Laundry tips and tricks for pitted out shirts

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By: eoghan1973 - CC BY 2.0
By: eoghan1973CC BY 2.0
I’ve been wearing some of my favorite basic cotton tops regularly for a few seasons. Overall they’re in great shape, no holes or stains, but they’re starting to get a little funky, and not in the Disco Stu kind of way. The problem is that they fit so close under my arm pits that they’re becoming discolored and musky.

I’ve tried cleaning the area with vinegar and stain removers, but it hasn’t taken away the smell. Do my fellow Homies have any laundry tips and tricks dedicated to the pits? -Melanie

Comments on Laundry tips and tricks for pitted out shirts

  1. 1.) Get you some cheap vodka.
    2.) Make a paste with the vodka and some baking soda.
    3.) Rub the paste on the offending areas.
    4.) Wait an hour or so.
    5.) Wash as usual.
    6.) Profit!

    • You missed a vital step…
      4.1 While waiting drink some vodka
      😉
      I am so trying this trick!

    • I used to do baking soda/vinegar every time i washed and got okay results. I have an amazing white shirt that I let get all yellow pits so I will try this tonight and hope it helps!

  2. Just vinegar didn’t do the trick for me either.
    What did was adding baking soda (I’ve not tried it with vodka :P)

    I rub some baking soda on all the pits (yes, ALL THE PITS!!!) and then carefully pour a bit of vinegar over it, so it foams away.
    I’ll leave this for about 15 minutes and then dump everything in a tub of warm water with another cup of vinegar added.

    Let that soak for an half an hour to an hour and then wash as usual.

    If the sweat has really settled in the fabric you might have to rinse and repeat a few times.

  3. Doing laundry with vodka = AWESOME!

    Sounds like the key to success with both the vinegar and vodka will be the addition of the baking soda. I look forward to trying both methods this weekend. 🙂

  4. Not sure about the stain, but for the smell, nothing beats the sun. On a sunny day (you may have to wait a few months, if, like me, you live in Seattle) put the item on a line outside for most of the day. Kills the smell.

    • Agreed! We do this with our nasty hockey gear, including my husband’s extra-funky goalie pads, and it works within a day.

    • I’m going to say this, even if it seems obvious to some, because someone had to teach me:

      Hang the shirts from their bottom hems so the pits are exposed to the air/sun instead of by the shoulders where the pits are trapped. If necessary, on long-sleeved shirts, clip the sleeves up (in such a way as to keep the pits exposed) to avoid too much stretching in the pits that can lead to snapped threads in the seams.

  5. Oxyclean takes care of my husbands pits stains completely. But if smell is also a problem…you might want to look at cleaning your washing machine. I know dirty washing machines can lead to smells not coming out of clothes, and transferring those smells to other clothes. Tide makes a washing machine cleaner.

    Also try line drying outside if the clothes are white. Be wary of line drying outside if it’s colours though. I know some of my coloured t-shirts have discoloured due to the sun “bleaching” them in spots.

      • I use Borax powder- use it on almost every load, it takes away musty washer odors, makes your detergent work better. A big box costs just under $5, I scoop a small handful out & throw that on top of the clothes. This is especially great for towels & the post lawn mowing funky jeans that my husband chucks into the wash.

      • For front-load washer, I found the only thing that worked on the funk was the new Tide washing machine cleaner.

        This was after:
        – using cleaning-strength vinegar
        – using baking soda
        – using vinegar and baking soda together
        – using hydrogen peroxide
        – running several empty cycles on hot, with and without soap
        – cleaning all the gunk from the door gasket (it was so gross, you guys)
        – trying vinegar again
        – oxyclean

        After all that, I broke down and bought the Tide stuff. It took one package of the washing machine cleaner, followed by running an empty cycle, to get the front-load funk out of my machine. By that time I was getting ready to move to a new place, so I can’t say how long the newly-cleaned washer stayed funk-free. But while I was there the front-load funk was GONE.

        I’m sold on top-loaders for life now.

      • Our front-loading washer was getting funky; I think it was getting gross because it didn’t get a chance to dry out. Now I encourage everyone to leave it open while their dryer cycle runs (instead of just closing it up after they take their wet clothes out), and close it when they come to get their dry clothes. This seems to be enough time for it to dry out.

