How To Get Sweat Stains Out Of Clothes

Dear Home-Ec folk,
Okay, here’s the thing. I’m sick and tired of replacing work shirts every year when the only thing wrong with them is they’ve gone a bit wiffy from being in contact with smelly armpits too often. How do you get that deep-seated, almost died-in-the-wool B.O. out of clothes so that they can again be worn in public without fear?

One thing, though – I live in the sunny tropics, where we have no need of these “dryers” people often refer to.
~ Laundry on the Line.

get sweat stains out of clothes

Heather says:

Put the bleach down! As backwards as it sounds chlorine bleach will only make perspiration stains worse on white clothing. The chemicals react with the salts, left behind to create mustardy yellow stains that are practically impossible to remove. While your clothing may be odor free, no one wants to walk around with giant pit stains. Getting rid of the salts from perspiration will solve the source of your whiffy pits.

As always spot test before using any of the remedies mentioned below.

  • Sweat stains are best treated immediately. The sweat while still damp is acidic and is best treated with a weak base. Dissolve baking soda in water and spray or sponge onto the affected area. Allow the garment to sit for approximately half an hour. Launder in cold water, heat may set any lingering perspiration stains making them difficult, if not impossible to remove. Baking soda is an excellent tool for combating odor problems, repeat the process if necessary.
  • Older stains require an acid; dilute vinegar sprayed or sponged onto the offending area will help remove the stain and kill off any offending odors. Allow the solution to sit for thirty minutes. Again, launder in cold water to avoid setting the stain. Repeat as necessary.
  • Sunlight is great for whitening fabrics as well. Drying a fabric in the sun may help lighten any faint stains.

    get rid of odors in material

    Click the picture for more tips!

  • For a stubborn perspiration stain or for treating an unwashable garment try making a paste of 1 TBSP cream of tartar and three crushed full-strength aspirin tablets (For Pete’s sake, make sure they are the uncoated, white variety!) mix with a little water and gently apply to the area with an old toothbrush. Rinse with plain water and air dry.

As the heat from conventional dryers would set the perspiration stains, you may be able to save some of your line dried articles.

Happy laundering.

Send your domestic questions to helpme@home-ec101.com.



6 Comments

  1. ARP on March 4, 2011 at 1:19 pm

    I had this same problem! I use a deoderant crystal, so no problems with staining (and I sweat a lot less than I did with conventional anti-perspirants!)
    However, I had purchased a really nice coat on consignment, which didn't have any bad oders when I bought it, but after it was in contact with my body heat for 10-20 minutes it was nasty (really bad B.O.– like an onion ate sulpher). I took the coat off and had it thoroughly cleaned (it's dry-clean only), making sure to explain the problem to the cleaners. I got the coat back, it smelled just fine– then after wearing it 20 minutes or so– WHEW! Stinky! What is worse– I was wearing one of my favorite tanks under it– which has this nylon lace edging all around the top, including under the arm pit. So now it has the stink on it too– and I have tried everything I can think of to get rid of it– washing/ soaking with baking soda, vinegar, even spraying the thing with lysol and letting it sit overnight (at this point it was either going to fix it or I was throwing the tank out). — nothing worked…. that is until I tried a product called "Bac-Out" , it's an enzymatic cleanser that kills bacteria which create the oders.



    • ARM on March 4, 2011 at 1:20 pm

      However– what I learned the hard way is that items with spandex in them tend to be impossible to get smells out of– before chucking those items I do recommend trying Bac-Out… but if that doesn't work, nothing will.



  2. angel on December 19, 2010 at 7:12 pm

    i've been using a homemade underarm deorderant for many, many years. i don't have underrings and i don't stink. at least that's what my friends tell me. we live in the southwest and i have hot flashes all the time because of my age. here's my homemade recipe: 1 part baking SODA and 1 part cornstarch. mix together and use a puff to apply to your underarms. the coarnstarch stops the wetness and the soad stops the odor (in case you do have odor).



  3. Nashville is Talking » Chutes and Ladders on May 4, 2007 at 5:28 pm

    […] You stank? […]



  4. Badbadivy on May 4, 2007 at 11:12 am

    C’est moi- the vinegar and baking soda should solve the BO problem. Both are noted for their stink-getting out abilities. 🙂



  5. c'est moi on May 4, 2007 at 10:39 am

    very helpful information which i will try on my white cotton tshirts, but i’m not sure it answers the question. i believe the question was about how to remove a build up of BO, not the visible stain. i often have this problem, too. mostly with synthetic clothing. you wash the garment, it seems to be clean, smells ok, etc. then you put it on and five minutes later, the odor returns in the armpit area. any ideas as to what we can do, other than pitch the item and buy only cotton?