If you’re one of the millions of people who’ve used antiperspirant or deodorant you know they both cause one very annoying problem - they stain! Below is some information about each product and several ways you can get rid of the stains they cause.

What Antiperspirant Is, Who Uses It, and Why It Stains

Antiperspirant is a substance or formulation that people apply to their skin in order to prevent or reduce sweating. Antiperspirants differ from deodorants because antiperspirants can actually block sweat from forming on the skin, while deodorants contain some antibacterial properties and have a scent to mask the smell of body odor. Antiperspirants are classified as drugs by the FDA because they contain an active ingredient that affects a biological process - preventing the formation of sweat. Most antiperspirants use aluminum chloride as their active ingredient, but other metallic salts like aluminum hexahydrate and aluminum zirconium trichlorohydrex are also used. It is thought that these active ingredients block sweat by forming a sort of shallow plug within sweat glands that prevents sweat from escaping to the surface of skin.[1]

These active ingredients are what cause antiperspirants to stain so badly. When a person wearing antiperspirant sweats, the aluminum chloride, or whatever metallic salt is in the antiperspirant, mixes with their sweat and forms a plug. Once this happens the antiperspirant is likely to leave a yellowish stain on any clothes it comes into contact with. We aren’t sure why this happens, but some propose that it is because antiperspirants are very acidic. At any rate, these yellowish stains are often permanent, or at least, hard to remove.

Anyone can use antiperspirant in situations where they want to sweat less, but it’s essential for people with hyperhidrosis. Hyperhidrosis is a condition in which people sweat excessively, even when it doesn’t benefit them physiologically to do so. Unfortunately, people who sweat constantly also need to wear antiperspirants continuously. This means that clothing is prone to staining and often needs to be replaced which adds more financial pressure to people who already have to deal with the hefty cost of treating hyperhidrosis[1]. In order to stop this cycle of clothing destruction people need to understand how to deal with antiperspirants stains.

What Deodorant Is, Who Uses It, and Why it Stains

Deodorant is a substance that’s applied to the body in order to improve a person’s smell and kill bacteria on the skin that cause body odor. It’s considered to be a cosmetic product so it’s not regulated by the FDA like antiperspirant is. Deodorants use various ingredients depending on the brand and what they are made to do. For example, “natural” products tend to use different ingredients than most other commercial products. Some of the common ingredients that can be found in deodorants include sodium stearate, sodium chloride and stearyl alcohol, parabens, or the stronger ingredient triclosan, to kill bacteria present on the skin. Deodorants come in a variety of packaging including roll ons, sticks, spray bottles and lotions.[2] Unfortunately, because of the ingredients it uses deodorant, like antiperspirant, it can stain clothes easily. Luckily, you can learn how to get deodorant stains out of clothes so it doesn’t cause too much of a problem.

Prevention

Preventing a stain is often easier than having to remove a stain. Here are some tips on how to prevent antiperspirant stains so they don’t happen in the first place:

Choose the Right Antiperspirant

Try to find an antiperspirant that does not stain badly. Many people struggle to choose the right over-the-counter antiperspirant as there are literally hundreds on the market. It is hard enough to find one that is effective and non-irritating, but looking for a good antiperspirant that does not stain easily is also important. This process will take some trial and error, but it will be worth it. This same advice applies to deodorants as well, as some formulations tend to stain worse than others.

Apply Antiperspirant Correctly

Antiperspirant is meant to be applied to dry skin. It is also a good idea to apply it at night so that it has time to sink into skin and work efficiently the next day. Doing this can reduce some of the rub off that occurs, although dry antiperspirant can still easily stain. It is not necessary to apply multiple layers, so apply a thin layer that is less likely to rub off.

It is less important to apply deodorant correctly. It is best to apply it in the morning to dry skin after taking a shower, but it can be applied whenever. If you are using it with antiperspirant, apply it in the morning after antiperspirant has had time to sink into the skin. How you apply deodorant doesn’t really affect how to remove deodorant stains or prevent them significantly.

