What causes yellow stains on white clothes?
The most common causes are sweat, deodorant, and tight-fitting tops.
Also known as perspiration, sweat on its own is both colorless and odorless, however, it’s full of chemicals that can react with other substances to create yellow stains. Sweat is 99% water, but the remaining 1% contains urea, uric acid, ammonia, lactic acid, sugars, salts, and more, all of which can react with chemicals in your clothes, beauty products, or laundry detergent.
Sweat and Deodorant
For its moisture-blocking and odor-reducing properties, aluminum is a common ingredient in women’s deodorants and antiperspirants. When sweat mixes with your deodorant, the aluminum traps your sweat in your clothes and causes staining. Aluminum traps moisture (in this case chemical-filled sweat) in the fibers of your garment, creating those yellow underarm stains we don’t love.
Wearing tops that fit snugly against your body makes it easier to trap sweat and bacteria in the fabric, causing yellow stains to develop over time. Allowing your underarms to breathe by limiting the amount of time spent wearing fitted tops can help reduce bacteria and sweat in vulnerable areas.
How do I prevent yellow stains from forming?
Prevention is the best remedy! Stop yellow stains from forming in the first place with these hot (cool) tips:
1. Wear looser-fitting tops, limit the time you wear tight-fitting tops or opt for wearing an undershirt.
Looser fitting tops allow your underarms to have space to breathe, providing easier access for cooling airflow and preventing sweat from developing around your body. However, don’t let this stop you from wearing your favorite long sleeve top! Wearing an undershirt creates a protective barrier between your body and your white garments by absorbing sweat that would otherwise cause yellow stains. We recommend wearing a thin cotton tank top or tee shirt underneath your shirts. Not only does it protect your clothes, but it keeps you comfortable and can provide you with extra coverage when wearing see-through tops like our Schwa Tuxedo Shirt in Silk Organza.
2. Get a stronger antiperspirant or deodorant without aluminum.
If you find yourself having moisture underneath your underarms while wearing antiperspirant or deodorant, you can try using a stronger formula. This will ensure no moisture forms in your underarm areas, preventing those pesky yellow stains from developing on your whites. Opting for underarm products that don’t have aluminum can help prevent yellow stains from forming. Aluminum blocks your sweat ducts from producing moisture which may escape if the formula isn’t strong enough.
3. Pretreat white clothes with a stain remover before washing and follow care tips for whites.
Upkeeping the quality of your clothes will make it harder for yellow stains to settle in. Make sure to start taking care of your whites as soon as possible to avoid having to remove well-formed stains. It’s best to use non-chlorine bleach to treat whites instead of regular bleach as it's safer for most fabrics and is generally environmentally friendly. We recommend this one from our friends at Celsious, which is non-toxic, biodegradable, and cruelty-free.
Celsious Supersalt Oxygen Brightener
You can also pretreat clothes by following any of the steps below!
How do I get rid of yellow stains on my white clothes?
Though we mentioned this above, it’s best practice to apply stain removers on yellow stains as the first course of action. Pretreating stains can get rid of any build-up on your clothes and restore some brightness to your whites. You can use any of your choosing, but here are some of our favorites.
Wunderbar Stain Stick from Celsious
Stain Removal Spray from Celsious
Laundry Stain Remover Spray from Seventh Generation
1. White Toothpaste (Quick fix: Best for small and lighter stains)
Note: Make sure that the toothpaste is only white and does not contain any dyes as this may transfer color over to your clothes.
Grab a toothbrush and apply toothpaste. Brush the yellow spot down and let it sit for 30 minutes. Run cold water over the treatment area. If the stain persists, reapply the paste and let it sit for a more extended period of time.
Toothpaste is a quick and easy fix because of the hydrogen peroxide present in its formula. Hydrogen peroxide is a mild bleach that can spread through multiple layers of a surface and tackle staining properties such as yellow stains on your white clothes. Toothpaste is what keeps your teeth white and now helps you remove yellow stains out of your white clothes!
2. Water and White Vinegar
Grab ¼ cup of white vinegar and equal parts of water. Then, mix the two substances into a bowl or spray bottle. Apply the mixture onto the yellow stains and let it sit for an hour. Wash the garment in cold water and dry it as usual.
3. Stain-removing Cocktail: Dish soap, Baking Soda, and Hydrogen-Peroxide (Best for tough yellow stains)
In a bowl or spray bottle, mix in: 3 tablespoons of dish soap 3 tablespoons of baking soda ½ cup of hydrogen peroxide ¼ cup of cold water Generously apply your whitening cocktail to the yellow stain and let it sit for an hour. Wash the garment in cold water as usual and dry.