Ah, the inevitable set-in pit stains. A topic I have not written about in a long while. Who wouldn’t like to have an effective formula for DIY deodorant stain remover solutions?
But, before we talk about how to make your own underarm stain remover at home, let’s clarify what we’re talking about.
Deodorant Marks vs. Pit Stains (Yellow) vs. Deodorant Buildup vs. Pit Stains (Sweat)
Let’s get one thing clear right off the bat – there is a big difference between deodorant marks, pit stains and deodorant buildup.
1. Deodorant Marks
Those white streaks you get on the outside of your shirts as you’re sliding the shirt down past your deodorant/antiperspirant-coated armpits.
I’ve personally experienced this mostly when using some form of stick antiperspirant or deodorant. But, it’s possible that it’ll also occur if you use spray or roll-on solutions.
Keep in mind that you can get “deodorant marks” (white streaks) on your clothes if you’re using deodorant or antiperspirant.
FACT: Antiperspirant is for sweat prevention and most antiperspirants also have odor prevention. Deodorant has odor prevention only.
2. Pit Stains (Yellow)
Those set-in stains that occur primarily as a result of using antiperspirant.
The aluminum content in the antiperspirant combined with residual underarm sweat can transfer to the underarm area of the shirt, and over time, yellowish or brownish stains can begin to appear.
These stains can even harden over time. Regular laundering or bleaching except for deodorant stain remover will not remove them. In fact, bleaching them can make them worse.
3. Deodorant Buildup
That thick, caked-on residue that forms on the pit area of your shirts over time.
It’s usually a result of using stick antiperspirant or deodorant. The wax-like substance of these solutions will transfer to the shirt during the day, and won’t fully wash out while laundering.
Repeat this a bunch of times, and eventually you’ll have a gooey, cakey, waxy buildup in the pit-area of your shirts.
4. Pit Stains (Sweat)
The term “pit stains” is also widely used to refer to the sweat stains that show up on the underarm area of someone’s shirt who is sweating a lot.
There’s really no need to address this particular issue, since it’s just wetness showing through on the pits of your shirts, that will dry once you cool down.
Removing Deodorant Marks
Removing deodorant marks (#1 above) is pretty simple actually. In fact, there are easily thousands of articles out on web that provide ideas on how to quickly remove those white streak deodorant marks from your shirt.
The most common recommendations to remove deodorant marks from your shirts are to:
- Rub another part of your shirt on the mark
- Take a nylon stocking or cotton sock and rub it on the mark
- Used fabric softener sheets
- Find a piece of foam rubber, like that grippy foam on the top of hangers, and rub that on the mark
Here’s a video showing a good example of how to remove white deodorant marks from a black shirt using a used fabric softener sheet and a sock.
Removing Pit Stains (Yellow) & Antiperspirant Buildup
Although still generally referred to in the public domain as “removing deodorant stains”, there are just as many, if not more articles out there claiming easy at-home solutions for removing pit stains and deodorant build-up.
The most common recommendations are using homemade deodorant stain remover like ammonia/water, baking soda/peroxide/dishsoap, lemon juice, meat tenderizer, etc.
While those concoctions may work on some minor stains, they are simply NOT effective most of the time.
In other words, don’t waste your time trying them. See the Pit Stain Problem YouTube channel where the folks tested a bunch of these solutions.
I wrote an article about Removing Deodorant Stains a while back, keeping it fairly up-to-date over the years.
- Deo-Go Underarm Stain Remover. I tested it and it worked
- Raise Pit Stain Remover
- OxiClean (overnight soak is most effective)
Make Your Own Deodorant Stain Remover
A reader wrote in recently and shared with me his own DIY underarm and deodorant stain remover solution that has a similar ingredients to Deo-Go:
Just wanted to share some DIY tips. I love Deo-Go and it really works. But, the small size of the bottle, the price, and the fact that you have to order it online were a bummer for me.
After doing some research (their patent is online), I learned that the key ingredients are a strong mineral acid and surfactant. I tried several combos like CLR and Dawn with no result.
But, I have found a much, much cheaper solution that works 90% as well as Deo-Go:
50% Lime-a-way, 40% water, 10% Tide Free and Clear
[Note from Tug: Tide makes “Free & Gentle” and All makes “Free & Clear”]
The Tide was the best surfactant and seemed to be the most color safe because it does not contain oxy, bleach or brighteners – it also rinses the cleanest.
Saturate both sides of fabric with solution and rub with brush.
Let it sit for 20 minutes and you will see the residue soften (I was actually able to squeeze some out of the seam like toothpaste. Yuck!).
Spray both sides again and likely scrub, and then wash as usual.
Worked on some pretty serious gunk. Definitely wear gloves and use in a well-ventilated area.
What a great find and thanks to Michel for sending in his at-home pit stain / deodorant buildup solution!
