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How to Get Deodorant Stains Out of Shirts —And the Surprising Pantry Staple That Works!

Whether you choose to wear deodorant or antiperspirant to nix underarm sweat and smell, there are two pretty common stains you’ve likely come across with one or the other. One: While in a hurry, you put on your favorite dark blouse after applying deodorant, and before heading out the door, you notice the top is streaked with white marks. Two: You reach into your closet to put on your favorite white T-shirt only to find that the armpits are stained an unsightly shade of yellow. Both are due to the makeup of deodorant or antiperspirant, says celebrity stylist Samantha Brown, who’s dressed stars like Faith Ford and Jennifer Nettles. But lifting both white marks and yellow stains is possible. Read on to learn how to get deodorant/antiperspirant stains out of shirts.

What causes the white streaks on clothing

white deodorant stain on black shirt
Victoria M/AdobeStock

White, creamy-textured deodorants and antiperspirants offer a silky-smooth feel on skin, yet tend to have an oily, paste-like texture that sits on top of skin instead of soaking in, making it more susceptible to rubbing off onto your clothes. Additionally, the aluminum salts in antiperspirants can leave behind chalk-like white streaks on the skin, which can transfer to clothing.

The best way to get *those* deodorant stains out of shirts

pantyhose to clean deodorant stains
Kajonsak Tui/Shutterstock

“This is a crazy hack, but it truly works to pull those pesky white marks right out,” shares Brown. She says to simply scrunch up a pair of dry hose and use them to rub the stains in a circular motion. The slightly abrasive nylon will dislodge the deodorant residue trapped in the fabric’s fibers, removing it in seconds.  

No pantyhose on hand? Try makeup-remover wipe

Just grab a few of the wipes, suggests cleaning pro Kathy Turley of Home Clean Heroes. “Makeup removers dissolve the oils and compounds in deodorants and antiperspirants,” she explains. “Simply rub the wipe on the stain and it will come out instantly.”

Deodorant stains still not coming out of clothes? Grab a plain white washcloth

(The white helps to avoid any color transfer from the cloth to your clothes.) Dampen it with hot water, then dab (don’t rub!) the white streaks. The heat evaporates the residue, lifting the stain off.

What causes the yellow underarm stains on clothing

yellow deodorant underarm stain

Yellow stains left behind on the underarm area of a shirt are referred to as “sweat stains,” but are actually caused by aluminum compounds and chemicals in antiperspirants mixing with proteins and salts in your perspiration, forming the yellow stains in the underarm areas of your tops over time as the the compounds and chemicals build up.

The best way to get *those* deodorant stains out of shirts

The surprisingly powerful antiperspirant-caused sweat stain remover that may be hiding in your kitchen cabinet: Unseasoned meat tenderizer (Buy on Amazon, $8.85), says Mona Weiss, founder of organic soap company Econuts. “The tenderizer’s enzymes break down the built-up proteins in sweat stains, allowing the stains to be rinsed away.”

To do: Wet the stained area with cold water and sprinkle on enough tenderizer to cover the stain fully. Let sit for at least 30 minutes and wash in the washing machine as normal.

Just be sure to check that the stains are gone before popping the shirt in the dryer, as the dryer’s heat can set in any remaining discoloration.

No meat tenderizer? Get deodorant stains out of clothes with aspirin

Dissolve 3 to 5 aspirin tablets in ½ cup of water, then pour over the stains and let sit overnight before washing in cold water. Aspirin’s acetylsalicylic acid acts as a natural, color-safe bleach that lightens the discoloration.

If neither of the above remedies fully lift the yellow, Brown suggests spritzing the area with OxiClean Laundry Stain Remover (Buy on Amazon, $16.10) and let sit overnight, then wash the shirt in the washing machine as normal the next day. The OxiClean spray’s hydrogen peroxide and sodium percarbonate break down and lift tough, set-in sweat stains with ease.

How to prevent yellow deodorant stains

One of the best ways to thwart future yellowing in the underarms of shirts is to wash them as soon as you can after wearing them, as opposed to waiting days to wash them, which allows the stains a chance to set in.

Also smart: Try switching to an aluminum-free deodorant so it won’t create the reaction with your sweat that causes the yellow-tinged stains in the first place.

(Click through for 9 Natural Deodorants That Really Work for Women Over 50.)

And, when getting ready for the day, be sure to let your antiperspirant or deodorant “dry” for a minute or two before putting on your shirt so the formula has the chance to better absorb and settle into skin rather than on your clothes.

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