Even if you wear the right fabrics, there are certain days when the hot, sticky summer weather really makes you sweat. Perspiring profusely is bad enough, but it doesn’t end there: It may also leave yellow stains on your clothing.
Fortunately, there are ways to remove these stain. Here’s what to know.
Why are sweat stains yellow?
When most people sweat, the perspiration that drips down their faces and seeps out of their armpits is colorless. So why are sweat stains yellow?
“Deodorant and antiperspirants contain many varied ingredients which can and will create staining when coupled with perspiration,” Wayne Edelman, CEO of Meurice Garment Care—and also known as the “Stainmaster”—tells Lifehacker. “These ingredients read like a chemistry lesson, and include aluminum-based elements as well as wax-based formulas and petrochemicals.”
How to get rid of sweat stains
First and foremost, sweat stains should be treated as soon as possible after wearing an item of clothing, Edelman explains. “If left untreated, the stain can become a discoloration, and it could, at this point, be permanent, or will require more treatment to remove,” he says.
Like other types of stain removal, the way sweat stains are treated depends on the materials and dyes used to make the garment. And generally speaking, Edelman only recommends trying to remove sweat stains at home on washable garments—any dry-clean-only items should be laundered professionally.
“Perspiration stains by themselves usually are cleanable by first pretreating them with any commercial wide-spectrum general stain remover, like Spray ‘n Wash or Shout,” Edelman explains. “They can be sprayed on the affected area and then brushed gently with a spotters brush. The brushing creates mechanical action which moves the soap and detergent into the fibers.”
But it’s not enough to pretreat the stain: Next, you have to wash it to flush out the pretreatment.
If the yellow sweat stains are still there after pretreating and washing the item, Edelman recommends using a vinegar-based tannin solution.
To make one at home, mix 1/2 tsp of laundry detergent with 1/4 cup of white vinegar and 1/4 cup of cool water. Apply the solution as you would any commercial stain remover, lightly brush it on the stained area, and then wash the garment right away.
For white items that retain their stains after going through the treatments described above, Edelman says that you can try soaking them in a solution made using laundry detergent and a sodium-based bleach like OxiClean.
“Follow the directions—depending on the quantity of water used—and remember to wash out the bleach thoroughly in a regular wash after attempting a bleach bath,” he explains. “Maintaining temperature during this process keeps the bleach active. Many new washing machines have heated soak cycles that are best for this process.”