How do I eliminate perspiration odor from clothes?

tiamariaSeptember 5, 2007

My dd is home from college and starting a new career.

Since she's been home I've noticed she has a problem with perspiration odor and it is very difficult to remove the odor from her clothes. She's upset and worried now that she'll be in the work force.

You may wonder why I'm doing her laundry.

Lately I've taken on the challenge because of this issue but once I've solved the problem she will take over.

I have been pre-treating with Shout and that helps on some of the items but not all. Many of her things should be dry cleaned but that would never work to get rid of the smell so I hand wash but it doesn't really eliminate the odor.

I read a post that said to use rubbing alcohol but I'm afraid it will damage the fabric. I read about Borateem but is that an additive to put in with my TideHE? That would be a mess. I have a front loader. Another suggestion was hot water. I'm so afraid of shrinkage.

Then there is the problem of wool. Would any of the solutions damage wool?

I'm sure we need to find a new deodorant but that is a matter for another forum.

Can anyone tell me what works for them?


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Have you tried vinegar? Pour a small amount of full strength white vinegar on the area before washing. Or if you're concerned it might harm the fabric start with a light mist of a vinegar water mixture (1 Tblsp vinegar to 1 C water) to neutralize the odor. Let it set while getting the rest of the load ready & then wash.

Have you tried Febreze? I had a hard time with my son's Football Jersey. I put a little baking soda in the washer but also, after washing, I spray the armpits with regular Febreze prior to putting it in the dryer for a very brief period. They do make a product called Febreze Laundry Odor eliminator but I've never tried it.

Also read somewhere that rubbing the area with hair conditioner (for detangling) prior to washing will help - not sure about that one though.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2007 at 10:40AM
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I don't see why there would be any problem using Borax with TideHE. The combination is not going to produce suds.

If it were my clothing, I would be washing them repeatedly in hot water, using the soak cycle, and adding Borax. I would risk shrinkage in hot water in order to get the odor out.

Some poly fabrics seem to retain odors. If she is having some sort of problem, it may be best if she sticks to 100 percent cotton.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2007 at 8:59PM
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Can I suggest you have her try a different deodorant/antiperspirant? I have found that sprays and roll-ons make me sweatier. I use one of the cheaper brands of solid, Lady Speed Stick, invisible solid, baby powder scent. Never have a problem since I found this brand several years ago. I would immediately switch whatever she is using. Try a few different brands for a couple of days to see if switching brands might help.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2007 at 12:37PM
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my son has the same problem, with the additional factor of perspiration stains. here's what works for us. i pour straight white vinegar into a spritz bottle and add just a bit of liquid detergent into it (liquid tide or era) and spritz the pits (how poetic, lol) with this mixture. the little bit of detergent helps keep the shirts from smelling too vinegry i think. i also do a double rinse. if you find the vinegar mix works as i did, get yourself a spritz bottle...way easier and neater than pouring.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2007 at 4:49PM
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Thanks for the suggestions I'm going to try them all.

I'm had some success with switching detergents but I'm concerned about this because my machine is a front loader and I switched to a regular detergent and not low sudsing.
I've been using regular Cheer detergent. A very small amount and adding baking soda for washers into the drum with the clothes. I've sprayed the armpits with shout and this seems to be working. I think I'll select the extra rinse next time.

I'm very interested in trying the vinegar in the spritzer bottle.
I'm going to find a better deodorant by posting in the health forum. I called the doctor and the prescription deodorant seems like a hassle to use and it only stops wetness. Right now we're using clinical strength Secret.

By the way, the rubbing alcohol worked but I'm guessing that isn't good for fabrics. Does anyone know how harmful rubbing alcohol is on clothing?

This sound like a dumb question and I was so uncomfortable even posting this issue but should I avoid purchasing clothes that have to be dry-cleaned? I honestly don't know how to avoid that since so many sweaters are dry clean only.
Silk is also questionable. I mistakenly purchased a silk dress and hand washed the trouble spots. It seems to have worked without ruining the dress.

Thanks for the help I will be sure to post my progress.


