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8 Tricks To Get Rid Of Stubborn Underarm Stains and Odors From Clothes

Shirts a little "pitty"? Here are a few tricks of the trade to power away those unpleasant underarm stains and odors that can linger on fabrics!

Has this ever happened: You’ve laundered your favorite shirt, and everything looks and smells clean until the iron hits the armpits, or you wear the garment again, and… whew! There’s that stinky odor!

Even the cleanest people can develop stains and odors in the armpits of their shirts. Even some antiperspirants can leave stains. So how do you get rid of them? Regular washing doesn’t work; the garment needs to be treated. Here are a few tricks of the trade to power away those embedded underarm stains and smells from fabrics.

Underarm hair - Perspiration
yellow dirty stain sweat on white armpit shirt

Tricks To Get Rid Of Stubborn Underarm Stains and Odors From Clothes

Each of these remedies works best if you turn the garment inside out and expose the underarm fabric before treating. These remedies are best used on shirts that can be handled a little “roughly”

1. Aspirin and Cream of Tartar

Mix three white, non-coated aspirin tablets with a cup of warm water and a tablespoon of cream of tartar (you probably have a can in your kitchen cupboard!). Scrub the solution into the underarm area with a nailbrush or old toothbrush, then allow the mixture to remain on the garment for at least 20 minutes. Launder as usual. Repeat, if necessary.

2. Baking Soda

baking soda uses - box of baking soda

Seriously, what can’t baking soda do? It’s is great for neutralizing strong perspiration odors that are embedded in fabrics. Make a paste with baking soda and warm water, then rub the paste into the problem areas. Leave the paste on the garment for 15 minutes, or allow it to remain overnight. Launder as usual. Some have found luck with a paste of baking soda and Dawn dish soap, following the instructions above. But test for colorfastness first.

3. Salt

Spilling salt - Salt

Dissolve a ½ cup of table salt in a bucket or large bowl half-full of warm water. Soak the affected areas of the garment, then launder.

4. White Vinegar

White vinegar is a powerful odor neutralizer and works wonders on underarm areas of fabrics. Fill your washing machine with water, then add 1/3 cup of white vinegar. Turn off the machine and let the garment soak for 20 minutes, then launder as usual.

5. Washing Soda

Sprinkle a ¼ cup of washing soda (sodium carbonate, not sodium bicarbonate), also known as soda ash, onto the affected area. Be sure to wear rubber gloves. Add water to make a paste and work it in with gloved hands. Leave the paste on the affected area for 30 minutes. Launder as usual.

6. Mouthwash

Listerine® or Scope® work well on underarm fabric odors. Simply pour several capfuls on the armpit areas, wait 30 minutes, then launder as usual. You might want to test it first if you’re going to use mouthwash on white garments.

7. Murphy’s® Oil Soap

Pour the oil soap directly on the armpit which has been dampened with water, and use a nail brush or old toothbrush to scrub it in. Leave on for 20 minutes then rinse in cool water, then launder.

8. Meat Tenderizer

This remedy might sound a little strange but meat tenderizer works by “digesting” or breaking down the chemicals that are embedded in the fabric from underarm odors. Simply dampen the armpit area with water and sprinkle generously with the meat tenderizer. Work it in with your fingers and allow it to sit for 20 minutes. Then launder.

Be sure the stains and odors are gone before tossing any garment in the dryer, which will further set the unwanted stains and smells. Line drying clothing may also help eliminate odors.

Preventive Advice

All-natural fabrics are more breathable than synthetic fabrics, so be sure to choose fabrics made from cotton, wool, bamboo or silk, and avoid polyester and rayon. Allow perspiration to evaporate before tossing any garment in the dirty laundry basket or rehanging. And be sure to wash all of your clothing regularly.

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What are your tricks for removing tough underarm stains and odors from fabrics?

This article was published by the staff at Farmers' Almanac. Interested in becoming a guest author? Contact us to let us know!

