How Do You Get Deodorant Stains Out of Your Undershirts? Part Two.

May 24, 2008 | By | 36 Replies More

Deo-Go cleans set-in yellow underarm stains, deodorant build-up, and odor.

Update 12/2014

Make your own Deodorant Stain & Buildup Remover at home!

Update 9/2012

Be sure to browse through all the comments in this article below for what works and what doesn’t.

Also, check out New Pit Stain Problem You Tube Channel.

Update 7/2010

Deo-Go is 100% Effective in Removing Yellow Armpit Stains and Deodorant Build-up from Shirts.Check out my Deo-Go Review Here.

— original article —

I’ve been getting lots of visitors interested in the topic of underarm stains. More specifically, how to remove them from your shirts.
A little over a week ago, I posted this article providing some information on the topic. After doing some additional research, I found these suggestions on Yahoo! Answers (but formated them nicely here for you to easily read). I have not tried these

underarm-pit-stains-on-undershirt

Do you have yellow pit stains?

personally, but would love to hear from anyone who has. In the coming weeks I’ll test some of these out and report back.

  1. Ammonia/Water: Dilute a half cup of ammonia with 4 cups of water and daubing the solution on the stain repeatedly until it is lightened or removed entirely.
  2. Take two aspirins: Crush them and mix with a half cup of hot water. Pour directly on the stain and allow it to sit for a couple of hours.
  3. Baking soda: Add enough water to 1/4 cup of baking soda to form a runny paste. Apply directly to the stain and work it in. If the stain is particularly bad and smelly, let the baking soda paste remain on the garment for a couple of hours then brush it off. Baking soda is very good for removing odors!
  4. Fresh or concentrated lemon juice: You may squeeze fresh lemon juice directly on the stain until it is quite wet, then add a spoonful of table salt. Rub between your fingers until the stain lifts. This also helps remove dark underarm stains on t-shirts and undershirts. If it is a bright sunny day, exposing the garment to the sun and allowing it to dry will enhance the stain removing power of the lemon juice.
  5. Meat tenderizer: Another one for Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! Moisten the perspiration stain with warm water then sprinkle liberally with meat tenderizer. Work it is and allow it to sit for several minutes, then launder as usual.
  6. Salt: Regular table or pickling salt is a miraculous ingredient in many things, including household cleaners. Use salted water to soak stained garments; mix with white vinegar for a very good stain remover. Use with lemon juice – see #4 tip above.
  7. White vinegar: Mix a cup of white vinegar with 4 cups warm water. Dip stained garment in vinegar solution and scrub between your knuckles. If the stain is persistent, you may soak the entire garment in the vinegar solution for a couple of hours before running through a normal wash cycle. Check the fabric label to be sure it does not need to be dry cleaned!
  8. Oxi-Clean: This is a wonderful product for eliminating many clothing stains. Follow manufacturers directions.
  9. Borax: This is an old-time cleaning remedy that is still appropriate today – plus its a whole lot cheaper than some of the costly products on the supermarket shelves. Run warm water through the stain then sprinkle on a generous amount of Borax – don’t go crazy, but use enough so that you can see it like a good shake of salt on the stain. Rub it together with your fingers and then launder as usual.

Update – 8/26/08: Some more votes from a thread on Style Forum for rinsing with cold water & oxi-clean:

…The trick here is preemptive action, I believe. I used to get those stains too. Now I am careful to remove any excess antiperspirant from my armpits before I put on my shirts. When I take the shirts off I thoroughly rinse the underarms with cold water (I found a site online that had tested different methods and this was the best they found) and scrub them with a SprayNWash stick. In the wash, I use oxi clean. I don’t put my shirts in the dryer and I don’t run the iron over the underarm areas either – don’t want heat to set-in any remaining antiperspirant and make that evil permanent stain you are lamenting right now…

…Oxi Clean worked wonderfully on a number of my shirts underarm regions. A few of the more thoroughly-stained white shirts (with yummy yellow pits) were too far gone for Oxi Clean to work…

Update – 9/29/08: Found another possible remedy on this AskAndy forum thread.

It is my theory that sweat contains minerals, just like most tap water. When sweat, or tap water, evaporates, it leaves the mineral deposits behind. This is why bleach doesn’t remove it, because it isn’t a stain. If you hold one of your stained shirts up to the light, you will see that it looks like a deposit of material there.

I use products like CLR (calcium,lime,rust remover) with good success. I prefer the Zep brand stuff sold at Home Depot.

