How to de-stench and de-stain non-white t-shirts?
April 26, 2006 4:24 PM   Subscribe

Is there any way to get rid of pit stains and residual smells on non-white t-shirts?

I (female) have many t-shirts that get dark stains around the armpits and smell of deodorant/B.O. even after they've been washed and dryed - occasionally even leaving behind kind of a deodorant-ey film that I can scratch at. This also happens to shirts I've worn only a few times. From what I've read on AskMe, this could be a virtue of the anti-persperant/deodorant I use, but I want to know how to get these stains and smells out of my favorite and relatively new shirts!
posted by anonymous to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
From what I know, preventatively, you should not use antiperspirant if you're going to be sweating a lot (like at the gym). The aluminum in some products reacts with the bacteria and causes the stains.

You won't have a problem with smelly sweat so much in these situations, since the smelly stuff is generally the "haven't washed in a few days" sweat rather than the sweat from exercise. Antiperspirant doesn't do much in this case anyway, if you haven't noticed. :)
posted by kcm at 4:41 PM on April 26, 2006

Have you tried oxi-clean? I've been amazed at the laundry stains it can get out, especially organic stains. (And I've actually found it works better than bleach on white clothes.)

Other organic cleaners like Simple Green or citris-based cleaners might be worth trying as well.
posted by occhiblu at 4:50 PM on April 26, 2006

Don't wear polyester. It picks up body oder and which won't wash out - at least according to my nose - maybe I'm just extra sensitive.

I find it to be rather unpleasant come into proximity to someone and then be repulsed by their colth's washed in stink.

Perfumed detergent doesn't hide the smell - it just mixes it with another smell.
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 5:02 PM on April 26, 2006

White vinegar. Rub undiluted white vinegar into the spots and then wash normally.
posted by mendel at 5:54 PM on April 26, 2006

Borax may work well. It does a great job of deoderizing everything from pooped diapers that sat too long before I washed them to the load of clothes that got forgotten about in the washer for several days and turned sour.

wife of 445supermag
posted by 445supermag at 6:01 PM on April 26, 2006

The film of aluminum salts from antiperspirant trapped in shirt fibers can be difficult or impossible to remove, particularly if it has been set by dryer heat, or reacted with other laundry products. You can try pretreating with a full strength protein enzyme product, and leave it at least overnight.

If that doesn't get it all, you can try making a paste of plain meat tenderizer and a little water, rubbing this into affected areas, and leaving for several hours.
posted by paulsc at 6:53 PM on April 26, 2006

From stain removal answers :
Perspiration, Deodorants
Launder with Clorox liquid bleach and detergent in hottest water recommended for fabric. If stain has caused color change, try to restore by using ammonia on fresh stains, vinegar on old stains. Do not use ammonia or vinegar with liquid bleach.

Yellowing Dinginess
Launder garment in the hottest water recommended for the fabric with Ultra Clorox Bleach and detergent. If the garment is not colorfast in regular bleach substitute Ultra Clorox 2.

If that fails, here's a tip for salvaging the t-shirts from wacky uses:

Dye graying white fabrics. If Clorox bleach won't whiten a graying white garment, soak the item in hot, strong brewed Lipton Tea until it is a shade darker than you desire. Then rinse in cold water and let dry.
posted by madamjujujive at 6:59 PM on April 26, 2006

Like mendel I've had success with white vinegar. Also in terms of prevention, I've managed to stop those stains appearing on my shirts by putting on deodorant, putting on an old shirt that is the same style but just not worn anymore in public, going and having breakfast and getting ready for the day, etc, and finally before I walk out the door, then I put on the shirt I'm going to wear for the day.

By the time I go to put on the new shirt, whatever extra anti-perspirant that was has already rubbed off onto the crappy shirt and what's left is what's firmly absorbed into my underarm or is not in contact with the shirt. It might seem like a lot, but I had exactly the same problem as you and it's the only thing that stopped it happening.
posted by teem at 7:03 PM on April 26, 2006

I have to second occhiblu's recommendation for an oxi-clean treatment. Wet the garment, rub in the powder pretty vigorously in the stained areas, soak for a bit in a small amount of water, or throw in the washing machine. As the father of a toddler, I can tell you, I have recourse to this method pretty frequently. No guarantees it'll do the trick, but the stuff is pretty effective and has been color-safe for us.
posted by BT at 7:16 PM on April 26, 2006

putting on an old shirt that is the same style but just not worn anymore in public, going and having breakfast and getting ready for the day, etc, and finally before I walk out the door, then I put on the shirt I'm going to wear for the day.

Same principle, less elaborate scheme: Apply underarm stuff, wait a second, wipe very gently with cloth or towel.
posted by desuetude at 8:26 PM on April 26, 2006

You could try washing them with a liter or so of Coke and don't overfill the machine. It gets almost everything out of anything.

I probably wouldn't do this is to highly priced items.
posted by fshgrl at 8:54 PM on April 26, 2006

fshgrl: not to hijack the question, but just coke, or coke + detergent?
posted by irregardless at 9:03 PM on April 26, 2006

Here's the Cornell Department of Textiles and Apparel's manual for removing all kinds of stains. Some of the techniques are a little complicated, but most us things found around the house. I've used several of these methods with good success.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 10:27 PM on April 26, 2006

I use Coke + detergent. It really works exceptionally well. I got mold out of a fleece jacket that had been balled up wet for a year(!) and I've also used it to get blood and guts out of clothes after fishing trips.

You can make some serious foam doing this so exercise caution. On a front loader I'd add the Coke gradually and use less.
posted by fshgrl at 10:39 PM on April 26, 2006

Good old SHOUT gel has never let me down. Gets out *anything*. Rub it in, let it sit a day or two, rub in more before you put it into the wash. I'd be suprised if it didnt work. Its gotten out 3 year old motor oil shadow-stains on my t-shirts. Won me over.
posted by jak68 at 11:03 PM on April 26, 2006

I just want to second the oxy-clean. In my experience, it doesn't destroy your clothes like bleach, it's more effective, and you can use it on colors too. It's the best ever.
posted by dame at 6:41 AM on April 27, 2006

I once read a technique for this specifically, and the thing to do was to apply a paste of ammonia and... and... damn. Ammonia and something. Like maybe baking soda. Of course, that sounds like a chemistry experiment waiting to go bad if I'm remembering wrong. I remember this tip was printed on the underside of the lid of a washing machine I was renting, along with all the other usual stain tips like for grass and blood and all. Really wish I could remember as I'd like to resurrect a crop of otherwise still wearable tees myself.
posted by kookoobirdz at 8:56 AM on April 28, 2006

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