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Jt Anthony

I smell ammonia on my cotton t-shirts and clothes after a hard workout. Does this sound familiar? Any suggestions to treat clothes?

Susan Higgins

Hi Jt Anthony, try the methods outlined in this article. It sounds like the smells are embedded in the fabric and every time you sweat, they “reignite.”

Pam

With each new summer seemingly warmer than the last, I’ve never had such difficulty turning out a truly clean load of clothes. I’ve tried all the usual suggestions, baking soda, white vinegar, borax, non chlorine bleaches and the problem persists. I’ve found underarm stains and odors to be the most challenging. I’ve concluded that the greatest hindrance to properly washing clothes is water that’s not hot enough. This is especially problematic if you’re reliant on commercial laundry equipment where you have no control over the water temp. For this reason, I’m thinking about soaking my clothes in boiling water, probably in combination with the use of some of the above named products before machine washing. Also, someone mentioned Dawn dish soap and I really like the idea of using it as part of my boiled water soak. If it can successfully wash up sea critters after oil spills, it may help me with my laundry odor issues. I should add that I’m finding the typical chemically, over perfumed laundry detergents make it difficult to determine whether your clothes are truly clean after laundering. So, I’m putting them aside hoping to find the most natural products available that yield a natural and truly clean wash.

Susan Higgins

Hi Pam, those overly perfumed detergents don’t do anyone any good. We’re actually working on an article about it. Let us know how the boiling water and dawn works, and we’ll add it to the list!

Jeff

I’ve finally solved this problem, and I have been dealing with this for years and I’ve tried all of the solutions that you might find on the internet and have had only limited success. Here’s my solution: soak the offending shirt in soapy water for 24 hours before you wash it in the machine. Trust me, this works, and I’ve tried everything else. Get a large container. Fill it with enough water for your shirt to soak in. Add some laundry detergent (your call on how much). Soak the shirt in the soapy water for 24 hours. Then wash the shirt in the machine. This totally works and it will solve this very annoying problem for you. The reason why we were having this problem in the first place was because the amount of soaking time in a washing machine cycle isn’t enough. I now soak my shirts every time before I wash them and I am amazed by how well this works. I urge you to give it a try! I’m convinced it’s the only practical thing that works. I’ve tried everything else.

Jenn F

I’ve used a Dawn and washing soda paste on the affected area followed by a hot water vinegar soak for a while now with good results. Along with wearing my regular deodorant, I also spray the inside armpit areas of the garments with Dove deodorant spray before I put them on and it usually allows me to wear them 3 or 4 times before they start to stink again. Hope that helps!!

Evan Stevens

Washing soda was the only thing on this list that actually worked for me! First I tried the aspirin method to no avail, then I doubled down on the same shirts with the baking soda method, also to no avail. Then I bought washing soda, in the form of OxiClean, and success!

My advice is don’t waste your time with less effective methods, go ahead and go straight to washing soda.

Deb Peters

My husband used t ih play baseball and nothing worked to get the odor out. One evening I had forgotten to bring his shirts in off the line and we had a thunderstorm. The next day the shirts were odorless.

Sandi Duncan

Good old thunderstorm to the rescue ;)! Of course that may be hard in the winter, but the good old outdoors does wonder! Thanks for sharing.

Kim

Another consideration is try to avoid the stains and odor by putting disposable armpit guards in your clothes. They are like really thin maxi pads that stick into the armpit of the shirt.

Sandi Duncan

Interesting. Thanks for sharing.

Cathy Martin

Thanks for all the tips!

Sandi Duncan

Glad you found them useful.

Peggy Mulkey Lemming

Oxyclean max force spray helps a lot for removing bad body odors. I also use oxy lean detergent. Downy fresh protect crystals also help. Just wish I could remove the body odor permanently.

