How To Get Yellow Stains Out Of White Shirts

White shirts are great for casual occasions, but they can also be problematic.

White shirts are a staple for any wardrobe, however they do tend to get marked quite easily, not to mention the yellow sweat stains that you often see appear on the shirt after a few wears.

The yellow stain is unsightly and will typically cause the owner of the white shirt to throw it away or even stop wearing the color altogether. 

Depending on the fabric, some white shirts may be more prone to yellow stains.

Cotton-based t-shirts have a tendency to absorb liquids like food or sweat very easily, and so it becomes important to wash them regularly.

How To Get Yellow Stains Out Of White Shirts

There are several ways to remove these stains from white shirts. One method may be to try using a detergent that contains bleach or hydrogen peroxide.

Alternatively, soak the stained area in water until the color disappears or by applying some found-in-the-home ingredients onto the stain such as applying some lemon juice to the spot and let it sit overnight.

Or, you can even use baking soda to neutralize the acidity of the lemon juice.

This article details the best ways to remove yellow stains from white shirts, tips, and tricks and other information needed to effectively remove them out of your clothing for good. 

Why Are There Yellow Stains On My White Shirt?

How To Get Yellow Stains Out Of White Shirts

The first thing you need to know about removing yellow stains from white shirts is that there are two types of yellow stains: permanent and temporary. 

Permanent stains are usually caused by foods like ketchup or mustard or perspiration, which contain an acidic substance that causes the color to stay on the shirt permanently. 

Temporary stains are caused by things like coffee, tea or wine, which contain substances that break down over time and leave behind a yellowish residue.

As mentioned, perspiration or sweat is a more permanent stain. This is because it is a substance that contains all kinds of salts and minerals, including ammonia and lactic acid. 

Sweating is the way the body cools down-once it is on the skin, it will evaporate and cool the body down. This is especially apparent underneath your armpits.

Armpits are the only part of the body that frequently need to apply products, such as antiperspirant deodorants, to prevent the sweat from building up on your clothes. 

When you wear clothes, especially tight-fitting clothing, sweat cannot evaporate and instead, soaks into your clothing.

Additionally, if you are wearing a fabric that contains more synthetic materials, such as polyester, that is not breathable, you will get yellow armpit stains on white clothes. 

At first, the stain may not be visible but overtime, layers of sweat stain will cause the area to yellow.

Even though these stains are more prevalent on white shirts, they may also appear on other colors, items of clothing and any kind of tight-fitting, moisture absorbing fabric will be subject to sweat stains. 

The severity of the stain is often made worse by antiperspirants. They block your pores and thus create a build up, and the sweat mixes with the chemicals in the product

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How Do I Get Rid Of Yellow Stains From A White Shirt?

When dealing with yellow stains on white shirts, it’s always best to start by washing the shirt immediately.

You don’t want to wait too long because if you do, the stain could set into the material and become permanent. 

If you’re unsure whether, or not, the stain is permanent, then you should take the shirt to a professional dry cleaner who has experience cleaning white shirts.

Dry cleaners are experts at handling this type of situation and can help you determine whether, or not, the stain needs to be removed.

If the stain is caused by something that’s going to come off easily (like coffee), you can simply rub the spot with a damp cloth and wash normally.

However, if the stain is made up of something that won’t come off easily (like sweat) then you’ll need to apply a product designed specifically for removing yellow stains from white clothes.

However, there are several at home methods you can use to get yellow stains out of fabric. These have been detailed below. 

Hydrogen Peroxide

How To Get Yellow Stains Out Of White Shirts

If you decide to go ahead and attempt to remove the yellow stain yourself, you can either use a laundry detergent containing bleach or hydrogen peroxide.

Bleach works well when the yellow stain is light, but it doesn’t work very well on darker stains. Hydrogen Peroxide works great on both dark and light stains.

It can even be used to clean out stains left by permanent markers. Just make sure you read the instructions on the bottle carefully.

It is important to only use this product on white or light shirts as it can cause color pigments to leach out and leave permanent marks on your 

Mixing With Water

By diluting equal parts Hydrogen Peroxide and cold water in a bowl and mixing these together in a bowl, you can create an effective stain remover.

Usually, 2 teaspoons of each will suffice for one white item of clothing. The shirt should be soaked in this solution for at least 45 minutes and thereafter washed on a cold setting. 

Before drying, ensure that the stain has been removed. If it is still there, repeat the process until you are satisfied before allowing it to air dry. 

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Mixing With Salt And Baking Soda

This effective stain remover is great because the salt and baking soda are abrasive and are ideal for scrubbing off tough stains.

Mix two teaspoons hydrogen peroxide, 1.5 teaspoons salt and 1.5 cups baking soda in a bowl into a paste.

Dampen the stain area with cold water and using an old toothbrush or nail brush, apply the mixture to the stain in gentle and circular motions until the mixture completely covers the stain. 

Next, allow it to stand for at least a half hour before scrubbing the mixture into the stain. The shirt should be rinsed and then washed on a cold setting with your usual detergent before line drying.