Update – 6/06/2009: Secret to Keeping Your Undershirts Their Whitest and Brightest without using Bleach

Update – 01/15/2010: A friend of my purchased The Encyclopedia of Men’s Clothing (says it’s amazing) from AskAndyAboutClothes.com and his book has a section about removing stains, perspiration and prevention. Here’s what it says:

YELLOW STAINS
Use denture cleaning tablets!  Fill a basin with water and add one or two tablets.  Let the tablets dissolve and then soak the garment until the yellow is gone.

PERSPIRATION
Perspiration, if allowed to stay in fabric, will eventually permanently stain and weaken the fabric. Aluminum chlorides in antiperspirants can also stain and weaken fabric. Controlled use of antiperspirants and laundering shirts immediately after wear can minimize the damage.

1.   If the stains are fresh, soak the shirt in ammonia for 30 minutes then wash.
2.   If they are older stains, try soaking in vinegar first. If that doesn’t do it, try heated white vinegar and borax or non-chlorine bleach.   Old stains are more difficult to treat because they have been set, particularly from being heated in the dryer.

You can also soak the shirt in a 50-50 mix of hydrogen peroxide and water for 30 minutes, then wash.  And you can put liquid laundry detergent right on the stain, leave it for five to ten minutes, then wash.

Launder shirts in the hottest water safe for the fabric, using an enzyme detergent or a detergent with bleach alternative (check care labels to be sure this is okay).

Bleach and/or baking soda may set yellow perspiration/deodorant stains on the underarms of shirts.

PREVENTION:
Let deodorant dry before you put on your shirt.  See the Deodorant or Antiperspirant in the Grooming Chapter, under Skin Care.
And don’t let stains sit! Apply pre-wash spray or liquid detergent ASAP, and then launder. Use the hottest water safe for the garment.
Wearing an undershirt can also help keep stains off your shirts. Wear a T-shirt or V-neck, any undershirt that covers the underarms, not a tank top.  They’re comfortable and present a better appearance under a sheer dress shirt.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Category: Ask Tug, Sweat Management

About the Author ()

Tug is the world's undershirt expert. Looking for undershirt or men's shapewear information? You'll find it here on my site - guaranteed! You can also find me on

Comments (36)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Jeanne says:

    I bought a new lime green t shirt. Once In a while when I where it the underarms turn yellow. But it washes out. I have been wearing the same deorderant for years. Any idea why this is happening.

    • Tug says:

      heya jeanne! thanks for your question about the underarm temporary discoloring.

      i don’t know for certain what the issue might be, however, i am curious about something — are you using (a) deodorant or (b) antiperspirant? deodorant has no sweat prevention, antiperspirant does.

      if you’re using an antiperspirant, then it’s possible the chemicals in the antiperspirant combine with any perspiration that may be occurring is coming into contact with the dye in the lime green shirt and temporarily altering the color. keep in mind that t-shirts are manufactured different ways, so the dye used to color t-shirts will perform differently from shirt to shirt.

      some colored tees begin their existence as being made with colored yarns. others begin when the fabric is dyed after being knitted. and yet others are dyed after the tee is constructed (otherwise known as “garment dye”). each dyeing process can have different end-effects and also determine how long the garment will retain its original color.

      so, your new lime green tee may be simply temporarily discoloring because of how it was dyed. though, i have to say that this is only a guess.

  2. just read this could be a possible solution to removing deodorant stains (yellow pit stains, those that are set-in. not “deodorant marks” that can be wiped off):

    “Spray pit stains with vanish and leave to dry then saturate with warm water and rub well with hands rinse thoroughly spray again then wash the items in the washing machine”

  3. Pamela says:

    My fiance is native american with some african american. His sweat spots are so dark! I think were both just going to switch to the clear stuff, and hell just have wear either black or a tshirt under his polos. Its just to much work

  4. pk Leghaei says:

    Use only natural and aluminium free deodrants. It is not harmful for you and your health

    • heya pk, so if you did that, how would you prevent underarm sweating? that’s the purpose of using an antiperspirant over a deodorant isn’t it??

      deodorants don’t provide any sweat protection, but do offer odor-control.

      antiperspirants offer sweat protection, and most of (or all of) them also offer odor-control as well.

  5. Kevan says:

    I have been researching this topic since my college aged son came home and I saw the stains in his favorite shirts. there was yellow stains and a hard residue buildup. some shirts actually glistened with small flecks of silver glitter. he said that was from a green can of spray Brut. he stopped using that a while ago.

