I Tried This $4 Trick and It “Magically” Got Rid of Sweat Stains (and Odors!)

published Mar 7, 2024
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A white top goes with just about everything — except sweat and body odor. The underarms of a once-pristine blouse or T-shirt can turn an unsightly yellow so quickly that I’ve all but banished white tops from my wardrobe. But I’ve since determined that my laundry won’t get the better of me. So I set out to find a household hack that would once again allow me to wear white tops with the carefree confidence of an actor in a deodorant commercial.

Luckily I follow Mary Futher, founder of Kaia Naturals and the personality behind the popular @madamesweat accounts on Instagram and TikTok, and she shared in an Instagram Reel her trick for removing sweat stains and odors: use salt. 

According to Futher, salt is the “magic ingredient” for combating sweat stains and odors on fabrics. She shares with Apartment Therapy the reasons why and how to use it correctly.

Why Salt Works as a Sweat Stain Remover

Much more than a substance to season or preserve food, salt has superpowers that can be leveraged against odors and sweat stains. Here’s what Futher had to say about salt.

  • It’s hygroscopic. “This means that salt attracts and holds water molecules from the environment, so this helps draw out the moisture from sweat stains,” she says.
  • It’s got a good level of solubility. Salt easily dissolves in water, creating a saline solution that can penetrate fibers to eliminate the oils and proteins that create sweat stains on the fabric.
  • It’s abrasive. When salt isn’t dissolved, its granular texture is abrasive yet gentle. “This helps to physically loosen and lift the sweat-staining particles from clothing without damaging the material,” says Futher.
  • It’s got antibacterial properties. Salt works as a dehydrator, which is good for drying out clothing where bacteria are attempting to settle in. “Therefore, it inhibits the bacterial growth, which reduces odor and further staining on your clothes,” she explains.
Credit: Barbara Bellesi Zito

How to Make a 3-Ingredient Cleaning Paste for Sweat Stains

This is the three-ingredient cleaning paste recipe Futher uses to combat sweat stains and odors.

Note: If you’ve got extra-smelly clothing, Futher suggests soaking the article in a solution of 2 cups water and 1 cup vinegar for 30 minutes.

Credit: Barbara Bellesi Zito

I Tried This DIY Cleaning Paste on a White Shirt

Pardon me for being a little fancy, but all I had on hand was finely ground sea salt that’s used for cooking. Again, Futher says inexpensive table salt is just fine — I will keep the packets that come with our food deliveries for this purpose in the future! 

I placed the three ingredients in a shallow bowl and stirred them with a spoon. It had a consistency more like freshly fallen snow than paste, so I put a smidge of water in it to make it more easily spreadable. 

Credit: Barbara Bellesi Zito

Then, I smeared some on the now slightly grayish underarms of a white shirt that I had hidden in my closet. I’ve never been so excited to do laundry in my life, but Futher did recommend letting the paste sit for about 10 minutes, so I cleaned the kitchen before tossing a load in the wash. 

Credit: Barbara Bellesi Zito

The Results

Did I just buy a new white shirt? I’ve had this top for a while, and it came out looking snowy white, with no odor emanating from the armpits. It’s hard to tell in the images due to lighting, but there’s definitely a difference in person! 

Thank you, “Madame Sweat” — your advice is, indeed, worth its salt.