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Deodorant Streaks Are Ruining My Clothes/Life

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Out, Damned Spot has long provided general tips to keep your fashions looking amazing, but now, twice a month, I'll also be answering questions about the very specific problems your new (or old!) purchases may present. Do you have questions for me? Ask away!

I'm having a problem that shouldn't exist: I bought "invisible" gel deodorant assuming it would you know, be invisible, and then it left white marks all over my black shirt! How do I get these stains out, and why don't products mean what they say? — Meredith Haggerty

I promise this isn't going where you're worried it's going, but I have this fantasy that seems relevant to the subject at hand, if tangentially so. It's a work-related fantasy, and here's what it is: I would like to establish a subscription box service. That's all! Nothing major, but I'm so in love with the idea of sending a monthly box of new and old, but beloved, cleaning products, tools and some extras for funsies. I even have a great name for it, "Kerr Package," which becomes amazing when you realize that my last name is pronounced like care. Right???

I tell you that to tell you this: An important part of the fantasy is the inclusion of a highly designed tip sheet focused on one topic in each month's box. So when I was sitting down to answer Meredith's question, running through all the options for removing those blasted white deodorant marks that happen even when a deodorant swears on its grandmother's grave that it's invisible, I thought to myself, "Clean Self, this would make a great highly designed tip sheet focused on one topic for your fantasy subscription box."

We're gonna run through this in list form, mostly because there are a lot of ways to remove a fresh deodorant mark and I want to get to as many of them as I can, and a teeny bit because if I write it in list form I can lift it wholesale when I make my fantasy subscription box a reality.

  1. A damp washcloth — the key here being 'damp' — rubbed against fresh deodorant marks will take them right out. I like a washcloth because its size makes it easy to handle, but any damp towel or rag will work, just be sure to wring it very well after wetting so it's only slightly damp.
  2. For garments that dislike water, such as silk or viscose, microfiber sponges or cloths, are a great choice (I use the microfiber sponges from Casabella). Rub the sponge briskly on the deodorant streaked areas until the white marks are gone.
  3. It's not ideal, but in a pinch rubbing the garment against itself will work out white streaks. The problem with this method is that it can stretch the fabric out and even cause pilling due to the friction.
  4. This method is similar in concept to rubbing fabric against itself, but doesn't put you at risk of stretching your clothes out: Use a pair of pantyhose or trouser socks to by rubbing them against the garment to remove the deodorant stains.
  5. We live in a world in which there's a product for everything, which is why you shouldn't be surprised that deodorant removing sponges exist. Gal Pal makes a set of two, which is nice because it let's you keep one at home and another in your purse, tote or gym bag for use on the go. Fashion First Aid also offers a similar sponge called Skid Out.
  6. There's also a DIY version of a deodorant sponge! You can use the foam covering from dry cleaner hangers to the same effect, by rubbing it on the white stains until they're gone.
  7. Here's a weird one for you! Weirder even than the trouser sock one, yup. Dryer sheets will remove deodorant streaks. The only potential drawback is that the dryer sheet will also leave its scent behind.
  8. Another great alternate use-type product is makeup remover. The wipes are ideal, but liquid makeup remover can also work as long as it's the oil-free kind.
  9. Let's wrap this up with one last suggestion of something you've probably already got on hand that can do double duty as a deodorant streak remover: baby or adult bathroom wipes. They have just the right amount of moisture to remove deodorant without getting your clothes wet.