Yellowing Underarms on White Shirts

bud_wiAugust 19, 2006

OK. I tried soaking them in bleach. I tried vinegar on the underarm stains. Adding borax to the wash water. I tried using liquid dishsoap and scrubbing with a brush. Blueing isn't the answer as the problem is only on the underarm area.

None of these recomended tricks worked. Are there any other laundry tricks for this problem?

I think the problem is from using antiperspirants, and I did try switching to deoderant, but believe me, THAT is not an option. I NEED the antiperspirants.

I have the problem with both 100% cotton and also the synthetic blends. I tested out both.

I am required to wear white shirts at work so I can't just solve my problem by wearing colored shirts.

This is getting expensive. I can't wear shirts with huge ugly golden stains on the underarms! A shirt is ruined in a month and completely unwearable after 2-3 months. I wait tables and we carry our trays over out heads through the dining room so the yellow staining is very visible. It's not like I have a desk job where I could keep my arms at my sides while I work. I did work a job once where we wore little jackets over out white shirts - that was a godsend. I could get a couple of years wear out of a shirt before it fell apart. The stains weren't an issue if they were covered.

Advice appreciated.

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AS SEEN ON TV: Oxyclean works great! Wal-Mart has another brand of the same "oxy" type cleaner called Sun for about half the Oxyclean price or less. The powder dissolves in VERY hot water to make hydrogen peroxide bubbles. It is the hydrogen peroxide that cleans the clothes so you have to soak them for a few hours for the best results. I reclaimed t-shirts I had not worn since college with that stuff. My wife reclaimed yellowed drapery and old yellowed tablecloths. The stuff is amazing. One last neighbor's little girl was continually staining her brand new clothes with food, and the neighbor kept giving them to us for my daughter. THEY WERE BRAND NEW! I soaked them in the Sun stuff and they were exactly like new. My neighbor noticed and asked me how we got them clean, so I told her. That ended the hand-me-downs.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2006 at 10:02AM
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In addition to Oxyclean which I highly reccomend, you might try wearing shirt/dress shields so the antiperspirant doesn't come in as much contact with your shirts. NancyLouise

    Bookmark   August 19, 2006 at 2:35PM
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It has been my experience that once a garment is washed and tumbled dry, those stains are pretty much set. For me, efforts to get them out seem to set them more.

I'm thinking the solution to this problem is to pretreat the armpits each time you wash the shirts. Not sure what you would use--maybe Biz or Oxyclean, or you can google "removing perspiration stains" for a suggested method.

Also, there is an old-fashioned product called Fels Naptha (bar) which you might use to prescrub the shirts.

Is there any chance you could wear a t-shirt under the good shirts to protect them, or the shields nancylouise mentioned?

Good luck. I know what a problem this is.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2006 at 5:19PM
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It has been my experience that once a garment is washed and tumbled dry, those stains are pretty much set.

Not to belabor this, but the shirts I reclaimed from my college days had been nasty since college, 30 years earlier. They came clean in one soaking.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2006 at 10:45PM
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I'll give that a try, dchall. Thanks.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2006 at 5:52PM
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If the oxy product doesn't work, you might want to try a powdered color remover (made by the same company that sells the fabric dye) ... my daughter has the same problem, and excellent results with this technique.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2006 at 10:02PM
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Thanks everyone. I had done some research and that's how I got the 'vinegar' recomedation and the 'dishsoap' and 'borax'.

I do always pre-treat my shirts with whatever laundry soap I am using. I guess the shirts would look worse if I had not been doing this.

I never thought to try the OXY clean stuff as I never trusted anything that was sold on late night television infomercials.

I'll give it a whirl.

I know about RIT color remover to remove dingy-ness from clothes. You say it works for yellow underarms? I'll try it if the OXY dosen't work.

I didn't even know they made shields anymore. I think I remember seeing them advertised back in the 50's/60's. They are sold in fabric/sewing supply shops right?

The t-shirt option makes sense but it is soooooo hot working in a restaurant, having to run around, and be in a hot and steamy kitchen, that I don't really want to go that route.

The shirts do look bad, and I am very self conscious of it having to reach over tables and around seated customers who could look up and be grossed out.

I don't know what does this to shirts. I just got a new one and wore it twice, and it is showing yellow already.