Mixing With Dishwashing Soap And Baking Soda

The addition of dishwashing liquid to a hydrogen peroxide and baking soda mix is genius because it is a surfactant and will remove any oil-based stain residues as well as enzymes, which means it is especially effective on sweat stains.

All that needs to be done is to mix a cup of dishwashing soap with two cups of hydrogen peroxide. An old toothbrush is then used to apply this mixture onto the stain.

Once this is done, baking soda is put on top and mixed into the mixture over the stain. This needs to sit for at least an hour–stubborn stains may need longer. 

After an hour has passed, rub the mixture into the stain with gentle circular motions, rinse the shirt in cold water and then machine wash on a cold setting and allow the air to dry. 

Baking Soda

As seen, baking soda can be used in mixtures with hydrogen peroxide to remove stains. It is however just as effective on its own.

By mixing a 1/4 cup cold water and about 4 tablespoons of baking soda, you are making an alkaline solution with which your white shirt can be treated with.

The solution needs to be applied to the yellow stain and left for at least an hour. Once the hour has passed, the shirt can be washed in usual detergent on a cold setting. 

If the stain has not been completely removed, repeat the process. Once satisfied, you can allow the shirt to line dry. 

White Vinegar

How To Get Yellow Stains Out Of White Shirts

Vinegar is a great multipurpose ingredient to have in your home. It is useful for cleaning and for stain removal.

Mix equal parts vinegar and cold water (1 cup of vinegar to one cup of water) into a spray bottle and shake until thoroughly mixed.

Spray onto the stain and allow soaking in for at least an hour. If you encounter stubborn stains, leave it for longer. 

Wash as per usual on a cold setting and if the stain is still there, repeat the process again and allow to air dry when the shirt is stain-free. 

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Toothpaste And Denture Tablets

Toothpaste isn’t just good for whitening your teeth and removing caffeine stains from your pearly whites.

It is a great stain remover for clothes as well, especially if the stain is relatively small. There are a few reasons why toothpaste works well as a stain remover on clothes.

The first is that it is abrasive, often containing substances that are meant to scrub your teeth-this means it works well at scrubbing away at stains. 

Additionally, toothpaste contains fluoride, which will aid in whitening the stain. Apply toothpaste to the stain with an old toothbrush and rub in a circular motion until the stain is removed.

The garment can be washed and dried as per normal-no cold setting required or line drying. 

If your grandparent has a set of dentures, they will have denture tablets which will keep their teeth clean and white.

Mix about 4 tablets in a bucket of cold water and soak the white shirt overnight and wash normally. 

Aspirin Tablets

Using the same principle as the denture tablets, aspirin (the white ones) can be dissolved in a bucket of water and will remove the yellow stains on your white shirt by soaking it for a maximum of three hours.

It is an effective stain remover because of the bicarbonate of soda and citric acid often present in the aspirin tablets, which work in the same way as baking soda. 

The solution is made up from about 5 aspirin tablets which are dissolved in a bucket of cold water. After the soaking process, the garment can be washed and dried as per usual.

Lemon Juice

Lemon juice mixed with water is probably one of the most popular methods of stain removal because it also smells nice while you are doing it.

Slice three lemons and use one slice to apply lemon juice directly to the stain. The rest of the lemon slices must be put in a pot filled with water.

Bring the pot to the boil and turn off the heat once at boiling point.

Add in your shirt and leave it submerged for at least an hour. Wash with usual laundry detergent and dry as per usual. 


How To Get Yellow Stains Out Of White Shirts

Borax also known as sodium borate, sodium tetraborate, or disodium tetraborate is a popular household cleaner and is an active ingredient in laundry detergents and other products such as conditioners or shampoos.

When it comes to using it as a stain remover, it can be put directly in the machine during a wash or the white clothes can be soaked in it before washing. 

If you are pre-soaking the stain, a teaspoon of borax is added to a bucket of water. The shirt is then soaked in the solution.

After that, wash as per normal. Alternatively, you could add 1/2 cup of borax into your normal wash and once the cycle is complete, dry on the line or with a dryer.

What is important to note is that borax, although very effective at removing stains from clothing, is extremely toxic and so it is best to be kept far out of the reach of young children or pets.

Ingesting borax can cause severe gastrointestinal problems such as nausea, diarrhea, cramps, abdominal pain and persistent vomiting.

Tips To Prevent Yellow Stains On White Shirts

There are a few things that you can do to minimize the occurrence of yellow stains on your white shirts.

Some people stop wearing white shirts, especially when they know they might sweat-like on a hot summer’s day or during an interview.

Another way to prevent yellow stains under your arms or even collar stains is to wear an undershirt. 

Of course, wearing an undershirt may not be practical in every situation and may even cause you to sweat more, but it may act as a barrier to the sweat and your shirt that you are trying to protect.

The undershirt will absorb the sweat and deodorant mix and because it is underneath your clothes, it will not matter if it gets stained.

To keep this shirt free from stains and odors, it is a good idea to wash it straight after wearing. 