Linda

What would you suggest for underarm shirt odors that smell rancid due to the natural deodorant I use that contains some oil? It’s not a human BO smell but very sour and rancid and gaurenteed from the deodorant.

Susan Higgins

Hi Linda, any of these tricks work, but try mixing a paste of baking soda and Dawn dish soap. Let it sit for about an hour, then rinse in a sink, then launder.

Karen Brown

Dawn is just marvelous stuff, isn’t it! So many uses! I figured out that it would make my new bathtub shiny and clean it gently, and remove slippery residue from shower gels.

Anne Popovich

I gave up on deodorants because they ruined my clothes and the waxy build up was hards to remove from the arm pits and made odors even worse. A client of mine who had breast cancer history in her family and avoided deodorants because of the aluminum in them, told me she used ordinary baking soda on her armpits. This lady was very elegant and wore beautiful clothes. I tried it and found that I no longer had perspiration odor or wax build up on clothes. I would suggest not to use the baking soda after shaving because it could sting a bit. I have sensitive skin but this has been a god send to me.

Jill

Do you just rub the powder on?

Anne Popovich

I use a powder puff and just dab it on.

Jill

Thank you Anne, I’ll get my granddaughter to try that. xxx

Asia

Guys try zonrox colored care.it’s really best for smelly clothes especially in under arms areas.same with your under garments panties,briefs etc.you can put the liquid directly on the smelly areas then soak it overnight or 3 hrs.it’s worth trying.!

Sam

I see many people complaining it doesn’t work… Yes sweat is a hard thing to get out, especially when built up. Y’all also need to come to a realization that what you eat causes bad body odor. Maybe looking into what you’re eating and seeing if a specific thing may cause your body odor to smell more. Do an armpit/full body detox. Yes, it’s not a fix all, but actually paying attention to your body and just keeping up with the problem areas with the laundry when it happens can help.

fdsfsd

Your under arms do not need to be “detoxified.” That is a completely baseless idea used and perpetuated by idiots to sell useless products to other idiots. YES! your diet affects your ‘smell’ but your liver does a great job of removing “toxins” from your body. If you could please identify the exact toxin you’re talking about, as well as molecular structure, that would be great. I would love to be the one taking credit for this novel scientific discovery. If you have toxins usually processed by the liver in your lymphatic system (what produces underarm sweat) GO TO THE EMERGENCY ROOM IMMEDIATELY.

Sandi Duncan

Good point. Thank you for sharing.

Cortney

I know that play companies use isopropyl to spray garments, but was informed this is just temporary so I could see that not actually working long term… to kill any odors.

I would air dry any garments and rewash them if they aren’t actually clean (dryers set in stains; they probably set in odors as well).

Lucia

Hi Susan,

No, these “remedies” mentioned above simply don’t work. It seems to me that what’s happening here is just copying/linking information from dubious websites such as the one on this link (https://www.livestrong.com/article/173422-how-to-stop-sweat-marks/) which bumps to the other website that says much but nothing really tested true and tells things such as “Choose an antiperspirant with 10 to 15 percent aluminum chloride hexahydrate” REALLY? Sadly, Almanac has really caught up with this age of unchecked information – which is truly gross misinformation. The only product that truly works is NO MORE and I don’t leave the name of it here because its travesty is now on the market, with same name and different label design – and of course new ownership. I don’t want to give an impression that I am promoting it. The new company producing it has an Asian and what they are putting on the market just some kind of soap in a (for soap) tiny bottle. Truly disgusting and sad that we no longer have good information as the old time Almanac used to provide and products that really work. Not even mention good service.

Susan Higgins

Hi Lucia, I’m sorry you feel so unhappy about our site and our story. But I have to strongly disagree with you. We are a small team but we work HARD to bring our readers the best information. If you can tell me what results you had (I’m assuming you tried them all), maybe I can help resolve it. It may have been the wrong remedy for the type of shirt. I found with a rayon blouse I got at the secondhand store, the vinegar remedy didn’t work as well as the aspirin remedy.

