Clean It: How to Remove Sweat Stains from Dress Shirts

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When prepping for a work presentation or hot date, you try hard to look clean, suave, and in control, but beneath your crisp shirt is a smelly beast blazing in the summer heat. At the end of the day, you may be disappointed to find unsightly stains on your shirt’s collar and underarms — Jeez, how long have those been there?!

You don’t have to surrender to stains. By learning how to remove sweat stains from your dress shirts, you can eliminate all residue left by the sweaty beast within. As you scour the internet for quick ways to remove stains, you’ll likely run into solutions involving ammonia, bleach, vinegar, holy water, rabbit saliva, melted snow from Mt. Olympus – the list goes on. As a busy man, you probably don’t have the time or willingness to engage in a complicated stain removal séance; instead, we’ll just show you a few simple tricks.

FROM THE UNDERARMS

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As a man, you’re no stranger to underarm sweat. You’ve probably been plagued with more-or-less constant dampness since you were about 12. While sweat can cause some discoloration in your shirts, most of the yellowing is the result of a chemical reaction between the salts in your sweat and the aluminum compounds found in antiperspirants. Regardless of the precise cause, you want your stains gone for good. The following technique is quick, easy, and can be performed with household items.

  1. Apply a mixture of one part dish soap and two parts hydrogen peroxide to the stain.
  2. For particularly stubborn stains, you can sprinkle some baking soda on top. The grains provide a bit of abrasion that helps with scrubbing.
  3. Use a toothbrush or laundry brush to scrub your cleansing cocktail into the stain.
  4. Walk away from the shirt and let the cleaning materials soak in for an hour.
  5. Wash your shirt as normal.

NOTE: The above method works best with white cotton dress shirts. Hydrogen peroxide may lightly bleach some colored shirts. If your shirt’s tag beckons for dry cleaning, heed its advice.

FROM THE COLLAR

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While a lipstick stain on your collar can make you appear desirable, a sweat stain can make you seem anything but. Unlike underarm stains, collar stains are not caused by antiperspirant – unless you’re applying antiperspirant to your neck, which is kind of weird, buddy. Rather, those nasty collar rings are caused by a combination of sweat, dead skin cells, oil, and residue from hair products. Here’s what the American Cleaning Institute recommends for cleaning the soil from your collar:

  1. Lay your shirt flat with the soiled collar facing up.
  2. Pour undiluted liquid laundry detergent directly onto the soiled area.
  3. Let the detergent soak into the collar for at least 30 minutes.
  4. Wash as normal.

NOTE: Do NOT put your shirt in the dryer unless the stain is completely removed. The dryer will cause the stain to set, making it extraordinarily difficult to remove.

Related: Cheap, Earth-Friendly Ways to Stay Cool This Summer

FROM DARK CLOTHING

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You may think you’re safe in your suave new black button-down…until you go in for a high-five with your buddy only to notice a startling light stain under your arms.  This unsightly surprise is the result of the very same chemical reaction that leaves those dreaded yellow pit stains on lighter-colored shirts. For those snazzy dark or colorful dress shirts, you may want to play it safe by using a cleaning solution that doesn’t include hydrogen peroxide.  Don’t worry – this DIY stain removal trick is just as simple as the rest, and you likely already have the ingredients on hand:

  1. Run the stain under warm water for a few minutes to wet the area.
  2. In a small bowl, combine 4 tbsp of baking soda with 1/4 cup warm water into a paste.
  3. Apply a generous amount of the paste to the stained area.
  4. Gently rub your shirt together to help work the paste into the fabric.
  5. Let the paste sit for 30 minutes and then rinse the area.
  6. Wash as normal.

STAIN PREVENTION

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Of course, the best option for avoiding those unsightly sweat stains is to prevent them from occurring in the first place. Before you start Googling how to remove your sweat glands, try some of the following techniques:

  • Limit your caffeine and hot beverage intake. Both increase sweating, which can in turn increase the risk of stains.
  • Wear a plain white t-shirt under your dress shirt. Your inexpensive t-shirt will bear the brunt of the stain, keeping your pricey dress shirt clean.
  • Switch to an antiperspirant with little or no aluminum compounds or forgo antiperspirant altogether and instead opt for more organic products that will keep you fresh and stain-free while allowing your body to perspire naturally.
  • Wear a collar protector. Dirt Clerk makes excellent collar liners for men.

Whether you’re looking for a way to scrub away stains or a way to prevent them, these tips should have you well on your way to a stain-free life.  So get out there, nail that presentation, impress that hot date, and celebrate the confidence boost with a fear-free high five!