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Avoiding and Removing Sweat Stains

By: Hsin-Yi Cohen BSc, MA, MSt - Updated: 5 May 2010 | comments*Discuss
Avoiding And Removing Sweat Stains

Sweat stains are high up on the list of embarrassing stains that most people would like to avoid but unfortunately, they are often one of the most tenacious stains which resist all normal washing methods. This isn’t necessarily just a problem for those who suffer from hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating) either – hot, humid weather combined with tight clothing – and physical exertion – can leave us all prey to these unattractive and embarrassing stains.

So what can you do? First, follow these suggestions for effective ways to remove sweat stains – and then take note of the measures you can follow to prevent or minimise new sweat stains in the future.

Removing Sweat Stains

The reason many normal laundry methods don’t seem to work on sweat stains is because they often use the wrong detergents. Sweat stains require detergents with oxygenated or protein-removing ingredients. The detergent needs to be rubbed in undiluted form into the stain, so that it penetrates the fabric fibres, and then allowed to soak into the fabric for at least 30 minutes before continuing with a normal wash cycle.

Tougher sweat stains may require the use of hydrogen peroxide, which breaks down the actual proteins in the sweat stain. Note, though, that this chemical has a powerful bleaching effect and as such, is only really suitable for white clothing. Again, the affected area should be soaked for at least half and hour in a 50/50 solution of hydrogen peroxide and water, followed by a rinse in cool water and then allowed to air dry. This should remove most stains but if there are still some marks left, you can repeat the treatment with higher concentrations of hydrogen peroxide. Treating sweat stains with hydrogen peroxide has the added benefit of hardened texture that often affect the underarm, stained area.

If you have sweat stains on coloured clothing, then white vinegar is your answer. This simple home treatment works very effectively to remove sweat stains from coloured garments. Use a solution of two cups of water to four tablespoons of white vinegar and apply this directly to the stains before putting it in the normal laundry. Not only will it remove any unsightly colours, it will also remove any odours and combat the hardened texture.

Another good home treatment is baking soda which can be applied directly onto stains in the form of a thick paste (made up with water), using an old toothbrush. The paste should be left on the stain for about 20 minutes to allow it to saturate, and then rinsed off with cold water. It is best to then wash the item of clothing with an oxygenating detergent.

Avoiding Sweat Stains

Probably just as important as removing sweat stains is learning to avoid them in the future, especially on new items of clothing. Here are some tips to help you:

  • Underarm shields made of cotton can be purchased and pinned, sewn or taped onto your clothes in the appropriate areas. This way, they will absorb any excess sweat and prevent them from staining your clothes.
  • Dabbing a small amount of baby powder or even corn starch in “sweaty areas” will also help to absorb sweat and prevent stains. The light, silky powder will also leave you feeling less sticky.
  • To reduce sweating, choose an anti-perspirant with a higher percentage of aluminium chloride or aluminum zirconium, as these ingredients work to reduce the amount of sweat produced.
  • Whenever possible, give yourself a wipe with a small damp washcloth – such as under your armpits, behind your neck, etc. Not only will this remove excess sweat but it will also leaving you feeling refreshed.

Lastly, many people from countries with hot, humid climates have a custom of wearing a thin, cotton T-shirt under their clothing. This again will help absorb excess sweat and protect the outer garments.

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