a bowl of white vinegar

Q. I recently saw on the Dr. Oz show that vinegar can be used to control underarm odor. They said it changes the Ph of the skin which the odor-causing bacteria cannot thrive on. The vinegar dissipates so you will not smell like vinegar.

A. We first heard about vinegar for underarm odor prevention more than ten years ago when we received the following question:

“My friend uses vinegar with water under her arms and says it keeps her dry and odor-free all day long, better than deodorant.

“I want to try it, but first I want to know if it is safe to use under your arms. Is vinegar all right for this use?”

We advised: Some people soak their feet in a dilute vinegar (one part water to two parts vinegar) solution to deter foot fungus. Perhaps the acid environment also discourages the bacteria that contribute to body odor.

As long as skin is unbroken (do NOT try this after shaving), we doubt that diluted vinegar would cause trouble. Nevertheless, test a small patch of skin first to make sure you will not react badly.
Then we received these follow-up messages in 2005 from other readers of our newspaper column:

“Thank you so much for writing about using vinegar and water on underarms. I have had a problem with smelly underarms most of my life and have tried almost every product on the market. Nothing really stopped the odor.

“When I read about vinegar, I gave it a try. It has been a miracle. I can now go out in the heat, exercise and go through the day without smelling at all. It is amazing and cheap.”

“I had chemo treatment for breast cancer in 2002 and found that all antiperspirants caused redness and irritation. My doctor advised me not to use any deodorant, but that did not suit me. I tried plain white vinegar, and it worked so well I’ve kept it up ever since.”

Vinegar doesn’t work for everyone:

Nothing works for everyone. What we mean is that whether it is a commercial product or a home remedy, some people will love it, some will like it and some will find it worthless. That’s why it’s basically trial and error. There are no guarantees.

Here are some stories about alternatives:

“Hello everyone. I have been using LEMON JUICE as a natural deodorant for the past five years. One of my friends was given this tip by her doctor and she passed it on to two of her friends. We three have been using it and it works perfectly!
“We just buy lemons, cut a piece and squeeze the juice under our arms and off we go! It works even in the hot and humid weather of Hawaii.
“Only downside is that you need to have a steady stream of lemons–and it stings when you shave–(just shave at night)–but it works really, really well. Give it a whirl.”

“Vinegar for underarm odor didn’t work for me, but Milk of Magnesia applied to the underarm area works perfectly. Also it doesn’t sting even when used after shaving.”

“I tried the Milk of Magnesia. It is a miracle! Works perfectly! The vinegar left me smelling like saurkraut and really didn’t work (sorry).”


“Vinegar didn’t work for me. So yesterday I went to the store and bought Listerine and MILK OF MAGNESIA. What I did was showered, got a cotton ball: 
Applied undiluted apple cider vinegar, let dry…
Applied undiluted Listerine, let dry…
Then applied MILK OF MAGNESIA.

“It’s been way over 12 hours and I DO NOT SMELL!!! This is truly a miracle! I can’t believe this worked for me. I’ve had smelly under arms for about 35 years. I wish I would have found out about this before. But better late than never. Now I can have more confidence and wear cute tops and not worry about body odor. 
Hope this helps!”

Whew… that is a lot of effort and time devoted to overcoming underarm odor. Most folks really want something quick and easy. Here are a couple of recent posts to our website from folks who used our MoM Roll-on Deodorant:

“I love People’s Pharmacy Milk of Magnesia deodorant! And it doesn’t take much to be effective. I just roll on a small amount and rub it around my armpits with my finger (it rinses off easily), so I never have any “damp feeling” to contend with. Works like a charm, and protects me for at least two days.”

“Traditional deodorants irritated my underarms, so I switched to crystal deodorant over 10 years ago. Last winter, I developed an irritation in my armpits and tried not using deodorant at all. The irritation went away but now there were other obvious issues.

“I read about milk of magnesia on your website and tried it. It’s wonderful! I bought a bottle at the store and dabbed it on each morning. When I finished the bottle, I ordered the roll-on from People’s Pharmacy and love that. So much easier to get ready in the morning! Thank you for that great product – and for all your helpful information!!”

Whatever you choose, apple cider vinegar, white vinegar, lemon juice, baking soda or MoM (milk of magnesia), make sure that it is not irritating to delicate skin. The underarms are quite sensitive. You want something that is gentle, effective and nontoxic.

Let us know what has worked well for you by commenting below. We would love to hear your story.

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  1. jun

    is acidophilus available here n philippines,tnx

  2. EvieLou

    MoM works great as an underarm deodorant. Also use it under the breast and under the belly fold for fungal control.

  3. chicken feathers

    A friend told me she used white vinegar as a deodorant . I was shocked! My first question was, “don’t you smell like vinegar, like a pickle?” She said “No.”
    So, I tried it. That was in 2006 and I have used it daily since then. It does work.

