How to Remove Deodorant Stains from Clothing


Question: What’s the best way to clean stiff, cakey deodorant stains from t-shirts?

Deodorant can build up on t-shirts over time and develop a crusty, thick stain that can be difficult to remove. Sometimes this is just a build-up of certain deodorants or it could be a reaction between the deodorant and the fabric softener used either in the wash or dryer. Regardless of how it got there, it’s uncomfortable to wear and tends to hold odors as well. Here’s what you need to know to get rid of this annoying stain and get your shirts looking and feeling great again.

You Will Need:

  • Unseasoned meat tenderizer
  • Vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Ammonia
  • Oxy Clean
  • Aspirin
  • Laundry detergent
  • Water
  • Spray bottle (optional)
  • Soft scrub brush
  • Paper towels or soft cloths

Steps to Remove the Stains:

There are several ways to treat these stains, choose an option from the steps listed below that works best with your time frame and/or materials that are available.

*Always test a small hidden section first to ensure the cleaner will not cause any adverse effects to the color or texture of the fabric.

  1. Begin by mixing the unseasoned meat tenderizer with water to form a loose paste.
  2. Spread the paste over the stiff, stained area and rub it into the fabric.
  3. Allow the paste to set overnight on the stain.
  4. Wash as normal.
  5. A second option is to combine one part vinegar with one part warm water.
  6. Allow the stained areas of the shirt to soak in the solution for a couple of hours.
  7. Wash as normal.
  8. Oxy Clean is a commercial cleaner that is well-known for removing many types of stains. Apply a small amount to the area and scrub it gently. It may be helpful to allow it to soak for a short while as well.
  9. Wash as normal.
  10. Moisten a soft cloth with ammonia and dab at the stained area.
  11. Wash as normal.
  12. For yellowish armpit stains, make a paste with baking soda and water and spread it over the stained area.
  13. Allow it to set until it dries.
  14. Wash as normal.
  15. Dissolve two aspirins in ½ cup of water. Pour the mixture on the stain (for white garments only) and allow it to soak for several hours.
  16. Rub the area with laundry detergent and scrub gently with your fingers or a soft brush.
  17. Wash as normal.
  18. Sometimes the build-up needs a good scrubbing to get the stain to break down enough for the cleaners to work.
  19. If the stains are severe, after applying the cleaning solution, cover the stain with a small amount of laundry detergent and scrub with a scrub brush.
  20. Continue until the stain softens then wash as normal.

Additional Tips and Ideas

  • If you get deodorant on your shirt as you are getting dressed, rubbing it with pantyhose will remove it instantly.
  • Some have had luck switching to an antiperspirant instead of a deodorant. It may also help to switch fabric softeners.


  1. Lauren B. says:

    What if the item is wool, and dry clean only? Can you still do this?

  2. CIS engineer says:

    Tip #2 is backward – It is the antiperspirant that is causing the stains and a switch to just plain deodorant (with an overnight anti-antiperspirant like Certain Dri) will significantly reduce the yellow caking buildup.

  3. This happens on everything I wear, even for one day, and I don’t think I sweat that much. I’ve changed deodorants, even clear deodorant does this. My stains are grayish and brownish. Is this a product problem or a person problem? Can these steps work with my weird color stains?

  4. Anna,
    It could be either. A common cause for deodorants causing colored stains is aluminum in the deodorant. Try switching to an aluminum-free deodorant.
    If you don’t sweat much anyway, try going without any deodorant, or just spraying a little perfume on the armpit areas outside your shirt.
    If it’s a personal problem, it would have to do with the color of your sweat. Smokers tend to have brown or yellow sweat stains due to the tobacco.
    If you find that it is a personal problem, you can help manage your sweat amount and smell through your diet.
    Source: Home Ec 101 – What Causes Black Underarm Stains and How to Prevent Them
    Source: Medical Daily – You Are What You Eat: 6 Smelly Foods That Are Actually Giving You Bad Body Odor

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