How do you remove yellow armpit stains from white cotton T-shirts?
March 4, 2004 9:02 AM   Subscribe

ULTIMATE USE OF ASK METAFILTER: Yellow pit stains on the white cotton t-shirts. What are the remedies? Throw the shirt out or do you have a proven bleaching/detergent technique?
posted by Peter H to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (24 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I say throw em away or use em as cleaning rags, or only to sleep in or something like's not like they're expensive. Bleach will work (dipping a sponge in bleach/water mix and dabbing it on the area), but eats away at the material, and is too much work for cheap tshirts that are 3 for $5 (or whatever). You could also take them off right away when you get home and run really hot water on the pit area too to wash away the sweat, but again, too much work.
posted by amberglow at 9:20 AM on March 4, 2004

...too much work...
Ah, but it's not always cheap undershirts in question -- sometimes it's favorite logo or souvenir shirts, which aren't so easily replaced!
posted by Tubes at 9:29 AM on March 4, 2004

Can't remember where I learned this, but the stains are in fact an interaction between pit-sweat and deoderant, forming some sort of nasty salt/fatty acid compund which, impervious to detergent action, oxidizes over time.
posted by Fupped Duck at 9:35 AM on March 4, 2004

Response by poster: Yes, Tubes, thank you. That is my reason for posting this urgently important topic!

That and I just wanted to see the words 'pit stains' on the FP

But seriously, Tubes knows where I'm coming from on this here thread. amberglow, can you be more specific on the dabbing technique? True, you can throw them out but we're such a wasteful society. I would hate to blame my armpits on losing $10 worth of white shirts if it is preventable through a little dabbing of bleach or some other hidden method. LAUNDRYHEADS SHARE YOUR WISDOM.

(on preview) Fupped Duck - very interesting!
posted by Peter H at 9:38 AM on March 4, 2004

Turn inside out.

Spray pits with Shout TM

Wash with hot water and bleach.


Uh-- I mean, this gets 'em presentably white. Washing them inside out will protect any prints or designs from friction. One word of advice is not to overdo the bleach. More might be good for whiter whites, but it will also shorten the lifespan of your shirt and amplify any small tears in the fabric, making big holes of them.

The yellow pits do come back soon after. You'll have to do this like every three washes.
posted by scarabic at 9:51 AM on March 4, 2004

When my husband was still working for The Man and had to wear dress shirts, I treated his pit stains (50-50% poly-cotton blend or even 100% cotton shirts) with white vinegar, poured liberally on the stains, then followed up with Palmolive dish detergent. I had to do it every time I washed them to keep up with the stains. I had better luck using an oxygen bleach, as liquid bleach didn't help that much and actually seemed to "set" the stains.
posted by Lynsey at 10:03 AM on March 4, 2004

A doctor friend once told me it was the active ingredient in antiperspirants (aluminum somethingorother) that caused the stains, but of course the deodorant companies blame bacteria. Makes for a fun science fair experiment, regardless.

As for how to get them out, I think scarabic's method might be the most effective, but you'll probably never be able to completely eradicate them.

Some deodorants do not have the aforementioned aluminum somethingorother, but they will do nothing about sweat.
posted by arco at 10:08 AM on March 4, 2004

here's what Heloise says. (it's #2 on her top 10) : >
My family does bleach instead of vinegar tho. Use a cereal bowl or small salad bowl--do 1/2 bleach and 1/2 hot water--soak sponge in it, then press all over the area, squeezing a little so the bleach/water soaks in. Then either wash right away with other whites only or put it aside til you do laundry. *This message brought to you by Ask Amberglow™*
posted by amberglow at 10:32 AM on March 4, 2004

The ONLY thing that has ever worked for me is this:

Take blue toilet-bowl cleaner of some kind. Rub it into the stain with an old toothbrush. Leave it for an hour or so, then allow garment to sit in water. After an hour or so, rinse it thoroughly and then wash regularly.