    Bookmark   September 10, 2007 at 9:25AM
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Just a note: I personally have found that silk sweaters as well as cashmere (sweaters), make me very sweaty and hot. I wear lots of sweater sets in the colder weather. Some synthetics are really comfortable, some are not. Cotton always works well for me. But I really avoid anything with a mix of silk, though they are typically very pretty.:(

    Bookmark   September 10, 2007 at 4:24PM
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I use Secret too but the Platinum clear-gel type. 'Southern Peach is my favorite' I don't have an odor problem at all anymore. But my DH - that is another story. I wash all his undershirts in hot water and it completely gets rid of it. Good luck!!

    Bookmark   September 13, 2007 at 1:27AM
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It all depends on how severe the odors are. I would try soaking the clothing one by one in the following mixtures until you find which works for water and vinegar or hot water and borax or hot water and oxiclean. Hot water from the tap won't be that hot and will cool quickly so it will be safer than washing in your machine. Odors take time which is why soaking is a first step. If the problem is on a higher level, then you advance to Nature's Miracle which is used for pet stains and odors. You can get it in a form that you use straight and pour it on the area and let it air dry or you can purchase their laundry detergent and let it soak in it. It has enezmes for odors. There are many pet products claiming to remove odors but this brand has always been recommended as the best. Dry cleanable clothing will be much harder. She should avoid it until she gets this problem under control. You will have to spray something on could be a mixture of water and vinegar but it can also be some full strength natures miracle or a spray by the name of odoban. You can also make a mixture of odoban and water and let it washables soak. You could spray the clothing before washing with odoban or natures miracle and let them air dry and the next day try washing. Make sure all the soap gets rinsed out when you are washing these as soap residue can trap odors into the fabric.

Last resort, ozone machine. Some cleaners will treat your clothing for one hour in an enclosed room with an ozone machine. Ozone will kill any odor in anything.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2007 at 8:33PM
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I agree with the previous suggestion that your daughter should stick with 100% cotton tops, blouses and sweaters. If you are in a cold winter location, 100% wool sweaters, too, but always wear a 100% cotton shirt underneath it - always.

The cotton can be washed and bleached easily. Wool sweaters can be dry cleaned. Yes, 100% natural fabrics will most likely cost a bit more but you won't have the agony of how to clean. Plus, you won't need dryer sheets - pure fabrics don't static in the dryer.

Silk and cashmere are "hot" fabrics - and almost always require dry cleaning.

I gave up blends and man-made fabrics years ago and cleaning has become so much easier. I wouldn't avoid dry clean only but I would avoid man made fabrics. Plus, in my experience, I think natural fabrics wear better and last longer.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2007 at 8:48PM
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Thanks to all who have responded to this issue. I will certainly give these methods a try.
I would have never thought of Nature's Miracle. Can't wait to try it.

Excellent suggestion to use a cotton undershirt under the natural garments needing dry cleaning. That explains why some sweaters don't have the odor problem since they are worn over blouses.

I can't find Borax but will try Walmart.

What is Odoban? Is this in the laundry section of stores?
Can you get this at Walmart or do you have to order it online?

By the way, I used the vinegar on my DS gym clothes and it didn't work. I'm not as concerned about his clothes since they are all cotton and I can always try the treatments mentioned above in the hot water. I must say that I read somewhere to use rubbing alchohol and had tried that on the football uniform. It worked!

Thanks everyone! I'll post my progress.


    Bookmark   September 15, 2007 at 7:52AM
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Odoban can be purchased at walmart. In the laundry section next to frebreze you will see a spray bottle. With the spray bottle, you spray the clothing and allow it to air dry. It will have a mint like scent but the scent will wash out or air out after a few days. The trick is to give it time to air dry. Then you can wash the article. You can also spray some odoban in with your liquid detergent. Odoban can also be purchased at sam's club. For under $10 you get a gallon concentrate that you can mix up for whatever cleaning you want to use it for and you also get the spray bottle which of course is diluted already with water.

Nature's Miracle can also be purchased in concentrate form which you can put into a spray bottle and spray it onto clothing. Again, you must give it time to air dry.

With either Odoban or Nature's Miracle you can soak clothing in it also which would be a more powerful and would eliminate the odor quicker.

Based on all the things you said you already did, you are beyond the regular type of laundry smell. You have to advance to the next level. Think of it as if you had a cat urine smell. These things will work but it is time consuming and it may take more than one treatment. Until you get the odor out, don't put into the dryer. It will heat set the odor in making it harder to remove.