I have not personally tried this yet, but I have a feeling it’ll work, based on the research Michel did.
If you give it a go, be sure to let me know how the Lime-a-way / Water / Tide mixture works for you — either in the comments section below, or send me note.
Krud Kutter To Remove Deodorant Spots
Got this update from CLS (who commented below) who tried using Krud Kutter as a deodorant stain remover to scrub marks from her husband’s shirts:
Just wanted to give an update but couldn’t post a picture to go along with it.
My comment stated that I was going to try the Lime-a-way mixture but I’ve been to 3 local stores and none of them have that specific lime a way.
I could only find the spray cleaner that’s not as concentrated.
I have a few more stores to check locally before ordering it online.
However, one of the readers comments on that page stated they used the Krud Kutter.
My hubby happened to have some this Krud Kutter (link) in the garage, so I thought why not give it a shot.
While there is some very very slight residue left on the shirts, I’m very happy with the results.
Krud Kutter: Before & After Photos
I did not scrub them together, I did not brush them, simply sprayed them, left sit for about 10 mins before tossing in the washer.
My plans are to keep a spray bottle of this next to my washer and give them all a spray prior to tossing in the machine, hopefully all residue will be gone after a few washes.
Or I may give them all a good scrubbing with a brush and soak them a little longer (but he’s due for new work shirts at the end of the month, so I wasn’t feeling that adventurous or is that energetic?) :-)
I wished Deo-Go wasn’t so expensive, but I may have to give it a shot on my sons favorite old T-shirts.
Thanks for the informative page!
PS. If I do the lime a way I’ll definitely let you know how it goes.– CLS
Great info from CLS!
Use A Water & Hydrochloric Acid Mixture To Remove Deodorant Stains
A chemist by the name of ALH stopped by here to let us know about a solution s/he created using a combination of water and Hydrochloric acid.
Using a very strong HCl (much stronger than what’s commonly available on Amazon), they used approximately 1 ounce of HCl per gallon of water. That’s about 10 milliliters of acid per liter of water.
- SEE SAFETY PRECAUTIONS BELOW IN THE COMMENTS
- Take a large 5-gallon plastic bucket
- First fill it with water (amount of water depends on how many shirts you want to remove deodorant stains from)
- Add in the appropriate amount of HCl based on the strength of the HCl, getting the pH to around 1
- Stir mixture
- Soak your shirts for a day
- Safely remove the shirts from the mixture & rinse thoroughly
- Deodorant build-up should turn into a thick white paste. Remove with a scrub brush
Hydrochloric Acid Strengths & Approximate Mixture Ratios
- HCl 1.0 Molar (amazon) – 10 parts water, 1 part acid
- HCl 2.0 Molar (amazon) – 20 parts water, 1 part acid
- HCl 31% (amazon) – 85-90 parts water, 1 part acid
- HCl 37% (amazon) – 100 parts water, 1 part acid
- pH strips (amazon)
I emailed ALH, and asked about the different strengths of HCl, some being measured in Molar (M) and others being measured in percent.
2 M is indeed twice the concentration of 1 M so you’d use 20 parts water to 1 part acid.
The 37% is actually 12 M — the really wicked concentrated stuff.
I know, you’d think concentrated would be 100% not 37%, but actually hydrochloric acid is a solution of gaseous hydrogen chloride in water. And 37% is about the saturation point of the gas in water.
You dilute the 37% HCl in about 100 parts water to one part acid. When mixing, always add acid to water, not water to acid. It’s a lot safer that way.
It’s going to be cheaper to use the concentrated product but it is not as safe. That said, people do use 37% HCl (also called “muriatic acid”) for pool maintenance so it is not like it’s something only professional chemists use.
People could buy some pH test strips to double-check their solution before adding their shirts (Not necessary but maybe a good idea). Here’s one from Amazon that is specifically for use in the acid range.
You want a pH around 1 but I would not risk anything lower than that. My son’s shirts came out fine—even a dark blue one. These were cotton T-shirts but I don’t know how other fabrics might react.
More details listed below in this comment.
Final List: Deodorant, Antiperspirant, & Pit Stain Removing Solutions
So, to summarize, the list of possible REAL solutions to remove deodorant pit stains from shirts are:
- Lime-a-way mixture
- Krud Kutter
- Use 1 part Hydrochloric Acid (HCl) to 100 parts water. See this comment for details
- Deo-Go, Raise, or Axi Clean (axiclean.com, from Spain)
- Oxi-Clean (may not address deep, set-in stains)
- Using Polident? Remove Antiperspirant Stains with Polident
Be sure to read through all the comments too because lots of folks have shared their deodorant stain removal attempt results.
Be sure to share your results or questions in the comments section below.
This article has been updated, re-written, and republished. The original comments below have been maintained for historical purposes.