How to Remove Tough Underarm Stains and Odors on Shirts

One of the most frequent types of emails I receive from readers is this:

How do I remove underarm stains and odors from my shirts?

Underarm stains can appear yellow on white/light shirts.  Sometimes they appear as crunchy areas in the underarm area or as darkened areas on darker fabrics.

I’ll be honest:  underarm stains are one of the hardest stains to remove, especially if the shirt has been dried in the dryer after becoming stained.

Because they are tough stains, they require a bit of work to remove.

I’ve written before about removing underarm stains, but this new method has worked wonders on my husband’s shirts!  So I thought I’d share.

How to Remove Tough Underarm Stains and Odors on Shirts

How to Remove Tough Underarm Stains and Odors on Shirts

What you’ll need to remove the stains:

  • Tide laundry detergent
  • Clear ammonia
  • gloves to protect your hands
  • an old toothbrush

I’ve tried this method with several different detergents, but Tide proved to be the most effective in removing underarm stains.  Yes, I know Tide is one of the most expensive laundry detergents, but it is effective!

Removing Underarm Stains and Odors - at Mama's Laundry Talk

Make a solution of 1 part Tide to 1 part sudsy ammonia.  Make sure you wear gloves when you mix, otherwise you can burn your hands (ask me how I know! Ouch.)

I use 2-3 Tablespoons of each to completely cover the underarms on one of my husband’s shirts.

To make it easy, I use the measuring cup that comes on my large container of Tide.

Use Tide and ammonia to get rid of underarm stains and odors - detailed instructions at Mama's Laundry Talk

Turn the shirt inside out and lay flat on a thick white towel.  You can use a colored towel, but make sure it’s been washed a million times and the color will not bleed.  If there’s any doubt, use a white towel!

Pour a small amount of your Tide/ammonia solution onto the entire underarm area.

Use an old soft toothbrush to very gently rub the solution into the fabric of the shirt.  The toothbrush will help lift up the fibers of the shirt and allow the solution to penetrate into the material.

Get Rid of Underarm Stains and Odors - detailed instructions at Mama's Laundry Talk

After you’ve rubbed the toothbrush over the entire underarm area, allow the solution to sit for 20-30 minutes.

Then launder the shirt as you usually would, preferably in warm-hot water.


Underarm Stain Removal Questions

Will this method cause the color to change on my shirt?

Honestly, it might.  Anytime you use intense stain removal methods, there is a chance that you’ll lighten the color of the fabric or cause the appearance to change.

My rule of thumb is:  If I’m already not going to wear the garment because of a stain, then I won’t be nervous if I ruin it in trying to get the stain out.


Can I use a detergent other than Tide?

Of course you can!  I’ve tried with Tide and Wisk, and both have great stain remover power and brighteners.  I will caution you though, if you use a cheapie detergent, you might not be as satisfied with your results.


Should I dry the shirt in the dryer after going through this stain removal process?

Don’t dry your shirt in the dryer until you are totally satisfied with the stain removal.  Dryer heat always sets in stains.  Hang your shirt to dry and examine it in bright light to determine if the stain removal meets your approval.



  1. Hi, I sprayed a stain on some faded red shorts with Oxy Clean. I left it on too long and now there is a lighter spot from the Oxy Clean. Any ideas on how to fix this? Thank you.


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