How to get rid of armpit stains on your white shirts

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The Secret to Removing Unsightly Armpit Stains

We can't keep count of how many comfy white tees and crisp white button-ups we throw into the trash with yellowish brown armpit stains (it's a lot). Everything seems fine after the first few washes, but then (seemingly out of nowhere) your shirt is ruined around the sleeves. You might accept that this is the natural life cycle of your whites, but no! There are a few steps you can take to save your shirts from the garbage.

Your antiperspirant is the real culprit.

Those stains aren't just caused by sweat. It's actually a deeper combination of your bodily fluids and the chemicals in your antiperspirant. "Some antiperspirants contain aluminum-based compounds that react with the urea found in sweat to form a yellow stain," P&G principal scientist Mary Johnson tells SELF. Antiperspirants with aluminum on the ingredient list work by plugging your sweat glands, preventing perspiration altogether. "If a deodorant or antiperspirant does not do a good job of preventing sweat, you'll see an increase in yellowing," says Johnson.

Related: Here's What You Actually Need To Know About Breast Cancer And Antiperspirants

Loosen the yellow spots with a vinegar soak.

As soon as you see the first sign of yellowing, go to the kitchen and grab the vinegar. The acid in this kitchen staple breaks the bonds between the cotton fibers, sweat, and antiperspirant, says Johnson. Allow the vinegar to soak in for at least 20 minutes. Next, rub the white tee with a stain-removal product, and soak for another 20 minutes. (No one said that this would be a quick process). Finally, Johnson recommends washing the shirt in the warmest water possible according to the care label. Repeat if necessary.

Don't use chlorine to whiten your whites.

We know your mom taught you something completely different, but chlorine can actually make armpit rings worse. "Avoid using chlorine bleach as it can intensify the yellow color of some stains," says Johnson. "Most care label instructions advise you to use only non-chlorine bleach." Try Tide Boost Vivid White + Bright Pac as an alternative to your classic chlorine product.

Related: 6 Ways You're Ruining Those $100 Leggings

Don't stick your shirts in the dryer.

The heat from the dryer can make it easier for the stain to set, says Johnson. So wait until the yellow spots have totally vanished before you hit tumble-dry low or hang dry after stain removal.

Check out 6 all-natural cleaning products you could be making at home:

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The 6 All-Natural Cleaning Products You Should Be Making at Home
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How to get rid of armpit stains on your white shirts

1. Basic Wood Cleaner

1/2 cup lemon juice (from about 4 lemons)
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon natural liquid soap or detergent (I used Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint Castille Soap.)
A few drops olive oil 

Combine the ingredients in a bowl. Saturate a sponge with the mixture, squeeze out excess, and wash surfaces.

You can use either vinegar or lemon juice in this recipe. A vinegar solution will keep between uses in an airtight jar, but if you use lemon, like I did, you’ll want to make only as much as you need for one cleaning. The original recipe also recommends 3 to 5 drops of essential oil for fragrance, but the fresh lemon scent was good enough for me.

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Photo Credit: Mark Weinberg/Food52

2. Super-Duper Dirty-Window Cleaner

1/4 teaspoon washing soda
1/2 cup hot water
1/4 teaspoon liquid soap or detergent
2 cups club soda

Dissolve the washing soda in the hot water, then pour into spray bottle. Add the liquid soap and club soda. Shake to combine, then spray and wipe clean.  

I’d never heard of washing soda and was convinced I wouldn’t be able to find it at the store—but it was right next to the borax in the cleaning aisle! (Arm & Hammer makes a popular version.) Just a quarter teaspoon of it in this magic spray cleaned all my glass surfaces with no streaks.

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Photo Credit: Mark Weinberg/Food52

3. Toilet Bowl Sizzler

1/2 cup baking soda 
1/2 cup white distilled vinegar

Pour the ingredients into the toilet. Let sizzle, then scrub. Flush.

First of all, how do you not love that name? Remember those volcanoes you used to make in elementary school? Imagine that chemical reaction plus extreme cleaning power! I’ve never had so much fun cleaning my toilet. (Correction: I’ve never had any fun cleaning my toilet.)

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Photo Credit: Mark Weinberg/Food52

4. Mildew-Removing Soft Scrubber

Borax
Enough liquid soap or detergent to make a paste with a frosting-like consistency
A few drops tea tree oil

Place the borax in a bowl; slowly pour in the liquid soap, stirring all the while, until the consistency reaches that of a frosting. Add the oil and stir to combine. Scoop the creamy mixture onto a sponge, scrub the surface, and rinse. 

Bond has a recipe for a basic soft scrubber, too, but I need extra power in the bathroom if I’m not using bleach. Borax, which you can find in the cleaning aisle of your grocery store, is surprisingly mighty for a natural ingredient.

Photo Credit: Mark Weinberg/Food52

5. All-Purpose Alkaline Cleaner

1/2 teaspoon washing soda (or baking soda if you want something gentler)
2 teaspoon borax
1/2 teaspoon liquid soap or detergent
2 cups hot water

Combine the washing soda, borax, and soap in a spray bottle. Pour in the hot water (it will dissolve the minerals), screw on the lid, and shake to completely blend and dissolve. Spritz every 6 inches of the surface once or twice, wiping off the cleanser with a rag as you go. For stains, leave the cleanser on for a few minutes before wiping it off. Shake the bottle before each use.

Bond has many variations of all-purpose cleaner recipes, but I found that this one best cleaned my shower tiles, bathroom sink, quartz countertops, and laminate furniture surfaces.

Photo Credit: Mark Weinberg/Food52

6. Stainless Steel Cleaner

Vinegar
Olive Oil

Spray the surface liberally with vinegar. Using a soft cloth, rub in the direction of the grain to clean. Polish by dipping the cloth in olive oil and rubbing again in the direction of the grain. 

Bond didn’t have a recipe for this, but my kit wouldn’t be complete without something to wipe away the smudges on our appliances. I've heard that vinegar will help, but for extra luster, The Kitchn had the answer.

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