Sweat smell (aka Body odour or BO) is not a problem for everyone on this earth. But for those with this problem – it is the greatest one. I belong to the second section.
Having tried almost everything (like giving up on non-veg and spices, which proved impossible for me, and drinking enough water to make the bathroom my permanent residence). I have now resolved to clean the horrible sweat smell out of my clothes – properly; and get a good antiperspirant deodorant.
I have learned that there are two glands in our body (Eccrine glands and Apocrine glands – they are almost all over our body) that cause all the sweat; Sweat is supposed to be good for you (It cools the body when it gets heated up), so I will never blame sweat for the resultant body odor.
Body odor results from sweat mixed with bacteria in your body. This, together with the deodorant you must be using, will create a killer odor that makes a stain on your fabric and causes all to run away from you as well.
So removing every trace of the bad odor left lingering on clothes after you take them off is not an option – but a necessity.
Tips to prevent sweat smell on clothes
As always, preventing sweat is better than trying to remove it and the resultant smell. Washing well, as and when you get sweaty or at least once a day, will do a lot.
Know when you will sweat and wear appropriate clothes. Exercising is when I sweat the most. So preferably wear only moisture-absorbing fabric for exercise clothes (you would find them under labels workout clothes, activewear, gym clothes, or athletic wear).
For day-to-day activities, use breathable fabrics like cotton, linen, etc., which are less prone to sweat. But then cotton, when it has caught on sweat, gives the most horrible smell of all.
Using antiperspirant deodorant on dry skin (do not use on wet skin), and using underclothing like slips, petticoats, and vests also help. And bathing twice a day.
If you are wearing expensive clothes, you may want to protect it from sweat stains and smell with an underarm shield.
Tips to remove sweat smell from clothes
1. The first and foremost thing you can do is wash sweaty clothes as soon as they are taken off the body. Always wash sweaty clothes without keeping them too long in the laundry bin. The odor will set, and it will be hard to remove. The faster you can wash them, the better it will be washed out.
2. Using warm water to wash clothes can help. You should check the garment’s label and use only the highest possible temperature on the type of fabric. For, e.g., Polyester doesn’t tolerate very hot water. Wool shrinks in hot water. So be cautious and err on the side of caution. But warm water helps to remove the sweat smell to an extent.
When washing gym towels with a lot of sweat, you may be tempted to use hot water, but that will make the towel lose its fluffiness. Use a warm temperature below 35-degree celsius.
Soak the garment for 10 minutes in a strong detergent. If the sweat smell is intense, soak for 30 -45 minutes. You can soak it in the washing machine itself. What I do is this – work the machine, then when the cloth is immersed in water after one tumble, turn off the machine for 30 minutes ( My machine has only 10 minutes soak option), then power on the machine again.
3. If the clothing is stinking with the smell, use an antiseptic lotion (like Dettol) in the washing cycle. Many people vouch for this.
One problem is that you may not like the strong antiseptic smell. You will need to rinse the clothing thoroughly in fresh water to remove the antiseptic smell and dry it in the sun. But if the sweat smell is overwhelmingly bad, this is a solution.
4. Alternatively, you can soak the sweaty clothes in a bucket of water mixed with two-three teaspoons of white vinegar. Soak for half an hour. Wring it out and put the clothes in the wash. Another great option is to soak in an oxygen bleach solution. This is supposed to be a wonder-remedy for BO on clothes.
5. A thorough wash in the washing machine with a good quality detergent can remove most fresh sweat smells. Ensure that the washing machine is not overloaded.
If the clothes do not have space in the machine to be tumbled properly and washed, the odor and sweat will not go.
Also, for really sweaty clothes, add one more rinse cycle if your machine allows that. Take out from the machine as soon as the wash is complete to be hung. Hang the washed clothes out in the sunshine and clean the air to dry. It is better to skip the spin dryer.
6. The fabric conditioners available in the markets have a lovely smell. You can put a capful in the final rinse for a lingering smell. But I am a little concerned about using them daily in the wash, especially because everyone in our house is allergic. You can add a teaspoon of vinegar to the final rinse water for a more natural remedy. The foul odor of vinegar will fade when the cloth dries.
Related post: Using fabric conditioner in the wash.
7. For stubborn sweat smells which do not go away with washing – Some people have had success with Baking soda – that magical all-purpose cure for all problems (it is even supposed to cure cancer!). Just make a thick paste of baking soda with water and spread it on the sweaty places. Wait for 10-15 minutes before putting the clothes to wash.
8. Another remedy I have read about is using crushed aspirin tablets and spreading them like baking soda on the sweaty area. All these are harmless chemicals that would not harm your body.. Checkout this post for more ideas like this.
9. If you keep alcohol at home and have a bottle of Vodka and do not mind using it for any other purpose than rejuvenation or whatever you intend to get from a swig or two, use it on sweat – it is a surefire remedy for sweat smells – Use 1:3 ratio of vodka:water and spray on the area before washing.
10. Use Borax powder to remove the sweat smell – Just mix Borax powder with some water and a drop of lemongrass essential oil. Keep it in a spray bottle. Spritz on the sweat areas before washing..
11. For white clothes with a sweaty smell, a good bleach diluted and soaked will work to destroy the bacteria and render the clothes white again (the yellow sweat stain will vanish with the bleach).
If you are averse to using such chemicals, you can try lemon juice. It is supposed to be bleaching, and the lemon smell will take away the sweat smell.
12. Washing soda has been used for a long time for stubborn smells. Just add some teaspoons to the wash.
13. If the sweat smell is still there, use the fabric brush on the area. But you have to realize that hard scrubbing brushes may destroy the texture of the fabric surface.
14. Another method is to boil the cloth – if the smell is awful and everything you have done does not seem to work – keep the cloth ( if it is cotton or a fabric that is OK with heat) on a stainless steel pot with boiling water for 10 minutes.
This is ideal for smelly kitchen towels and white shirts with odor; removes the color and removes odor. You may have to use fabric conditioner later.
15. Perspiration stains are a direct result of sweat – those dreaded yellow stains. You can try to remove them with ammonia.
Mix one tablespoon of ammonia in one cup of water and apply. Check out the Stain removal guide for more tips like this.
One easy tip is not to wear light coloured clothes if you sweat heavily. Darker shades do not show as much sweat stains as do lighter colored clothes.
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