how to remove and prevent yellow armpit stains

It’s a sartorial problem that many men have, but few talk about. Yellow armpit stains.

You or someone you know has probably suffered the shame and embarrassment of wearing a dress shirt with dingy yellow stains radiating from the armpits. Instead of your office mates listening in awe as you tell them about the fish you caught that “was this big!” they’re staring at your eye-catching golden pits. When your gal asks to wear your sport coat to keep warm while you walk on a cool night, you balk, knowing that your yellow armpits of shame will be revealed. Missing out on a chance to be chivalrous…that’s the pits.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Are you ready to once again experience the joy and exhilaration of giving a confident, unabashed high-five in a shirt and tie? Would you like to save money by restoring your shirts to pristine whiteness instead of having to buy new ones?

Today we’re going to show you how you can easily remove yellow armpit stains and what you can do to prevent them. High-five!

What Causes Yellow Armpit Stains?

yellow arm pit stains on white t shirt gland problem

Sorry Pitstains. It isn’t a gland problem.

Contrary to popular belief, it’s not your sweat itself that causes yellow stains. Most experts agree that that culprit behind your yellow pits is the aluminum used in antiperspirants combined with your sweat. Can you believe that? The very substance that keeps your pits nice and dry also wreaks havoc on your shirts. This presents a bit of a Catch-22. While foregoing antiperspirants can eliminate the risk of yellow stains later on, you’ll have to manage the wet semi-circles due to excessive sweating in the short-term.

How to Remove Yellow Armpit Stains

There are lots of “Grandma Tricks” out there on how to remove yellow armpit stains. I tried a few of them on a white dress shirt that had over six years of pit stain build-up in the armpits. The only time I wear this shirt is when I’m wearing a suit coat, and I make sure to leave the coat on even if it’s hotter than a football practice in the middle of the day during an Oklahoma heatwave in August. I don’t know why I held on to this shirt. It’s pretty nasty.  Maybe my subconscious knew I was going to write a post about removing pit stains one day.

Here are the results of my experiment:


Don’t even try.

I didn’t try using bleach, but I thought I should mention this method first. For some guys, the natural response to fighting yellow stains is to just use lots of bleach. Don’t do it. It will actually make your pit stains even more yellow.

Ammonia+Dishwashing Soap

ammonia palmolive soap bottle remove yellow armpit stains

Will this dynamic duo destroy my armpit stains?

Result: Fail

The University of Illinois Extension Stain Solutions Department (yes, there’s really a university department dedicated to fighting stains) recommends a pit stain removing regimen that consists of scraping off any residue from the shirt with a dull butter knife and then soaking the stained areas in a quart of lukewarm water, half a teaspoon of dishwashing detergent, and one tablespoon ammonia for 15 minutes. While it’s soaking, you gently rub the stain from the back to loosen it up and then soak for another 15 minutes. Rinse and launder.

white dress shirt soaking in ammonia dishwasher detergent

Yellow stain in ammonia and dishwasher detergent.

white dress shirt yellow armpit stains after ammonia soaking

After: This just made the yellow stain angry.

I had high hopes for this method, but alas, I was disappointed. The yellow stain didn’t diminish at all. In fact, it started to look even worse than before. I don’t recommend this method.


tub of oxiclean versatile stain remover

Result: Success!

OxiClean, the miracle cleaner pitched by the best beard in infomercial history (RIP Billy Mays), claims that it can remove the stubbornest of yellow armpit stains. I put that claim to the test.

All you have to do is fill up a sink with warm water and mix it with one scoop of OxiClean. Place your blighted shirt in the sink, making sure the yellow stains are completely submerged. For mild stains, just let the shirt sit for an hour; for DEFCON 5 stains, let your shirt sit overnight. After you’re done soaking, rinse your shirt and launder as usual.

Because my experiment shirt still had yellow pit stains, I used it in the OxiClean experiment. I followed the directions on the box. The one thing I did differently was actually rub a thick mixture of OxiClean and water on the stain before putting it in the more diluted mixture. Why? I don’t know. It seemed like it would do something.  I let the shirt sit overnight. After waking up from dreams of battling a sleuth of cyborg bears in a jai alai death match, I went to check on my shirt. The intense yellow stains that once graced my pits had nearly vanished. I rinsed the shirt off and threw it into the wash. When I took it out, the stains were pretty much gone. Six years of yellow pit stains were blasted away with just a scoop of OxiClean and a little help from the ghost of Billy Mays’ beard.

white dress shirt in oxiclean mixture soak

Before soaking in the OxiClean mixture, I rubbed some of the powder directly on the stain. I have no scientific evidence that this does anything. Just seemed like it might help.

white dress shirt armpit stain after oxiclean soak

A six year stain, practically all gone.

OxiClean is color safe, so you can take care of those yellow stains on your blue oxford shirts, too. The only precaution to keep in mind when using OxiClean on color clothing is that some clothing fades more easily when using products like OxiClean. Test for colorfastness in an inconspicuous area before using the product.

Raise Yellow Stain Remover

raise armpit stain remover bottle

Result: Success

There are a few products on the market that are specifically formulated to remove yellow pit stains. I ordered a bottle of one these products. It’s called Raise. A 12 ounce bottle costs $12.50 plus shipping. To use it, you simply lay your shirt on a towel and apply a bit of Raise on the armpit stains, brush the stain a bit, and then let sit for 15-20 minutes. Finish everything off by laundering as usual.

