Figuring Out How to Remove Deodorant Stains

Before and After (flash makes for weird shadows)
Before and After (flash makes for weird shadows, but the one on the right is pure white)

So, I know the immediate reaction is to say “how gross!” but let’s just get it out there that not wearing deodorant is significantly more gross, and, hey, being a human is gross.

I’m writing this review to address a few outcomes of a typical search for this issue:

  1. Most articles mention that it’s the aluminum in antiperspirant that causes the yellowing and/or blackening on white undershirts, and deodorant doesn’t have aluminum in it, so use that instead. Problem 1) this doesn’t address removing the stains on your clothes now, Problem 2) maybe some people prefer antiperspirant.
  2. Other articles say “switch to a natural alternative to antiperspirant which doesn’t contain aluminum.” Again, 1) this doesn’t address existing stains, 2) many comments in such articles talk about how they tried it (sometimes with some crazy “natural” oil or something), but the inefficacy was obvious (as in, they stunk), 3) this is what hippies do.
  3. Some articles provide a thorough analysis of the chemistry of the canonical deodorant + antiperspirant stain types (whether the yellow or black variety), then provide a list of home remedies (ground-up aspirin solution, pretreating with normal laundry detergent, vinegar, NEVER CHLORINE BLEACH – it makes the staining worse!, Borax, rubbing dryer sheets on it, using a dedicated anti-stain spray which says “great for protein stains!”, etc. These articles often end with a note that switching to something without aluminum is a great idea… As if that suggestion retroactively removes stains or provides the benefits of an antiperspirant.
  4. There are even some articles that say the solution (pun?!) is to use (much) less antiperspirant, and to let it dry (absorb?) before putting on that first layer of clothes. Girl, I wake up like this. I don’t have time for that.
  5. Articles say “use OxiClean!” Now we’re getting somewhere! But you’re still searching for “how to remove deodorant stains,” which means it probably didn’t work for you when you tried it. Hint: just adding it to your normal wash cycle won’t take care of stains. Maybe it’d take care of the issue if you had used it from day zero of wearing your bright white new shirt, but, at this point, you’re searching for how to remove stains, not avoid them.

This is what you need to do to get deodorant stains out of clothes (note that I’m referring to deodorant and antiperspirant as synonyms here):

I believe the normal OxiClean would've had the same results, but I got this because the shirts were white. I've since used this for all my laundry, and it's been 100% fine on all colors.
I believe the normal OxiClean would’ve had the same results, but I bought this because the shirts were white. I’ve since used this for all my laundry, and it’s been 100% fine on all colors. Note that despite the “White Revive” branding, the product is color safe.

You probably have a number of items which need to be “de-stained.” So, get a big bucket (I used a 5 gallon example). Fill that thing a bit less than half-way with hot water. Put two full scoops of OxiClean into your bucket of hot water (it comes with a scooper). Stir it around to make sure it dissolves. Put your deodorant-stained clothes in that bucket. Make sure you get them all the way drowned in there. You’ll find that some items will rise to the top, so have a stirrer handy (I used metal tongs every 30ish minutes… I’m not 100% sure on the chemistry, but metals + acids are bad news. OxiClean means metals + bases, but I kept the tongs out of the solution when not stirring, just in case).

5 gallon bucket with stirrer
5 gallon bucket with stirrer
BBOS (big bucket of soaking)
BBOS (big bucket of soaking)

The key part (and why you’re looking this up) is that it takes a while. Give it at least four hours in the bath. Immediately after the bath you’ll see the stains are almost gone, but the soaked fabric makes it tough to tell. After the soak, put your items directly in the washer, and do a cycle which matches the care instructions on the clothes label (specifically the water temperature). Use the normal amount of detergent but also an amount of additional OxiClean to match the instructions on the OxiClean container (note that the soak, detailed above, uses WAY more OxiClean than a normal wash cycle). Based on my OxiClean container, that was “line 2” which is the lowest mark on the included scoop.

After - with flash
After – with flash

Seriously, look at these results. We’re talking about “like-new” levels of whiteness… even in the most-stained areas. This is why I’m spending so much time writing this up. It’s an awesome result without much work.

After - no flash
After – no flash.  Any “questionable” areas are due to lighting only.

Some additional info: everything I put through this process was white and used as an undershirt. (OxiClean is color-safe for most fabrics, though just getting it out there…) All items were Banana Republic t-shirts, and most were 96% cotton, 4% spandex (gotta make the show muscles s-h-o-w), and three (of the eight in the bucket) were 100% cotton. Same (great) results for all. I didn’t have any unexpected fabrics which show up in undershirts in my testing … My Slix polyester + spandex undershirt doesn’t seem to have the staining issue, and I don’t have any shirts made from blends of modal or “bamboo” (for undershirts and underwear, “modal” = fancy Rayon, “bamboo” = fancy modal).

*****

Figuring out how to remove deodorant stains gets FIVE big stars because it makes clothes look like new, and it’s very inexpensive; the entire container of OxiClean was $8, and I used… um, at most, 5% of it(? two full scoops) to “fix” eight shirts. Also, the opportunity for rock solid SEO adds at least half a point.

TL;DR Get a big bucket. Fill it half-way with hot water. Put two full scoops of OxiClean in the bucket and stir it to make sure it dissolves. Put the stained clothes in that bucket for 4 hours, and stir every now and then. After the soak, wash as normal, but add OxiClean per the instructions on its container.

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