The science behind armpit stains

Armpit stains from sweating

It’s been a scorcher of a summer.  If you’ve managed a sneaky beach getaway then the glorious weather and abnormally warm oceans have probably been a blessing. Unfortunately, the holiday season must end and, for most of us, February is the month where we are back, fully entrenched in work, school or university. This is when enthusiasm for sizzling summer temperatures can quickly start to fade.

Hot weather, deadlines, and stress all contribute to excess sweating. While it may not have bothered you as you were lounging by the pool, lake or ocean, saturated business shirts and blouses are not the most attractive look.

Have you been slapping on anti-perspirant incessantly to tame your sweaty pits and to avoid those embarrassing whitish, yellowish stains on your clothing? Or is it too late, and you are now forced to pin your arms to your side like a well-trained army cadet to avoid being exposed.

Unsightly sweat stains can build up over time on your favourite dress, blouse or shirt and return to haunt you on a near daily basis. Not only can underarm sweat stains ruin your clothing, but they are notoriously difficult to remove in the laundry.

You might be blaming poor clothing choices, bad genetics or a lack of fitness for your overactive sweat glands? Have you tried a range of anti-perspirants to try to quell the flow of moisture from arm to shirt?

The truth is sweat is not responsible for the ugly stains that form on your clothes. Sweat itself is clear and odourless. Body odour occurs when bacteria in your armpit combines with sweat. So, if sweat is clear and odourless, where are those pesky white stains coming from on your clothes? And, as the sweaty season continues unabated, what can you do to avoid further humiliation?

The real culprit causing stained clothing -- and sideways glances -- is most likely your choice of anti-perspirant. Have a nosy at the bottle or tin you are using. What chemicals does it contain?

Many anti-perspirants contain aluminium compounds, such as aluminium chloride, that are designed to block your sweat glands and prevent them from releasing sweat when the heat really starts to bite. [Editors Note: At Lone kauri, we are not big fan of chemical laden anti-perspirants OR blocking your natural sweating response. You can read more about whether anti-perspirants are really that bad for you here.]

Aluminium and other chemicals in your anti-perspirants bond with proteins in your sweat to form a tacky white film that can transfer to your clothing and accumulate over time. The acidity can also cause fading and discolouration of fabrics.

How do you prevent these stains then?

The first, and most effective, step to consider is changing up your personal care routine by switching from anti-perspirant to deodorant. Deodorant is designed to stop odour and works by neutralising bacteria -- not blocking sweat, and thus, does not usually contain aluminium. Be careful though, as some products on the shelf are BOTH a deodorant and anti-perspirant. At Lone Kauri we recommend natural deodorants without nasty chemicals 😉 . Check the label.

The second step to combating stains is implementing good laundry protocol.

Don’t dump your sweaty clothes in the laundry basket and leave them there for days to fester. Damp sweaty clothing is a breeding ground for bacteria. Wash the garment straight away.

There are a bunch of home remedies circulating around the net that also allege to rid clothing of sweat stains. Perhaps try out a few of the following:

  1. Scrub stains with equal parts lemon juice and water before washing.
  2. Create a paste using baking soda and a small amount water and apply it to the stain. Leave the garment for a few hours in the sun before chucking it through the wash.
  3. Rub white vinegar directly into the stain before washing, or alternatively place a cup of white vinegar in the wash tub when fill of cold water and let it stand for 30 mins before washing.
  4. Sponge the stains with solution of hot water and table salt before washing.
  5. Mix two aspirin half a cup of warm water. Soak for 2-3 hours before washing.

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