Can Sweat Bleach Your Clothes?

Have you ever noticed that some of your clothes have bleached streaks or have faded in just a short period of time? If you’ve worn that garment after a hot day or after exercising, you may be wondering if it has something to do with your sweat. 

Can your sweat be the reason why your clothes are getting bleached? Yes, it is certainly possible, especially if your sweat is highly acidic. There are also other culprits that may be causing the quick discolouration of your garments, such as the deodorant you use, or even your laundry habits. 

Let’s go into more detail about the reasons why your garments are getting bleached, and learn effective ways to prevent it from happening. 

Why Does Sweat Affect Clothes?

Sweat is mostly water, but it also has some salt, proteins, and other stuff your body gets rid of. Usually, sweat is clear, so you might wonder how it can change the colour of your clothes. 

To be clear, it is possible that sweat can bleach your clothes due to its acidity, but it’s more likely to cause the colour to fade. This often happens when your sweat has a high pH acidity. Additionally, one of the main reasons sweat can lead to bleaching, especially in darker fabrics, is the presence of a compound called urea, which is excreted by the body in sweat[1].

sweaty person

The extent of this bleaching can depend on the concentration of urea in the sweat, the type of fabric, and the dyes used in the clothing. Also, if you use products like deodorants or antiperspirants that contain aluminium compounds, these products can also react with sweat and contribute to the staining or bleaching of clothes. 

The combination of sweat, body products, and the fabric’s material can lead to a chemical reaction that affects the colour of the clothing. 

NOTE: The change in colour will also depend on the actual colour of your fabrics: White clothes will usually have yellow stains, while sweat can turn some parts of your black clothes white – hence, the “bleaching” effect. 

Best Ways To Maintain The Colour Of Your Clothing

Preserving the colour of your garments does not have to be complicated. After all, you want your whites to stay bright, and your darks to keep their classy appeal, don’t you?

Here are the proven methods to keep sweat stains away:

Do Laundry More Often

Washing your clothes after every wear, especially if you’ve been sweating, can prevent the build-up of sweat and body oils that contribute to fabric discolouration. Use a gentle, colour-safe detergent and cold water cycle to help maintain fabric integrity and colour vibrancy. 

person checking clothes in laundry basket

For garments prone to sweat absorption, consider pre-treating the areas with a mild detergent or stain remover before washing.

NOTE: Do not underload your machine, though. Aim to fill at least half of its capacity to keep the laundry session efficient and avoid wasting your resources.

Change Your Deodorant 

Many variants of deodorants and antiperspirants contain ingredients like aluminium compounds that can react with sweat. As a result, it will create yellowish streaks or whitish residue on your clothes, especially around the underarm area.

Switching to a natural or aluminium-free antiperspirant can significantly reduce the risk of these chemical reactions staining your garments.

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TIP: Allowing the deodorant or antiperspirant to dry completely before putting on your clothes will significantly help reduce awful discolouration. 

Get Yourself Checked

In some cases, excessive sweating, also known as hyperhidrosis, or a particular body chemistry can worsen the bleaching or staining effect of sweat on clothes. 

people sweating after an exercise

If you notice a consistent issue despite taking preventive measures, it might be worth consulting a healthcare professional to explore solutions to manage the way you produce sweat.

DID YOU KNOW? It is not normal for your sweat to smell like bleach. If yours smells like bleach, you need to go to the doctor as this could be a sign of kidney or liver disease. 

How To Remove Sweat Stains On Your Clothing

Now that you know the reasons why your clothes are getting discoloured, you may be wondering how to fix them. 

Here’s how to tackle stubborn sweat stains, depending on the colour of your fabrics:

On Light-Coloured Garments

For light-coloured fabrics like whites and pastels, a solution of distilled white vinegar and water is very effective. 

Mix equal parts vinegar and water, and apply the mixture directly to the stain. Let it sit for around 30 minutes before washing as usual. 

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Bicarbonate of soda is also another inexpensive solution you can use. Just make a paste with water, apply it to the stain, let it sit, and then brush off any residue before washing as normal.

SEE ALSO: How To Remove Yellow Stains From White Clothes

On Dark-Coloured Garments

Dark-coloured clothes, like blacks, reds, and greys, require a bit more care to avoid lightening the fabric entirely.

The safest approach is to use a solution of cool water and a mild detergent. Do this by soaking the stained area for 30 minutes, then gently rub the fabric against itself to help lift the stain. Rinse thoroughly before washing as normal. 

For more stubborn stains, soak the garment in white vinegar for around 30 minutes, then wash as usual. 

SEE ALSO: Can You Use White Vinegar On Black Clothes? (read this first)

How to Keep Your Clothes Looking Their Best

Sweat can be tough on your clothes, but with the right care, you don’t have to let it ruin your favourite outfits. 

Now that we know why sweat can mess with your clothes, let’s talk about how to prevent stains:

  • Pick The Right Clothes
    Wear clothes made of natural fibres like cotton or linen when you know you’ll sweat. They let your skin breathe better and are less likely to react with sweat.
  • Wash With Care
    Wash your clothes regularly to get rid of sweat and bacteria buildup. Use a gentle detergent and avoid using too much bleach or fabric softener. If you’ve got a stain, try using a natural stain remover like white vinegar before you throw your clothes in the wash.
  • Avoid The Tumble Dryer
    Whenever possible, let your clothes air dry instead of using the dryer. High heat can make any damage from sweat or products worse.

And there you have it! By understanding what causes those annoying stains and discolourations and following these simple tips, you can keep your clothes looking fresh and new for longer.

Do you have questions? Feel free to ask them below!

Frequently Asked Questions

Does sweat damage clothes?

Yes, sweat can damage clothes. The acidity in sweat, along with salts, proteins, and other compounds, can lead to the fading, discolouration, or even weakening of fabric over time.

Why is my sweat staining my clothes?

Your sweat is staining your clothes because it contains substances like urea, salts, and acids. When these mix with body products (like deodorants) and react with the dyes in your clothes, they can cause noticeable stains or bleach-like effects.

Does sweat stain permanently?

Sweat stains are not necessarily permanent. Their persistence depends on the fabric type, the sweat’s composition, and how long the stain has set. Immediate and appropriate treatment can often remove or significantly reduce these stains.

Can sweat bleach a hat?

Yes, sweat can bleach a hat, especially if the sweat is acidic and the hat is made of a dye-sensitive material. The combination of sweat’s acidity and compounds such as urea can alter the colour of the fabric.

What causes bleach-like stains on clothes?

Bleach-like stains on clothes can be caused by a combination of factors, including sweat (especially when it’s highly acidic), the reaction between body products (like certain deodorants) and the fabric, and improper laundry practices. These factors can lead to a chemical reaction that affects the colour of the clothing, resulting in bleach-like stains. 

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