I'm sweating this one out
January 4, 2012 11:31 AM   Subscribe

I have mutant sweat that seemingly alters the color of every shirt I own: whites turn sweat-stain-beige and most colors get bleached. Can I do anything to prevent or treat it, or am I stuck wearing the three colors that aren't affected?

I'm a fan of wearing medium muted colors like grayish blues, sage greens, and medium grays. After repeated wearings (especially during the summer), the collars start to turn pinkish, as if I had bleached them by accident. To make matters worse, I can't stick to whites because of a tendency to sweat-stain collars and underarms.

Colors like dark navy, dark brown, and black aren't affected. I usually wear a polo and jeans to work, so I can theoretically stick to dark colors there.

Dress shirts are tough, though. Should I resign myself to buying white and replacing frequently? (Some light blues turn dingy AND bleachy.) Does quality of the fabric/dye matter? (I usually buy Express dress shirts because I like the fit; I'm skinny.)

Do clothes-washing habits make a difference? I ALWAYS use cold on anything solid-colored, but shirts sometimes linger in the basket for a week (sometimes more). I generally use dye- and perfume-free liquid All on both whites and colors, but it happens with at least one other liquid detergent (Tide). I heard a recommendation for Oxyclean for sweat stains; does it work? (Professional cleaning for dress shirts is made tougher by my location.)

Any and all suggestions appreciated.
posted by supercres to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (20 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
If the coloring is mostly near the armpits, I think that coloring is a result of using anti-perspirant & deodorant combo. I think using deodorant only would probably eliminate the coloring to your clothing. However, you would have even larger sweat stains. Rock and a hard place.
posted by seppyk at 11:34 AM on January 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Isn't this what undershirts are for?
posted by Grither at 11:38 AM on January 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: If you soak badly stained whites in a bucket with Oxy-Clean for a day or so, that should remove most yellowing.

Also, you can spray collars and underarms of white shirts with something like this before you wash, that seems to help here.
posted by pinky at 11:40 AM on January 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Most of the bleaching/staining is on collars, actually. An undershirt wouldn't protect a dress shirt collar and would be visible under a t-shirt. (Do people wear undershirts under t-shirts?)
posted by supercres at 11:40 AM on January 4, 2012

ps - you might want to examine your darker-color shirts closely before washing, too - they are staining as well, it just doesn't show as much.

(yes, I am the family launderer. why do you ask?)
posted by pinky at 11:41 AM on January 4, 2012

Response by poster: And really, the bleaching is the bigger problem, given how rarely I wear white clothes.
posted by supercres at 11:41 AM on January 4, 2012

What are you washing your face with? I had the same issue whenever I used ProActiv because chemicals in the product are prone to bleaching absolutely everything in sight.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 11:45 AM on January 4, 2012

Seconding that your deodorant/antiperspirant may be at fault here. I grossed up the pits of a bunch of shirts and t-shirts back when I wore Mitchum non-scented antiperspirant. Apparently, whatever chemicals in there combined with my sweat to create gross yellow stains on the lights and gross off-white stains on the darks. After I switched to Tom's unscented deodorant, the staining stopped.
posted by griphus at 11:48 AM on January 4, 2012

Response by poster: I do use a benzoyl peroxide-based face wash, but only in the shower. (Oh I know how that stuff bleaches!) I think I rinse it all off...

Will look into new deodorant (currently use Degree something something), but that unfortunately wouldn't explain the collars. Wish I had thought to take pictures of some of the discoloration patterns.
posted by supercres at 11:52 AM on January 4, 2012

The bleaching on collars is most definitely the benzoyl peroxide. It gets in your pores where it's hard to rinse away completely.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:57 AM on January 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

I do use a benzoyl peroxide-based face wash, but only in the shower. (Oh I know how that stuff bleaches!) I think I rinse it all off...

Your collar implies the back of your neck. Do you perhaps rinse in the shower facing the flow of water?
posted by infini at 12:12 PM on January 4, 2012

Best answer: Yeah, if it's your collars that are getting funky colored, it's the benzoyl peroxide wash. Doesn't matter if you think you're washing it all off. That stuff LINGERS, man. I bet the stains are kind of a pukey-pink or tan color, yeah? Kinda splotchy too?

Disclaimer: Am self proclaimed expert on benzoyl peroxide as I single-handedly ruined every green towel, shirt, and sweater in my possession over the course of a summer thanks to Proactiv. They were really expensive clothes and towels, too. :(
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 12:17 PM on January 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Well damn. Sounds like that's sorted out then. Guess I'll see if my face can survive a non-BP regimen, but that's another question entirely.

Oxyclean or Shout on the whites, ditching BP for the colors. Thanks all!
posted by supercres at 12:23 PM on January 4, 2012

What about alternating the days you wear whites and colors with the days you use BP? Use BP and wear white, try something else like Cetaphil on days when you're inclined to wear colors.

Also, if it just becomes too much of a hassle, you could just use a different facewash. I like this stuff because it works as well as BP, doesn't stain, and it does a great job of keeping one's face nice and clean.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 12:30 PM on January 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Anecdata here: I've gotten bleachy-faded spots in the armpits of some lighter-colored shirts. I've had a grey sweater turn pink only in the armpits, and a green one turn pale yellow. So it might not be the benzoyl peroxide (I rarely use BP, and certainly never anywhere near the armpits), but I couldn't tell you whether it's the sweat or the antiperspirant that's doing it. Like you, I don't have this problem with dark colors.
posted by Metroid Baby at 12:54 PM on January 4, 2012

Once you get the BP collar stains figured out, you might try switching to Certain Dri for an anti-perspirant. I was unable to wear a white shirt more than once without getting awful pit stains until a year ago, when I switched to Certain Dri. IT IS MAGIC -- IT ACTUALLY STOPS YOU FROM SWEATING. I use it with a layer of anti-perspirant/deoderant on top (something like Dove or Secret) cuz I'm extra gross but now I can buy white shirts again. Yay!!
posted by jabes at 1:20 PM on January 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

Based on my own similar problems back in my misspent youth, I'd say its a combination of causes:
1. deodorant/antiperspirant --- do you perhaps use a lot? Read the package and compare the recommended usage with what you use.
2. personally, I'm a fan of at least WARM-water washing.
3. when I was younger and had less cash for frivilous things like laundry, I'd stuff WAY too much in each load --- do you overload the washing machine, which reduces the agitation and rinse water?
posted by easily confused at 4:47 PM on January 4, 2012

I had problems with benzyl peroxide bleaching everywhere sweat touched until I stopped using the stuff (and I was only using it on my face). I switched to a salicylic acid cleaner and a retinol moisturizer, and that controlled my acne just as well, with less facial irritation.
posted by psycheslamp at 5:09 PM on January 4, 2012

Like psycheslamp, I used to use benzoyl peroxide until I tired of having bright blotchy partially-bleached spots on towels, pillow-cases, and beloved shirts. If it is the BP, I've also had good luck with salicylic acid (I use this one as a toner). I also use Azelex, which I LOVE (seems to control acne just as well, with less facial redness and irritation; prescription only though!). I don't know whether it's the sweat or BP that's discoloring your shirts, but might be worth experimenting with a non-BP regimen.
posted by UniversityNomad at 6:06 PM on January 4, 2012

Try washing with a cleanser containing salicylic acid instead of the benzoyl peroxide. You can get a BP-containing paste to spot treat problem areas which will probably reduce the potential for staining.
posted by MadamM at 8:10 PM on January 4, 2012

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