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How to get sweat stains out of shirts and clean sweaty clothes

Follow these tips to keep your clothes smelling fresh, even on the hottest of days.


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In hot climates like South Africa, perspiration is an unavoidable part of daily life. This article will explain how to remove the sweat smell from clothes effectively.

Sweating is our body's natural way of maintaining a regular temperature. However, in a hot and humid climate, ­­sweat and body odour can linger on clothing. Sometimes it feels like no matter how carefully you wash them, it’s impossible to get your garments smelling fresh.

So, how can you get the sweat smell out of clothes? What’s the best way to remove armpit odour from clothes? And how can you remove body odour from clothes without washing them? Follow our tips to keep your clothes smelling great even on the hottest of days.

Plus, you remove sweat stains and sunscreen stains with the same tricks below – and you might need both of these on a hot day!

The longer you leave sweaty garments in the laundry basket, the harder it is to remove the smell. Damp and sweaty clothes breed bacteria when left unwashed, so don’t leave it too long before laundry day!

How to get sweat smell out of clothes

When clothes come out of the washing machine still smelling, it can be frustrating. Here’s how to get rid of the sweat smell from clothes and ensure your laundry leaves your washing machine fresh and ready to wear.

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  • Use a reliable deodorant

How to get rid of underarm odour from clothes? The first question you should ask yourself is how to get rid of underarm odour in the first place. If you’re wondering how to remove armpit odour from clothes, a highly effective deodorant should be your first port of call.

  • Pre-treat problem areas

Remove perspiration odour at the source by pre-treating the stains on your clothes. Turn garments inside out and check the fabric for pale yellow discolouration that indicates sweat marks. White distilled vinegar is a great way to remove sweat smell from clothes. Add one cup of white vinegar to a tub of warm water and soak garments for two or three hours. Then, wash on their usual cycle.

  • Use a fragrant detergent

Using a scented laundry detergent like Sunlight will not only help to remove stubborn sweat odours, but will also leave your clothes smelling fresh. As a hand washing detergent, it’s particularly useful for removing sweaty odours from delicates like underwear and materials such as silk and wool that require extra care.   

How to remove body odour from clothes without washing

If you don’t have access to a washing machine or simply don’t want to use it on some occasions, there are ways to mask or neutralise sweaty odour without doing laundry. Here’s how to remove body odour from clothes without washing:

  • Lemon juice

Make a solution of one tablespoon of lemon juice to one cup of water. Decant into a spray bottle and mist the garment all over, paying particular attention to any sweaty marks or stains. Hang outside to dry and enjoy the fresh smell! Lemon is a great way to neutralise odours but remember to test on an inconspicuous area first as the juice can discolour certain fabrics.

  • Baking powder

Baking powder is one of those magical household essentials that naturally absorbs and eliminates odours. Mix baking soda and water into a paste, turn the offending item inside out and work the paste into the areas which require attention. Allow it to dry thoroughly, then take a stiff brush and brush away any white residue.

  • Vodka

How to get rid of sweat smell on clothes? Alcohol is well-known for its ability to kill bacteria that can cause unpleasant odours. Mix a solution of 70% vodka to 30% water, decant into a spray bottle and spray on any questionable areas of your sweaty laundry. Don’t worry about the resulting aroma – vodka dries with virtually no odour.

  • Use the freezer

This method is slightly more unconventional when it comes to how to get rid of sweat smell from clothes. Putting clothes in the freezer can eliminate odours from garments, especially jeans (which should only be washed once every few months).

  • Avoid the dryer

If possible, line dry your laundry rather than using a tumble dryer. Not only will it save on your utility bills, but tumble dryers can lock stubborn sweat odour into your clothes.

If you’re really desperate, air fresheners mask the smell of body odour! Simply spray all over and hang outside to dry for around ten minutes before wearing.

Originally published