Skip to content
Ask Dr. Laundry

Ask Dr. Laundry

Removing Dinginess

By Dr. Laundry February 19, 2009

Q. I live in an eternal summer climate and have trouble keeping my clothes fresh-looking. How can I keep summer whites bright? Does bleach yellow cotton fabrics? And, do you have any suggestions for underarm deodorant stains on clothing?

A. With the very cold winter we have had, I wish I were in an “eternal summer climate,” especially if an umbrella drink is involved.

Here are some general tips for improving your cleaning results in your laundry and eliminating dinginess:

  • Sort clothing (whites, lights and dark colors) and wash each group separately.
  • Pretreat or presoak stains, spots and heavily soiled garments before washing.
  • Use the recommended amount of detergent: too little detergent means less cleaning power, and too much may lead to sudsing and rinsing problems.
  • Use 3/4 cup of Clorox® Regular-Bleach1 with your whites and bleachable colors (See Bleachability test for colors).
  • Use the warmest water recommended on the care label; the hotter the water, the better the cleaning.
  • Don’t overpack the washer: Loosely loaded items get cleaned better in washers since the mechanical energy from the agitator will come into contact with more clothes.

Using liquid bleach should NOT yellow your whites when used as directed.

As for the underarm deodorant stains, these are the most difficult to remove. They can develop stiffness from the build-up of the underarm deodorant/antiperspirant that has not been removed wash, after wash, after wash. It can get almost “crunchy,” and that is uncomfortable. This can be further complicated by the choice of antiperspirant — aluminum-based ones usually are reported as being the worst for changing colors, and diet also seems to be have some impact on producing colored components.

Think about what has happened: you take a solid underarm product and apply it to a warm body where it melts. Now, it can more easily transfer to anything that the underarm touches (T-shirt, etc.). Add to this the volume of liquid (sweat) that acts as a collection and transfer agent for anything it has collected from the armpit (deodorant, salt, bacteria, body oil, etc.), and you can better understand how this generates such a problem.

So what can we do? For the current problem, you need to do something to “re-melt” the build-up. I have seen mention of a couple of approaches: one says to use boiling water poured directly over/through the stained area (be careful of spillage). Then, follow with a paste of 1:1:1 baking soda, hydrogen peroxide and water, which is applied after the hot water and rubbed (wear rubber gloves here to protect your hands from the heat) aggressively into the stain. Rinse again with hot water. It may take more than one application, but this definitely should do the trick. It may also require a good pretreatment with a liquid detergent or solvent. Remember to wash in the hottest water recommended on the care label and use 3/4 cup Clorox® Regular-Bleach1 to help kill the odor-causing bacteria. Or the easiest solution is to simply cut out the affected area, and you’ll have a new set of muscle shirts (just kidding).

These should work for the cotton items, and probably would work for your poly/Spandex ones too. For the future, I would check the brand of antiperspirant and see if you can find one without aluminum active ingredients. Also, if new T-shirts are purchased, you might try applying the liquid detergent to the armpit area before the first washing to keep the build-up under control. Of course, ALWAYS wash in hot water with detergent and 3/4 cup Clorox® Regular-Bleach1.