Sweat stains are an inconvenient fact of life. Whether you work out on a daily basis, live in a hot and humid climate or perspire when you’re under pressure, you’ve likely had to deal with unpleasant, likely smelly yellow marks in the armpit area of your best t-shirts. To help you navigate this rather annoying and often persistent problem, we put together this handy guide on how to remove sweat stains.
To ensure you can trust what we’ve got to say, we extensively researched how to remove sweat stains and contacted Sammy Wang, MS, the senior scientist at Tide and an expert on everything laundry-related. In this how-to guide, we’ll first look at exactly what causes sweat stains, followed by ways to prevent them before dealing with the best ways to get rid of them.
What Causes Sweat Stains?
The first step in preventing or removing sweat stains is understanding what causes them in the first place. According to Wang, “yellow underarm stains develop in a variety of ways. First, body oils can bind with the aluminum and zirconium in antiperspirant leading to yellowing over time. Body oils alone can also stain clothes yellow. Normally, sweat on its own won’t stain clothes, but it’s the combination of sweat and body oils that will turn clothes yellow over time.”
But sweat stains aren’t just an unpleasant sight for your eyes, they also produce rather nasty smells if left untreated. Wang explained that “in addition to yellowing, sweat can also leave lingering odors on clothing. Did you know we sweat at least 1 liter per day? The extra sweating caused by heat or physical activity comes from the eccrine gland in your skin, which is 99% water and doesn’t smell that bad. In contrast, stress sweat comes from the apocrine gland in your skin and contains 20% fats and proteins and smells horrible. That’s because the fats and proteins in sweat can break down into small, very stinky molecules to produce a body odor smell. And while we mostly think of visible stains when it comes to doing laundry, up to 70% of soils on garments are invisible and made up of body soils like sweat and skin oils.”
It’s this combination of yellowness and accompanying odors that makes removing sweat stains so desirable. The cleaning process for dealing with stubborn sweat stains is a little bit more complicated than your everyday washing routine. Wang warned that “while you can’t always see body soils on garments, they need to be removed thoroughly with a high-quality detergent like Tide Hygienic Clean Heavy Duty Power Pods or you will experience odors that ‘rebloom’ or come back even after washing. Tide Hygienic Clean Heavy Duty Power Pods are designed to clean fabrics down to the microscopic level, and remove both visible and invisible dirt from your garments.”
How To Prevent Sweat Stains
Now that we know what causes sweat stains, it’s worth giving some thought to preventing them. There are several ways to minimize the chances of experiencing sweat stains on your clothing. These include:
- Use an Antiperspirant – While your average deodorant may cover the bad smells under your arms, they don’t stop sweat and body oils from mixing. However, antiperspirants actively prevent your pits from sweating, removing sweat from the equation.
- Shave Your Armpit Hair – As your body hair can hold moisture, trimming or removing the hair under your arms can help prevent sweat stains from appearing.
- Let Your Deodorant Dry – After applying your deodorant, ensure you always give it time to fully dry before you put your clothes on.
- Don’t Overapply Your Deodorant – Applying large amounts of deodorant to your skin is unnecessary and only increases the chance of sweat stains appearing.
- Sweat-Proof Clothing – Switch to clothing designed to wick and absorb moisture away from the body.
- Wear Loose-Fitting Clothing – Loose-fitting clothing can reduce sweating and also decrease the chance of your clothing, sweat and body oils coming into contact with each other.
- Modify Your Diet – Lessening your caffeine intake and cutting back on processed foods, liquor, beer and spicy foods can lessen the amount you sweat. Conversely, eating more almonds, oats, olive oil, vegetables and fruits can actually decrease the amount your body sweats.
- Stay Hydrated – Increasing your water intake helps your body maintain its correct temperature while preventing excessive sweating.
How To Remove Sweat Stains From Clothing
When it comes to removing sweat stains from clothing, Wang gave us the lowdown on the best way to get your clothes sweat-stain-free. Here’s Wang’s suggested cleaning process:
As with all stains and smelly clothes, the trick to keep them from becoming permanent is to treat them as soon as possible.
i. Rinse your garment in warm water to dilute the stain. For a tough stain, you can pre-treat with a high-quality liquid detergent like Tide Hygienic Clean Heavy Duty by pouring onto the stain, rubbing gently and letting it set for 20 minutes.
ii. Without rinsing off the detergent, place the garment into the washer with other items. Leaving the detergent on the stain will give your wash that extra boost of cleaning power. If the care label allows, wash in warm water with Tide Hygienic Clean Heavy Duty.
iii. If the stain remains, repeat steps i-ii before drying your clothing.