    Vinegar will also take dry skin off your feet. Just after showering, rub your feet with a small amount of vinegar and as you rub it in, you can feel the dried skin coming off your foot.

  4. Deanna

    I have some Jean Nate After Bath Splash on hand. One day it occurred to me to try it under my arms since it contains alcohol. It worked great, and I have been using it daily for a few weeks with no odor even after aerobic exercise.

    About foot odor, it has been reported that dryer sheets in the shoes will keep them smelling fresh.

  5. ebm

    I mentioned this before and am still very, very happy with the results
    using 50/50 water and WHITE vinegar (apple cider vinegar was too
    sticky for me). No need to use soap for a few days, just keep applying
    the vinegar solution every day. MOM did not last all day for me.
    When traveling I take a small jar of vinegar with me and use a wet
    cotton pad with the undiluted vinegar. Never had any irritation.
    For smelly feet, perhaps the corn meal mush soak would work, it
    kills certain fungus as mentioned on the PP for nail fungus.
    Keep trying, be creative. How about aloe vera?

  6. Pat

    Early this summer I discovered that I didn’t need a deodorant at all any more! I still do perspire a bit, but not excessively, and there is no odor. It happened that I needed to see my doctor in mid-summer for a routine procedure, so I used the opportunity to ask her about this. She said that as we get older (I’m 68) we lose estrogen, which means our perspiration doesn’t smell as strongly, and that the underarm glands can also shrink, meaning less perspiration overall. She asked if I drank a lot of water. For the past 8 years or so, I’ve been drinking three 10-oz glasses (ordinary tap water from our well) as part of my daily routine, more on hot summer days when I’m working outside. Not excessive. She said that the water dilutes the perspiration, another reason why the odor is almost nonexistent. For the record, though, I’ll add that I still do use my usual antiperspirant when I’m going out for some special activity (meaning, say, dinner and dance, but NOT just for the grocery store and local errands).

    I realize this might not be true for every older woman; but if you spend most of your day at home, you might want to try going without either deodorant or antiperspirant for a day or two and see if they have become (almost) superfluous in your life, too. Just another advantage of being older!

  7. Kitty Larsen

    my daughter had very smelly feet when she was a child. We discovered it was a milk allergy. Try cutting back on milk and cheese or giving it up altogether.

  8. Karen
    Orchard Park, NY

    I gave up on deodorants years ago, because no matter what I tried, by the end of the day I had a funky chemical smell that was just as offensive to me as BO. I have had great success with rubbing alcohol. After my shower, I put a small amount in the cup of my hand and rub it in. It dries quickly, or you can wipe it dry. It never irritates my skin, even after shaving. I also love Shower to Shower deodorant body powder and use that because it smells great and feels good.

  9. Nancy

    Wanting to eliminate aluminum from my personal care products, I at first made a homemade deodorant from a “recipe” I found online, using coconut oil, vitamin E, baking soda, arrow root powder (which I couldn’t find, so I used cornstarch), and tea tree oil. I REALLY didn’t like the smell of the tea tree oil, so I ended up using just coconut oil, which worked okay. But I forgot it once when we were RVing, but I saw an aluminum-free “organic” deodorant by Arm & Hammer in a store that weekend, and bought it. I’ve used that ever since. It may take a swipe or two more than other products, but it’s easy to put on in the morning and works great for me.

  10. M C

    During breast cancer treatment I was told to use special deodorants without aluminum. They were only fair for controlling odor and perspiration. I switched to MOM with great success. I will try vinegar and lemon juice to see if they will work for me.

  11. Mathie
    Chapel Hill NC

    Sometimes body odor whether from feet or underarms is from toxins in or on your body. You may need to detox a candida environment (a common fungal problem) in your gut ( which ,when bad enough shows up as a red itchy or painful rash on your skin) by using probiotics and other herbs and/or try taking Chlorophyll gel caps to gently detox those heavy metals which support candida growth. The smell is telling you something is out of balance in your body. Correct the problem at the root.

  12. Paul

    For many years I have kept a small spray bottle of alcohol in the bathroom and each morning I very lightly spray it under each arm. If I get careless and use too much it irritates my skin. A tiny bit of hand cream cures this immediately for me.

    Listerine has also been kept in the bathroom in a small spray bottle. I use it to sanitize my hands. It also makes the skin on my hands very soft. This, too, is a long time practice for me.