    I first applied shout and also had some Tide per treat spray. Nothing much happened. I washed the shirts between every successive product, but did not use the dryer. I tried the sprays again, soaking over night. no change. I even tried Lestoil, which is a solvent I use to remove tar. No change. I tried Citri-Solve another natural orange solvent. It actually left an orange cast.

    I finally soaked overnight in a strong solution, per instructions , of Oxi-Clean and soaked over night, rubbing into the stains before washing. the change was remarkable. the stiff buildup was gone. the orange color from the Citri solve was gone and the original yellow stain was almost completely gone. this was a buildup over 2years. Oxi-Clean also has a spray that would be convenient for my son to apply to the shirts before they are thrown into the basket.

    Now I have a question about deodorant that no one has mentioned. men have hair in their armpits. doesn’t the solid deodorants or antiperspirants just lay on the hair and not get to the skin? and I am guessing if you give it a good rubbing that perhaps there is alot of product there, maybe too much? do me ever shave? hair definitely collects bacteria and odor. I guess that’s why I have read that tea tree products work. the other question is, has Consumer Reports ever covered this topic? they have teams of scientists who investigate such things. And personal care is big business. maybe we all need to write to them!

    • hey kevan! thanks for stopping by and sharing your experiences trying to remove set-in/hardened yellow underarm stains from your son’s shirts!

      from everything i’ve read, come across, or even tried myself, there are basically three products that are reasonably reliable in removing yellow/dark deodorant stains or build-up from shirts. they are oxi-clean, deo-go, and raise.

      from the reports i’ve read, people are more successful with oxi-clean when they soak the garment overnight – like you did. with deo-go and raise, the process is a little faster since you only need to leave the solution on the underarm area for 30-60 minutes, but sometimes you have to treat the stain a couple times to get the stain fully out. in some instances, the stains just don’t come out either. i’m sure it has to do with how long stains have been on the garment, how severe they are, and other things like body chemistry, antiperspirant exposure, etc.

      here’s a deo-go video review and demonstration that recently went up on the modernwife youtube channel: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eCtJw90c6Rs&feature=youtu.be

      to your question about underarm hair:
      from my own personal experience, most antiperspirants i’ve used seem to make their way through underarm hair during the application process. the underarm hair gets wet/saturated, and i’m sure a good amount penetrates the skin enough to become effective in doing it’s job of blocking sweat through a chemical reaction that causes the sweat glands [eccrine-gland ducts] to swell and close.

      shaving underarm hair: this is a great question. over the last 5+ year, i’ve been seeing a lot more public display proof of men shaving their underarms. heck, mrs. tug and i were recently watching and episode of big brother where britney and danielle used a nair-like product to remove ian’s underarm hair. some guys go with completely removing the underarm hair (nair, shave, wax), and others like me do trimming to keep the hair short, without fully removing it all. for me, i just feel cleaner and more hygienic when my body hair is trimmed, but i’m sure it also reduces odor and bacteria too.

      tea tree products: i’ve definitely read about odor eliminating / reducing products like tea tree, but if i recall correctly none of them actually are effective as an antiperspirant. i find there is a lot of confusion with the term “deodorant”. some people use the term when talking about sweat-blocking characteristics (which is antiperspirant) and while some antiperspirants are also deodorants (anti-odor), a deodorant alone is not an antiperspirant.

      bear in mind, there are ways to minimize underarm shirt staining. one, is to let your antiperspirant fully dry before putting on your clothes – this is what i do. there are also some antiperspirants that are less likely to result in underarm staining or build-up. off the top of my head there are products like stainguard and nivea invisible, but there are others.

      here are a couple of good threads on askandyaboutclothes.com that talk about underarm stains, removal, prevention:
      http://www.askandyaboutclothes.com/forum/showthread.php?112040-Ugh-Yellow-Underarm-Stains
      http://www.askandyaboutclothes.com/forum/showthread.php?116562-OCBD-s-in-the-heat/page2

      there are tons more sites out there that talk about these issues, but if you go to a site like askandy or style forum, you’ll get first-hand knowledge from community members talking about what worked and didn’t work for them.

      thanks for stopping by! let me know if you have any other questions (:

  6. Janae says:

    I have a HE washer and it seems that’s when I started having problems with my clothes not getting clean and underarm stains. I must admit that I use cold water, rarely warm. I am wondering if the combo of these 2 is what is doing it? I am currently using Kirkland brand detergent, but use very little due to recommendations for HE washers. Also I have been tossing in a large scoop of baking soda. It seems I am just doing everything wrong!

