How Do I Get Rid of Stinky Sweat Stains Left AFTER Washing?

Today I’m talking about getting stinky sweat patches out of clothing

So part of my afternoon has been taken up trying to solve this dilemma. It’s not a uniquely bipolar one, but I thought I’d share my findings because I know there are more than a few bipolar meds that can cause excessive sweating of the stinky variety, which inevitably leads to those pongy sweat patches that just adds to the stigma. Because visions of a knife-wielding “maniac” are only complete if they also have whiffy pit stains.

In the past I hadn’t really had a problem with this but in my house recently it’s got quite bad. I discovered this phenomenon for the first time whilst ironing some shirts about a year ago, which I hadn’t worn very many times (as I tend to have a good rotation of shirts because you never know when someone you work with is going to throw a drink over you). I pressed the iron over the armpit area of my shirts and I nearly passed out with the stench. Bleurgh! I put the iron down and sniffed the other pit. The very faintest whiff of fugginess, but mostly what I could smell was detergent. So I put it back in the wash. Guess what? The same thing happened, only this time I noticed it in the tumble dryer, when it got hot, the smell seemed to atomize into the air around the kitchen. Ick. Clearly non-bio laundry liquid wasn’t invented to clean clothes where they need it the most. I suspected vinegar might be the answer but I didn’t dare to hope at this point.  I forgot about this until yesterday when an entire washload of tops had this problem to the triple-x-treme.

So I searched online for an answer. Many of the solutions assumed you had borax or bicarb to hand. I had neither. What was worse was that I now had a full washing machine of damp T-shirts to de-stinkify as well, and given that the dryer also had some nearly-dry tops which were also producing noxious vapours, I was suddenly facing my neatly organized washing turning into a traffic jam of tank-tops and trousers waiting for their turn in the machines while I waited for a shop to open that might sell borax (not commonly available in the UK). I found one useful conversation, which you can read here (external link). I decided to start with the vinegar.

I thought I would kill 2 birds with 1 stone by adding a cup of vinegar (using my measuring cup – I didn’t have white vinegar so I used 70/30 malt and apple cider vinegars) to the drawer of the washer, so that it could clean out the machine AND sort out my clothing problems. I did a full 2 hours 30 minutes long eco cottons wash at 60 (140 farenheit) as the information I read online came to the general conclusion that hotter temperatures are better at killing the bacteria responsible for the smell, and I thought the longer wash would give more chance for the vinegar to soak in.

1 cup of malt and cider vinegar.  It did nothing.
1 cup of malt and cider vinegar. It did nothing.

When it was finished, I inspected the result. They still stank. Only now the smell had a masking overtone of vinegar on top of it, which made it seem worse for some reason. I decided to try a different suggestion and since the only other ingredient (mentioned in the conversation) I had in the house was the Listerine, I gave it a go.

I used the purple Listerine, and I literally poured it over the armpit area then rubbed it in with my hand (which still feels minty fresh an hour later), and I did each armpit individually. I am annoyed when people say things like “it only takes 90 seconds per T shirt, it’s so easy to do my running shirt once or twice a week.” I am not doing my running shirt (I don’t run. I walk very damn quickly if I need to get somewhere fast, or I cycle if I need to get somewhere faster, or I drive if I need to get somewhere very fast or if it’s bad weather, I think I’m American at heart because I literally drive to the supermarket that’s about 2 blocks away, if that). But the annoyance is more that it’s probably oh so very easy to do this a couple of times a week for running apparel, but I’m facing doing every single damn T-shirt, shirt, vest, tank top, bra, swimming top (I wear them a lot although I don’t swim often), jumper, fleece and cardigan, every single time I put them in the wash.

Listerine... for cleaning Listers.
Listerine… for cleaning Listers.

On the plus side, the Listerine spreads very quickly on things that are already damp (not so well on dry things) so I would recommend either pre-washing or using a water spray or such to dampen your underarms before pouring mouthwash on them, and when I sniffed before I put them back in the machine, they already smelled fresh and clean (except for the tiny trifling matter of them all being covered in mouthwash). I shut the door on my inanimate test subjects, let them soak in it for about 60-90 seconds after the last one was done (the ones before have obviously soaked for longer as I could only do one top at a time), and I used the same 60 degrees Eco wash cycle, using a capful of non-bio laundry liquid (about 1tbsp). Given how many spoons I’ve wasted on this today, I am unashamed to say that I revelled in imagining their little T-shirty screams of horror as the machine started filling with hot water again then I left them to the mercy of the front-loader and went to have a cup of tea and write the day’s laundry investigation down.  Early signs were positive.

When it was done, I got up and checked the laundry.  The armpits are definitely clean and clear of whiff, although they all still smell very definitely of Listerine now.  So I guess people will think I’ve brushed my teeth recently or something.  The lack of ability of my laundry liquid to get my clothing clean or get rid of perfumed items such as vinegar or Listerine begs the question – what DOES my laundry liquid clean in the washing machine?  Is it just an expensive waste of money?  Should I switch back to powder?  It’s all in the dryer now and still doesn’t smell of BO, so that’s a good result.  Score one for Listerine.

Readers with bipolar disorder or other medications or circumstances (or idiopathies, I’m not discriminating against those with naturally sweaty pits), has anyone found any better solutions to this? I used an entire 250ml bottle of Listerine on the one washload, I will have more laundry to do tomorrow, so that’s going to be an expensive solution.

Sorry, I know when they said “it’s time to talk about mental health” they wanted me to wander round going “Oh it’s all so hard” and maybe cry a bit, rather than pour random liquids over my pit stains in the name of science, but I would rather flourish and flail in clean clothing, you see, it’s far more photogenic. When you think that a big way that the authorities decide whether you’re coping or not is whether you’re clean and dressed appropriately, and factor in that I spend about 90% of my life either not wearing anything or not dressed appropriately, I like to make sure my “appropriate” clothing for the benefit of mankind is clean and whiff free, and it really bothers me that this is not the case. Not currently working for the man Being a minimalist I flatly refuse to throw out my old clothes and replace them with fresh ones if there is a way to save them.

In next week’s thought provoking article, I ask the question: Can used disposable handkerchiefs be recycled?
Oh wait, I’ve just asked that question. Oh well, something else for some other time, then.

That’s enough thinking for me for the time being.


Author: MsAdventure

I am a twentysomething travel, photography and beauty blogger who occasionally writes about other topics. Within travel, I tend to write mostly about Europe because all the other travel bloggers seem to write about South East Asia. As a writer, I have written articles that are published in Offbeat Bride and on Buzzfeed, and as a photographer, I have taken photographs that are published in local and national news outlets in the UK. I have a blog at

2 thoughts on “How Do I Get Rid of Stinky Sweat Stains Left AFTER Washing?”

  1. Awesome. I wrote a post about this not too long ago – about meds making me sweat abnormally and smell like a construction worker.
    maybe I’ll try Listerine. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

Comments are closed.