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Personal Stains: 

Deodorant, Perfume and Perspiration

Courtesy of www.stainexpert.co.uk 

We all love to see those photos – glamorous celebrities caught on red-carpet nights with an ugly stain under their armpits – as we gleefully remind ourselves that they are human too. But when the victim is ourselves, it isn’t so funny. Personal stains can be a huge source of embarrassment but sometimes, the remedies for sweat – such as deodorants and perfume – can bring their own problems and cause just as much staining! But with a few guidelines on how to deal with these stains, you can be confident of avoiding any humiliation.

The Smell of Success?

It’s understandable that one of the biggest concerns about sweating is the accompanying body odour and many people attempt to mask this with a liberal dousing of perfume. This can work – but if you’re not careful, it can also leave you with a new problem: a stain! And because perfumes contain oils and alcohols, these stains can seriously damage your clothes. Therefore, it is best to put on perfume before getting dressed and never spray it directly onto your clothes. 

Sometimes, perfume stains can cause the colour in the fabric to fade, causing a “reverse-stain”. This is due to the alcohol in perfume and unfortunately, cannot be completely remedied, although sponging the area lightly with a cheesecloth dampened with denatured alcohol will help to redistribute the remaining colour more evenly. 

So if you have stained your clothing with perfume by mistake, what should you do?

If the fabric is washable, rinse the stain immediately in warm water and then wash as normal as soon as possible.

If the stain is older, try wetting the area and then applying some glycerine before rinsing thoroughly. You can also sponge the stain with a solution of equal parts hydrogen peroxide and water (only on white clothing).

If the stain is really old, you may need to treat it with a commercial stain remover before washing as normal.

For non-washable fabrics, it is best to just sponge with warm water and then take to the dry cleaners as soon as possible.

Lastly, carpets and furnishings can be treated with glycerine as well – make sure you blot the excess liquid after rinsing, then follow with the appropriate furniture shampoo if necessary.

A Sweaty Problem

jacket on hanger

Although we all know that sweating is natural – especially during the heat of summer and in airless office spaces - sweaty stains are still socially unacceptable. For women, this usually means underarm perspiration whilst for men, it’s sweat between the shoulder blades from the neck down and the all-embarrassing groin area. Not only are the stains ugly but they will also weaken the garment’s fabric if left untreated and will produce an unpleasant odour.

Fresh sweat is acidic and is easy to remove by simply washing immediately. However, if you leave the stain, it will dry and turn alkaline – in most cases forming a yellow or green stain with a hard, “crispy” texture.

This can be treated with a mixture of 1 tbsp of vinegar in half a cup of water, sponged onto the stain, which should restore the colour and also remove any perspiration odours.

Another good stain remover is fresh lemon juice rubbed into the stain or an enzyme pre-soak product before washing as usual – however, do not use this on delicate fabrics like linen, silk and wool.

For more stubborn stains, try using a paste of baking soda/bicarbonate of soda and water which is rubbed onto the stain and allowed to sit for 15-20mins, before the garment is washed as normal. You can also add some baking soda/bicarbonate of soda to the wash cycle to remove any persistent odours. Choose a detergent which is labelled as having oxygenated powers or works on protein-based stains.

Bleach should never be used on a perspiration stain, especially on white cotton fabrics, as proteins in the sweat will react with the bleach and turn the stain even darker. Avoid heat also – such as ironing or putting a stained garment in the dryer – as the high temperatures will permanently set the stain, making it impossible to remove. 

Generally when washing with detergent, do not dry the garment until the stain is gone. (Choose a detergent which is labelled as having oxygenated powers or works on protein-based stains.). If you have washed and dried a garment several times, then there is little chance of removing the stain as it has “burnt” itself into the fabric.

If your clothing needs to be dry-cleaned then do not attempt to remove the stain yourself but take it immediately to the professionals. However, do make sure you point out any perspiration stains but be aware that their treatment of the stain may cause shrinkage or texture change – although you will always be alerted to this and asked for informed consent.

Prevention is probably the best strategy for sweat stains, such as wearing absorbent underwear to protect the outer garment. Also, take extra care when you are wearing delicate fabrics, such as silks, in a situation where you know you might perspire heavily.

Finally, deodorants can be a good way to fight sweat although they can bring their own set of problems (see below). 

aerosol of stain remover

Deadly Deodorants


Deodorants and anti-perspirants can be the cause of as many stains as sweat itself, usually due to their chemicals reacting with sweat. Sometimes, changing brands will solve the problem as they all have different formulas. Another tip is to let your deodorant/anti-perspirant dry thoroughly before dressing. 

Unlike sweat stains, these are usually greasy and often white, which is particularly annoying on black or dark clothing. The worst stains are often caused by anti-perspirants, which contain aluminium salts to block sweat glands.

Again, you should attack the stain as soon as possible as – just like perspiration – the longer it is left untreated, the deeper it will sink into the fabric.

For washable fabrics, again, try rubbing with lemon juice, a spot remover or even just a bit of detergent and water, then wash at high temperature. (Note: do not rub dark or black fabrics).

For non-washable fabrics, or if it is delicate or expensive, then take it to a professional dry cleaners. It is best to avoid using bleach but if you decide to use it, choose a colour-safe bleach and wash in the warmest water that’s safe, according to the care label.

With these tips and guidelines, you should hopefully be able to prevent and deal with any stains and just concentrate on enjoying the summer weather.

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Stain Expert offers a unique reference point to give you information on removing all types of stain. It contains over 10 articles, all written by their team of experts.

Information on how to remove other common stains can be found at -









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