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Ask a Clean Person: Still With the Armpits
Apparently it’s still summer, and apparently I’m still banging on about your armpits. How’s about that?!
Last week we talked a whole bunch about armpits and yellow stained shirts and sweat and I feel like it was therapeutic for everyone involved. Which is so great! The other great thing that happened was that you all did indeed share your secrets, as I expected you would. And because your secrets were so delightful, and so helpful, I wanted to be sure to give them their proper place in the sun, so to speak (your secrets are probably sweating). Which is what we’re going to do today! Once I get done talking to you about OxiClean because I’m me and I can’t not talk to you about OxiClean.
Before we get into your secrets, I think I need to back this (clean, so so clean) train up and talk to you about your OxiClean technique. A number of you noted that using Oxi didn’t do anything to help cure your ‘pit stains, when others of you were practically rapturous describing the miracle visited unto your white t-shirts, and I’m pretty sure I know why. Some of you are just tossing it in the laundry, which is a good thing to do (Oxi is what’s known as a laundry booster, which means that it works with your detergent to bring an increased stain-busting and brightening effect to your washables) but just adding a scoop to your wash isn’t going to touch a really tough ‘pit stain. So we have to get a little more advanced.
The people who have had luck seemed to all use the same basic technique of using Oxi as a paste/soaking agent. I generally use my kitchen sink for pre-treating, but you can use a giant bowl or a bucket or anything that can hold water, really. The other thing is you do need to get in there and agitate a bit, especially when we’re talking about the stiff, crunchy, yellow stains caused by perspiration + deodorant. I find that with heavily soiled items, spending some time rubbing the fabric against itself to really work the cleaning solution in and the gunky substances out is the way to go. As I like to say around here, you’ve gotta do a lil’ chh-chh frottage action with your Oxi.
Now then, if you truly cannot get the Oxi to work for you, commenter iknowright offers this alternative solution.
I have to wear white shirts for work and they usually get those gross yellow pit stains within a couple of months; I tried using OxiClean on them and it didn’t work. But!
My magical solution (for white shirts): 1 part water, 1 part hydrogen peroxide, 1 part baking soda. Mix into a paste and spoon out onto sweat stains. Use your fingers to mix the paste into the shirts. Wash on cold, then tumble dry.
Seriously, this worked brilliantly and got stains out of shirts that are over 5 years old. I used it on all kinds of t-shirts and also on dress shirts. I was never so excited doing laundry in my life! It basically made me feel like I had a brand new wardrobe (no more awkward holding-down-elbow-to-hip-to-hide-stains workdays for me)!
Also, hydrogen peroxide and baking soda are super cheap, so I didn’t feel any guilt in using a ton of both. Try it! Feel like a Laundry God! You can thank me later!
A number of you also noted the restorative power of sunshine on your whites; if you have access to enough secure outdoor space that this is an option for you I can indeed confirm that it is a truly solid one.
Wow, you all had a lot to say about deodorant! I read through every single one of the 250+ comments and pulled out allllllllllll the tips you offered about various types, brands, and alternatives to deodorant, and here’s what I learned:
It turns out that a number of you are using dude deodorant to great effect. Super! A common issue with using deodorant aimed at men is the scent, which is often stronger than those aimed at women and also, you know, dudelier. But it seems like a bunch of you have found unscented options that you like.
I found some Boots brand deodorant/antiperspirant at a drugstore in Thailand, and I love it. It seems to be far less pit-stain-inducing than any of the brands I was using before? But I can’t find it in the US, so now I buy it in bulk whenever I go through Heathrow. To their credit, the cashiers don’t even blink at the American girl buying 5 things of deodorant for a plane ride.
Also, the smell is “cotton” and it just smells like clean laundry. Sigh.
I feel like I must share. I used to have horrible pit sweat at times of stress, like dripping down the inside of my shirt kinda thing. Horrible. My life was changed by Certain Dri. It stings a little after application, but it works so well and lasts for days. I teach, and not having to worrying about pitting out in front of my students is such a relief.
I do think it is aluminum-based product, so no help here for the allergic, sorry.
I’m sorry that I didn’t read all of the comments above, in case my solution has already been mentioned, but I have to say: DRYSOL!