An effective way to prevent yellowing is to change your deodorant or antiperspirant. These days, there are a lot of brands of antiperspirants that have stain prevention ingredients.

This is because these ingredients neutralize the components in the sweat which cause the yellow stains and prevents sweat from soaking into the material.

Additionally, it is important to wash your clothes soon after wearing them. This will prevent the stain from setting in and also prevent the build up of bacteria on the fabric in the long run.

When you do wash your whites, try including whitening or brightening products in your wash. These will make sure that your whites stay a bright white for a longer period of time. 

When washing them, make sure to use enough detergent and when pre-treating or pre-soaking the garments is to rinse them properly before washing.

Always ensure that you use enough detergent to really get rid of dirt and to effectively remove stain.

When washing the stained clothing, it is imperative to do so on a cold or economy wash, include an extra rinse cycle before spinning and to ensure all chemicals and residues are washed off.

Any residues left on your garments may cause yellowing over time. 

Additionally, washing the stained garment on a hot or warm water wash cycle in your washing machine, will set the stain, and it will not be removed as effectively.

Some treatments require air or line drying, and so extreme heat of a dryer should be avoided. 

Sometimes, your white clothes will yellow or gray over time, and this is because of aging.

White clothes have whitening agents in their dyes, but these dissipate over time, which causes the item to discolor. 

This can be avoided by adding in a whitening agent to your washing load.

What is more, is that some wardrobes are varnished or treated with acidic products which, over time, react with the chemicals in the white clothes, turning them yellow.

The way to avoid this happening is to make use of acid-free storage solutions such as liners for the interior of the drawers. 

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Final Thoughts

How To Get Yellow Stains Out Of White Shirts

Removing stains can be a difficult task to accomplish, but it is doable, especially if you act quickly.

Try to tackle the stain as soon as you see it appears, and try to avoid heat as much as possible.

As mentioned, hot water or heat from the dryer can set the stain more, making them harder to remove at a later date. 

When trialing any one of the methods mentioned above, it is important to ensure that you test a small area first to see if it works before potentially ruining your whole shirt with the harsh peroxide.

It is also critical to wash the whites that have been treated with a stain removal technique separately.

This is to ensure that the other items in the wash are not affected by the stain removal agents negatively. 

Wash your whites as soon as possible because this will avoid the sweat stain from setting. It is also possible to combine the methods mentioned above to treat the stain as effectively as possible. 

Hopefully, after reading this article you will be more confident in the way you go about removing stains from your white clothes, in particular, the yellow sweat stains.

Remember to exercise patience when trying to remove stains, especially when using the more natural or home-made solutions. They can take a few tries before coming out completely. 

Don’t give up and all the best of luck!

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I Use Bleach To Remove Sweat Stains?

Chlorine bleach is an amazing antibacterial agent and can be used to bleach and whiten your clothes. It is not advised to use it directly on the yellow marks of sweat stains, as it makes the stain worse. 

When using it, it is important to make an extremely dilute solution of bleach in warm water. It is best to pre-soak your whites in the bleach solution.

After soaking for a few hours, make sure you rinse the garments properly and then add in a teaspoon of vinegar to your washing machine to neutralize bleach.

You can add bleach to the wash directly, with vinegar to whiten clothes. Be sure to do a freezing rinse to your cycle to remove all residues of the bleach. 

Can Baking Soda Ruin The Color Of Clothes?

While effective at removing stains from white clothing and whitening white clothes, baking soda can cause the color of your vibrantly colored clothes to fade.

This is especially true for your more natural materials such as cashmere wool, linen, and silks. 

The reason this occurs is that baking soda is alkaline and has a high pH level, which fades the color pigments of the keratin protein in organic materials.

Additionally, baking soda can discolor other fabrics as the high pH interacts with the dye. 

How Do You Fix Discolored White Clothes?

For discolored white clothes, you can dissolve oxygenated chlorine bleach in hot water, add cold water to cool it down and allow the clothes to soak for about 30 minutes before rinsing.

If any smaller stains persist, use one of the methods above to try to extract stains, such as using hydrogen peroxide, baking soda or vinegar.

Rinse the garments thoroughly and wash on a cold wash cycle with usual laundry detergent and line or air dry as appropriate. 

How Does Hydrogen Peroxide Work?

Hydrogen peroxide on a high level is a water molecule with an extra oxygen molecule.

This extra oxygen molecule oxidizes and this is what is the powerful antibacterial agent and bleaches porous fabrics.

When used on fabrics, it is important to use hydrogen peroxide on white clothing items only-not on colored items, as it will react with the dyes and discolor the fabric. 

Can You Use Shampoo As A Sweat Stain Remover?

Because of the active ingredients being surfactants, shampoos can be great for removing stains that are oil-based or stains that have protein like blood.

The shampoo can be used to remove sweat stains because sweat is a mixture of proteins and amino acids, the shampoo breaks this down.

It should be applied directly on the stain, rinse off and wash as normal and dry on a line or air dry. 

Amanda Brown
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