Skip to main navigation Skip to content Skip to footer

Removing Deodorant Stains Part Two


I love white and wear a lot of white, but my roll-on deodorant stains quite badly under the armpits – it only takes a few wears before it starts to look really bad! I haven’t been able to get rid of them just by using bleach in the washing machine. Just wondering if you have any other suggestions?


Roll-on deodorants need extra time to air dry on the skin before putting on a shirt, otherwise the deodorant can transfer immediately onto clothes, not just along with your sweat over the course of your day.  That could be why the problem happens so quickly and is so pronounced.  Allowing your roll-on deodorant enough time to dry will help keep freshly applied deodorant off your clothes.  But that won’t completely solve the problem—depending on how much you sweat, you will likely still end up with some mixture of perspiration, body soil, and deodorant on your clothes. 

If your body chemistry is such that you produce a lot of sweat, then you definitely want to wear a shirt only once before washing so the deodorant and sweat stains don’t build up too much.  When you wash your shirts, try pretreating the underarm area with a little liquid laundry detergent that contains an enzyme (check the ingredient list to be sure).  Do this every time you wash a shirt—don’t wait until you have a big stain—to prevent the problem from building up in the first place.  All you need to do is apply a little detergent directly to the underarm area of your shirt, wait 5 minutes, then wash the shirt in the hottest water recommended on the care label. 

Adding bleach along with your detergent will also improve your results—I just want to clarify that not all white items are safely bleachable.  You should always avoid bleaching wool, silk, mohair, leather, and spandex.  Check the care label to be sure—for your white items that you can safely bleach (cotton, cotton/poly blends, polyester, nylon) add ½ cup Clorox® Regular Bleach2 along with your detergent. This should keep the problem under control.

For the stained shirts that you already have, you can try restoring them using a recommendation often provided in clothes washer user’s guides.  Here’s a little more detail on how to do it.

1. Working into a dishpan, pour boiling water slowly through each armpit stain.  This is to “melt” any build-up (a combination of deodorant, sweat, body soil, bacteria, etc.)  It will help if you position the shirt in the dishpan before you start so that you can get to each stain without touching the shirt since once you begin – it will be boiling hot!

2. Don’t rinse the shirt—just pour off as much of the hot water as you can.  This keeps the build-up in a more “melted” state.  And if you do need to handle the shirt either use kitchen tongs or wear gloves.

3. Apply a mixture of 1:1:1 parts baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, and water directly to the stain.  Sometimes this is referred to as a paste, but it is actually quite watery, so be sure to mix up enough so you can saturate the stains.

4. Rinse the shirt, and then follow up with a hot water wash with a good enzyme-containing detergent + ½ cup Concentrated Clorox® Regular Bleach2.

5. Air dry the shirt and check for success—heavy build up may require repeating the treatment to fully remove it, and keeping the shirt out of a hot dryer will increase your chances of success.