It’s a sartorial problem that many men have, but few talk about. Yellow armpit stains.
You or someone you know has probably suffered the shame and embarrassment of wearing a dress shirt with dingy yellow stains radiating from the armpits. Instead of your office mates listening in awe as you tell them about the fish you caught that “was this big!” they’re staring at your eye-catching golden pits. When your gal asks to wear your sport coat to keep warm while you walk on a cool night, you balk, knowing that your yellow armpits of shame will be revealed. Missing out on a chance to be chivalrous…that’s the pits.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Are you ready to once again experience the joy and exhilaration of giving a confident, unabashed high-five in a shirt and tie? Would you like to save money by restoring your shirts to pristine whiteness instead of having to buy new ones?
Today we’re going to show you how you can easily remove yellow armpit stains and what you can do to prevent them. High-five!
What Causes Yellow Armpit Stains?
Contrary to popular belief, it’s not your sweat itself that causes yellow stains. Most experts agree that that culprit behind your yellow pits is the aluminum used in antiperspirants combined with your sweat. Can you believe that? The very substance that keeps your pits nice and dry also wreaks havoc on your shirts. This presents a bit of a Catch-22. While foregoing antiperspirants can eliminate the risk of yellow stains later on, you’ll have to manage the wet semi-circles due to excessive sweating in the short-term.
How to Remove Yellow Armpit Stains
There are lots of “Grandma Tricks” out there on how to remove yellow armpit stains. I tried a few of them on a white dress shirt that had over six years of pit stain build-up in the armpits. The only time I wear this shirt is when I’m wearing a suit coat, and I make sure to leave the coat on even if it’s hotter than a football practice in the middle of the day during an Oklahoma heatwave in August. I don’t know why I held on to this shirt. It’s pretty nasty. Maybe my subconscious knew I was going to write a post about removing pit stains one day.
Here are the results of my experiment:
Don’t even try.
I didn’t try using bleach, but I thought I should mention this method first. For some guys, the natural response to fighting yellow stains is to just use lots of bleach. Don’t do it. It will actually make your pit stains even more yellow.
The University of Illinois Extension Stain Solutions Department (yes, there’s really a university department dedicated to fighting stains) recommends a pit stain removing regimen that consists of scraping off any residue from the shirt with a dull butter knife and then soaking the stained areas in a quart of lukewarm water, half a teaspoon of dishwashing detergent, and one tablespoon ammonia for 15 minutes. While it’s soaking, you gently rub the stain from the back to loosen it up and then soak for another 15 minutes. Rinse and launder.
I had high hopes for this method, but alas, I was disappointed. The yellow stain didn’t diminish at all. In fact, it started to look even worse than before. I don’t recommend this method.
OxiClean, the miracle cleaner pitched by the best beard in infomercial history (RIP Billy Mays), claims that it can remove the stubbornest of yellow armpit stains. I put that claim to the test.
All you have to do is fill up a sink with warm water and mix it with one scoop of OxiClean. Place your blighted shirt in the sink, making sure the yellow stains are completely submerged. For mild stains, just let the shirt sit for an hour; for DEFCON 5 stains, let your shirt sit overnight. After you’re done soaking, rinse your shirt and launder as usual.
Because my experiment shirt still had yellow pit stains, I used it in the OxiClean experiment. I followed the directions on the box. The one thing I did differently was actually rub a thick mixture of OxiClean and water on the stain before putting it in the more diluted mixture. Why? I don’t know. It seemed like it would do something. I let the shirt sit overnight. After waking up from dreams of battling a sleuth of cyborg bears in a jai alai death match, I went to check on my shirt. The intense yellow stains that once graced my pits had nearly vanished. I rinsed the shirt off and threw it into the wash. When I took it out, the stains were pretty much gone. Six years of yellow pit stains were blasted away with just a scoop of OxiClean and a little help from the ghost of Billy Mays’ beard.
OxiClean is color safe, so you can take care of those yellow stains on your blue oxford shirts, too. The only precaution to keep in mind when using OxiClean on color clothing is that some clothing fades more easily when using products like OxiClean. Test for colorfastness in an inconspicuous area before using the product.
There are a few products on the market that are specifically formulated to remove yellow pit stains. I ordered a bottle of one these products. It’s called Raise. A 12 ounce bottle costs $12.50 plus shipping. To use it, you simply lay your shirt on a towel and apply a bit of Raise on the armpit stains, brush the stain a bit, and then let sit for 15-20 minutes. Finish everything off by laundering as usual.
Because my original experiment shirt had been cured of its yellow armpit stains, I unearthed another white shirt that had some medium staining to test out Raise.
I followed the directions on the bottle. When I took my shirt out of the wash, the stain had faded but was still a little visible. Perhaps if I applied Raise more liberally and let it sit for longer, I would have seen better results. But overall, I wasn’t completely happy with the product. Oxiclean and Raise had about the same results, but Oxiclean was tasked with cleaning up a stain that was ten times worse.
Final Recommendation: OxiClean
OxiClean works. It’s simple, cheaper than Raise, and can take care of the gnarliest armpit stains. Plus, you can use it to clean a million other things.
How to Prevent Yellow Armpit Stains
So we know we can remove armpit stains if we need to. But it’s probably more time and cost effective to prevent them from appearing in the first place. As the old saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of yellowed armpits,” or something like that. There are a few things you can do to prevent yellow armpit stains from forming in the first place.
Wear an undershirt. Just simply wearing an undershirt can work for some men. The extra layer between their skin and a nice dress shirt is all that’s needed to prevent the yellow menace from forming in their axial region. If regular undershirts aren’t cutting it for you, you can always try some specialty undershirts with sweat guards built in.
Unfortunately, for many men, an undershirt isn’t enough to prevent the dreaded pit stain. For these men, other actions are required.
Stop using aluminum antiperspirants. As we mentioned above, the biggest culprit for yellow armpit stains is your sweat mixing with the aluminum in antiperspirants. So naturally, if you want to banish yellow pit stains, you’ll need to stop using aluminum-based antiperspirants. But it’s somewhat of a Faustian choice between swamp pits or yellow stains.
Use a stain prevention antiperspirant. The deodorant and antiperspirant industry has been in an arms race against yellow pit stains for the past few years. Recognizing that their product may be contributing to yellow stains, antiperspirant companies have been spending big money figuring out how to provide wetness protection and prevent yellow stains from forming. Speed Stick has an antiperspirant on the market that claims to keep wetness at bay while preventing yellow stains.
Use deodorant + Gold Bond. One way to get dryness protection while avoiding the risk of yellow stains is to use your regular odor preventing deodorant in conjunction with some Gold Bond powder (you should have some in your cabinet–it’s one of the 5 Products No Man’s Bathroom Should Be Without). The Gold Bond does a good job at stopping wetness without using stain-causing aluminum salts. Plus, it feels invigoratingly good.
Keep your pits trimmed. You don’t need to shave them, but keeping your pit hair trimmed can help reduce wetness and the need for antiperspirants.
Wash shirts immediately after wearing them. Stains are harder to remove once they set, so the sooner you wash your shirts, the less likely it is that stains will form. Before you put your shirts in the wash, rub some detergent, stain remover, OxiClean into the pits.
Do you have any other tips on removing or preventing yellow armpit stains? Share them with us in the comments!
Last updated: April 21, 2016