How to Prevent Sweat Stains

Skin Problems Image Gallery This guy could probably use some antiperspirant. See more pictures of skin problems.
Skin Problems Image Gallery This guy could probably use some antiperspirant. See more pictures of skin problems.
David Ellis/Getty Images

Picture this: You're a man about town and you have a wedding to attend. Your only suit is in a small dusty heap on a shelf in your hanger-less closet. You dig it out as if you're handling hazardous materials, lacking only the thick elbow-length gloves and industrial respirator. Your lone dress shirt is even worse for the wear, but you hang it all up in your shower and crank up the heat with hopes for a wrinkle-free evening. You're almost there, but there's one more piece to this ugly puzzle. The undershirt. After a slow pull on your bottom drawer, you find it lying dead beneath your emergency-only tightie whities. This soldier has seen some rough duty. Wrinkled, off-white at this point, and with the signature, most embarrassing feature a shirt can possess -- the crunchy, mustard-colored sweat stains spilling out from both armpits. This is not a male-only phenomenon. Women, too, are saddled with the dreaded stains.

Sweat stains are quick way to turn off a date or potential paramour. Sweat stains make you appear like you're a moist and rank human being. Sweat stains kill unicorns. If all this is true, wouldn't you want to avoid them at all costs? The answer is yes. And the good news is you can. Sure, there are some ways of removing sweat stains. But once you get the right mix of deodorant residue and perspiration, your poor shirt is in for it. It's crossed over and can't be revived. The trick to sweat-stain management is to avoid it in the first place so you never have to suffer the indignity of soaking the yellow cotton pits with vinegar and bleach. Read this article if you have any self respect. Stop sweat stains.


Sweat Stain Prevention

Movie Star Tom Cruise appears confident in his wetness.
Movie Star Tom Cruise appears confident in his wetness.
Koichi Kamoshida/Stringer/Getty Images

In order to stop sweat stains before they ever happen, there are a few things you can try. The first thing you need to realize is that it's not really the sweat that causes the stain. Sweat is clear and on a clean shirt, you won't get any worse than some white salty residue on occasion, which comes out in a regular wash cycle. The real culprit here is the combination of that moisture with the deodorant or antiperspirant you're using. Even a clear gel deodorant can leave stains if you don't take the proper steps.

The reason why you get the sweat stain is because of a misapplication of your underarm product. The majority of the stain comes from putting on too much deodorant and throwing on your shirt before it has a chance to dry. You're basically coating the underarm of your shirt with a layer of wet deodorant that will dry into a thin crust before becoming moist again from your perspiration. You're dead in the water. The trick is to only use a single thin application of the product. There's no evidence that applying more works better at stopping sweat or neutralizing body odor. As long as you have appropriate coverage, it doesn't need to be globbed on.


The next thing you need to do is let the deodorant or antiperspirant dry completely. We mean really completely. This may mean parading around the house with your shirt off, flapping your arms like a farm hen. So be it. We're talking the end of sweat stains, so it's a small price to pay -- just build it into your morning routine.

There are a couple of other things you can try in addition to this if you want to prevent sweat rings from happening. Dress shields have been around for a long time and do a good job at preserving the underarm area of your shirt. These soft cotton, disposable pads can be stuck to or sewn into the underarm of your shirt to soak up excess perspiration. And there's a company in Switzerland has invented the "Laulas Let It Flow T-Shirt" that has a built in pocket for stuffing toilet paper to do the same job. If you don't like the idea of either of these extra steps, you should just go easy on the deodorant and antiperspirant and allow it to fully dry before you dress.


Lots More Information

Related HowStuffWorks Articles


  • "Expert Answer: Pit Stains are Stoppable." 2009.
  • "How to Prevent Armpit Stains and/or Sweat Stains." Dec. 10, 2008. sweat-stains
  • "How to prevent sweat stains." 2009.
  • "Is the solution to armpit stains finally at hand?" 2009.
  • "Removing Underarm Stains - Sweat Stain Removal." 2009.
  • "Underarm Shields." 2009.