Clean It: How to Remove Sweat Stains from Dress Shirts

how to remove sweat stains

When preparing for a work presentation or hot date, you try hard to look clean, suave, and in control. However, beneath your crisp shirt and smart tie is a sweaty, 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.


armpit stain

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, this article from The Wall Street Times declares that the yellowing is actually attributed to 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. Pour a few tablespoons of hydrogen peroxide on the stain.
  2. Squeeze some of your favorite dish soap onto the stain.
  3. Dump a few tablespoons of baking soda on top. The grains provide a bit of abrasion that helps with scrubbing.
  4. Use a toothbrush or laundry brush to scrub your cleansing cocktail into the stain.
  5. Walk away from the shirt and let the cleaning materials soak in for at least an hour. You can even wait overnight — your shirt won’t disintegrate or anything.
  6. Wash your shirt as normal.

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


dress shirt stain

While a lipstick stain on your collar can make you appear desirable, a sweat stain can make you seem anything but. Unlike underarm sweat 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: “Pretreat with prewash stain remover, liquid laundry detergent, or paste of powder detergent and water.” Read on for a slightly more detailed guide:

  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.

ALTERNATIVE: OxiClean probably doesn’t need any more press, but it really is quite effective at removing stains. You can use a spray bottle to apply stain removal directly to the collar, or you can soak your shirt in a solution of water and OxiClean powder.

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


thumbs up

Of course, the best option is to prevent sweat stains from occurring in the first place. Before removing your sweat glands, you might 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 t-shirt will get the brunt of the stain, and it’s better to stain a $10 t-shirt than an $80 dress shirt.
  • Limit your use of antiperspirant with aluminum compounds, or forgo antiperspirant altogether and instead opt for more natural products. Many people swear by Burt’s Bees Herbal Deodorant. It won’t reduce sweating, but it will keep you smelling fresh and your shirts relatively clear of stains.
  • Wear a collar protector. Dirt Clerk makes excellent collar liners for men.

With the tips mentioned above, you could be on your way to a stain-free life. You can high-five everyone without getting any strange looks — at least not on account of your pit stains; you might get a few strange looks as a result of your eagerness to high-five everyone.