Shirts With Stinky Underarms After Washing?

January 5, 2005

A man smelling his underarms in a white dress shirt.This is kinda embarrassing, but my husband's shirts, in the armpits, are very stinky even after I wash them (he's not, just the armpits of the shirts). I've tried numerous laundry tips to try and get them clean. I've tried spraying vinegar on them, soaking them in vinegar, Shout, baking soda, etc. I've tried different laundry soaps, Sunlight, Tide, Costco brand, Cheer, and no name etc. We've even tried many different types of deodorant. The rest of the shirt comes clean, it's just the armpits on the inside. It has deoderant residue and it still stinks.


Any suggestions would be gratefully welcome.



By Margaret (Guest Post)
January 5, 20056 found this helpful
Best Answer

I dilute mouthwash (happen to use Listerine) with water -- about half and half -- and dampen underarm area before washing.

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By (Guest Post)
January 5, 20050 found this helpful
Best Answer

I use tea tree oil in the wash. A few drops per load and nothing smells. Even used it when washing cloth diapers. I don't use fancy soaps cause I don't like the smell of them. 1/2 baking soda, 1/2 borax, some grated Sunlight pure soap, and a few drops of teatree oil in every load. That's it.

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By Paula W (Guest Post)
January 5, 20057 found this helpful
Best Answer

I was also having this problem with my two teenage boys. They would have t shirts that would smell OK after they were washed and dried, but the minute they would perspire in them again, the bad smell would come back very strong. I tried a number of things with no success, even Febreze, before I hit on the solution that is working for us.


I use the Lysol all purpose cleaner, about 1/2 cup in a large load of clothes. I use this in addition to my normal amount of detergent. My favorite kind to use is the Green Apple Breeze scent. Then I add about 1/2 cup of white vinegar to the rinse cycle instead of fabric softener. I do this with every load of laundry, and so far, so good.

When I first started doing this, I pretreated under the arms of the offending shirts with the Lysol and let them sit a few minutes before throwing them in the wash. Got to reclaim many expensive Ts this way! My sons say the treated Ts have passed the "sweat test."

Also, I have not noticed any adverse effects on my clothing from using the Lysol. Hope this works for you, too!

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By trina (Guest Post)
January 8, 20050 found this helpful
Best Answer

I have used ammonia in the washer along with the detergent about a cup to the load and have good luck in getting the smell out of shirts. Good luck

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By Becca (Guest Post)
January 26, 20050 found this helpful
Best Answer

My teenaged boys play ice hockey and I tried everything to get the stench out of their jerseys and equipment. The one thing I found that works is a product called Simple Green.


I add about a cup to the load along with detergent and the smell is completely gone. You can find Simple Green at Lowe's or sometimes Walmart.

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August 4, 20050 found this helpful
Best Answer

Another hint: have you tried just a deodorant, not one with antiperspirant? I would think that should help with the "residue" on the shirts.

Good Luck!

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January 5, 20050 found this helpful

There is a product on the market (the name escapes me right now) that gets rid of the smell of pet urine odors that should work on this as well - since uric acid is responsible for the smell in both types of body fluids. However, I've heard that the main active ingredient in this product is none other than hydrogen peroxide, which is very inexpensive and available at all drug stores. I've used 3% hydrogen peroxide to get rid of the smell of vomit from sheets when my children have been sick, and it worked way better than vinegar.


I just soaked the offending part in at full concentration (after rinsing the yucky goop off in cold water first, in case you were wondering) for 5 minutes, then rinsed in cold water again - the smell was gone even before I laundered the sheets! You might want to try the 3% hydrogen peroxide for the shirts - if you do, let us know if it works. :)

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By Helen (Guest Post)
January 5, 20050 found this helpful

This happened to my Hubby as well. Iwet the stain(turned white) then rubbed Tide in it and let it dit for 2 hrs, I then scrubbed it with a tooth brush,IREALLY scrubbed it hard , then wash it and it really did take the stain and the smell out. hope this helps.

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By Becki in Indiana (Guest Post)
January 7, 20051 found this helpful

Is the deodorant residue hard, like a crust? My Dad used to get that on his dress shirts. My Mom would make a paste of meat tenderizer (the unseasoned kind) and water, smoosh it around on the crusty part, work it in with an old toothbrusah, and let it set overnight -- then wash.


(You want to use the unseasoned tenderizer because the seasoning can stain the material).

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August 3, 20050 found this helpful

My husband has or I should say had the same problem with stinky shirts after his sweat came in contact with them. He actually went and saw a doctor b/c his sweat was actually corroding the metal band on his watch too! In his case it was due to the phosphates in the laundry soap I was using, I switched to ALL free, which has no phosphates and haven't had a problem since. We had the same problem with sheets and pillows and since switching detergents, I don't have to wash the sheets everyday anymore!

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August 12, 20050 found this helpful

I FINALLY found something that works!!! I had an awful smell in one of my shirts. I tried ammonia and degergent and I tried oxyclean. NOTHING! I then sprayed Orange Clean spray with a little detergent and let it soak for about 10 minutes. Washed it out and repeated and the smell was GONE!


I am so happy to find something that works. It also worked on a stain I've been trying to get out of a dress for years. It's delicate enough for any fabric. Both stains were a dry clean only fabric and they still came out!

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By Paula (Guest Post)
October 7, 20070 found this helpful

I wonder if all of you are using front-loading machines. I think these machines don't clean as well as the top loader. I am having all the problems you mentioned since I got the front loader. Moldy smelling issues as well. I hate it! Thanks for all the armpit tips.

