How To Get Rid of Sweat Stains on Clothing
Everyone sweats, and everyone wears clothing, so naturally, everyone’s experienced sweat stains before. If you suffer from hyperhidrosis, also known as excessive sweating, then you may be more prone to them due to the sheer amount that you sweat. You may experience them not only on your underarms, but on your back, socks, hats, and really any part of your body that regularly sweats and comes into contact with clothing.
What is sweat?
Sweat itself is both an odorless and colorless liquid. Sweat on its own will not generally cause stains, unless you’re sweating a lot and not changing your clothes after a heavy sweating session. In this case, trace amounts of salt found in sweat can leave salt stains on clothing behind.
What causes sweat stains?
Generally, sweat stains are caused by the products that come into contact with your skin (such as antiperspirants, deodorants, powders, and creams), which can react with your skin and leave residue, which is a result of the product and your sweat mixing.
Yellow stains are the result of a chemical reaction between your sweat and aluminum, the active ingredient in all antiperspirants. Sweating a lot, and leaving the sweat on clothing for an extended period of time before washing it (i.e. a full work day) can make yellow stains more apparent. These yellow stains are most apparent on light-coloured clothing, particularly white clothing. Not only can sweat stains be yellow, but over time they can appear as gray or darker than the original fabric, making the fabric look dull, dirty, and dingy.
White stains on clothing are generally the result of product residue. Deodorants, creams, powders, and antiperspirants can all lead to a buildup of residue anywhere they’re applied. When combined with your sweat, particularly large amounts of it in a short period of time, they’ll lead to hard-to-remove solid and crusty buildup on clothing.
Additionally, the content of your sweat, including salt, can leave sweat stains on your clothing. This is most often seen on gym clothes, caps, and socks, as heavy sweating episodes will cause you to sweat more, which can lead your sweat to build up on your clothing.
Types of Sweat Stains
Wet Stains:These types of sweat stains are the result of sweat drenching your clothing. These can happen anywhere on clothing, from your hat to your socks. Once these dry, they may not leave a trace behind, but in the moment, they can be embarrassing. These types of stains are most obvious on lighter-coloured clothing and heather gray, due to their dark appearance, they do not show up as much on black or darker-colored clothing.
Yellow Stains:Yellow stains are the result of a chemical reaction between the active ingredient in antiperspirants (aluminum) and the protein found in your sweat. When they meet, they can alter the colour of fabric, leading to discolouration, most commonly yellow stains.
White Stains:White stains are the result of an accumulation of product on clothing. These can happen anywhere you use creams, powders, deodorants, and antiperspirants. Since most people only apply antiperspirants and deodorants on their underarms, these are where they most commonly occur. If you also struggle with head/back/foot sweat, or any other part of your body, then you may also notice residual white and crusty stains on other types of clothing.
How to Get Rid of Yellow Sweat Stains on Clothing
- Mix baking soda with enough water or hydrogen peroxide to form a paste and leave it on the sweat-stained area until it dries. Once it dries scrub it off, and then put your clothing in the washing machine on a high temperature. A specially-formulated stain remover can also help if you have one on hand, many of these will have baking soda or hydrogen peroxide in it. Many of these ingredients are only suitable for white clothing. Look for specially marked colour-safe alternatives for grey or coloured clothing.
- Using a laundry additive such as a brightening powder can also help remove built in stains. Be sure to have your washing machine water temperature set to high. Refrain from putting stained clothing in the dryer before the stain is completely removed, as this can set in the stain further.
- Use a laundry detergent that is specially formulated for tough stains.
How to Get Rid of White Marks on Clothing
- White marks on clothing are the result of wearing solid deodorants and antiperspirants. These can occur anywhere you put on deodorants, powders, creams, or antiperspirants such as shirts (on the underarm), socks, and more.
- If your piece of clothing is not washed after every wear, it may lead to a buildup that is very hard to remove.
- The best way to get rid of white marks on clothing is to pre-treat the stain with a stain remover or DIY paste mixed 4:1 parts of water to baking soda. If your shirt is particularly crusty due to a lot of buildup, you’ll want to let the paste dry for a couple of hours before washing it. You may also want to scrub the stain with a cloth to loosen up any buildup but don’t use anything too abrasive as this may damage the fabric.
- Follow your pre-treatment with a wash on a warm to hot temperature. Do not put your clothing in the dryer unless the stain is fully gone, as this will set in the stain further.
How to Get Rid of Sweat Stains at Home
In a pinch and need to get rid of sweat stains ASAP? Here are some DIY recipes using things you may already have lying around your house! These are guidelines only, always double check to make sure the colour and fabric of your garment is suitable for the following products.
Important note: If you’re working with dark or coloured fabrics, please be sure not to apply hydrogen peroxide, bleach, or any other product with bleaching agents to your clothing! Unless otherwise stated as colour-safe, these are not intended to be used on non-white clothing.
If you have a specially formulated pre-was or stain remover, these are ideal and are specifically marked as to whether they are colour-safe. Some stain removers are specially formulated for white fabrics, colour fabrics, and dark fabrics. Be sure to follow the instructions on these products. Sometimes repeat use and wash is necessary for particularly stubborn stains.
