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How to get those pesky yellow sweat stains out of your whites

WORDS BY KATE STREADER

Tips for keeping your whites pit stain-free. 

Fresh, crisp whites are a wardrobe staple, but keeping them looking fresh and crisp can be a task in and of itself. Even if you manage to get all your food in your mouth, avoid coffee and red wine spills, and miss smudging your makeup on your clothes when getting dressed, sweat stains can strike even the most cautious of white-wearers. 

Keeping your clothing clean and stain-free is the aim with anything you wear, but when it comes to sweat stains there’s the added embarrassment of silently alerting everyone to your perspiration. Yes, we all sweat and it’s a totally normal bodily function, but that doesn’t mean you want your clothes to scream it to everyone in sight. 


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Kirsta Hawkins, the owner of Melbourne-based consignment store Mutual Muse, knows just how stubborn sweat stains can be. Mending and cleaning items to get them ready for their second life is a big part of her job, plus taking proper care of your clothes plays a crucial role in the slow fashion movement behind her store’s ethos. 

“The fashion industry is a huge drain on our planet’s environmental and ethical resources. Proper laundry care is one of the best and easiest ways to prolong the life of your clothes and the more times you wear a piece, the more you are reducing its carbon footprint,” says Kirsta. “Proper maintenance also increases the chance that an item will be desirable to a new owner in the future.”

So, to help you maximise the lifespan of your clothes and get rid of those unsightly sweat stains, we asked Kirsta for her tips on getting rid of tricky pit stains. 

Sweat stains on white clothing can be tough to budge. What is your process for removing them? 

Sweat stains are nearly impossible to remove once they’ve set in. The best thing to do is wash the item as quickly as possible after wearing – don’t let that sweat sit around for more than a few days. A long soak in some NapiSan should do the trick. To remove deodorant residue, wet the area and gently massage the residue with NapiSan to break it down.

And if that fails, what’s your last-ditch attempt? 

Saturate the area in white vinegar and hang in the sun (only do this for whites). Otherwise, I’d do another round of soaking in NapiSan for at least a day.

What do you do if you just cannot get a stain out? 

Try embroidering something fun over the stain, like a little flower.

Do you have a different process for removing stains from delicate fabrics? 

For non-colour fast fabrics (especially silk or if the piece is having its first wash). I add at least a half cup of white vinegar to the soak which helps set the dye. Check the colour of the water after five minutes and if the colour is bleeding too much, rinse with cold water and start over. 

What shouldn’t you do when trying to get stains out? 

DO NOT use bleach – it causes a chemical reaction which makes the sweat stains impossible to remove. 

Is there any way to avoid sweat stains forming in the first place? 

Sweat stains are caused by a chemical reaction with your deodorant or sunscreen. If you’re a person who gets sweat stains, switch to an aluminium free, natural deodorant. It makes a massive difference – this is the most important step, I feel, in treating/preventing sweat stains. 

For more on how to get stains out of clothing, try this.

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