Also check online about vitamin mineral supplements. I don't know much about this but I know I have read that body odor problems may indicate a lack of some nutrient. I have also read this same problem can happen to dogs. Worth a try.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2007 at 1:44PM
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Regarding Odoban: My best friend's house burned several years ago . . . the clean-up people sent by the insurance company left anything that it was cheaper to replace than clean. I took several carloads of stuff - kitchen things, clothing, etc. - home and used Odoban on it. Two gallons later my friend had things clean and smoke-free.

I've used it full strength in a spray bottle on underarm odor areas with good results. It never harmed any fabric.

It's good stuff . . . worth a try.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2007 at 10:35PM
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Before you try anything else, I would try yhe Febreze. (It's in the supermarkets with the laundry stuff.) It takes away the odor of cat pee, and that is probably much worse than perspiration. I also recommend Mitchum deodorant - I bought it by accident and it's the best. If she really has a lot of wetness, she may even want to try under arm pads with the clothing that needs dry cleaning.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2007 at 2:11AM
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Mitchum deodorant is a good recommendation. I think this problem is beyond the power of Febreze.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2007 at 10:43PM
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Progress report:

Secret Clinical Strength seems to be working. Pretreating is not working 100% yet. I have to wash a garment twice and on one occaision three times to eliminate the odor completely.

I still haven't found Odoban or purchased my Nature's Miracle yet.

For sure, Febreeze doesn't work unless you spray it on before the drying process.

Thanks everyone for the help in solving this.


    Bookmark   September 22, 2007 at 7:15AM
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Hi, found this thread during research as I began to notice perspiration odors were not coming out of high-tech sports clothing - a typical problem as those fabrics have a long-standing reputation for retaining sweat odors. Some of the clothing was given to me, perhaps because the original owner couldn't deal with the problem, so I inherited the smell. But two shirts have been mine since new and I guess I let them get sweaty recently. So thanks to OP for bringing up the topic and for all the helpful answers.

I've long been a fan of natural fibers, but being an active outdoor hiker and backpacker, have finally started using the polyester etc. high tech clothing. Many may not realize that for extreme winter snow sports, we avoid cotton, even as undies. It is called "death cloth" because it absorbs moisture and then loses its insulation value and can even freeze. Thus the move to fabrics that wick moisture away from the body and do not retain it. (And those are just the ones that get stinky.)

I used a baking soda mash on the pits, then washed all the shirts normally. That did not work. So next I put them in the front-load washer in hot water with about a third of a cup of Oxiclean dissolved in it - a strong solution - and let them sit overnight before washing. Now no pit odor. Could've been just the Oxiclean that was successful or perhaps the action of the combo.

Meanwhile I realize that prevention is the best idea so am rethinking my antiperspirant/deodorant, which for years has been unscented Mitchum roll-on. For some reason it is not quite as effective as it used to be, so I will acquire both Certain Dri and the Secret Clinical Strength to alternate with the Mitchum. I realize that I need to be careful to use both an antiperspirant AND a deodorant since I can't shower daily during the winter due to extremely dry skin. (Itching prevents sleep even after the application of lotion, usually Walmart's version of Aveeno Daily Moisturizing Lotion!)

Again, thanks.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2011 at 6:24PM
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I use 1/4 cup borax in my front loader for almost every wash load. DH has very, strong B.O. I pour the borax WITH the high efficiency, liquid detergent into the machines detergent container. Everything, cottons and synthetic comes out clean smelling.
I have not tried this on silk or wool!

    Bookmark   March 8, 2011 at 3:55PM
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One of the best tips to getting odour out of clothing is to use a product called Scent Killer 99 which is sold in the hunting section of a hardware or sports store. This even works after the clothing has been dried in a dryer. Just spray the underarm of the garment after it is dry and let it dry naturally. Like magic the odour disappears. Hunters use it so the animals will not smell them coming. My friend suggested this as she uses it on her son's smelly hockey skates and equipment. It is produced in the USA but it can be purchased in Canadian Tire in Canada.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2013 at 4:21PM
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You could also switch to a detergent targeted for athletic clothes. I use something called Sport Suds and my clothes are in better shape. (I've also switched my deodorant to Secret Clinical and that's helped alot!)

    Bookmark   April 24, 2013 at 9:59PM
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