The unsightly yellow armpit stains that build up on white shirts and other pale clothes can be pretty disheartening. These sweat stains are most visible on light coloured shirts, however they are also present on dark shirts, although darker colours mask them quite well.
The cause of sweat stains is not the sweat itself as it is colourless. The discolouration in the underarm area of a garment is caused by a chemical reaction that takes place between urea, which is a component of human sweat, and deodorant. Most people apply several layers of deodorant to their armpits prior to dressing in the belief that it will keep them dry and odour free all day. However, deodorant only clogs the sweat pores for a certain period of time.
A large amount of sweat can push the deodorant from the pores and right onto clothing. Due to its acidic nature and high aluminium content, the deodorant combined with sweat causes the yellow discolouration on light coloured clothing.
The social implications of sweat stains can make the person with the offending garment the centre of unwanted scrutiny by friends, family and co-workers. Sweat stains denote laziness, lack of proper hygiene and all around dirtiness. It can be embarrassing for the person affected by the stains and cause great emotional distress if brought into the public arena. Clothes that are free from stains and wrinkles are the hallmarks of proper cleanliness.
Preventing these stains.
There are many preventative measures that one can take to avoid sweat stains altogether. Instead of using store-bought deodorants, all natural deodorizing products can help keep sweat at bay without staining clothes. Talcum powder, a few sprinkles of baking soda or a dampened salt rubbed across the armpits can help keep the area dry and fresh all day. Organic deodorants are also viable non-yellowing options for deterring sweat, as they do not contain aluminum.
If the method above doesn’t work, you may want to try using oxygen bleach as a pre-wash treatment. Be aware, however, that while oxygen bleach is ideal for organic stains, it is not safe to use on coloured or delicate fabrics like silk or wool. As with any cleaning product, always follow the instructions on the packet, and remember to wear gloves and protective clothing. Test the bleach on a small and inconspicuous area first to be certain your fabric is robust enough. Mix up a pre-wash solution of 1-2 tablespoons of oxygen bleach powder in water. For old or stubborn stains, an additional 2 tablespoons of powder may be added. Leave stained items to soak for up to an hour. Stubborn stains may be left to soak overnight in more dilute solutions. This should remove armpit stains with a minimum of fuss and bother.
If your garment has not responded to a quality laundry detergent, and cannot be treated with bleach, your next option is baking soda. Be aware that baking soda can be very abrasive, and you will still need to wear gloves – once again, you should test this method on a small, unnoticeable area first to be certain it is safe for your clothing. Mix baking powder with water until you have a thick paste then apply the paste to the stain using a toothbrush or your gloved fingers, and leave for 20 minutes. After that, wash the garment on a cold cycle with a quality laundry detergent.
By doing these, your garments would be back to its original brightness in no time.
To be on the safer side, wash your outfits immediately once you notice sweat built up around the area during the day. If you’re tired, be sure to soak it and wash it the following day.