How To Get Stains Out of White Shirts

Product Care

Follow these easy tips to salvage any stained white tee.

Last updated: May 26, 2022
4 min read
How To Get Stains Out of White Shirts
Time Required
30 min
Estimated Cost


  • 3% hydrogen peroxide (or white vinegar)
  • Liquid dish soap (or castile soap)
  • Baking soda


  • Paper towel
  • Spare, clean toothbrush or cloth
  • Small bowl
  • Empty, clean spray bottle
  • A funnel (optional)

Maintaining a flawless, bright white shirt can be difficult. White tees are bound to encounter things such as coffee spills, sweat stains and makeup marks throughout the day.

Before you give up on a stained white shirt and replace it, know that there are several powerful, at-home stain-removing tips worth trying. (You may already have many of the ingredients you’ll need, an extra perk).

Before mixing up a stain-fighting concoction, start by figuring out what caused the stain. The key is knowing whether the stain was caused by an oil-based substance.

RELATED: How To Get Your White Shoes Looking Brand New

How To Remove Oily Stains From White Shirts

Oily stains can come from salad dressing, cooking oil, greasy foods or oil-based makeup such as certain types of mascara or lipstick, among other types of oily products.

If the source of the stain comes from oil, avoid using water. Oil repels water, so rinsing one in cold water won’t help. The best remedy for an oil stain is to quickly act before the stain sets.

  1. Gently press on the stain with a dry paper towel to remove the excess oil from the shirt and soak it up right away.
  2. Next, apply a small amount of grease-fighting solution, like dish soap, to pretreat the stain. You can also make your own homemade stain-fighting spray (more on that below).
  3. Check the care instructions on the shirt before washing, and be sure to follow the instructions on the label.
  4. Before drying the shirt, make sure the oil stain has been removed completely. Putting the stained shirt in the dryer can cause the stain to permanently set.

How To Remove Other Stains From White Shirts

Stains that aren’t oil-based — such as water-based makeup, coffee, tea, wine, dirt or grass — can immediately be treated with cold water.

If you know the source of the stain isn’t oil, follow the below steps as soon as possible. The longer you wait to treat the stain, the harder it will be to remove.

  1. Run the stain under cold water for one to two minutes. (Hint: It’s best to position the shirt so that the water runs through the back of the stain. Turning the shirt inside out and running cold water through the other side of the fabric helps loosen the stain and push it away from the material, rather than into it.)
  2. Apply a stain-removing solution to the stain, and work it into the fabric with a spare toothbrush or clean cloth. Let it stand for at least 10 minutes.
  3. Check the care instructions on the garment before putting it in the washing machine, and be sure to follow the instructions on the label.
  4. If the stain persists, repeat the above steps as needed before putting the shirt in the dryer. The heat of the dryer can cause a stain to further set in.

How To Create a DIY Stain-removing Mixture in a Spray Bottle

A store-bought stain remover can be handy to have, but if you’d like to make your own using household staples, you only need two ingredients to create a DIY stain-fighting solution.

In a small bowl, mix two parts hydrogen peroxide (the 3% kind) with one part liquid dish soap, depending on how much solution you’d like to make. For example, if you use 2 tablespoons of hydrogen peroxide, mix it with 1 tablespoon of dish soap. For a standard-sized household spray bottle, try using ⅔ cup hydrogen peroxide and ⅓ cup dish soap.

Carefully pour the solution into the spray bottle (use a funnel to help avoid spills, if you have one).

Tip: If you don’t have hydrogen peroxide on hand, use white vinegar instead. And, if you need a substitute for liquid dish soap, castile soap works, too.

How To Treat Older, Set-in Stains on White Shirts

Once you have a solution mixed and ready, there are several ways to help treat slightly faded, pesky old stains, including yellow stains in the armpit of a white T-shirt.

Start by directly spraying the solution onto the stain and letting it sit for at least an hour before putting it through a wash cycle.

If the stain is oil-based and requires extra elbow grease, grab some baking soda out and make a paste. Here’s how:

  1. Pour a little bit of your stain-removing solution into a bowl.
  2. Sprinkle baking soda into the bowl and mix it together until it turns into a paste. (Add in more baking soda as you’re mixing to make sure it yields a paste-like consistency.)
  3. Dip a clean toothbrush into the paste and gently scrub it into the stain.
  4. Allow the paste to soak into the stain for at least an hour before putting it in the washing machine.
  5. As with other stubborn stains, repeat the process as needed before putting the garment in the dryer.

Words by: Claire Tak

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