Unilever logo
Cleanipedia PH logo

How to Remove Stains from White Clothing

Don't let stubborn stains ruin your white clothing – find out how to remove common stains like sweat & deodorant, plus advice on using bleach in the wash.


Reading Time: 5 minutes

Written by Eunice Samson

how to remove oil stains from clothes

Buying white clothes always produces the same emotions: excitement at your smart and pristine garment, mixed with trepidation at the inevitable prospect of sweat or deodorant stains. It’s a sad story. But, oddly, it only seems to happen to you. Others around you swan around in their white shirts or dresses, always mysteriously immaculate. Are they in on some secret? How do you remove stains from white clothes?

Surprisingly, chlorine-based bleach reacts with the proteins in sweat so that it actually makes the cloth darker, not lighter. Products with oxygen bleach, such as Breeze with ActivBleach, avoid this problem. It’s color-safe and eco-friendly too!

Removing Deodorant Stains from White Clothing

The initial plan of attack is as follows:

  1. First, rub the stain gently with a little white vinegar.

  2. Then leave the garment in methylated spirit for an hour. (Alcohol is a strong solvent so be careful if your shirt has a printed design.)

  3. Let the spirits evaporate.

  4. Gently rub the stain with laundry detergent and very hot water. (Check the label to see how hot this can be.) .

  5. Soak in biological detergent, such as Surf or Breeze.

  6. Leave overnight.

  7. Wash with the rest of your laundry as normal.

If it doesn’t budge:

How to Remove Sweat Stains from White Clothes

In a sense, this overlaps with the previous section. Yellow underarm stains are in fact the result of a reaction between sweat and aluminium-based antiperspirants, not sweat alone.

If the stains are not yet yellow (i.e. the stain is just biological without the aluminium component) then, logically enough, soaking in bio detergent and warm water is sufficient.

The Poll

Would you be more likely to buy a Cleaning or Laundry product that had a QR code visible on the pack over a product without a QR code? 

0 Votes

If the stains are yellow:

  1. Rub the stain with an appropriate solvent: ammonia if the stain is fresh, white vinegar if it’s old.

  2. If it persists, use oxygen bleach. This is essentially a mixture of baking powder and hydrogen peroxide, which you can either buy or make yourself.

  3. Coat the stain with the mixture and leave for 20 minutes.

  4. Wash as normal.

For silk, dab with 10-times diluted hydrogen peroxide, and then wash as usual on the delicate setting.

Person pouring liquid on clothes to remove the stains

Bleaching White Clothes in the Wash

For a more general way of removing stains from white clothes, you can bleach in the wash.

This is a place where the power of chlorine bleach can really shine. But be cautious! While chlorine bleach is great with a variety of fabrics, it can damage delicates as well as printed or colored clothes. Here’s how to use it properly.

  • Mix a capful of bleach into 1 litre of water and then into the washer drawer. (We recommend using Domex.)

Chlorine Bleach with Biological Detergents

  • Chlorine bleach destroys enzymes, i.e. the things that drive the biological process in all living things, which is why it’s so good at keeping you safe from germs. However, if you’re using a biological detergent, it’s a good idea to add the bleach solution after five minutes rather than at the start so that the enzymes in the detergent have time to work.

  • If you don’t have a semi-automatic washer, you can pre-soak in a diluted bleach solution (1 tbsp in 4 litres) instead. Rinsing the clothes before adding them to the washer will stop the bleach destroying the enzymes in the detergent.

Oxygen Bleach

  • As above, but add half a cup of oxygen bleach to the drawer instead.

Remember: before cleaning any stain, check the care label of the stained garment, and conduct a test on a hidden area of fabric first. Always wear gloves and follow the label’s advice carefully when handling ammonia, hydrogen peroxide, and oxygen and chlorine bleach.

Do you want to learn which household cleaning tasks cause the most stress?  Then read our Heated Household data analysis. 

Frequently asked questions about stain removal for white clothes

Does hydrogen peroxide damage clothes at all?

As long as you use hydrogen peroxide carefully, it should not damage your clothing. If you leave it to work for too long, or overuse it on your clothing, it could weaken the fabric fibres or cause discolouration, so you should always use it with care. For the most part, however, it can be a great stain remover for most fabrics where the dye is colorfast.

How do you fix chlorine damaged clothes?

White vinegar should be your go to product when it comes to learning how to fix chlorine damaged clothes. Soak a clean cloth in white vinegar and use it to dab around the chlorine stain, ensuring you saturate the stain and the surrounding area. Allow the vinegar to work for a short while. It will work to neutralize the chlorine. Rinse the clothes thoroughly prior to washing as normal.

How do you remove black spots from white clothes?

If you want to know how to remove black spots from white clothes, we’ve got you covered. First, cover the area in white vinegar. Next, create a paste of vinegar and baking soda and rub this into the stain gently using a clean, microfibre cloth. If you notice persistent staining, add 2 tablespoons of vinegar and 2 tablespoons of detergent to a large bowl of water. Place the clothing into the bowl overnight to soak. Rinse under cold water before washing as normal.

Why is sweat discoloring my clothes?

If you have sweat discoloring clothes, you’re not alone. When your sweat mixes with the bacteria on your skin, it can cause a reaction that leads to discoloration. It could also be caused by the reaction of sweat mixing with deodorant, or even the clothes themselves. To prevent staining, you should always treat marks immediately, and wash your clothing immediately after wearing them, if you have been sweating.

Originally published