It will eat away at the fabric over time, but it removes them amazingly well. I attribute it to the all-powerfulness of toilet bowl cleaner and the masking ability of bluing products.

If you can find it, the only commercial product that's ever worked is Lestoil. I haven't been able to find it in the US anymore, so I have a feeling there was some kind of toxicity problem with it. We also used to use it to remove road tar from our clothes (country roads!).
posted by answergrape at 11:28 AM on March 4, 2004

Soaking in OxyClean (a commercial version of oxygen bleach) will do wonders. You can go a bit DIY and buy sodium percarbonate (the primary agent) in bulk for a fraction of the price from places like The Chemistry Store.
posted by mkultra at 11:33 AM on March 4, 2004

I have to second the deodorant causality. I stopped wearing deodorant and boom, no more yellowing. I am one of the lucky few that doesn't really need deodorant except for extreme situations such as job interviews.
posted by jopreacher at 11:42 AM on March 4, 2004

Wow, this really may be the ultimate thread.
posted by Sinner at 11:45 AM on March 4, 2004

Oh, ye of short memory.
posted by werty at 11:52 AM on March 4, 2004

Here is a way to check out what the Tide Stain Detective suggests, along with some homespun advice.
posted by thatothrgirl at 12:11 PM on March 4, 2004

Response by poster: Ha, I must agree that the farting thread out-ULTIMATES this ULTIMATE thread. Some of these responses are unbelievable tho! Toilet bowl cleaner!
posted by Peter H at 12:56 PM on March 4, 2004

Non-alcohol deodorants have many advantages. Alcohol dries up your skin, and that is part of the nasty chemical reaction so very well explained above

and by the way, it'd be real dandy if you could buy, in the future, non-sweatshop t-shirts. I won't advertise any brands, but there's a lot of them for sale on the Internet and in stores. and there's a good story here
posted by matteo at 1:11 PM on March 4, 2004

Response by poster: And of course there's also the suspected aluminum-based deoderant's link to alzheimers

But I really couldnt stand any other kind of deoderant.
posted by Peter H at 1:18 PM on March 4, 2004

Napisan is your friend.
posted by dg at 2:06 PM on March 4, 2004

Response by poster: I just read through that whole farting thread. I feel the need to post that.
posted by Peter H at 2:42 PM on March 4, 2004

A friend of mine gets the yellow spots due to excessive sweating, so her dr told her to try Drysol, which is a behind the counter antipersperant.

She uses it at night, 3 times a week. She doesn't need to use deodorant or anti-persperant during the day now and voila, no more pit stains. You might want to look into something like that.
posted by Salmonberry at 5:25 PM on March 4, 2004 [1 favorite]

At least, I think it's 3 times a week. I can't remember. Dunno. Ask a dr about it, it's likely behind the counter for a reason.
posted by Salmonberry at 5:30 PM on March 4, 2004

Boiling shirts (if they're white), like they did in them olden days (and still do in Korea, in special boil-o-matic pots that are sold on the innumerable shopping channels on TV by chirpy, hygiene-obsessed pseudo-housewives) still works quite well, and is relatively enviro-friendly as well.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:49 PM on March 4, 2004

Just to chime in and say that in my many years of washing men's clothes, I have to agree that it is the deodorant...which is why most men wear t-shirts under dress shirts, so the dress shirts don't get icky.

I've tried all kinds of things to get sweat stains out. I've found that many t-shirts are often a lost cause if you don't catch them the first time they stain. Oxy-bleach does help. Never tried the blue toilet stuff, but I can't see that it would hurt the clothes any more than bleach will.

Boiling dress shirts will work, but I've never had the inclination to work that hard for a t-shirt. ;)
posted by dejah420 at 6:42 AM on March 5, 2004

Boiling shirts (if they're white), like they did in them olden days ...still works quite well, and is relatively enviro-friendly as well.

...and, if you add a few cubed potatoes, onions, carrots, and celery, makes a tasty supper as well!
posted by Danelope at 7:22 AM on March 5, 2004

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