Any tried and true solutions/methods for removing deodorant build-up from the armpit area of T-shirts?
September 6, 2008 6:35 PM   Subscribe

Any tried and true solutions/methods for removing deodorant build-up from the armpit area of T-shirts?

On several of my T-shirts I have a noticeable build-up of deodorant in the armpit area. It makes the fabric somewhat rigid and definitely unsightly. I have tried stain stick, hot water, detergent rubbed into the area, multiple washings, etc. - and nothing seems to work. I really like these shirts and it would be a shame to have to throw them out. Thanks!
posted by karizma to Home & Garden (16 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
I'd try baking soda -- make a paste of 4T baking soda and 1/4 cup warm water. Rub the paste into the stain and leave it alone for a few hours, then wash.
posted by runningwithscissors at 6:46 PM on September 6, 2008

I've seen plain white vinegar recommended for this purpose, but haven't tried it myself.
posted by magicbus at 7:06 PM on September 6, 2008

I've gotten rid of stains like that with a paste made of baking soda and hydrogen peroxide. Rub into the fabric (I use a toothbrush), leave for at least half an hour, and then wash normally, and the stain goes away. I was amazed the first time it worked.
posted by capsizing at 7:20 PM on September 6, 2008

I made a paste out of oxy-clean, borax, a bit of tide and a little water. I didn't use too much water, as I wanted the grit of the borax/oxy-clean to help cut the buildup.

Then, I scrubbed by hand. I scrubbed hard. So hard, that I lost some skin. Seriously. So, only do this on your favorite shirts and wear rubber gloves. It's not too bad to do in front of the TV, but it does take some time.
posted by achmorrison at 7:23 PM on September 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

Lots of solutions from a year ago

I've had some luck with the following:

1) scrubbing well with Shout (or similar) stain remover, then letting it sit for 15 minutes or so
2) soaking in oxyclean for an hour or two - add about twice as much as they recommend to get a high concentration. (bleach may help with this step too - depends on whether there are colored designs on your shirt)
3) wash, then repeat if necessary

Again, this will fade the stains, but I haven't been able to remove some of the worst ones. I think the antiperspirant gets baked in there by the dryer, and then there's no removing it.
posted by chrisamiller at 7:37 PM on September 6, 2008

I once compiled a list of all the internet-recommended home remedies for this exact issue. The one that has worked the best for me? Simple Green.

I keep it in a spray bottle by the hamper and it has successfully removed both yellow sweat stains from dozens of white shirts as well as deodorant stains from ratty band t-shirts my husband has been wearing for 15+ years.

Just spray a little on and rub the fabric together to work up a bit of a foam. Throw it in the hamper and wash as normal.

(The Simple Green is environmentally friendly, won't stain your clothes (even if they're white), and is good for dozens of other household uses too.)
posted by Brittanie at 7:38 PM on September 6, 2008 [3 favorites]

It's actually the anti-perspirant (the aluminum salt combined with your sweat, technically) that is causing the stains, not the deodorant. I've learned to embrace armpit sweat (shaving your pits in the summer helps, a lot- really), and switched to just deodorant (no anti-perspirant).

No more armpit stains. And no, I'm not some anti-social hippie.

The Thai Crystal stuff actually works quite well. Toms of Maine and Kiss My Face also make decent ones. Any health food store will have a decent selection.
posted by mkultra at 7:52 PM on September 6, 2008

as mkultra said, it's the anti-perspirant that does it—if you're like me and a ton of other people, not only do anti-perspirants not work very well, neither do those crystals. pretty much the only thing that DOES work is certain-dri, which will keep your pits dry for about three days AND never ever stain your t-shirts!
posted by lia at 8:21 PM on September 6, 2008

Just to clarify - the poster is talking about that white buildup you sometimes get on knit shirts, not the yellow stains that sometimes show up on white shirts, isn't he/she?
posted by Evangeline at 9:13 PM on September 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

I've had the same problem, and I tried many of the above solutions with no luck. Soaking in a strong solution of oxy-clean - nope. Scrubbing in a liquid enzyme cleaner and letting sit for a day or two - nope. Soaking in a strong solution of detergent - nope.

Multiple washes (5+) preceded by any of the above techniques - nope.

It was amazing - I didn't even see a reduction of the stain. Whatever it is that results from the chemical magic that occurs between antiperspirants and sweat should be used as body armor.

My solution was to switch from antiperspirant to deodorant.
posted by zippy at 9:38 PM on September 6, 2008

I feel like I tried everything imaginable to deal with this; nothing worked at all. Switching to crystal stuff or deodorants (as opposed to antiperspirants) wasn't an option. I'm a sweaty lady and continual moist patches under my arms is rather unprofessional. Like lia, I eventually switched to Certain-Dri and never had that problem again. Since my arm pits are virtually dry during the day there's nothing there to react with the aluminum salts and thus no gross stiff build up or yellow stains.
posted by mostlymartha at 10:04 PM on September 6, 2008

Seconding the Simple Green All-Purpose Cleaner mentioned by Brittanie, though I will usually use it as a pretreatment while I'm doing the laundry, rather than letting it sit for a long time in the hamper. My routine is dampen the area with water first, spray and rub it, then let it set for a little while. And while it is more environmentally friendly, it is highly concentrated and generally meant to be diluted for general use, so it should be treated with a degree of care when spraying, as the scent of the product is fairly intense.

But the multipurpose aspect is great, since I can also use it to clean screen filler from my serigraphy screens.
posted by hip_plumber at 10:31 PM on September 6, 2008

I had a shirt that was really crudded up very badly in the manner you described, and I kept it at the bottom of my pile of shirts to send to the cleaners. My wife accidentally took it with them, then accidentally had them all dry-cleaned instead of laundered, and lo and behold, the pit stains vanished.

I've only "tried" it once, but it worked. And six bucks might be a decent investment to revive a shirt you might have otherwise tossed.
posted by Doctor Suarez at 10:42 PM on September 6, 2008

Response by poster: "Just to clarify - the poster is talking about that white buildup you sometimes get on knit shirts, not the yellow stains that sometimes show up on white shirts, isn't he/she?"

Yes, you are correct. I'm not concerned about the yellowing stains. It's the gross, crusty, thick, white build-up that accumulates in the armpit area of shirts that I detest and want to cast away. Thanks for the clarification.
posted by karizma at 12:14 AM on September 7, 2008

This is going to sound really weird, but...

Honey melts things. Maybe try rubbing honey into it and then rinsing in warm/hot water?

I'm sure some of the other ideas here will help, but it seems like honey would be really efficacious and now I want to know just how off that guess is.
posted by batmonkey at 1:41 AM on September 7, 2008

Ditto the advice on switching to plain deodorant. Anti-perspirant is bad for your armpits. I used to swear by the stuff but after starting to get bumps in my armpits, I did some research and found that the aluminum compounds are very unhealthy.
posted by JJ86 at 6:48 AM on September 7, 2008

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