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If my inbox is any indication, yellow armpit stains on white shirts are a problem. And I've been avoiding the subject because, honestly, it's kinda gross.

I can't begin to estimate how many messages I've received asking for help with getting rid of these stains, so today we're going to hit this head on.

What are these stains?

Isn't it curious that ugly yellow stains show up only in the armpit area? Left untreated, these stains can cause the material to become stiff -- and crunchy -- as if being yellow isn't disgusting enough.

Yellow pit stains happen when the protein in odorless, colorless human sweat reacts with the aluminum in antiperspirant deodorants. When an antiperspirant meets up with sweat and a cotton undershirt, it become a deadly combination and creates those stains that appear after only a few intense sweats.

THE MAGIC FORMULA

Readers tell me they've tried everything to get rid of these stains -- from vinegar to OxiClean to pouring full-strength bleach on them -- with no success. That's just how stubborn these stains can be. But not to worry. There is a simple process that will return your shirts to like-new appearance.

You'll need blue Dawn, hydrogen peroxide, baking soda and a stiff brush.

Get a small bowl. Pour in 1 tablespoon Dawn and 2 tablespoons fresh hydrogen peroxide, and stir with a spoon until well incorporated. Apply to the stain, making sure the stained area is supersaturated. Caution: Hydrogen peroxide loses its strength after six months, so for best results, make sure it's fresh.

Next, sprinkle baking soda onto the area. Scrub the stain with the stiff brush, and don't be gentle. This is a stubborn stain, and the longer it's been there and built up over many trips through the laundry, the more stubborn it has become.

You want to work the magic combo of blue dawn, hydrogen peroxide and baking soda deep into the garment's fibers. Make sure you are working beyond the visible margins of the stain so that you are not missing any of it.

Roll that shirt up, and allow it to sit for at least an hour. Overnight would not be a bad idea. Launder as usual.

HOW TO AVOID YELLOW ARMPIT STAINS

Since the aluminum in deodorants and antiperspirants is the culprit here, consider a product that is aluminum-free, like Arm & Hammer Essentials natural deodorant.

If you need the extra protection of an antiperspirant, you may want to consider Klima Hyperdri Antiperspirant Serum, the world's first aluminum-free antiperspirant/deodorant. The reviews are promising. According to the manufacturer, it takes one week of daily use to see a decrease in perspiration and four weeks of daily use to achieve full protection.

Mary invites questions, comments and tips at mary@everydaycheapskate.com, or c/o Everyday Cheapskate, 12340 Seal Beach Blvd., Suite B-416, Seal Beach, CA 90740. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually.

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