What Antiperspirant Is, Who Uses It, and Why It Stains
Antiperspirant is a substance or formulation that people apply to their skin in order to prevent or reduce sweating. Antiperspirants differ from deodorants because antiperspirants can actually block sweat from forming on the skin, while deodorants contain some antibacterial properties and have a scent to mask the smell of body odor. Sometimes antiperspirant and deodorant are combined to create a product called antiperspirant deodorant which has the properties of both. Antiperspirants are classified as drugs by the FDA because they contain an active ingredient that affects a biological process - preventing the formation of sweat. Most antiperspirants use aluminum chloride as their active ingredient, but other metallic salts like aluminum hexahydrate and aluminum zirconium trichlorohydrex are also used. It is thought that these active ingredients block sweat by forming a sort of shallow plug within sweat glands that prevents sweat from escaping to the surface of skin.
These active ingredients are what cause antiperspirants to stain so badly. When a person wearing antiperspirant sweats, the aluminum chloride, or whatever metallic salt is in the antiperspirant, mixes with their sweat and forms a plug. Once this happens the antiperspirant is likely to leave a yellowish stain on any clothes it comes into contact with. We aren’t sure why this happens, but some propose that it is because antiperspirants are very acidic. At any rate, these yellowish stains are often permanent, or at least, hard to remove.
Anyone can use antiperspirant in situations where they want to sweat less, but it is essential for people with hyperhidrosis. Hyperhidrosis is a condition in which people sweat excessively, even when it doesn’t benefit them physiologically to do so. Unfortunately, people who sweat constantly also need to wear antiperspirant continuously. This means that clothing is prone to staining and often needs to be replaced, which adds more financial pressure to people who already have to deal with the hefty cost of treating hyperhidrosis. In order to stop this cycle of clothing destruction people need to understand how to remove armpit stains from sweat and deal with antiperspirants stains.
Preventing a stain is often easier than having to remove a stain. Here are some tips on how to prevent antiperspirant stains so they don’t happen in the first place:
Choose the Right Antiperspirant
Try to find an antiperspirant that does not stain badly. Many people struggle to choose the right over-the-counter antiperspirant as there are literally hundreds on the market. It is hard enough to find one that is effective and non-irritating, but looking for a good antiperspirant that does not stain easily is also important. This process will take some trial and error, but it will be worth it.
Apply Antiperspirant Correctly
Antiperspirant is meant to be applied to dry skin. It is also a good idea to apply it at night so that it has time to sink into skin and work efficiently the next day. Doing this can reduce some of the rub off that occurs, although dry antiperspirant can still easily stain. It is not necessary to apply multiple layers, so apply a thin layer that is less likely to rub off.
The biggest place that antiperspirant stains accumulate is in the armpit. If someone knows they will be sweating excessively then they can purchase and use garment protectors, also known as garment shields. There are pads made specifically for people with this problem. They are pads the size of an armpit that can adhere to the inside of a shirt and absorb sweat so that it doesn’t show or stain clothes.
How To Get Antiperspirant Stains Out
If you can’t prevent a stain, then you’ve got to try and wash it out. Here are a few methods you can use to get an antiperspirant stain out:
- Rinse the stain in cold water.
- If the garment is delicate or if a stain has had time to settle then soak it in a mixture of baking soda, water and white vinegar solution. This will counter the acidity from the antiperspirant.
- Wash the clothes and see if it worked.
- Turn the clothing inside out and find the stain.
- Pour white vinegar onto the stain and let it sit for a minute.
- Scrub the stain with a toothbrush until it looks like it is coming loose.
- Pour more vinegar onto the stain and allow it to sit overnight.
- Wash the piece of clothing like you normally would in the washing machine. If the stain is still present, repeat the process again.
There is no way to guarantee that these methods will remove all antiperspirant stains, but it will greatly reduce their appearance.
If the above method doesn’t work then you can try using a detergent or stain remover with oxygen bleach to try and get the stain out. The sooner you wash a stained item the better your results will be.
One study found that pre-treating with a stain remover like Vanish could reduce the visibility of stains, but interactions between commercial detergents and the stain remover decreased its effectiveness. If you need to know how to get pit stains out of polyester there are a few more specific steps you will need to follow compared to what you need to do for other types of fabric.
Unfortunately, antiperspirant stains are hard to remove, but with care most stains can either be prevented or treated.
- Pariser, D. M. (2014). Hyperhidrosis (4th ed., Vol. 32). Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier.
- Out, Out, Pesky Sweat Stains. (2011, May 11). Wall Street Journal. Retrieved November 5, 2018, from https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052748703859304576305372447004628
- A novel washing algorithm for underarm stain removal. (2017). IOP Conf. Series: Materials Science and Engineering, 254. doi:10.1088/1757-899X/254/8/082001