They are the reason why you have to think twice before taking off your coat or jacket in public: armpit stains. It happens to all of us; we think those white, bright dress shirts will remain as crisp and new as they were when we first purchased them. But unfortunately, they don’t, and thus become another shirt added to our abandoned dress shirt collection.

But what causes these yellow spots? Sweat. Thanks to a combination of body oils, product buildup, and environmental pollution, these dingy stains come to be. You may not notice them instantly, but the sweat and body oil combo seeps into the fibers of your beloved shirts as soon as you begin to perspire.

“Body oils like sebum are oily, which makes them harder to remove because they don’t mix with water,” said Procter and Gamble fabric care senior scientist Jennifer Ahoni. Due to frequent sweating, regardless of how often you wash your shirts, the accumulation of grime begins to change the collar into the yellow or gray discoloration we’ve all become too familiar with.

While you do all you can to avoid food stains on your shirt, these yellow stains never seem to go away. Here’s how to remove them from your pearly white shirts.

Fight Discoloration Before It Happens


It’s impossible to prevent sweating, as it helps our bodies cool down when the temperature rises. But we can control how much sweat gets on our shirts. According to Expert Home Tips content writer Stephanie Cvetkovic, keeping deodorant and antiperspirant use to a minimum is key to keeping yellow stains at bay.

“One of our favorite tips is to apply a light layer of talc over your deodorant before dressing,” said Cvetkovic. “This helps absorb excess moisture, keeping the area dry and reducing chances of sweat stains.” Another great suggestion she recommends is to avoid wearing your shirts more than once between washes and treating the stains immediately, or else “the stains will continue to build up, becoming almost impossible to break down,” said Cvetkovic.

Fight Discoloration After It Happens

Armpit Stain

Ahoni also advises the area should be pretreated with vinegar, which breaks the bonds between cotton fibers and sweat, and let it sit for 20 minutes. Be sure to soak the garment for another 20 minutes in a solution of a half dose of a cleaning product such as Tide Ultra Stain Release and a gallon of water. Ahoni recommends repeating the process as necessary, and avoiding the dryer until the stain is removed.

You can also try using a sweat stain remover treatment that only requires items from your home. For Cvetkovic’s stain removal process, dissolve five tablespoons of salt in one liter of hot water. Then use a sponge dipped in the solution and gently rub it on the affected areas until the stains begin to disappear. Lastly, place the shirt in the washing machine for a quick cycle with a cup of baking soda. Following any of these options should get your nasty yellow stains removed in no time.


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