Sometimes they’re yellow, sometimes they’re white, and sometimes they’re bleached-out or faded versions of the original color. But whatever the shade, the predicament is the same – another shirt ruined by “sweat” stains. You could buy a new shirt, but without the proper precautions it will probably get stained, too. “What’s the point?” you may wonder. Well, you don’t need to wonder anymore. Go ahead, buy that new shirt. We’ve got practical tips to solve your sweat stain saga.
Michael Thomas – a chemical engineer and a Team Leader for a successful Secret antiperspirant line. This means that Thomas knows tons about sweat and the science behind what makes antiperspirants work against it and, unfortunately, against your shirts, too.
“People assume that sweat causes underarm stains,” says Thomas, “But you wouldn’t have stains if it weren’t for your antiperspirant. Antiperspirants are very acidic and it’s that acidity that causes the colors on your clothes to shift.” Antiperspirant products that come in roll-on or gel forms, adds Thomas, tend to cause more severe staining. Gels and roll-ons are more watery and therefore get onto clothing more easily, leading to more color changes in the fabric.
The best way to prevent antiperspirants from transferring onto clothes and from potential staining, according to Thomas, is to apply just a thin layer of antiperspirant to your underarms and to allow it to dry thoroughly before donning clothing. It’s especially important to allow roll-on and gel formulas time to dry before dressing. Although many of us are tempted to spread our antiperspirants on thickly (thinking that more equals better and, in this case, drier), Thomas advises against that: “A stick shouldn’t work much better if the coverage is thick, it’ll just lead to more product getting on your clothes. Complete, uniform coverage of the underarm is what’s important. The active ingredient in antiperspirants works by forming very shallow plugs in the sweat ducts, just below the skin surface. These plugs form a barrier so sweat cannot come out of that duct.” The plugs, by the way, are so shallow that they come out with everyday exfoliation, such as shaving.
Even if you allow your antiperspirant to dry before you dress, and apply only a thin, even layer, some antiperspirant can still get onto your shirts – especially close-fitting women’s tops. But that’s OK, you still have a fighting chance to prevent stains and it’s a lot easier than you think.
“Just rinse the affected area of the garment with cold water before you wash it,” says Thomas. “It’s the acidity of antiperspirants that causes staining. Instead of washing those stains out, warm or hot water can ‘set’ them by causing a chemical reaction that binds the stain to the fabric. Pretreating with a stain remover can make the situation worse. Keep it simple. Just rinse with cold water, then launder the garment in the warmest water recommended by the label. The one exception is dry-clean-only items. Let the dry cleaner take care of them. They usually know how.” Thomas also says that some of the stained stuff in your closet might be able to recover if you try the cold water rinse now. Hey, it’s worth a shot, right?
You may have heard that rinsing the underarm area of your shirts with hydrogen peroxide can help remove “sweat” stains. Thomas says, “We’ve had limited success with hydrogen peroxide, and it doesn’t work as well as plain cold water.” Besides, water is cheaper and easier to work with.
If you try these tricks and still feel that your antiperspirant is damaging your clothes. Call the toll-free customer service number located on the label of the antiperspirant. The manufacturer may have additional stain removal ideas or may even help you replace the damaged item.