Wear Protection

The biggest place that antiperspirant and deodorant stains accumulate is in the armpit. If someone knows they will be sweating excessively then they can purchase and use garment protectors, also known as garment shields. There are pads made specifically for people with this problem. They are pads the size of an armpit that can adhere to the inside of a shirt and absorb sweat so that it doesn’t show or stain clothes. Remember, it’s easier to prevent stains than learn how to remove deodorant stains or antiperspirant stains!

How To Remove Antiperspirant Stains

If you can’t prevent a stain, then you’ve got to try and wash it out. Here are a few methods you can use to get an antiperspirant stain out:

Method One:

  1. Rinse the stain in cold water.
  2. If the garment is delicate or if a stain has had time to settle then soak it in a mixture of baking soda, water and white vinegar solution. This will counter the acidity from the antiperspirant.
  3. Wash the clothes and see if it worked.

Method Two:

  1. Turn the clothing inside out and find the stain.
  2. Pour white vinegar onto the stain and let it sit for a minute.
  3. Scrub the stain with a toothbrush until it looks like it is coming loose.
  4. Pour more vinegar onto the stain and allow it to sit overnight.
  5. Wash the piece of clothing like you normally would in the washing machine. If the stain is still present, repeat the process again.

There is no way to guarantee that these methods will remove all antiperspirant stains, but it will greatly reduce their appearance.

How to Remove Deodorant Stains

Ready to learn how to remove deodorant stains? Here are a few methods you can try.

Method One:

  1. Dip a sponge into white vinegar.
  2. Apply the vinegar to the stain liberally and let the stain soak it in for a few minutes.
  3. Put the shirt into the washing machine and wash it on the hottest setting the manufacturer allows.
  4. Repeat this procedure if the stain isn’t gone after the first washing.[3]

Method Two:

  1. Create a mixture of these products:
  • Put the shirt into the mixture and let it sit for 15 minutes.
  • Rub the stain gently to loosen it up.
  • Let it soak in the mixture for another 15 minutes.
  • Wash the shirt in the washing machine. Don’t put it in the dryer if there is still a stain after it’s washed![3]
  • If you use a spray based deodorant you can use rubbing alcohol to remove a deodorant stain. Rub the alcohol directly onto the stain and then wash it thoroughly.[3]

    Now you know how to get deodorant stains out of clothes! Luckily, it isn’t too hard.

    What to Do if These Methods Don’t Work

    If the above methods don’t help you get rid of antiperspirant or deodorant stains then you can try using a detergent or stain remover with oxygen bleach to try and get the stain out. The sooner you wash a stained item the better your results will be.[4]

    One study found that pre-treating with a stain remover like Vanish could reduce the visibility of stains, but interactions between commercial detergents and the stain remover decreased it’s effectiveness.[5]

    Unfortunately, antiperspirant and deodorant stains can be hard to remove, but with care most stains can either be prevented or treated.

    Sources
    1. Pariser, D. M. (2014). Hyperhidrosis (4th ed., Vol. 32). Amsterdam: Elsevier Pub. Co., 2014. Retrieved from https://www.elsevier.com/books/hyperhidrosis-an-issue-of-dermatologic-clinics/pariser/978-0-323-32607-0
    2. Zirwas, M. J., & Moennich, J. (2008). Antiperspirant and Deodorant Allergy Diagnosis and Management. The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, 1(3), 38-43. Retrieved November 12, 2018 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3013594/
    3. How to Take Deodorant Out Of Clothing. (n.d.). Retrieved June 16, 2020, from https://home.howstuffworks.com/home-improvement/household-hints-tips/cleaning-organizing/how-to-take-deodorant-out-of-clothing.htm
    4. Out, Out, Pesky Sweat Stains. (2011, May 11). Wall Street Journal. Retrieved November 5, 2018, from https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052748703859304576305372447004628
    5. A novel washing algorithm for underarm stain removal. (2017). IOP Conf. Series: Materials Science and Engineering, 254. doi:10.1088/1757-899X/254/8/082001 Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/320940190_A_novel_washing_algorithm_for_underarm_stain_removal