You Might Be Wearing Too MUCH Anti-Perspirant

Shocking title, isn’t it? How can you wear TOO MUCH anti-perspirant?

Well, I thought it was impossible, too, until I investigated a clothing problem and was astounded at what I found.

The Problem: Dark, Stiff “Pit Stains” on Every Shirt I Own

For years, I’ve struggled with it–having what appeared to be dark “pit stains” on all my tops. Not a very ladylike look, I assure you! No matter how much anti-perspirant I put on, no matter how little I sweated, all of my shirts seemed to end up like this:

And this is one of the nicer-looking shirts, too. I’ve got a light green shirt (which I can’t locate at the moment), which has underarms stained a dark brown color. Disgusting!!

However, it occurred to me recently, as I was taking my laundry out of the dryer and bemoaning again the fact that all my shirts were like this, that the stains were not exactly just “stains.” These spots were stiff, almost cakey, and no stain remover seemed to touch them, even before they had hit the dryer one time. “If this was just sweat,” I thought, “why did this stuff not ever wash out?”

I scratched an exploratory fingernail along the seam of one of the more offending-looking shirts, and came away with a nail-ful of semi-solid gunk–gunk with a distinctly shower-fresh scent, which I immediately recognized. It was my anti-perspirant! The gunk on my shirts smelled nothing like sweat at all!

The Test: A Control Group of New Shirts

Since I was due for some new shirts anyway, I decided to try something revolutionary: wearing the least amount of antiperspirant possible while wearing these new shirts. Instead of my usual 8 quick swipes per underarm (I kid you not), I now went for a leisurely, thorough 1 pass per underarm, making sure to cover all the skin I was supposed to with medium pressure. For each new shirt, I used this technique, and made sure to wear all the new shirts as much as possible, laundering in between wearings as usual.

I have done this test over the last two months, and I’ve noticed something. The new shirts, while being made of the same material and being worn in the same weather as the older ones, have NO so-called “pit stains.” None. Whatsoever. At all. And the old shirts had developed stains very quickly, even with routine washing!

The Hypothesis: Some “Pit Stains” Might Actually Be Antiperspirant Stains!

This is my hypothesis, then (which needs a few more tests to prove for certain): all that antiperspirant I used to wear just rubbed off on my clothes and caused a cakey buildup, which discolored and stiffened the fabric over time. When I wore so much of the product, it actually worked against the result I was trying to achieve, which was dry, stain-free pits.

I’ve also noticed that with my new regimen of using less antiperspirant, I seem to sweat a little LESS. It seems that overusing the product makes it less effective (because it’s just caked on and can’t absorb, I suppose).

So, if you’re struggling with pit stains as I was, you might try using the “one thorough swipe” method of putting on antiperspirant/deodorant, and see if that helps the buildup stop. (Also, the folks over at HowToCleanStuff have a few suggestions for removing such buildup from clothing, and a thread on MetaFilter discusses more options.)

I hope this helps someone out there avoid new “pit stains” and get rid of the old ones!

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