You used to have a crisp white button-down shirt. It was your favorite shirt, once upon a time, before antiperspirant stains left it a yellowed, crumpled mess of ickiness. Forget trying to remove the yellow perspiration stains and concentrate on keeping your white shirts from staining yellow in the future. Learn about why antiperspirants leave nasty stains on your clothes and what products to choose if you want to avoid having to sacrifice any more of your shirts to the rag pile.
Why Antiperspirants Can Stain
If you think your armpit sweat is causing the stains, you're wrong. Those pesky underarm stains are caused not by your sweat but by the antiperspirant. It's true. In order to function properly, antiperspirants must have a high acid content, and it's that very acidity that can cause stains in your clothing.
Prevent User Error
It seems like such a simple action that you have probably never given it a thought: Just rub your underarm with your antiperspirant and get on with your day. But if you really want to prevent underarm staining, it's time to rethink your morning routine. According to Mike Thomas, a chemical engineer with Proctor & Gamble, your best bet for stain prevention is to be frugal with the product. Apply just a thin layer of antiperspirant to your underarms and allow it to dry thoroughly before dressing. Resist the temptation to slather on extra product, which Thomas advises will only get on your clothes and lead to more staining in the long run.
Eliminate the Troublemakers
If you really want to take back those shirts, you may need to rethink your antiperspirant selection. Roll-on and gel antiperspirants have higher water content than solids and thus are more likely to end up on your shirtsleeves and wreak havoc. Try switching to drier solid sticks instead to see if that helps things.
Since it's the ingredients that prevent you from perspiring that cause the staining in the first place, you may want to try solid deodorant sticks that do not contain any antiperspirant on for size (or, smell). If you are adequately protected, problem solved.
Try some of the clear or stain-resisting solid antiperspirants, as well. You never know what could be your magic bullet.
Fight Those Stains
Even if you apply a thin layer of a low-staining antiperspirant and wait patiently for it to dry, some of the chemicals are still going to make their way to your clothing, especially if you are wearing a snug-fitting shirt. To keep any stains from forming, rinse the underarms of your shirt thoroughly with cold water before laundering -- right when you take the shirt off, if possible. Avoid applying any pre-treaters, which could ironically serve to "set" the stain by binding with the acid ingredients in the antiperspirant. If, despite these precautions, you still end up with stains, try a pre-washing soak in an enzyme treatment or in a solution of baking soda, water and white vinegar.