When I was a teenager and a college student, I constantly sweated through every shirt I owned, winter, summer, whenever, and it was horribly embarrassing. My suitemate in college turned me on to a prescription formulation called Drysol (don’t know the generic name for it), which you put on at night and then wash off in the morning. It can feel sting-y, and you should definitely wear an old shirt to bed, because it’s very chemical-y. But it completely got rid of the sweat problem and from then on I was able to use a normal deodorant and not sweat through my shirts at all.
After a month or so of using it I only had to use it at night every six months or so, and now it’s once every couple of years. (I don’t know why this is; maybe it kills sweat glands or closes them up or something?) It is AWESOME.
Ask your doctor.
But it’s also important to remember that all bodies are made differently and there’s no panacea. What if you just can’t find a deodorant/antiperspirant that works for you? Well, it turns out a bunch of you have tried Botox to curb underarm sweating. Here’s what you had to say about it.
Anchovy Cake offers up this, in re: Botox for the underarms:
I had Botox done in my ‘pits. The problems are twofold: (1) it’s temporary, it lasts about 3 months and (2) your body will just sweat elsewhere. I had nasty sweaty feet and hands instead of sweaty armpits. I didn’t go in for another injection because I didn’t like being Clammy Hands McGee anymore than I liked being Sweaty Pits Gal.
On another note, Edith’s touting of the Soapwalla deodorant is spot on as that product is uhhMazing. I sweat zillions of times less and I no longer stain shirts.
While Tuna Surprise provides this account:
I did it with a much better experience. The first time I did it, it was like living a dream. I bought white t-shirts. I wore button down oxfords. All the things I had stopped doing years before.
I didn’t sweat elsewhere and for the most part I was lasting closer to six months. I eventually stopped doing it because it was a major hassle to get my insurance to re-approve the shots. Now that I’ve switched providers I may try again.
I had Botox done on my pits 4 years ago and it lasted for a LONG time. The sweat starts coming back bit by bit by bit, but it’s mild. 4 years later, I’m still way less sweaty than I was before.
But yeah, Botox … for the first 8 months or so, I could workout in the blazing heat and not sweat in my arm pits. However, I had more boobage sweat when I worked out, but absolutely no more “oh hey I just woke up and 5 minutes into breakfast, my gray shirt has pit marks!”
Oddly enough, I never got pit marks when I was asleep. Bodies are weird.
I sweat a ridiculous amount, and it was worse when I was a teenager, I got the botox shots and it lasted about 9 months. It was the best 9 months of my teenage life, I could wear coloured clothes and light fabrics! It boosted my self confidence and I actually felt pretty. The only downside was how expensive it is, but if you can afford it I would absolutely recommend botox :)
And finally, a bit about insurance coverage from Tuna Surprise:
My insurance covered it. If you’re insured, talk to you dr. about it. My dermatologist diagnosed me with hyperhidrosis and the whole thing was covered except for a $20 co-pay. And if you don’t get it covered, she also gave me a prescription deodorant that although it didn’t work quite as well, was much better than over the counter stuff.
T-shirts: one of you asked for recommendations for t-shirts to wear under winter-weight wool dresses. Which is both lovely and horrific to think about in August. The brand that sprang to my mind is Petit Bateau. Other suggestions included the tissue weight tees from the Gap or J.Crew, and Hanes men’s undershirts/tank tops.
Oh also! I totally forgot to tell you that I was chillin’ with a scientist friend of mine who explained that your t-shirts are made of protein. And I got allllllllllllll excited that I made the connection that the aluminum in deodorant is not only reacting with sweat (protein) but also with your shirt itself. Because I am apparently the world’s biggest dork.
Slips: Whoa! I am SO glad I detoured a bit to mention my slip habit because you all turned me on to a whole bunch of other options when it comes to slip purchasing. Among which are:
- Farr West (which is pricey, but also they offer great deals in their sale section, so do check that out!)
- Vermont Country Store
By the by, the Vermont Country Store is AMAZING. You guys, they have an entire department devoted to muumuus. I … need to take a moment to collect myself. And then I need to buy this. And this. And this. And also this. Oh oh and this one too ooooh I love it so much you guys!!
While I’m busy collecting myself, a final thought on the subject of slips from Kirs:
I will now extol the virtues of slips. I love them. It is a crime that they are not more readily available. I think it might be part of a conspiracy to make us all go to the dry cleaner more often.