        • YES! ALWAYS leave your front-loader door open. It helps dry the drum out. The airtight door seal can make things get funky.

          Using less soap (most front-loaders are also high-efficiency) can help lower the chances of funky smell also, as the soap is usually the thing that molds/mildews and causes the gross smell.

          I also use white distilled vinegar as fabric softener in every load, which I think helps.

          • I’ve heard this as well. I have a friend with a front-loader and she leaves it cracked when not in use. No musty smell.

  6. I take a stain prevention stance: If I don’t want pit stains in it, I soak the shirt in cold water for 30 minutes after I wear it.
    Also, I don’t wear deodorant. If I’m just going to the office and not sweating much, I can avoid stains almost completely if I don’t put on stick deodorant. Something about the chemicals make stains worse.

  7. No doubt deodorant adds to the problem for me, but it’s hard to cut it out of the routine in hot/humid climates. I wonder if there are any particular deodorant brands that cause less staining than others? Maybe some that contain fewer chemicals and leave less residue behind?

      • Nice article! I would totally give that a try, especially after finding out that my deodorant contains aluminum!

    • As far as popular brands go, I’ve found that Degree is the worst for leaving residue on clothes and that Dove is much better. I’ve not tried any natural kinds, but I will check back here for recommendations!

      • I use my husband’s right guard clear light scented and not only does it work amazingly well (I take meds that come out in my sweat as a bitter chemical smell) but I have never had stains while using it.

    • I used to have huge problems with deodorant residue, but I found that a) waiting a minute to put on my shirt after applying deodorant and b) wiping some of it off with a tissue after applying made for much less residue. I use Dove deodorant now and it is pretty good about not leaving residue.

    • Companies like Lush (OBH sponsor!!) and other hippie dippie body companies make all natural deodorants with no chemicals at all. And aside from pit stain issues… Can’t get cancer from the lush shit either!!

    • I’ve been using plain baking soda instead of deodorant for a few years. Just rub the small amount that sticks to your wet fingertips after washing. It works beautifully. You still sweat (good) but it doesn’t smell (awesome). The lazy version of an home made one 🙂 super cheap and still way better than any store-bought product.

    • I HATE the white marks from deodorant! I find that the Secret clear gel works fantastically! BUT I don’t want to use antiperspirants so I either get deodorant from Lush or from Melaleuca, I prefer Melaleuca but I usually have to reapply. Much of the Lush products have a very Patchouli smell going on, which I’m not a fan of..but some people LOVE it!

      As far as cleaning the pits…I’m in love with Arm and Hammer!

      On another note…my friend had a house fire that smoked up her entire house. I was able to get the smoke smell out of a lot of her clothes with vinegar washes. It took about 3 and then a wash with arm and hammer.

  8. You can try all the usual things: baking soda, vinegar, oxyclean. All of these will work better if you apply them directly to the armpit of the shirt and scrub that shit with a brush. With vigor! Like you mean it. The problem, for most people, is a build up of deodorant/antiperspirant, and BO that have freaking glued themselves to the fibers of the shirt. No seriously, I had deodorant with glitter in it at one point (don’t ask me why sparkly armpits just go with me here) you could still see shimmer in the pits of shirt long long after that deodorant had been used up and replaced.

    I also use a “green” detergent because I love the planet and all that. But for getting out pit stank (and towel funk) I keep a secret box of Arm and Hammer detergent. I make a paste and scrub with a brush and let it sit until I do laundry next, sometimes days. This seems to do it for me. I hear Tide is the powerhouse of regular detergents, so you could try that instead. You could also try mixing in a pinch of TSP. TSP, trisodiumphosphate, is a source of phosphate, which is a really good surfactant but not so nice for the environment, which is why it used to be in all sorts of cleaning products and now it isn’t. I tend to figure a pinch of TSP is better than throwing away shirts and buying new things, but your may feel differently.

    • That’s totally my comment up there. Don’t know what happened. Just wanted to add:

      Read the box for TSP if you choose to use it. It can be caustic, so be careful.