Thanks for all the advice.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2006 at 5:20AM
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I think it is a good idea to be skeptical of the Oxyclean marketing approach. I would not have tried it if I hadn't seen the same ingredients on the Sun product at Wal-Mart. My wife, who is even more skeptical thinks I have some sort of miracle stuff I'm keeping away from her. One more anecdote: I sweat at night and have yellow stains on the pillow cases, zippered pillow case, and the pillow. The Sun product took out all those yellow stains. It really does work. Does it work as fast as it shows on TV? Not really. Maybe there are some easy stains that come out instantly but nothing I've used it on. I have to soak for anywhere from an hour to 8 hours. Sometimes you can still see where the stain was after soaking but when you launder it, there's no sign of any stain.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2006 at 9:18AM
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A few other things to try:

Ammonia, sponge it on and let it sit for bit and then launder.

Make a paste of meat tenderizer and rub it in. Let it sit and then launder.

I found this recipe which seems a bit extreme but if you are desperate:

"I had a huge collection of otherwise good white cotton/cotton-blend t-shirts and cotton dress shirts, save for underarm stains. I couldn't afford to replace them. I found this recipe online, with a few variations of my own:

1 cup powdered Clorox 2 or similar product
1 cup Cascade dishwashing detergent
1 cup Calgon water softening powder (I used the liquid version of the same product)

I suggest you try this method late afternoon. The clothes need to soak overnight.

Use a CLEAN tub or bucket. Place ingredients into tub/bucket and pour boiled, FILTERED water and very, very hot tap water. Wearing gloves, swish the water around until the ingredients dissolve (as much as possible). Plunge your white shirts into the tub/bucket and (remember your rubber gloves!) agitate the water a bit with the clothes. Let sit for a couple of hours. Next, take dry baking soda and work into the yellow stains while still they are still soaking. Add extra baking soda to the tub. If the stains are extremely bad, add a bit more Cascade and agitate again. Let sit.

Check on the tub from time to time during the evening. I kept using more baking soda on the underarms and I also kept 'refreshing' the filtered/boiled water and extra hot tap water.

Before you go to bed, refresh the water again, and if you like, the ingredients as well. (This is what I did.) The next morning, wring out the clothes and launder them in the hottest water you think is safe. I do my wash at the local laundro and even though clothes called for cold water I used hot. I also made a paste of baking soda/water and rubbed into underarms before the machine-wash. (What did I have to lose?) I let them air dry in my apt. Amazingly, the stains were gone. I took them outside and looked in bright sunlight...not a trace of yellow.

I am going to machine wash them again just to be sure; I've learned to add Borax and baking soda to my regular detergent to boost the cleaning power. I'm soaking my boyfriend's REALLY yellow, old white t-shirts now and a few old white shirts I forgot about and they already are starting to look whiter/less yellow...really, this is a great method. Also, I've given up deodorant. I use a cornstarch/baking soda powder recipe I found online. I also put a bit of white vinegar and baking soda on my white shirts after I wear them, just to be sure."

I also read that it you are using one of the new "clear" deoderants, those are the worst for yellowing. And ones with aluminum, too.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2006 at 12:41PM
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Here's another testimonial to Oxy Clean. I have used it to remove yellow perspiration stains from old shirts where the stains have been set in from numerous washings and the stains went away with one soaking. Also worked on old linen table cloths and napkins of my grandmothers that had gravy and wine stains that I was convinced would never come out. Just soaked over night, then washed. And if you are starting with new shirts, just add Oxy Clean to the load when you wash the shirts and you don't have to go through the soaking routine. It keeps the gross stains from developing. It's miracle stuff!!

    Bookmark   August 22, 2006 at 3:47PM
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Here's another testimonial for Oxi-Clean. I soaked my stained white shirts in a pot on the stove, after turning off the heat. Nary a stain was left.

Below is a linke to a post from the Laundry Room forum on my methodology.

Here is a link that might be useful: stove-top soak for whites

    Bookmark   August 22, 2006 at 4:26PM
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Keep us posted, bud. My husband has the same problem and nothing seems to work.


    Bookmark   August 22, 2006 at 5:49PM
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I have the same problem! I use "OUT" pet stain remover. I spray the shirt when I take it off, then launder later. It doesn't remove old stains, but it protects new shirts pretty well. The OUT smells good also, when you start sweating again, you smell the OUT instead of the sweat.