    I am nervous to try some of these suggestions on colored clothes. I used vinegar on grey sheets and it ruined the color. I used lemon juice and had to rewash the load because there was a weird “crispy” area on the bedding cover I washed. I am getting to the point where I feel like I need to throw out my clothes and start with major preventative care on the new clothes. So frustrating. Also. If clothes get tossed in the laundry damp (being from humid GA) they very easily get that damp musty smell. We have been drying our towels after every shower to try and prevent this. And again just another thing that seems to not be working as well as hoped.

    • hey janae,

      i’m not too familiar with how ‘he’ washing machines operate or what laundering methods optimize washing conditions in those types of machines, but i can tell you a bit more about the underarm stain removal.

      most of the treatments outlined here should not make the color on your garment bleed, however, it mostly depends on how the garment was dyed and not so much on the actual cleaning treatment. it’s always safest to test the treatment on a place of the garment/shirt that you can’t see first.

      the only treatments that i’ve heard can remove set-in underarm stains are:
      1. oxiclean (with or without baking soda) – must rub in oxyclean into stain, and soak shirt overnight in oxiclean/water mixuture
      2. deo-go or raise stain remover – spray, scrub, wait 30 minutes, launder – pretty easy
      3. hydrogen peroxide / baking soda – paste
      4. simple green

      here’s a rather current article at one of my recommended sites that offers similar cleaning ideas:
      http://artofmanliness.com/2012/04/03/how-to-remove-yellow-armpit-stains/

      oh, and my wife and i always hang our towels or gym clothes to dry before putting them in the hamper/laundry basket. like you said, if we put them in the wet, the laundry gets that nasty musty smell. ugh/yuck.

      • Janae says:

        Thanks for your quick reply. I have found that oxyclean is amazing with some of the stuff it does clean. I just tried an experiment. I grabbed a few my husbands white tees. Filled the sink half way with warm water (i think our tank is set too low for true hot water) Dumped in white vinegar, soaked, sprinkled in oxyclean, soaked more, used baking soda paste on the inside of the shirts scrubbed with a stiff bristled brush, let set. washed a very small load on “hot” added detergent, white vinegar (softener area) and lemon juice (bleach area)

        Results: The under arm areas are still stained and probably have some slight embedded deodorant but they are not caked feeling like they were before. The shirts are still dingy, and the underarm stains are still noticeable. But they seem much better than before. For all the work and the results I think buying new shirts is the best solution and then keeping up with them from there. Mind you, these shirts are old shirts and this issue has been going on for a while. I will see what the hubby says when he gets home, since he is the one who wears them!

      • Janae says:

        Before the next wash I will have to try the oxyclean paste and see how that works!

  7. Courtney says:

    I’m just wondering if these techniques will work for roll on deodorant stains? I’m having trouble trying to remove that type of stain.

    • hey courtney, thanks for stopping by and posting your question!

      you know, i’ve been following this deodorant stain / yellow armpit stain removal topic for a couple of years now. most of what i’ve read leaves me with the understanding that, using the home remedies listed, results can vary widely between people and stain types. no matter what type of antiperspirant caused the stain.

      what’s most interesting, is that i have never seen before and after pictures from anyone using home remedy solutions (vinegar, ammonia, oxi-clean, lemon juice). i have only read comments from people saying that one or the other process worked for them. why i’m saying that is because i would guess that some of the comments are 100% true, from people who’ve actually experienced it, and some other reviews are just people taking “results” from else-wear on the web and presenting it as their own.

      out of all the home remedy solutions offered, i’d say these are the most likely to be effective:
      1. denture cleaning tablets
      2. hydrogen peroxide
      3. rug doctor steam cleaning solution
      4. clr (calcium, lime, rust) remover
      5. oxi-clean

      if you’d rather be more certain, you out to try out one of the two commercial armpit stain removing solutions:
      1. deo-go
      2. raise stain remover

  8. Sandy Martin says:

    I don’t have much problem with underarm stains but I do have a problem with not being able to remove the sweaty smell from out of the Under Armor brand shirts and pants. Is there a product that they can be pre-soaked in to remove the odor before washing. It doesn’t seem to matter what laudry detergent I use. Nothing has worked so far.