  9. oh my god i am so happy i am not alone in having this problem. i thought i was such a sweaty freak!!

    off to the store for baking soda and vodka… haha

    • This is why I LOVE offbeat EVERYTHING!! My husband has a sense of smell that rivals a blood hound, and he notices this kind of thing LONG before I do.

      Now I can fix it!!

      WOO HOOO!!!

    • so, i tried out the vinegar/baking soda way this weekend on a few shirts. i put the vinegar in a spray bottle and sprayed it pretty generously on the shirt layed flat in a weird way to show the pit-area. then i would sprinkle the baking soda on it, and scrub it. some of the shirts scrubbed better then others… then, sit for an hour or so, then soak for an hour or so in a tub with hot water, filled with enough water to barely soak the shirts, and with like a cup more vinegar in that. then washed like normal… and just from folding them last night, the stains seem to be gone! like, gone gone! we will see about the smell, though, after the “detergent” smell (that i hate) leaves…

      overall, i think this is a winner!! im going to treat ALL of my shirts in the near future if this works! it seems that my shirts get a weird smell about them as they get old… its very odd. and no matter what ive done before, i couldnt get it out! so if this works… oh i will be so happy!

  10. I find that roll-on deodorants stain clothes much less than stick ones, so we’re off those. Aerosol deodorants are not our thing, we’re both allergic to something in aerosols and don’t use any for anything. The roll-ons we buy actually say they’re anti-marks and they work (ex: Dove invisible dry). I confess that, in the past, when the marks in the pits from the deodorant got too visible I would throw the garment away…
    For the smell: I had to fight my husband’s socks, which normally smell like very ripe cheese, and would come off the machine as if they hadn’t been washed at all! Loading the machine a little less, leaving them space enough to tumble around and really get in contact with the water and the detergent, then letting them air-dry has done the trick for me.

  11. The yellow staining is caused by the chemicals in anti-perspirants, so just switching to plain deodorant could save that part. I can’t find any woman-specific deodorants that don’t also have anti-perspirants (maybe Original Secret), but some men’s brands do, like Old Spice High Endurance, and the natural stuff like Tom’s of Maine, and The Crystal. I haven’t had yellow pits in over a decade and I love it. And yes, Degree is the WORST for staining!

    • This is my understanding as well. I try not to use anti-perspirants when I wear white shirts. I would switch altogether except.. the deodorants aren’t as effective without anti-perspirants. 🙁

      Right now I’m experimenting with Clean Deodorant from the same makers as Clean perfume. If you like that perfume, you’ll love this.

      But it’s incredibly expensive ( $16!! ) so I’m not sure I’ll continue even if the experiment is a success.

  12. This is an old, old thing but there is a company from the 1900’s that makes something called. Fels-naptha. It’s a laundry bar. Takes some elbow grease, but you rub it into the area when wet and let it sit for a few minutes and it all comes out. One bar lasts forever but I have trouble finding it. It’s also costs $1.50 a bar at most which is nice.

  13. one par dish soap
    two parts hydrogen peroxide
    baking soda (optional)

    -mix together and rub into the armpits
    -let it sit for 1 to 2 hours
    -wash as normal in the machine

    I’ve found this works great! I did do a spot test on my clothes before using the hydrogen peroxide just to be sure it wouldn’t bleach it. I’m also using the 3% solution. I’ve found any kind of degreaser dish soap works best.

  14. Running an iron over crusted on deoderant before tossing it in the wash or using any of the spot treatments can help as well. If its a shirt you really love a dry cleaner might be able to work some magic at a price.

  15. I’ve found that applying rinse aid directly on the yellow stain works amazing. Just put a generous amount on there, soak for at least an hour and then rinse the shirt before you toss it in with the rest of the laundry.

  16. I rerely comment here, but I really want to share my trick, which, astonishingly, noone mentioned so far:

    ASPIRIN.

    I mix it with a bit of water so it makes a paste, then apply it to stubborn stains. Let soak, maybe scrub a bit, wash regularly afterwards.
    Maybe repeat.

    This way I even get dried blood out of bedsheets!

  17. Try making a paste of lemon juice and table salt, rub on stain, set in a sunny area till dry. Wash as normal. If the stain is not completely gone repeat the process before putting the clothing in the dryer.

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