Because my original experiment shirt had been cured of its yellow armpit stains, I unearthed another white shirt that had some medium staining to test out Raise.

yellow armpit stains on white dress shirt

Raise Before

armpit stain on white dress shirt after raise remover

Raise After

I followed the directions on the bottle. When I took my shirt out of the wash, the stain had faded but was still a little visible. Perhaps if I applied Raise more liberally and let it sit for longer, I would have seen better results. But overall, I wasn’t completely happy with the product. Oxiclean and Raise had about the same results, but Oxiclean was tasked with cleaning up a stain that was ten times worse.

Final Recommendation: OxiClean

OxiClean works. It’s simple, cheaper than Raise, and can take care of the gnarliest armpit stains. Plus, you can use it to clean a million other things.

How to Prevent Yellow Armpit Stains

So we know we can remove armpit stains if we need to. But it’s probably more time and cost effective to prevent them from appearing in the first place. As the old saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of yellowed armpits,” or something like that. There are a few things you can do to prevent yellow armpit stains from forming in the first place.

Wear an undershirt. Just simply wearing an undershirt can work for some men. The extra layer between their skin and a nice dress shirt is all that’s needed to prevent the yellow menace from forming in their axial region. If regular undershirts aren’t cutting it for you, you can always try some specialty undershirts with sweat guards built in.

Unfortunately, for many men, an undershirt isn’t enough to prevent the dreaded pit stain. For these men, other actions are required.

Stop using aluminum antiperspirants. As we mentioned above, the biggest culprit for yellow armpit stains is your sweat mixing with the aluminum in antiperspirants.  So naturally, if you want to banish yellow pit stains, you’ll need to stop using aluminum-based antiperspirants. But it’s somewhat of a Faustian choice between swamp pits or yellow stains.

Use a stain prevention antiperspirant. The deodorant and antiperspirant industry has been in an arms race against yellow pit stains for the past few years. Recognizing that their product may be contributing to yellow stains, antiperspirant companies have been spending big money figuring out how to provide wetness protection and prevent yellow stains from forming. Speed Stick has an antiperspirant on the market that claims to keep wetness at bay while preventing yellow stains.

Use deodorant + Gold Bond. One way to get dryness protection while avoiding the risk of yellow stains is to use your regular odor preventing deodorant in conjunction with some Gold Bond powder (you should have some in your cabinet–it’s one of the 5 Products No Man’s Bathroom Should Be Without). The Gold Bond does a good job at stopping wetness without using stain-causing aluminum salts. Plus, it feels invigoratingly good.

Keep your pits trimmed. You don’t need to shave them, but keeping your pit hair trimmed can help reduce wetness and the need for antiperspirants.

Wash shirts immediately after wearing them. Stains are harder to remove once they set, so the sooner you wash your shirts, the less likely it is that stains will form. Before you put your shirts in the wash, rub some detergent, stain remover, OxiClean into the pits.

How to Remove Sweat Stains From White Shirts — And Everything Else

Because yellow marks are the pits.



Everybody sweats, but no one likes to slip on a favorite shirt to discover those telltale yellowing underarm stains. Sweat marks accumulate not only because you’re working hard (kudos!), but also the antiperspirant you’re using can also contribute to the build-up — not fair, we know.

To help save your perspiration-soaked clothes from the trash, Carolyn Forte, Director of the Cleaning Products and Textiles Labs at the Good Housekeeping Institute, shared her go-to removal methods. Here’s the best way to get sweat stains out of white and colored shirts, plus your favorite hats:

What You’ll Need to Remove Sweat Stains

How to Remove Sweat Stains: Colors

Start by checking the tag. Dry-clean only stuff should go straight to the pros. If it’s safe to tackle at home, first sponge the area with white vinegar, especially if you see white salt lines or the fabric feels stiff. Then pretreat with an enzyme prewash stain remover like Carbona Stain Wizard or rub liquid enzyme detergent like GH Seal Star Tide into the stain. Wash right away using the hottest water that’s safe for the fabric.

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After the cycle, air dry the shirts to ensure the marks have disappeared. Putting them in the dryer before removing the stain completely can set it for good.

For extra stubborn marks, you may also want to add Clorox 2 Stain Remover and Color Booster to the wash cycle. It’s especially made for colored clothes and other items not safe to chlorine bleach.

You can also soak the clothes in a detergent and water solution before washing for additional stain-fighting power:

  1. Fill a small tub with about one gallon of warm water.
  2. Add 2-3 tablespoons of liquid detergent and mix.
  3. Let soak for 30 minutes to an hour before washing.

How to Remove Sweat Stains: Whites

You’ll want to follow a similar method for getting your white shirts white once again as well. Sponge the sweat stains with white vinegar before pretreating with an enzyme prewash stain remover like Carbona or liquid enzyme detergent like Tide. Then wash on the hottest cycle that’s safe for the fabric, adding regular Clorox Bleach for especially stubborn marks. Soaking the tees in a detergent and water solution before washing can also help remove yellowing areas. Air dry until you’re sure they’re gone, as the heat of the dryer can make those pit stains permanent.

How to Remove Sweat Stains: Hats

one grey cap on wooden table on white

If your favorite baseball cap is starting to look a little worse for wear, don’t throw it in the washing machine just yet. The cycle can distort the shape — no bueno. It’s best to hand wash (if it’s safe according to the label) and then scrub the stained area with a soft brush (like an old toothbrush or dish brush) before rinsing. Once the stain is gone, blot the hat with a towel, re-shape, and air dry.