Frugal Tips for Getting Sweat Smells and Stains Out of Clothing

by Reader Contributors

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Do sweat smells tend to linger on your supposedly clean laundry? Stains just don’t disappear? Use our frugal readers’ remedies for getting sweat smells and stains out of clothing.

Dear Dollar Stretcher,
Does anyone know of a cheap homemade way to get sweat smell out of clothes? I have tried conventional washing and the odor and stains persist.

Any effective ideas (including cost effective!) on how to get sweat smell out of clothes?
Angela C.

Preventing Sweat Stains

Although I don’t have a readily available solution to getting rid of sweat stains, I do have a prevention solution that I have used for years.

I found that my husband’s sweat combined with anti-perspirant was causing the staining. We switched to plain deodorant, and have subsequently had no more problems. Just recently, my teenage daughter began having the same problem with her clothes, and sure enough, she was using an anti-perspirant. I have two teenage boys also and have never had any problem removing “plain ole sweat”.

White Vinegar Removes Sweat Odors

I have always used white vinegar to get smells out of laundered clothing. I use about a cup, just added to the wash load, with the soap; since I buy the stuff for about two dollars a gallon, I stopped measuring a long time ago.

I can’t recall a time when it didn’t work for this.
Kit L.

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Vinegar ‘Sprinkle’

I don’t know how old this is, but my mother told me this when I was a teenager and it does still work.

As close to the time as possible after taking off the garment, sprinkle or rub white vinegar into armpits. The acid from the vinegar seems to react in favor of stain/order removal from the garment. You can let it dry and wash at a later time or wash immediately, it doesn’t seem to matter which.
C. P.

Baking Soda ‘Paste’ Removes Sweat Stains

Make a paste of baking soda and water. Apply to the stains and let sit for about 20 minutes. Wash as usual.

If the stain is still there buy regular “chalk” (which comes in many colors) and apply to stain before wearing. The chalk will not harm the material.

Dish Detergent Soak

I have used Palmolive dish detergent. Soak the area with the liquid, let set for at least an hour and then wash as usual. It has worked well for me.

You can also use it for ring around the collar. This has worked wonders and is very cheap. Do not use any liquid with lotions added, such as Ivory.

You could also try the new anti-bacterial dish detergent.

Shampoo for Sweat Stains

I use hair shampoo on yellowing stains on collars and under arms. Scrub it in with an old toothbrush.

Use shampoo for oily hair, as this helps breakdown the oil our bodies leave on the clothing. Just toss it in the washing machine after you scrub it.
Karen in KY

Hydrogen Peroxide for Sweat Stains

For odor, I have used a cup of vinegar in my laundry rinse cycle for years and it is wonderful.

It also removes mildew smell. Our washer and dryer is in our garage and it gets very hot in the summer. If I forget to change out the washer to the dryer, sometimes I get that nasty smell. Just put on rinse cycle again and add vinegar and it’s gone.

Also, I might try hydrogen peroxide on the stain. Hydrogen peroxide removes blood stains very well. Test a small hidden spot of garment to make sure that it does not remove dye. I have never had a problem with it doing that but wisdom is on the cautious side.

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Toothpaste Works!

To remove odors from clothing, when washing the clothes, squeeze in a good healthy squirt of toothpaste around the tub of the washer, then add your detergent, water, and clothes. It really works! I just keep a cheap tube of toothpaste in the laundry room.
Leslie in Alaska

Bleach & Soda Bicarb

Sweat Stains: Any liquid bleach should be sufficient for removing sweat stains from clothes. Generally, one teaspoon of liquid bleach solution in 10 lit. of water (preferably with about 25 to 30 gm detergent in it) should do. Liquid Bleach cannot be used for silk and wool clothes.

Odor: After washing the clothes, soak them in solution of sodium bicarbonate (soda bicarb). I have found bicarb to very effective odor remover.


I had the same problem for years and had despaired of ever finding a solution, especially for sweat odors. I finally hit upon this solution: I spray the underarm area with a “clear” mouthwash (Dr. Tichenor’s) before laundering. It is even safe to let it sit on there for a few days before washing without it causing the clothing to fade. I haven’t tried it on delicate fabrics but on most workday and play clothes this works well to remove the sweat smell.
Rhonda B.

Reviewed August 2023

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