Just for the record, I detest the word ‘armpit.’
First, let’s tackle how to get rid of the stains.
How to Remove Armpit Stains
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→ If stains are rather mild – just slight discoloration of the fabric – undiluted white vinegar will probably solve the problem.
Turn the shirt inside out and douse the underarm area with full-strength white vinegar. Completely soak the area and let it set for a few minutes up to an hour.
Using an old toothbrush, slightly brush the area and gently rub the vinegar into the stain.
Launder in the washer on a ‘normal’ cycle using warm water, not the delicate cycle if the fabric can tolerate the agitation. The garment needs the extra agitation to help get rid of the stain and the deodorant build-up.
Before placing the shirt in the dryer, ensure that the stain is removed to your satisfaction. Once it is dried, it is practically impossible to remove a stain like this.
→ If the garment is white, you can drench the area with white vinegar, scrub lightly with a toothbrush and then let it dry in the sun.
The sun’s bleaching properties are enhanced by the vinegar.
→ Now if the shirt is stained and also has that crunchy type of appearance to it, you’ll probably need to use full-strength laundry detergent.
Simply douse the armpit area in detergent and let it soak in a few minutes. Then gently scrub it in with a toothbrush. Let it sit on the shirt for an hour or so to help break down the deodorant build-up.
And then launder on the normal cycle using warm-hot water if the garment can tolerate it. Again, make sure the stain is removed to your satisfaction before placing the garment in the dryer.
Saturate the area in the same method as you would the vinegar or full-strength laundry detergent. The Dawn typically does not cause discoloring, but the Cascade certainly can and will. I would only try using the Cascade on a stark white fabric, as it could bleach the color.
As with any laundry fix, you’ll want to test for color-fastness before trying any of these methods on your clothes.
A Few Notes for Armpit Stain Removal
Use these few notes as a guide when trying to rid your shirts of armpit stains:
★ The more agitation the garment can tolerate in the washing machine, the better the chance of stain removal. The shirt needs the soap/washing property of the vinegar or detergent and the agitation of the machine to completely remove the stain.
For more information – Laundry Basics: How to Choose the Wash Cycle
★ Use the hottest water temperature that the garment can tolerate. Obviously you wouldn’t wash a silk blouse on hot to remove the deodorant stains, but a cotton shirt could tolerate it. The warm or hot water truly helps get rid of the stain in conjunction with the detergent and agitation.
For more information – Laundry Basics: How to Choose Water Temperature
★ When scrubbing the shirt with a toothbrush, be very gentle. Sometimes the direct agitation can cause discoloration in the shirt.
★ When dousing the area with vinegar or detergent, apply it on the inside of the shirt first. You want to get rid of the stain on the portion of the shirt that sits next to the skin.
After you adequately saturate the inside of the shirt, move on to the outside.
How to Prevent Armpit Stains in Shirts
In my opinion, the best way to not deal with armpit stains is to prevent them in the first place. Here are a few suggestions:
→ Always wear an undergarment under your shirts.
Men can wear a white t-shirt under every outer shirt. White t-shirts are much easier to clean (can be washed on hot and on a ‘normal’ cycle) and then the stains are on the white t-shirt, not the outer shirt. It is much more economical to replace white t-shirts more often than ‘nicer’ outer shirts.
Women can wear either a t-shirt or a camisole. While a camisole doesn’t provide quite as much protection as a t-shirt, it still does provide a thin layer between the skin and the outer shirt.
→ Switch from a roll-on or spray method of deodorant.
Because a roll-on or spray deodorant are more ‘watery’ types of deodorants, they become more liquified when combined with sweat. And this causes them to be harder to remove from clothes.
Using a solid stick deodorant might help, as it becomes more ’clumpy’ when it mixes with sweat, therefore making it easier to remove.