There aren’t many of us who don’t sweat, at least enough to eventually leave a telltale yellow underarm stain. They always seems to appear at the worst possible time and place. Sweat stains accumulate on our clothing when we’ve worked hard or may have wound up somewhere that was hotter than usual. They can often also appear because of the type of antiperspirant we use.

Our team has checked with the experts and we’ve come up with the best way to get those unsightly sweat stains out of your white and colored shirts.

Dry Clean Only Isn’t Just a Suggestion

The first thing you need to do is to check the label at the back of the shirt and see if it’s okay to be cleaned at home or if it should go to a professional cleaner. If the label clearly states to “dry-clean only”, take the manufacturer’s advice and take it to the experts.

The folks who made the shirt know all about every stitch and thread that’s in it. They also know all the bad things that can happen to your shirt if it’s washed at home. Don’t try to second-guess them and take the shirt to the dry cleaners without further delay.

Sequins and Embellishments

Even if the label doesn’t say the shirt should be dry cleaned, it may have fragile parts like sequins and frilly embellishments that can be damaged. Definitely, keep it away from the laundry room in your home. If those delicate details are subjected to a washing machine or tumble dryer, they will likely be ruined.


Silk is one of those luxurious materials that should be treated with care when it’s washed. Some silk can be hand-washed at home but much of today’s dark-colored silk can bleed. The color can transfer over to other clothes in your washing machine and you will have a mess on your hands that you do not want.

Test silk clothing first by wetting a small piece of white paper towel and pressing it against the silk. If any of the color transfers, take it to the dry cleaners for a professional cleaning.


If you have a shirt with pleats or folds running in the front or back, don’t try to wash it at home. A professional dry cleaner will be able to keep those pleats and folds in shape and preserve the appearance and quality of the shirt.

Fragile Synthetics

Shirts made with synthetic materials like rayon or chiffon will likely shrink and lose their shape when exposed to hot water. It’s better to send them also to the dry cleaners.

Cleaning the Sweat Stain

Once you have determined that your sweat-stained shirt is safe for you to tackle at home, use a clean cloth or sponge, and pat the affected area with some white vinegar. Use a little extra if you notice white salt lines or if the fabric feels a little stiff. Soak the area for a few minutes.

Next, pretreat the area with an enzyme prewash stain remover like OxiClean or Shout. Follow the directions on the label. Or, if you’re sure the fabric is strong enough, use the hot setting on your washing machine and run it through a complete cycle.

After the cycle finishes, check to be sure the stain marks are gone and then let the shirt air-dry. If the stain isn’t completely gone, do not use a hot dryer because it will set the stain completely and make it permanent.

If the stain is extra-stubborn, you may want to add some Clorox 2 Stain Remover or a similar product to the washing cycle. Products like these are designed to be used with colored clothing and other items that may not be safely washed with chlorine bleach.

Another suggestion is to soak the shirt in a detergent and water solution before to washing to enhance the stain-fighting power. Follow these directions:

  • Add about one gallon of warm water to a small tub.
  • Mix in between 2-3 tablespoons of your favorite liquid clothes washing detergent.
  • Add the stained shirt to the water and allow it to soak for about 30 minutes before washing.

Caps and Hats

If you find that a favorite running or baseball cap that’s become a little dingier than you’d like, don’t toss it into the washing machine. It would be much better to hand-wash these items because machine washing will distort the shape of the cap.

Follow the same instructions as above by using a clean cloth or sponge. Pat the sweat-stained areas of the cap lightly with white vinegar and let the area soak for about a few minutes. Then, pre-treat the area with a prewash stain remover.

Wash the cap in a bowl using a mixture of warm water and your favorite laundry detergent. Scrub the stained area using a soft brush (like an old toothbrush or dish brush) until the stain is gone. Rinse and then blot the hat with a towel. Take some time to re-shape it properly, and then let it air dry.

Coffee and Other Stains

You can use a similar method for getting rid of most other clothing stains including coffee. Everyone who drinks coffee will eventually spill some of it on their clothing. When you do, here are some tried and true methods for removing the stain from almost anything.

Cottons and Synthetic Materials

Cottons and synthetic fabrics are considered fairly durable, especially when you compare them to silk, most furs, and leathers. No matter what type of fabric it is, whether it’s cotton or acrylic, polyester, nylon, olefin, or even spandex, simply follow these steps:

  • Blot up as much of the excess coffee as you can with a clean, dry cloth.
  • Pre-soak the stain in a bowl containing around a quart of warm water, one-half teaspoon of dishwashing detergent, and a tablespoon of white vinegar.
  • Soak the item for a few minutes
  • Rinse with warm water
  • Blot the stain with a sponge and rubbing alcohol until the stain is gone
  • Wash as normal

If the coffee stain hasn’t disappeared completely the first time, repeat these steps until it’s gone. Unless the stain is quite old, it should come out completely after following these steps once or twice.

Don’t dry your synthetic fabrics in the dryer unless you normally dry them there. In most cases, if the stain is not completely gone, drying will make the stain set and it will never come out.

Be sure to let us know if these ideas on removing sweat and other stains from your clothing have been helpful to you. If you have any thoughts or suggestions about any other home cleaning subjects you might like us to cover, be sure to write to us. And, if you live in the Chicago metro area and are interested in learning more about our home cleaning services and how we can help you maintain a safe and healthy living environment, please give us a call. Our number is 708-599-7000. Or, contact us online for a free house or office cleaning consultation.