How to Remove Deodorant Stains from Clothes

As nice and clean as white shirts appear, nothing about yellow armpit stains is attractive. Caused by a combination of both the deodorant and sweat, experts at the University of Missouri Extension consider deodorant stains a protein stain

Successfully removing deodorant stains from clothes requires you to treat the stain as soon as possible, when it is the lightest. Repeated wearing of the clothing without treating the stain darkens and sets the stain into the fibers of the fabric. Once set, the stain becomes difficult to remove without bleaching the entire garment.

Remove Deodorant Stains from Clothes

Removing Deodorant Stains from Light Fabrics 

The successful removal of deodorant and antiperspirant stains requires little more than basic items already found in the kitchen pantry or laundry room. 

What You Will Need Before You Start:

  • Mild dishwashing liquid
  • Laundry detergent
  • Ammonia
  • Clean, white cloth
  • Enzyme product
  • Meat tenderizer
  • Chlorine or oxygen bleach

Pretreat the stained area by rubbing with undiluted dishwashing liquid. Allow to penetrate the stain for 15 to 30 minutes. The dishwashing liquid helps to break down any grease or oils in the stained area. Wash using a high-quality laundry detergent in the hottest water recommended for the fabric. Remove from washer and inspect for stains. If the deodorant stains remain, do not place the clothing in the dryer. The heat from the dryer will set the stain, making it harder to remove. 

If the deodorant stains remain, mix together one quart warm water, one-half teaspoon dishwashing liquid and one tablespoon ammonia. Dip the corner of a white cloth into the mixture and rub gently into the stained areas.  Allow to remain on the fabric for 15 minutes. Rinse thoroughly under warm water.

If the stain remains, soak entire article of clothing in a commercial enzyme product for at least 30 minutes and up to several hours. Wash in hot water and a high-quality laundry detergent. Inspect for stains before drying. 

If the stains remain, dampen the shirt and sprinkle the stained area with meat tenderizer. The meat tenderizer works to break down the proteins that form the stain. Allow to penetrate the stain for one hour, and then wash in hot water using a high-quality laundry detergent. 

Stubborn stains may require the washing of the fabric using chlorine bleach, if safe for the fabric. Many people apply bleach to just the stained areas, but this may result in uneven bleaching. To evenly bleach deodorant stains, the entire piece of clothing must be washed in bleach. Oxygen bleach can be used on many types of fabric not considered safe for chlorine bleach. Wash the entire piece of clothing to ensure a consistent bleaching of the fabric, not just the stained area.

Removing Deodorant Stains from Dark Fabrics

Deodorant stains on light fabrics are a mixture of both the deodorant and perspiration reacting with the fabric to cause yellowing. The majority of dark fabrics do not show deodorant staining in the same way. Over time, many dark fabrics begin to reveal a build up of white deodorant. It often shows around the edges of what would be a sweat stain. Removing this type of stain requires a process to remove the  deodorant build-up. 

What You Will Need Before You Start:

  • Baking soda
  • White vinegar
  • Clean, white towel

Place a clean, white towel in the bottom of a sink. The towel will help hold the stain removal products on  the stain by not allowing the liquid to run right through the fabric. Position the piece of clothing so that the stain is flat.

  1. Apply the baking soda in a thick layer to the stained area. Gently rub it into the fabric using your fingers.
  2. Slowly drizzle the vinegar over the baking soda, covering the entire stained area. This creates a bubbling chemical reaction.
  3. Rinse the stained area under cool, running water. 
  4. Wash using the recommendations for the fabric. 

Before placing the garment in the dryer, check to make sure that no stain remains. If the stain persists, pour undiluted vinegar over the stain and wash again.

Deodorant stains build up over time. Taking the time to allow deodorants to dry completely before dressing helps prevent the transfer of excess deodorant to the fabric. Cotton undershirts also help prevent stains when worn under dress shirts. Many deodorants and antiperspirants contain aluminum salts which require warmer water temperatures to fully dissolve. Wash shirts susceptible to deodorant stains in the hottest water safe for the fabric. Taking steps to remove deodorant stains before they become dark and permanent saves you both time and money.