But I don't know how to get old stains out, I've never had any luck with that.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2006 at 8:53AM
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parrot phan,

The oxyclean in the big soup pot worked. It got the yellow stains out of my husband's shirts( which were heading toward the recycling bin) and also got out a stubborn stain on another shirt. Next time I will use my really huge pot.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2006 at 4:08PM
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If I use Oxyclean (or another product that is similar) to remove the yellow stains from the underarms of a white tee-shirt, will it also remove the hardness that comes with the yellow coloring?

    Bookmark   June 11, 2007 at 11:05PM
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My cousin buys a lot of stuff second-hand at garage sales,etc. Even old stained clothing and linens. She washes them in Oxyclean. Most stuff comes out looking like new.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2007 at 8:35AM
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So what's the update on the yellow underarm stains...I know the OP is still an active member. I have even had antiperspirant take the color out of colored clothing! Sheesh! Not much you can do about that! As far as the Oxy-Clean...that stuff has been on the market for so long, it's way beyond a gimmick! My SIL was just telling me she used it for blood on her sheets.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2007 at 1:00PM
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Hi. It's me, the OP. I don't come to this forum often and came here to post something else and found my thread bumped. Update: It took me a while to get to the stores to find the OXY, since I did not own an auto at that time. When I did find OXY Clean at Target, they had three different kinds; plastic bucket of powder, spray bottle, and jug of thick liquid. I didn't know if it made a difference and opted for the spray bottle.

I was not impressed with the results.

I went out today (after seeing this thread bumped) and bought one of the plastic buckets of the powdered OXY to use to clean my garage door since a neighbor recommeded it for fiberglass. Actually my white shirts for work are no longer a priority, since my workplace switched to black dress T-shirts as a uniform back around xmas for a more contemorary look for the restaurant. I still have trouble with white shirts and white dress T-shirts and even light colored ones, so I am going to try the powdered OXY in a long soak as soon as I get enought of them for a big load.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2007 at 10:39PM
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Bud --

Let us know what happens!

    Bookmark   June 20, 2007 at 3:56PM
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Here is a testimonial to the Sun Oxy bucket stuff. You can also purchase it at Dollar General stores.

I went to a yard sale and there was a huge bag of white t shirts that would fit my grandsons,

I brought them home. In a 5 gallon bucket I put in a scoop of the Sun Oxy powder, and the hottest water my tap would give me. Dissolved it and put in a wad of t shirts.

I have a basement, and no one but me goes down there. So I had the bucket down there. Every time I went down I checked on the shirts. Some came clean overnight and I took them out and swished the others in the bucket of now cold water they were in.

I actually ended up leaving a few for about a week. (since I forgot about them)
Needless to say, I am sold on Sun Oxy for old yellow stains on whites. I gave my grandsons piles of t shirts that looked like new.

In the future, I suggest a washing technique I read here years ago. A woman stated her mom always washed whites twice. Once in cold water, once in hot.
The cold water gets out any stains that need the cold treatment of washing, and the hot took out any others.

I tried it and have never went back. With a traditional washer and now with an HE. My whites have never been whiter and brighter.

So soak in the oxy, do a wash cycle in cold, one in hot, and you will need sunglasses to fold them. :)

NOTE: for safety sake, if you have small kids or pets, don't leave a bucket of oxy water around for them to drink, fall in, etc!!!!

    Bookmark   June 22, 2007 at 11:54PM
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My ex had the same problem, but it was on his undershirts. Wear undershirts and save on your more expensive white shirts. ;o)


    Bookmark   June 24, 2007 at 2:30PM
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OK. Bought the powdered Oxy in a plastic bucket. Filled tub with hot water. Gathered up everything white I owned. Soaked three days.

The results; Everything looks MUCH better. The dark yellow under the arms is now not as noticeable. Not gone. Just way better.

The 100% cotton ones still show yellow but is not as bad. The poly/cotton blends are white again. BUT, the 100% cotton shirts are much older, and the blends are newer, and almost new shirts, so that may be the answer for the differing results.

I also soaked all my white socks which had mud stains on them from lawn and garden work. No change. No change at all. Soaked both all cotton and cotton blends. Neither came out any better than before.

Verdict: I am very happy with the results and will use and recommend the Oxy. I think I start using it regularly with all my new white things they will never go bad.

I am going to do some more experiementing with my print kitchen towels and try soaking all my white canvas tennis shoes.

One question though........this stuff seems kind of rough on the hands much like bleach water. Can Oxy damage clothes or shorten the life of clothing? Do I have to be extra careful with it?

    Bookmark   June 26, 2007 at 6:32AM
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