- White vinegar: Soak your affected piece of clothing in white vinegar to loosen up buildup. Bonus white vinegar is a great deodorizer and can get stubborn smells out of fabrics!
- Hydrogen peroxide: Mix 1 tablespoon hydrogen peroxide, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1/2 cup baking soda into a paste and apply on the stain.
- Baking soda: Baking soda is great at both removing stubborn stains & odors. Mix baking soda with water to form a paste, and apply this paste on the sweat-stained area and let dry. You can pop it right into your washing machine for a spin.
- Lemon: Lemons have natural bleaching qualities, so perfect for yellow stains on white clothing. Mix equal parts lemon juice with water and scrub the stain, and leave it out in direct sunlight. Follow by washing your clothes as usual.
- Salt: Salt can be used to scrub out buildup white stain, as it's a mild abrasive but do not use it on delicate fabrics such as silk. You can also opt to use a soft toothbrush to scrub out a stain if you have one on hand, or for particularly stubborn stains.
- Nylon tights: Rubbing a pair of nylon tights on white marks from deodorant (the type you get when you put your top on too quickly) can help rub out white stains when you[re in a rush.
- Aspirin: Crush three or four aspirin tablets and mix with half a cup of water until you produce a paste. Let it dry and then wash as usual.
While we recommend washing on high heat, where permissible (always check care labels for clothing, particularly delicates), do not put stained clothing in the dryer, as this can set in stains and make them even harder to remove.
Sweat stains, while most common in the underarm area, are not limited to this area. Humans have sweat glands all over their body and areas like the scalp, face, back, chest, groin, and feet may also sweat excessively. These DIY recipes can be used to treat sweat-stained caps and hats, underwear, undershirts, insoles, and more. If you sweat a lot, we also recommend washing your shoes to prevent buildup, odors, and general sweat-related wear.
How to Prevent Sweat Stains
Preventing sweat stains is easier than removing them! If you’re prone to excessive sweating because you suffer from hyperhidrosis, and/or you live in a warm climate or partake in a lot of physical activity, then prevention is key. Here are our top tips to prevent sweat from ruining your day and your clothing:
- Wash the sweat stain as soon as possible. Leaving sweat-soiled clothing in a hamper or otherwise before washing them, can allow the stain to set in, much like stains from food or makeup. Wash your sweat-stained clothing as soon as possible, after each use.
- Switch your antiperspirant/deodorant for another treatment. If yellow stains are your main concern, then it’s time to stop using aluminum antiperspirants. There is no such thing as aluminum-free antiperspirants, as aluminum is the active ingredient in all antiperspirants, and if there is no aluminum in your product then it is merely a deodorant, which will help conceal smell, but not prevent sweat. We suggest iontophoresis treatment, as this is suitable for the mildest to most severe cases of excessive sweating.
- Wear an undershirt or protective layer. If you want to protect your nice garments from sweat, we recommend wearing a sweat-absorbing pad or specially formulated absorbent undershirt or t-shirt so that your nice clothing doesn’t get any sweat on it. This can also go for any other part of your body you sweat from. A protective layer on a cap or hat, absorbent insoles on your feet (to protect your shoes) can help.
- Apply a thin layer of antiperspirant at night. To prevent white marks and buildup, put your antiperspirant on at night. Did you know what most application instructions for antiperspirants require you to apply them at night? Not everyone knows this, but in order for you to get the most out of your antiperspirant, you need to apply it at night. Bonus is that you’ll help prevent white marks and buildup.
- Switch antiperspirant and deodorant. If crusty white buildup seems to accumulate on your shirts, even after washing them after every use, then try switching to a liquid roll-on antiperspirant. This formula may decrease the amount of white buildup (which is often the result of deodorants) on your shirts. You may also want to opt for another type of deodorant such as an AHA based one or spray-type to avoid crusty buildup. Look at our top recommendations for clinical strength antiperspirants for hyperhidrosis here.
- Let it dry. Make sure your products have completely dried before putting your clothes on to prevent pesky white stains on your clothing. This is particularly important if you’re reapplying your product throughout the day.
Get Rid of Underarm Sweat Stains For Good
As sweat stains are often the result of a medical condition called hyperhidrosis, it’s possible to treat it and get sweat stains under control. If sweat stains are an everyday worry for you, you may suffer from axillary hyperhidrosis, more commonly known as excessive underarm sweating.
This can affect your confidence and style, and often leads to many people turning to antiperspirants, particularly very strong ones that are known to cause stains. To prevent and eliminate stains caused by antiperspirants, such as yellow stains and white buildup, switching to another type of treatment may be ideal. At-home iontophoresis treatment, using a machine like Dermadry’s, can completely eliminate the need for antiperspirants. Iontophoresis uses only tap water and mild electrical current to reduce sweating. Results are also much longer lasting, providing up to 6 weeks of dryness, in comparison to the 24h-72h (if you’re lucky!) protection that antiperspirants provide.
Learn more about iontophoresis and discover Dermadry’s iontophoresis device range below!