the more aggressive the method, the more likely you are to damage the fabric. OxiClean, a peroxide-based bleach, does a great job. Just load your washer with a cold water wash, add the maximum amount of OxiClean, and set the washer to pre-soak for about 30 minutes. You can make a homemade version of OxiClean by combining half a cup of hydrogen peroxide with half a cup of baking soda. Whatever you do, avoid using bleach, which can actually make the stain worse.

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