    • hey sandy, i have received feedback from other readers that deo-go (shown at the top of this page) also removes odors from regular clothing as well as activewear like under aromour.

      also, i have written a couple of posts about smelly/stinky performance clothing. also, i was approached by a company that makes win green eco friendly detergent that claims to remove odors from moisture wicking clothing.

      check into these products and please be sure to let me know if either one of them work for you. i know the information will be helpful to others looking for a similar solution.

    • stephanie says:

      I use a little bit of Clorox bleach with every load – whites, colors, everything…. If you are scared of the bleach-out spots, you can set the washer for a higher level of water and throw in a sheet of color catcher (I buy mine at Target).
      Or you can add a cup of vinegar in the water but not together with the bleach! Vinegar neutralizes the smell, too.
      Good luck!

      • hey stephanie, does that method actually clean those set-in yellow underarm stains and/or deodorant build-up? or does it clean/remove some other stain?

        i’ve tried the vinegar/water thing – but it’s never been effective for me.

  9. Courtney says:

    Don’t bother using non-chlorine bleach. It doesn’t work. Also, borax is a by-product of non-chlorine bleach, so don’t bother buying borax specifically to get rid of these stains because I am sure it costs way more. I still haven’t found anything that works. I’ve tried regular bleach, lemon juice, vinegar, non-chlorine bleach.

  10. Misty says:

    Ok every one, I have tried everything for those impossible deodorant stains from vinegar to denture tablets an everything inbetween. This is what worked AMAZINGLY and right before my eyes. Rug doctor steam cleaner. I know right? Why didn’t we think of that before? Pour it on the stain and rub the material with the palm of your hand and walla! The greatest thing about this is it works on OLD stains, new stains, colors and whites, water soaked or dry. I sprayed a bit of shout on the stain as well while working the stain out. Now, the trick is to keep this from happening in the first place. Well I figured that out also. After you take ANY shirt off, whether you see deodorant stains or not, spray with shout and throw in laundry basket until ready to do laundry. No more switching deodorants! Yippy! Shout is an excellent stain fighter! It works on many kinds of stains like chocolate, blood and many others. Shout works even better after it sits on your dry clothes more than one day and does not hurt colors. Let me know how this works for you.

    • great advice misty! that’s crazy that you thought of using rug doctor steam cleaner solution to clean pit stains! what made you think of that?

      of course, now there’s a couple of products designed for removing yellow stains and deodorant build-up (deo-go and pit stop), but i think they are only available online right now.

      that rug doctor solution is available at pretty much any supermarket, if i recall correctly. so that might be a good alternative for people to try out since they can get it locally.

  11. Pat says:

    The issue of the yellow stains comes from anti-persiprant. The aluminum oxide contained within the product creates a chemical reaction with the salt in your sweat causing the armpits of your shirts to yellow. The solution is to use only deodorant. Do not use anti-perspirant. I read this online a couple of years ago and changed to deodorant only products. After three years in my heavy weight JC Penney Staffords … not a single yellow stain. I tend to break a sweat easily and often. ;-)

    • hey pat, yeah that’s definitely an option (switching to deodorant), but there’s a trade off.

      if you want to keep yourself dry in the underarm area, antiperspirant is the way to go. if you’re worried about the yellow stains, then you can either make the switch to deodorant, try out some of the new antiperspirants that minimize yellow staining (nivea black and white, speedstick with stainguard), or use some of these new solutions designed to remove the yellow stains.

      for me personally, my undershirts stay pretty clean for a really long time. i believe this is because i put on my antiperspirant right after i get out of the shower, and it’s completely dry by the time i get dressed. also, i don’t sweat very much (except when i’m working out!), so i think that helps as well.

  12. Bahram says:

    Thanks for the info I needed badly. CLR makes the most sense to me. I’ll try that first..

  13. PABLO MONTAGNA says:

    Excellent web site I WISH there was more publicity out there to get many old timers like me (40) to read about you guys.
    Congrats and keep good work

  14. Thanks Yags! The thing that seems to work for me is to put on my deodorant well before I get dressed, giving it time to fully dry (I use a Ban roll-on). Since I’ve been doing that, my undershirts don’t get any noticeable stains and seem to last a lot longer.

  15. yags_varriale says:

    I used to get stains also. The problem is the deodorant and not your pits. Use a white stick deodorant and not the gel/clear stick. This will solve the problem. I use the Degree Invisible Solid, it doesn’t stain shirts but pieces of it may fall from your pits/shirt now and then. But the trade off is better.

Leave a Reply


Notify me of follow-up comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.