How to Get a Stain Out of a White Shirt

How to Get a Stain Out of a White Shirt

We’ve all had the “oh no!” moment when we get something on our clothes. There are so many things that can leave spots on fabric: drinks, food, ink, grass, mud, oil, sweat, and blood are just a few. Of course, it’s even worse when it’s light-colored clothing. But you can rescue almost anything if you take action quickly. Let’s talk about how to get a stain out of a white shirt. Hopefully, you’ll never have to worry about spots again after this.

Steps for removing stains from white fabric

Here’s a sample t-shirt. It’s made of 100% cotton and it’s machine-washable.

Vintage King Lebron James T-Shirt


Let’s imagine that you wore it to the game and got food on it. What should you do first?

Is it an oily stain?

If it’s greasy, don’t try to remove the spot with water! It may set the stain.

Greasy spots are caused by cooking oil, butter, machine oil, natural oils from meat, and even lipstick and mascara.

It’s best if you blot up as much of the oil as you can with a dry napkin or similar. But don’t rub or scrub! Just press and pat.

Then, if you have stain remover, pre-treat the spot and put the shirt to wash as soon as possible. Use the recommended laundry settings.

In the case of a white shirt, it’s better to use warm water instead of cold to launder the fabric.

What if you don’t have stain remover to pre-treat an oily spot?

You can also use a small amount of liquid dish soap or powdered or liquid laundry detergent on greasy stains. Dab the spot and work the liquid or powder into the fabric gently but don’t scrub.

Another solution is to use baking soda or white chalk to blot the spot before laundering.

What if it’s ketchup, mustard, beer, or something that’s not oily?

Non-oily stains are easier to remove. Remove the excess substance and rinse the spot with cold water. It works best if you can hold the fabric under the faucet and let the water hit the back side of the cloth to flush out the residue.

This method works well with anything that’s not greasy including toothpaste, regular dirt or mud, blood, eyeshadow, blush, and sweat stains.

How do you get rid of an ink stain on a white shirt?

If it’s a washable marker, rinse it with cold water and launder as usual. But if it’s ink from a ballpoint pen, you’ll need alcohol to dissolve the mark before washing. 

You can use rubbing alcohol, hand sanitizer, or even hairspray. Soak the spot and rub gently to release the ink. Then wash the shirt as usual.

How do you get yellow sweat stains out of a white shirt?

Armpits and collars get dingy but they don’t have to stay that way. Sometimes commercial stain removers don’t cut it. However, the stuff in your pantry will work miracles.

Make a thick paste with baking soda and a little water and work that into the discolored parts. Then launder the shirt.

If you have hydrogen peroxide, mix that with baking soda instead of water. This blend is extra-powerful for removing armpit stains and odor from white shirts.

The old standby white vinegar also removes yellow marks on white clothes as well as blood.

Lastly, try lemon juice and salt to erase perspiration stains and rust marks.

All of these tools work best if you can let them sit and work for a few minutes before laundering the shirt.

How do you get a stain out of a white shirt fast?

Let’s say you’re crunched for time and need that white shirt ready to wear right away.

If you have a pre-treatment product for stains, apply a generous amount and wash the shirt in warm water with laundry detergent.

But don’t put it in the dryer until you’ve checked that the stain is gone.

If you don’t have a stain stick or similar, try one of the home remedies for stain removal below.

DIY tools for stain removal on white shirts

So far, we’ve talked about treating oily stains with baking soda and white chalk. You can also use liquid dish soap. But please avoid water until the shirt is in the washer being laundered.

Non-greasy stains can be removed with plain water sometimes. Otherwise, you might need vinegar, lemon juice, or hydrogen peroxide. This latter ingredient is excellent for getting out blood stains.

Salt is another unsung hero for stain removal. It can soak up a fresh red wine spot. It’s also great for soaking white shirts to make them brighter and whiter.

What about bleach?

How do you get old stains out of white clothes? With all this talk about stain removal on white shirts, you’d think we would’ve already mentioned bleach. However, not all bleaches are equal. And before you use bleach, you should definitely consult the care label on the shirt. If you no longer have the care label, play it safe, and don’t use bleach.

For example, color-safe bleach and oxidizing bleach (both of which are often hydrogen peroxide in disguise) are gentle on fabric and very effective. It would be safe to use on the cotton t-shirt above that we used as an example. Just don’t use the hot water setting.

Chlorine bleach, on the other hand, not only damages colors but also weakens the fabric. If it’s the only option you have left and you’re desperate, dilute the bleach and test it on the fabric in a spot that’s out of sight. This may be helpful for removing stains from white clothes that have been dried.

If all you want to do is make your white shirts look nice and white, it’s better to soak them overnight in salt water or baking soda and water than to use chlorinated bleach. This is especially true when it comes to yellow stains.

The most important things NOT to do to a stain on a white shirt

Don’t treat greasy spots with water.

Don’t use hot water to wash the shirt if it has a stain.

Don’t use the dryer or the iron until you’re sure the spot is gone.

If you’ve washed a white shirt with dark-colored clothing and it comes out discolored, re-wash it immediately. At a minimum, put it to soak in cold water with salt until you can launder it.


We hope these tips for removing stains from a white shirt help you get the job done successfully! If you’d like to stock up on more white shirts, check out our store. We have short and long sleeve tees with all sorts of trendy and fun designs.

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