Tori

At the end of your article you say rayon is a synthetic fiber to be avoided. It is not synthetic, it’s made of wood pulp.

Mikel G

This trick did not work for me. Tide barely works (not an ad). I have pastey sweat that lingers in shirts. One reason Summer is awful for me. The other is Heat Intolerance sweating. Should I just buy new shirts every week? I vinegared, boiled, added baking soda, washing soda, powder detergents, oversoaped, laundry sanitizer, scent beads… you name it, I tried it. HELP!!!!!!

Susan Higgins

Hi Mike G. Which trick? There are a few here. Try them all. The aspirin one works great!

Amy

Try washing your armpits with antibacterial soap like Cetaphil. The smell is caused by bacteria in the pore. I works really well.

Jolene

Or wash with Hibiclens. It can be found at any drugstore.

Lisa

I use anti bac hand gel for emergencies, it works immediately

Kate

You need dawn to remove the oil, then vinegar to neutralize the odor. Then wash as usual

Marion

Have you ever tried Lumē deodorant? That stuff is pretty amazing!

Ashley

I have heard of Lume and am considering getting it. They say on their website to use Natures Miracle to get rid of the buildup, but it wasn’t working for me, my clothes still smell and I still have the yellowish stains on the underarm parts of my white shirts.

Jenn F

Lime did not work AT ALL for me, especially with stress sweat. I kept at it thinking that maybe it would start working after my body got used to it, but even after using the entire tube, it still hadn’t worked. Not sure if it’s my body chemistry or what but it’s a no from me. 🙁

Susan Higgins

Did you try the other tips? We included a few to try.

Margie

Lume completely eradicated a lower private body smell I’d tried just about everything for; However, it was also a wonderful pit solution until I left one open & that’s why I’m here checking on pit odor on shirts! Keep it closed & fresh & it will amaze you!

Perry

Pasty sweat good god man that sounds awful. I would recommend jogging every other day for 30-45 minutes. Sweat that toxicity out of your body.sweating is good for you. You could take a stream in a sauna.
A good friend and i usted to jog all the time he had bad skin acne and big boils on his back. It all went away after a few months.

Dale

I hate, hate, hate jogging. Too much fatigue. I would rather sit outside with my shirt off in the muggy heat or roast in a sauna. The pounding on your knees is not good and for me it’s my body arguing with my mind, “When does this stop?”

Zuzia

Are all of those remedies are good for white and color ? My son has a very bad sweat odor and now its even worse because he is going thru puberty and he has a lot of black tshirts and other colors, so i don’t want the color to fade on underarmpit area

Kate

I soak my husbands strong sweaty (wicking) shirts in a healthy dose of dawn and and 1/3 cup of vinegar. I put them in my kitchen sink. I think you need to remove the oil (dawn) to be able to remove the odor. Soak for about 30 minutes then wash as usual. Works like a charm.

Chris

I have been using diluted Dawn dish detergent to remove odors. I squirt some on the affected areas and work it in. Let it sit awhile then launder. (No need to add more detergent). This removes old antiperspirant residue also. I also use Dawn occasionally to remove the buildup from fabric softener. The buildup can inhibit your natural fabrics from breathing. It also helps remove our natural body oils from fabrics. Just don’t use too much especially with H E washers! Works great on both natural and synthetic fibers.

TCisme

Murphy Oil soap leaves the worse after smell. When you get hot it makes it even stronger. Save yourself from further embarassment. If you use Murphy’syou may as well throw everything away!

Cynthia

I tried the vinegar solution for an odor that wouldn’t come out of a t-shirt, and it worked!

Thank you.

Susan Higgins

Hi Cynthia, we’re glad our tips were useful! Thanks for commenting!