  13. Karen

    I finally found the answer!! Let me first say, I tried everything, from homemade stuff, to over the counter, to prescription. It wasn’t until I noticed that the active ingredient in Head and Shoulders shampoo cured my smelly scalp that I thought why wouldn’t it cure my underarm odor, they are both caused by a stubborn bacteria! So, one day I rubbed some of the shampoo under my arms like it was lotion and went to work. At the end of a stressful day, there was No odor!! Be careful to use only a drop of the shampoo under each arm. I think I used too much the first time because my skin was stinging, but it was ok with just a drop the second day. The active ingredient in Head & Shoulders is called 1% Pyrithione Zinc and you can buy any off brand of Head and Shoulders and get the same result. One stressful day, I noticed I had wet pits, but absolutely no stink!! I’ve been waiting my whole life for this and I discovered it myself. Don’t waste anymore time or $$ on deodorants and other recipes that do not work. I feel its my duty to tell everyone who suffers as I did what I found.

    • cindy

      Are you really sure about this?
      Because I almost tried everything from different brand of deodorants and natural home remedies but sad to say nothing works.

  14. Shems

    I don’t know what to go with vinegar or milk but if I were to go with milk were would I buy it from

  15. marvina

    I really appreciate the advice and that I have a list of natural remedies to chose for underarm odor. Thank you so much. I’m sure something that was suggested works!

  16. zedda Ishaq


    I was wondering if someone could get in touch with me. I suffer from foot ordor, I currently work within the sales department of a small family run business. I have contact with customers on a daily basis, recently I have received many complaints not only from colleagues but feedback from customers of a bad smell, described as a smell of sweat and peanuts. I know deep down its my feet, i have tried several remedies from the internet like washing my feet in vinegar etc. This is now becoming an issue as the smell is having an impact on me, as a child I suffered from body ordor namely under arm, however as I have grown up I have managed to control this issue. Could someone please contact me via my mobile or email to discuss some help/advice. My line manager has recently spoken to me about this issue and he has given me a warning to adress this matter.

    Many Thanks


    • janjan

      Hi Zedda, I also had that problem, foot smell can be extremely embarrassing and annoying. I suffered with extreme sweating and the smell issues when I was a teenager and could only overcome with a lot of patience and dedication to my oak bark treatment. I would mix oak bark in hot water and let it sit there till the water is cool enough to put my feet in it, then I would just let my feet soak in it for at least 30 minutes. Very often I would just put my feet in the oak bark water for couple hours. I did it so for a couple months, washed my feet as often as I could, always washed my socks after one wear, tried to keep my shoes clean. After that I never had issues with the strong smell, it might sweat and smell a little but only when I walk for several miles. I hope it helps and remember that you need to do it every day.

      • Nessa B

        Hi Zetta,
        Have you tried sprinkling baking soda in your shoes while wearing them and when your not wearing them place a couple of black tea bags in uour shoes along with more sprinkled baking soda.

    • Marilyn

      Try rubbing alcohol. I bought a small spray bottle at Walgreens. I use it as a deodorant AND as a foot spray. I do not even dilute it. Sure works for me!

    • Carolyn

      I’ve been battling a serious case of athlete’s foot, trying many of the remedies suggested on the People’s Pharmacy including vinegar, Listerine, Vicks Vap-o-Rub, and fastidious vigilance about drying my feet well after showering, and wearing clean, dry socks (I change them several times a day because I am physically active). But I wanted to treat my shoes as well because the bacteria live there and are active for a long time. This week I purchased a UV shoe sanitizer – a set of UV light bulbs especially designed to fit inside a pair of shoes. You place each light (which is inside a plastic cage that protects the light bulb) into a shoe, place each shoe inside one of the light-safe bags that are provided with the light set, and press the button to activate the UV light. The treatment takes 15 minutes, and the indicator light goes off when the time is up. There are safeguards that prevent the lights from going on if body heat is detected, so you will not be exposed to the UV light if you go near the shoe bags during the treatment time. I’ve only been using the shoe sanitizer for four days, and I’ve treated my most frequently used shoes (gym shoes and dance shoes) twice before wearing them. But I feel better knowing that I’m treating the shoes as well as my feet. If you buy a shoe sanitizer, spend a bit extra to buy the higher priced ones ($100 and up). The safeguards and better quality construction are worth the initial investment. Good luck with treating your problem.

    • Lynn

      I had a similar problem many years ago. I finally got so disgusted with the situation and not finding any OTC products that would get rid of it, that I started spraying my feet with Lysol every morning. Sounds extreme, I know, but it worked. Although I can’t remember how long it took, the odor eventually went away completely and has never returned.

      • Sylvia
        Sarasota, FL

        Spraying the inside of your shoes with Lysol on a regular basis is very helpful, as laundering does not always kill the bacteria, especially in tennis shoes.

  17. carlo
    tagapo starosa laguna

    Where can i buy the milk of magnesia deo here in starosa laguna??tnx..

  18. Mary harvin

    I will try these

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