Why is My T-Shirt Neck Yellow?

For some people and on some occasions, white t-shirts do have a tendency to turn white around the collar. Generally, colored t-shirts may experience some discoloration at the collar, but it may not be a noticeable yellowing as with white t-shirts. Because white t-shirts are white, they will much more noticeably the same effects of wear that are occurring on darker colored clothing.

The combination of sweat and body oil often leads to a discoloration of t-shirts that is hard to get rid of. These stains can appear under arms as well as on the collar. The collar, however, sometimes gets oil from both the skin and from the hair. It is also an area that is prone to sweat from the neck as well as the head, leaving it more likely to be stained than any other part of the shirt. This yellowing may start out slowly, but after many wears, the yellowing will get worse.

The yellowing most often occurs with t-shirts that are worn in hot weather or during physical exercise. The extra sweat during these times laves the t-shirt far more yellowed at the collar than one that is worn in cool weather or when a person is not sweating. In someone without oily skin, a t-shirt that is worn when the wearer is not sweating may not yellow at all.

If the collar yellowing becomes a problem, there are a few ways to tackle it. The t-shirt can be washed with a number of things that should help to break up the oils and take away some of the damage that has been done. The shirt can be washed with some dishwashing soap to get rid of some of the oil. This should be done in a sink, however, and never in a washing machine. The dishwashing liquid can be rubbed around the collar and then washed out with cold water by hand.

Another remedy for a yellow collar is to use baby shampoo on the collar. Baby shampoo is gentle enough not to cause any damage to the fabric, but it is made to break down oils. A stronger shampoo can be used if the baby shampoo is not effective.

Bleach can do some good against yellow stains as well. Bleach, however, can damage fabrics if too much of it is used. It can be used in small quantities around the collar or use a bleach pen to add drops of bleach exactly where you want them. Then, wash the t-shirt in hot water.

Using a stain spray before washing the t-shirt may help to lighten the stain. The sprays are often color-safe bleach that is stronger than standard washing detergent and can be used for spot treatments. There are also pre-treating pens that work much like the sprays. After using one of these treatments, let the t-shirt sit for at least 10 minutes to absorb the pre-treatment, then wash the t-shirt in hot water. This should lift some of the stain, particularly if the yellowing is new.

6 thoughts on “Why is My T-Shirt Neck Yellow?

  1. Robs

    How about T-shirts that become MORE yellow around the collar when stored? I use my white undershirts in the winter to layer under shirts, sweaters, etc. Brand new t-shirts, washed regularly when worn, will develop the yellow stains after they have been in the drawer for a few months. I also notice a slight odor…not exactly musty, but not fresh. I hve always assumed this was some kind of bacteria thjat grows in even the slightest amoutn of trace oils. Any one lese have this issue??

  2. JohnK


    Yes, I have the same problem. I have a *brand new* white T-shirt that already has a yellow stain around the collar. I wore it only once! I like your idea about the possibility of bacterial growth in the presence of trace oils. Seems plausible. I will try to remove the stain as recommended above (bleach and/or laundry detergent).

  3. LH

    “For some people and on some occasions, white t-shirts do have a tendency to turn white around the collar.” I hate it when my white t shirts turn white around the collar.

  4. Ho Bo Bill

    What the hell you you mean, White shirt turns white? I’m sick and tired of taking a almost new tee shirt out of my dresser drawer only to find that the collar looks like it has not been washed ‘ever’. I hate yellowed tee shirts…….any questions? Any U.S. Navy enlisted vet. will tell you that a bright white clean tee shirt is an absolute MUST. It does not matter if you are in or out of uniform. I only ask why my tee shirt collars turn yellow in my dresser drawer?????

  5. Teresa

    My tops don’t just turn yellow they actually lose the color around the collar and where ever the fabric touches my skin. If I am sweating and my face gets near the sleeve it will fade the color. I have thrown out many colored t-shirts for this reason. When you turn them inside out you see the color is more faded inside the t-shirt.

  6. BV

    I’ve used all kinds of methods to remove the yellowing on my son’s white t-shirts. Soaked them in hot water with bleach and/or baking soda, pretreated them with all kinds of whitening products, even washed them in “whitest white” cycle. I think about dyeing them black, but my son prefers white shirts.
    Would appreciate any help. Thanks!

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