So now you’re ready to fight those stubborn sweat stains and restore your clothes to their former glory. With the help of a few key products, you can get rid of sweat stains once and for all. Below you’ll find our top product recommendations alongside some alternative options and a couple of home hacks.
1. Tide Hygienic Clean Heavy 10x Duty Power PODS
These Tide Hygienic Clean Heavy 10x Duty Power PODS make getting rid of sweat stains a simple task. Simply add one to your washing to deal with both visible and invisible dirt. Each pod includes 10 concentrated cleaning actives inside, giving them around 50% more cleaning power than your everyday Tide liquid. The innovative laundry capsule technology delivers a deeper, more hygienic clean which is capable of removing even the toughest sweat stains. Additionally, these impressively reviewed pods can be used in all water conditions and in all machine types.
2. Tide Laundry Stain Remover
BEST TARGETED APPROACH
If you’re looking to target the sweat stains in your clothing, this Tide Laundry Stain Remover is worth your consideration. The versatile spot cleaner is ideal for use on clothing, upholstery, pet bedding and carpet. It’s also most effective when used in the window between 24-48 hours after the stain has appeared. Once applied to the stain, you can leave it on for up to a week if the stain is particularly stubborn. Furthermore, as well as sweat stains, this product can be used on stains caused by grass, grease, dirt, food, pets, wine, blood and coffee.
3. BunchaFarmers Stain Remover Stick
Grass, salt, grease, ketchup, wine, ink, blood … and sweat, the number of stains that can be treated with this highly capable cleaning stick goes on. And using the BunchaFarmers Stain Remover is as simple as applying hot water to the stick and rubbing it on the stain you wish to remove. In addition, it’s free from harmful detergent chemicals and contains natural lemon essential oils to leave your shirts smelling fresh.
4. OxiClean Max Force Gel Stick
By employing the cleaning power of four stain-fighting components and a specially designed scrubbing top, the OxiClean Max Force Gel Stick offers a five-in-one approach to getting your clothing clean. The effective cleaning gel uses grabbing nubs that break up stains without causing any damage to your belongings. Once applied to your items, you can leave the gel for up to one full week before washing. Plus, the bright blue formula lets you see if you have already treated your items or not.
5. Puracy Natural Stain Remover Laundry Spray
After the success of the first two iterations, the Puracy Natural Stain Remover is now into its third generation. It claims to remain the most powerful stain remover, natural or synthetic, and it uses the power of plant-based enzymes to get your things clean. This stain remover even comes with a money-back guarantee. Additionally, this Puracy product is perfectly safe for use around your family due to the natural formula and can be used on a range of items, including clothing, linen, bedding and many more fabrics, too.
6. Sweat X Sport Max Odor Defense Extreme Activewear Detergent
This Sweat X Sport Max Odor Defense Extreme Activewear Detergent was made to eliminate foul odors, tackle tough stains and restore the performance of your fabrics. Each bottle of highly concentrated detergent gives you enough liquid for around 45 loads of washing in any machine type, including HE devices. The highly effective detergent, which is safe for use on all fabrics, can also be used for soaking and pre-soaking clothes to improve its action against sweat, mud, blood, grass, baseball clay, wine and all other kinds of stains.
7. AVO Pure Natural Distilled White Vinegar
If you’re searching for an answer to sweat stains that you may already have in your kitchen cupboard, vinegar might be the answer you’re after. Vinegar, like this AVO Pure Natural Distilled White Vinegar, can be applied to your clothes to break down and dissolve stubborn stains. To use this home hack, mix two tablespoons of vinegar into a cup of water before applying it to the stains. Let it sit for 30 minutes to an hour before washing your clothes in cold water. Repeat the process until the stain has been removed.
8. Molly’s Suds Original Laundry Detergent Powder
Molly’s Suds Original Laundry Detergent Powder is a popular product that is available in a range of different fragrances, including citrus, peppermint and lotus & peony. Each bag of this stain-fighting powder, which is chemical-free, paraben-free and phosphate-free, delivers around 120 loads of washing. It’s also safe for use in all kinds of washers and also allows you to target stubborn stains with its smart stain prep. This works by making the powder into a paste and applying it to the stains before they go into the wash.
9. Sanco Industries Natural Pit Stop Stain Remover
Designed specifically for removing persistent pit stains, the Sanco Industries Natural Pit Stop will leave your shirts looking like new again. This organic stain remover has been formulated to dissolve both sweat stains and marks left by deodorant, leaving your clothing odor and stain-free. This remover is also completely natural, so you can worry less about using it around children or pets. In addition, the cleaner can help remove other stains, including ink, spit-up and red sauces.