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How to Remove Yellow Underarm Stains on Clothes

Not so Mellow Yellow


How to Remove Yellow Underarm Stains on Clothes

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Yellow underarm stains on a white shirt are never a welcome sight – and here’s the kicker – those same stains are also lurking on colored shirts as well, just not as visible. First, a quick primer on what causes those stains; how to prevent them and how to remove the yellow stains:


How does this happen to me?

Underarm stains are caused by the reaction between anti-perspirant ingredients and the salts in your sweat. Most anti-perspirants contain aluminum compounds to reduce wetness. It is the aluminum that causes the build-up and yellowing on fabrics. The stains don’t appear overnight, but without proper washing of shirts, may happen after continuous wear.

How can I prevent stains?

Wear an undershirt to help protect your more expensive outer shirt. However, if an extra layer is just not possible, try switching to an aluminum-free deodorant. Read the labels and you’ll find that anti-perspirants have varying levels of aluminum compounds. Choose a brand with the lowest aluminum content that still provides the protection you need.

After applying deodorant, allow it to dry before dressing to prevent rub-off on fabrics. If you don’t have time to wait, a couple of blasts of air from a hair dryer will do the trick.

If you have perspired while wearing a garment, wash or dry clean it as soon as possible. Stains are much harder to remove once they become set in. If you notice the beginnings of yellow stains, stop tossing the shirt in the dryer until you can treat the stain. The heat can set in residual stains making them almost impossible to remove. Dry shirts in the sun to increase whitening of fabrics and if that’s not possible, air dry indoors.


How do I get the rid of the yellow?

First, be certain that your shirt is washable. If it says dry clean only, believe the tag. Dry clean after each wearing to prevent yellowing. If your shirt is white and washable, here are two methods to try. Success will depend upon how old the stains are and the fabric content of your shirt – cotton whitens best.

Cleaning Solutions for White Shirts

  • The 1:1:1 – One part baking soda, one part hydrogen peroxide, one part water. Make a solution of the three ingredients. You will need about 1/4 cup each of baking soda, hydrogen peroxide and water to treat one shirt. Protect your countertop or work area with a thick white towel, rub the 1:1:1 solution into stains and allow to work for at least 30 minutes. Use an old soft toothbrush or bristle brush to loosen any residue and then wash as usual in warm or cold water.
  • The 1:1 – One part oxygen-based bleach (OxiClean, Clorox 2, Country Save Bleach, Purex 2 Color Safe Bleach), one part household ammonia. DO NOT USE CHLORINE BLEACH. In a well-ventilated room - wearing rubber gloves - mix solution well – about 2 tablespoons of each ingredient per shirt. Again, protecting your countertop or work surface with a thick white towel, rub solution into stains for at least 30 seconds. Allow to work for 5 to 10 minutes. Wash as usual in warm or cold water.

    For light colored shirts (blue, yellow, pink) test the solutions in an inconspicuous spot – perhaps along a hem – before trying the treatments under the arms. If there is no fading, proceed as for white shirts.

    Cleaning Solution for Dark Shirts

    Darker colors usually don't turn yellow but may have stiffness or residue - and odor - on the fabric under the arms. To remove the build-up and freshen the garments, fill the washing machine with cool water and add one cup of white distilled vinegar. Allow shirts to soak for at least 30 minutes. Drain vinegar water and wash as usual in cool water. If the build-up is really heavy, mix a 1:1 solution of white distilled vinegar and water and use that old toothbrush to scrub the area before soaking.

    Follow these directions and you’ll wonder where the yellow went when you’re dressing for your next event!

    Specific questions? Just ask here.

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