Jane

Ever since I stopped using anti-perspirants, and went to natural deodorants, all my tops started smelling if I sniffed in the armpit area, especially the right arm pit area. It is more strong on that side for some reason- the left side has no smell. Why my right arm pit? I never had an issue with anti-perspirants for 20 years. Maybe I should go back to anti-perspirants.

Also, women tend to smell more strong in underarms than men. Men have a different type of smell.

Susan Higgins

Hi Jane, it’s really based on body chemistry. Because antiperspirants target sweat, and sweat develops odor when exposed to air, your body is back to sweating again. Have you tried a mineral salts deodorant stone? Check ours out here.

Nikki

I had this problem too, couldn’t figure out why one armpit smelled more. Turns out I was putting more deodorant on one side without realizing.

Erika

Assuming you’re right handed, it’s because you’re using that arm motion hundreds more times a day..

Kim

I have had the same problem! Kim

Erin Fleury

Just noticed this same article with the exact same wording on the livestrong.com website but by a different author. Who plagiarized who 😉

Susan Higgins

Hi Erin, since we published this article back in 2015, and the Livestrong.com article was published in 2017, we have our answer! Although we aren’t seeing any plagiarism. The articles appear very different, just offering the same remedies. https://www.livestrong.com/article/173422-how-to-stop-sweat-marks/

CC

Someone said isopropyl works but I’m wearing a shirt right now that I treated with alcohol and I’m afraid to move my arms. The armpits stink and I took a shower right before I put the shirt on. I’ve only had it on for 2 hours and I applied crystal deodorant to my armpits after my shower, so I know it’s not from my sweat. I’m gonna try the other remedies listed, ‘cause alcohol doesn’t work.

Susan Higgins

Hi CC, I once bought a beautiful shirt at a second hand store and the same thing happened to me. You really have to remove all former (and stubborn) perspiration residue, and it requires a bit of in-depth treatment. Give those remedies a try. Good luck!

Cynthia

Time to buy a new shirt.

Ken

I use borax, it works great.

Ken

I use borax, it works great

Elizabeth Spivey

I use a crystal deodorant under regular deodorant this prevents the odor to begin with. Crystal deodorant is also good for children use I believe since it is natural.

Am

There are drinks like coffee that cause body odor toxic for some people try eliminating for awhile .

m.b.

I recently found out that isopropyl alcohol removes b.o. smell from my shirts that has been present in those shirts for years. I’ve thrown clothes away because I couldn’t get the smell out, washing didn’t seem to help, the smell would come out of the washed fabric when my body heat warmed it up… After struggling for years with this after I stopped using aluminum deodorants, it turns out the solution is cheap and easy. I put the alcohol on a rag and soak it into the underarm area. When the alcohol dries up the smell is gone, there’s no alcohol smell, and I don’t even need to wash the shirt after treatment.

Denise

I will definitely try this, it just sounds crazy enough to work, running out of options. Thanks

Karajane

Is the alcohol okay to use on both whites and colors??

Wendy

I’ve found lavender essential oil added 8 – 10 drops to the wash gets rid of body odor

Karen Nowak

I pretty much live in white pants in the summer and have dealt with some pretty stubborn stains. Even though I am mentioning a name brand product, I hope you post this. This is ONLY for white clothes now, but Clorox Cleanup spritzed on the affected area and allowed to sit for 15 to 20 minutes before laundering works like magic.

Rebecca Wilson

I tried a paste of borax and water on old, set in underarm stains on a white tee shirt. Rubbed it all over the stains, let it sit for awhile, then laundered in hot water. The shirt is almost as white as new.

Diane

My husband has some shirts that have strong body ordor, but these shirts have been washed and dried the usual way many times. Is it safe to assume that nothing will remove the odor now?

Susan Higgins

Nancy, any of these remedies should work. Sweat stains and odors color tshirts that dingy yellow color, so many of these remedies address this. Good Luck!

nancy giglio

I need to know how to get sweat stains and sunscreen stains out of white clothes.

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