Wednesday, June 26, 2013

speaking of armpits. and pit stains...

I got this question more than a month ago and I quickly emailed Rachel (silk-wearer extraordinaire) to get her professional opinion, but I've been avoiding posting it because.... Armpits.

Today seems like the day.

Dear ESB,

Like you, I hate polyester. I almost didn't find my wedding dress in time because I was holding out for 100% silk in my tiny budget. (Found it, miracle.)  

But what about, you know, sweat stains? I'm not a sweaty person, but the minute I put on a long sleeve silk shirt I'm all damp. I can't wear my favorite emerald green blouse unless it's like exactly 50 degrees and cloudy. 

Any tips on prevention, cleaning?


Here's what Rachel had to say:

Hmmmm ... oddly, given that I'm sweaty and I wear silk often, I don't have much advice for this. I find silk less sweat inducing than polyester, which is why I held out for it at the wedding. Is the wedding dress long sleeved? I can see how that would be a concern.

My only suggestion is going to be one that you aren't into at all. Bring in the big guns, serious antiperspirant. I used Certain Dri a couple times the week of the wedding. I'm sure it's terrible for you and it made my pits itch like hell the first time I used it (apply lightly the night before, never right after shaving and test it out a couple times before the wedding) but damn if it doesn't keep me totally sweat free.

Re: cleaning. I've never tried cleaning my own silks and just take them to my trusty, if exorbitantly priced, dry cleaner. Honestly, any pit stains would have been the least of the damage done to my wedding dress by the end of the night. I ripped out the hem in the photobooth, safety pinned the back in a fake bustle to keep it out of my way for dancing and then spilled beer all over myself when I tried to be helpful and haul out a recycling bin towards the end of the night. And I didn't care at all.

[Editor's Note: I haven't used Certain Dri in YEARS. Because we all know I'm a hippie. But that stuff saved my ass in high school....]

Photo: Shalom Harlow by Cass Bird for Oyster #99


  1. I used to be a costume designer and we'd sew garment shields aka pit pads into the actors' costumes. These of course work best with long sleeves and fabrics that are not so delicate that they can be sewn in. However, with sleeveless things, you can cut the pad in half and sew it inside under the pit. While this may not totally prevent stains, it will help. They come in white, beige, black, etc. They are fabric so you could dye if necessary.

    There is also a stick-on/disposable version.

  2. High, clammy five to all the sweaty girls out there! I was Maid of Honor is a barn in 90 degree humidity this weekend. How my face didn't literally sweat straight off my body is beyond me.


  3. certain dry totally saved me in high school, too ! holy hell.

    now the dove clinical strength does the trick -- i will put it on the night before a date/event at which i plan on wearing long sleeved silk. i don't use antiperspirant most days, and a little bit goes a long way.

    1. I wish I had known about Certain Dri in high school! It sure helped me when my anti-sad meds made me a walking sweat stick, but I noticed it made me smell kind of bad (I never had a B.O. problem). I think my biggest problem is I'm so nervous about sweating that I sweat even more! When I go through my hippy phases, I swear I sweat less than I do when I use regular Dove deo. I haven't been able to bring myself to buy the Malin+Goetz stuff but Schmidt's is pretty damn amazing, the bergamot/lime smells fantastic!

    2. I use Dove clinical strength every day in place of regular deodorant/antiperspirant and it totally does the trick. Certain dri was too itchy for my skin even if I used it only a few times a week at night. Dove doesn't irritate me even if I use it right after shaving.

  4. You should foist this off on the professional Clean Person, Jolie Kerr!

    Silk shirts are recommended for dry-cleaning, sorry.

    "Pits, Revisited" is easily the best writing I have ever read on the internet.

    She's also easy to get on twitter, and will respond with personalized advice. She loves hard cases! Get specific and tricky!

  5. I machine wash silk. Cashmere and wool too. I live dangerously. (Not really though because I follow these instructions. You will need to steam afterwards though.)

    Certain Dri saved my teenage years as well! Mitchum also works like a pit boss.

  6. ESB for the love of god put up a new post. I keep checking back b/c I am bored at work but then I see this photo and title and feel vicariously clammy.

  7. I love and own a good number of silk shirts, though also sweat profusely when I wear them. The material just activates my sweat glands upon contact. Very strange, and assumed I was the only one afflicted. My most favorite white silk short sleeve top had developed the worst yellow-orange pit stains. Gave it to the dry cleaner recently which was totally fruitless. I don't know if you're willing to gamble, but I used hydrogen peroxide and rubbed it into the stained areas. (I use this stuff for a lot of stain removal, and have gotten amazing results.) I was fairly successful in getting the stains to lighten significantly. I might try it again in a week to see if another session will eliminate the stains entirely. I do notice that the material looks a little different, but I did rub it kind of aggressively out of frustration. Which is probably not recommended.