Take a look at your dress shirts. Do they look like they did when you purchased them? Yeah, we didn’t think so.
No matter how nice dress shirts are, they’ll probably eventually get nasty stains on the collar and armpits.
The main culprit behind those yellow spots: sweat, of course. It combines with body oils, product buildup, and environmental pollution to create that dreaded dingy collar that plagues your crisp-white button-downs.
You might not notice it at first, but the sweat and body oil combo seep into the fibers of your shirts as soon as you start to perspire. You can stock up on as many undershirts as you’d like, but they most likely won’t save you from the inevitable.
“Body oils like sebum are oily which makes them harder to remove because they don’t mix with water,” says Procter and Gamble fabric care senior scientist Jennifer Ahoni.
After consistent sweating, regardless of how often you wash your shirts, the buildup of grime begins to change the collar into the yellow, or gray, discoloration some men are all too familiar with. Dude, it’s time to clean up.
FIGHT DISCOLORATION BEFORE IT HAPPENS
We can’t tell our bodies to stop sweating, sure, but we can help prevent how much we sweat.
Sweating is the body’s way to keep ourselves cool when the temperatures rise, but the benefits sweat has for regulating body temperature are what makes us constantly go out and buy new dress shirts.
Expert Home Tip’s content writer Stephanie Cvetkovic recommends keeping deodorant and antiperspirant use to a minimum, if possible. Aluminum in antiperspirants reacts with sweat to create yellow sweat stains that are even harder to remove than stains from the collar.
“One of our favorite tips is to apply a light layer of talc over your deodorant before dressing,” says Cvetkovic.
“This helps absorb excess moisture, keeping the area dry and reducing chances of sweat stains.” And don’t wear your shirts more than once before throwing them in the wash.
Treat stains immediately, or else “the stains will continue to build up, becoming almost impossible to breakdown,” Cvetkovic says.
FIGHT DISCOLORATION AFTER IT HAPPENS
Ahoni says to pretreat the area with vinegar, which breaks the bonds between cotton fibers and sweat, and let it sit for 20 minutes.
Soak the garment for another 20 minutes in a solution of a half-dose with a cleaning product and a gallon of water. Ahoni says to repeat as necessary, and do not machine dry until the stain is removed as that may set in the stain.
You can also use a sweat stain removal treatment that only requires items you already have in your house. For Cvetkovic’s stain removal process, dissolve five tablespoons of salt in one liter of hot water.
Use a sponge dipped in the solution, and gently rub it on the afflicted areas until the stain starts to lift. Follow that with a quick cycle in the washing machine with a cup of baking soda.
Words by Tyler Chin