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By Amber in Liberty, MO (Guest Post)
August 12, 20081 found this helpful

Hi! I tried the 1:1 water:listerine mouth wash and my husbands shirt armpits are minty fresh!(before:two washes of tide would made his shirts smell C+ at best). I filled a spray bottle, and sprayed each shirt armpit to totally soak it. I let the shirts sit 2-3 minutes (while the washer filled) and then I dumped them in.

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August 12, 20080 found this helpful

Hi! i just tried the 1:1 water:listerine mouth wash idea and it worked GREAT! my husband now has shirts with minty fresh armpits!! {{before: two washes in Tide and spray and wash pretreatment only resulted in B- at the best..}}}

i sprayed each armpit til it was thoroughly wet, scrubbed shirts that looked like they had deo residue, and put them in the washer after i sprayed 10 polo shirts. so probably a 2-3 minute soak before into warm water wash.

Good Luck with fresh shirt armpits!!

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By Paula (Guest Post)
February 27, 20090 found this helpful

I used to use clorox laundry spray, they discontinued this item and replaced it with Oxi Magic, which is not magic on smells. This product worked wonderfully, now I just have smelly shirts under the arm pits. If we all ask them to produce this product again maybe they will be willing to bring it back.

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January 30, 20102 found this helpful

The build-up in the underarm areas of shirts is due to a combination of the deodorant or antiperspirant residue, sweat and softener left in the clothing. Laundry is really chemistry in action.

First off, you need to reduce the sweating. The smell comes from the bacteria that grow in the sweat and deodorant residue embedded in the clothes. Sometimes taking zinc will help. I have a very heavy perspiration problem, so I use a antiperspirant product called Certain-Dri. It was originally prescribed by a doctor but now I can buy it over the counter in groceries and drug stores. Also try washing the underarm area with shampoo - something cheap like Suave daily clarifying. This seems to work well, especially for men.

Now for the clothes;
1) Using meat tenderizer or vinegar is essentially "marinating" the problem area by digesting or breaking down the chemicals that are embedded in the fabric. Baking soda also works well.
2) Soaking is key to getting rid of really bad problems, Just as you would soak a burned, crusted pot or pan, soak problem clothes for a few hours in vinegar or simple green or baking soda. Tough areas should be treated using a paste. Re-soaking is an option for hard to eliminate spots.

3) For clothes or bed linens that have drool or vomit or other biologicals, try soaking in a Murphy's Wood Oil soap solution. For drool spots on baby bibs, use a nail brush with straight Murphy's on a dampened bib. Simple Green also is good for these problems.
4) If you have a extra rinse cycle, try using that as well as all of the dirt and detergent residue is not removed by one rinse.
5) If you can find it, Fels Naptha is an old fashioned bar laundry soap, not a detergent. Give that a shot.

A front loader actually is a better washer than a top loader - front loaders are all that professional laundries use in sizes from 50 up to 2,000 pound washers. They are better for your clothes as the clothes wash the clothes, rather than the agitator washing the clothes. However, you must use the HE detergent in them Also, remember to clean your washer once a month by running a gallon of white vinegar (the cheap kind) with very hot water - use a sanitary cycle if you have one.

My Dad used to run hospital and commercial laundries, so I picked up a lot from him.

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January 5, 20120 found this helpful

For teens that are super smelly I found a way that worked with my son when he was going through puberty. After he showered at night with an antibacterial soap I would have him swab his armpits with witch hazel (drugstores usually carry it) with cotton swabs and then put his antiperspirant/deodorant on at night. It helped so much!

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September 21, 20130 found this helpful

Oxy. Make a paste of oxy powder - I use NoName because it's cheap. Put it on the shirt anywhere you see yellowing or smell that lovely smell. Scrub it in if you can - use a brush or rub it in with your gloved fingers. Then wash. It's amazing! My husband's perspiration is very acidic and we threw out many shirts each year. This is the answer.

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October 10, 20131 found this helpful

Try using "soap nuts". They are organic but eliminate odors rather than covering the smells like tide, etc. They smell strange but the clothes come out fresh smelling. Also, you don't need fabric softener or dryer sheets either. I get mine online.

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November 25, 20130 found this helpful

I had this problem with nice quality clothing, brand name anti perspirants, decent washing machine and brand name washing products. However an hour into the next day, whatever top I was wearing started to smell from under the arms. I think from where my body heat was triggering some bacteria that hadn't cleaned properly, and I don't sweat that much nor do I even get body odour really. So it didn't make sense, my clothes smelt but my body was still fresh.

I did two things, swap from an underarm spray (which might have been leaving a lot of residue) to a roll on - that helped. Next step was I now scrub the armpits before washing, I did used to go through a big routine soaking, hand washing and then washing machine but that was a right fuss. Now I use a simple bit of shower gel (or anything along those lines, I've even used a bit of shampoo) and use a soft nail brush/old tooth brush or even just my hands to give the armpits a good scrubbing/working up of a lather, then rinse and then wash in the machine like normal.

It works 100%. I think that pre scrub just gets in there and gets rid of any bacteria or whatever it is in the material that a machine wash doesn't get into (I tried, 30, 40, 60 degree washes with all sorts of added products etc and nothing ever worked). All it takes is about 90 seconds/2 minutes per shirt/t-shirt of pre scrubbing and I can wear a t shirt for 10 hours the next day without a hint of smell at all. Where as before I'd notice a smell within an hour of having it on.

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August 9, 20150 found this helpful

While it is more economical and environmentally friendly, washing in cold water does squat for eliminating underarm odor. I sort my clothes into whites, lights and darks. I wash them ALL in hot water and always with powdered detergent. For the whites, I add some bleach. None of the darks ever bleed. Even my sweatiest and smelliest of clothing comes out odor free.

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