How to Remove Sweat Stains

Man in gray shirt with sweat stains.

Last Updated: April 3, 2024

Sweat stains on clothing are a natural part of life, but that doesn’t mean we have to throw away our favorite shirts when those stains appear. Here at Molly Maid®, we believe in saving white shirts from sweat stains. Read on to learn how to remove sweat stains.

Understanding Sweat Stains

Sweat contains compounds such as proteins, oils, salts, and urea. When these natural compounds come in contact with fabric, they can leave behind a residue. That’s how we end up with yellow sweat stains on shirts. Effective pre-treatments and detergents work by breaking down the compounds and lifting the stains.

The best time to combat a sweat stain is when it’s fresh. Using a pre-treatment on the stain before washing it in the machine can help break down the compounds for easier stain removal. Keep reading to find great pre-treatment solutions.

Prevention Techniques

A little forethought can go a long way in preventing sweat stains. Choosing breathable fabrics like cotton and linen is like giving your sweat stains the cold shoulder. They help keep you cool and minimize those marks.

Antiperspirants can help reduce sweat stains on clothing by blocking the sweat ducts, but they won’t completely prevent stains, as they wear off over time.

Certain deodorants can cause stains, such as antiperspirants with aluminum compounds that react with sweat to create yellow staining. Deodorants containing fragrances, oils, and dyes have also been found guilty of mixing with sweat to create a staining residue.

Immediate Action for Fresh Stains

If you see a fresh sweat stain on your favorite shirt, treat it immediately.

If you see a fresh sweat stain on your favorite shirt, treat it immediately. 

Our advice on how to remove deodorant stains or sweat stains is to follow these steps:

  1. Pre-treat the stain: Apply a stain remover directly to the affected area. Let it sit for about 30 minutes. (Note: For set-in stains, let the solution soak for up to an hour.)
  2. Brush: Use a brush to work the pre-treatment into the stains.
  3. Wash: Machine wash the fabric in cold water and check to make sure the stain is gone before putting the clothes in the dryer.
  4. Repeat if necessary.

For extra help with how to remove deodorant stains and other stain types, consult the Molly Maid Stain Removal Guide. It has loads of tips for numerous cleaning scenarios.

DIY Stain Removal Solutions

Sweat stain on shirt being treated with baking soda.

Did you know it’s possible to conquer sweat stains with inexpensive ingredients found in your kitchen? Use just one of these DIY stain removal recipes to help remove stains and odors:

  1. White vinegar solution: Make a solution of equal parts water and white vinegar to help eliminate stains. Soak the stained shirt in it for about 30 minutes for fresh stains, or one hour for set-in stains.
  2. Baking soda: Combine baking soda and water and rub it into the stained areas as a pre-treatment before you throw the shirt into the washing machine.
  3. Lemon juice: Squeeze a little lemon juice onto the stain and let it sit for a few minutes before washing the garment.

For best results, avoid hot water, as it could set the stain and make it more difficult to remove.

These DIY solutions are not only budget-friendly but also gentle on your fabrics. Embrace the eco-friendly, cost-effective way to fight stains. Your clothes will thank you.

Spot Testing

Spot testing is an important step to ensure your cleaning solution is safe for the fabric you’re using it on. Grab a tiny amount of your chosen cleaning solution and apply it to an inconspicuous area of the garment to make sure it’s compatible with your fabric.

Special Considerations for Fabrics

Laundry being hand washed in a bucket.

Each fabric type requires unique care and attention. Cotton is a natural, breathable fabric. It's durable and usually works well with water-based cleaners.

Polyester is synthetic and tends to be more sensitive. When trying to clean sweat stains out of polyester fabrics, you’ll want to avoid heat and harsh chemicals.

Delicate fabrics such as silk and lace need special treatment, such as washing by hand with mild detergents and a gentle touch of cold water. They may require a trip to the dry cleaner to keep looking their best.

Check the care label on your garment so you know how to properly care for your clothing before pre-treating and washing it.

Post-Removal Care

Now that you've learned how to remove sweat stains, let's talk about keeping your clothes fresh and fabulous for the long haul.

Regularly wash your clothes immediately after working up a sweat to avoid fresh stains as they appear and prevent a buildup. Use a gentle cycle paired with a mild detergent to help keep the fabric in good condition despite frequent washing.

These aren't just laundry rituals; they're the steps to preserving your garment's condition. Your clothes will thank you by staying fresh and fabulous.

House Cleaning Help When You Need It

Removing sweat stains from laundry requires a good deal of time and effort, and you may not have time to do your everyday home cleaning. Reach out to your local Molly Maid for a free estimate for assistance with cleaning your home. All of our services are backed by the Neighborly Done Right Promise™, which guarantees that if it’s not done right, we’ll make it right. Contact us today to learn more!