Plus I feel damn sexy when I wear a slip. Mine aren’t like, crazy sexy or anything, but wearing a wee bit of lace under my very-serious-lawyering outfit puts a jump in my step.
And man, boys sure love them. A lot. Had more than one gentleman caller gasp/sigh “Jesus Christ, is that slip?” in the most admiring way possible.
And yes, Gap has a few options (as does H&M sometimes). But I suggest you raid the world of vintage — check ebay, thrift stores, your grandmother’s closet (I scored a couple of awesome ones from her), etc. … And then you can find some in fun colors. I’ve got a skirt slip that is bright red. I love it.
BOOM! Let’s all start wearing slips, okay?? Okay!
Dress Shields: many of you noted that dress shields can be found in the notions section of most fabric stores (JoAnn’s and the like) as well as the sort of old-school department store that are sadly closing at all too fast a clip.
Also someone asked if men can wear dress shields, and yes they can! The modern term for them is “garment shields” and Klienert’s makes allllllll kinds of ’em for the menfolk.
Vitamins: this totally blew my mind, and yet it makes a lot of sense! Our reader FoleySparrow takes supplements to help curb her overactive sweat glands. (Check with your doctor before you do this!)
I used to have tons of sweat and horrible pit smells no matter what I used (man products, clinical strength, old fashioned baking powder – nothing worked). I ruined so many clothes.
The only thing that worked, and worked absolute wonders, was taking daily detox supplements, those herbal pills full of stuff like Milk Thistle and Clover. Weird, right? But worked like a champ. And perhaps made me otherwise healthier? I dunno. I just got tired of sweating through everything and throwing out good clothes I couldn’t properly clean!
Nowadays you can get them at drugstores and grocery stores. I used to have to go to old hippy pharmacies or vitamin shops, and always felt the need to explain I wasn’t trying to pass a UA, I just had really sweaty pits that no external product could help. (Oversharing, yes. And no, they didn’t care.) But nowadays ‘detox’ regimens are mainstream, you can find lots of options anywhere.
I can’t explain what the detox supplements do, except make me sweat A LOT LESS (maybe the sweat I do release is more ‘productive’ or something, so my body makes less of it?). And the sweat I do sweat *stinks astronomically less.* Seriously! As long as I’m taking daily detox supplements, my sweat don’t stink. Ha! I think it makes the toxins exit my body in other ways so my system doesn’t have to only direct them to my poor, overburdened sweat glands.
“Daily Detox” by Wellements is a really good product that works wonders. It’s also the most cost-effective one. I still order it off Amazon. It’s been around for years. Check it out all my sweat-producing sisters. You can use this plus your man products, clinical products, lady products, all-natural products, or whatever, and have non-smelly, much less sweaty pits! Good luck!
Miss B chimed in with a similar suggestion to take fenugreek supplements, which make everything smell like maple and oh have I ever mentioned here that maple is my favorite flavor note? If you take fenugreek supplements and let me come over to sniff you; I’ll, like, wash your floors for you or something.
For people who think they are overly sweat-stinky … try taking fenugreek supplements. It’s what new moms take, it helps with breastfeeding/milk production, I think? But a major side effect of taking it every day, is it makes your sweat (and I think maybe your pee and all bodily secretions) smell like maple syrup. So, if you like maple syrup and you are a very sweaty person, maybe try that?
However, a new problem was brought to light by ThundaCunt and so I’ll toss this to you along with one suggestion from me:
Pit sweat. Allllmost the worse. Wanna know whats worse-er?? Butt cheek sweat. That’s right folks. The worst, immediate place I sweat is right up under my cheeks and around the FUPA….*sigh* I think I literally sweated my ass off many years ago. In high school I had to bring a change of panties to gym class. It was that bad!! I live in Florida. There is no AC in my car. I mean it’s ass sweat every where I go!! The little half smiley faces on the back of my legs. *hangs head in shame* I don’t even know how to BEGIN to combat that shit!!
And then there were those of you shoving pantyliners in your blouses. I’m just gonna leave it to you all to explain yourselves.
Previously: ‘Pits, Revisited.
Jolie Kerr is not paid to endorse any of the products mentioned in this column, but she sure would be very happy to accept any free samples the manufacturers care to send her way! Are you curious to know if she’s answered a question you have? Do check out the archives, listed by topic. More importantly: is anything you own dirty?
Image via Kilmer House