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 seven 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 two 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. 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. angeline

    I have been having this body odor, for liked 8 or 10 years it liked I can take a shower and I put perfume or spray on, it’s liked I can smelled the perfume and something else liked funk or bad odor I know my body and my hair be having a smelled to it especially when it’s get cold liked bleached, but every time I go to any doctors they said they don’t smelled anything but again I know my body! My friend or family said I don’t smelled I am just thinking too much but their face expression when they are near by me is different, please help me even when I don’t sweat the odor is so strong I have no social life, it’s liked it’s coming from my pores or something caused I don’t know where.

  2. SM

    I have this BO 8 yrs from now. It sucks that’s what i always say. But now I have a job so I really need to check for possible solution and I’m willing to try everything I read here. Best of Luck!

  3. Sean

    I just want to know if I apply vinegar on my armpit was after I took a bath ? or what ?


    • angeline

      Maybe you should see a dermatologist or even your regular doctor

  4. NOYFB

    Vinegar works!
    Use White vinegar which is better than organic apple cider vinegar in my opinion.
    For the absolute best results, take shower at night, let armpits dry then wet your armpits with the vinegar. This method gives you the longest protection.

    Vinegar does NOT protect against perspiration!!!!

    So you say vinegar does not work… A couple of things. First did you wash your armpits? Vinegar will not remove all the stink if your armpits stank before applying it. Drink a lot of water and once again ELIMINATE ALL PROCESSED FOODS FROM YOUR DIET!
    If your work is physical and you sweat all day, vinegar will not protect you the same way a antisudorific will!

  5. char
    newton, GA

    I will try all 1 at the time. 3 days each and see what works. My dad and now another family member and I share this terrible odor. Ivory bar soap or scent free soap my husband uses before hunting helps for 3 or 4 hours. I’ll update after trying vinegar, then MOM and lemon juice separately. PLEASE let it work!

  6. Andy

    For teens or anyone who’s depressed about having body odour…one thing to say….
    Your body odour is NOT the most important thing in the world. It just seems that way! If you are anxious and self conscious it will get worse so just relax. If it’s really getting you down see a therapist. Remember your body odour is just a small part of who you are. Also remember that a large part of having very strong, distinctive BO is often genetic. Normal people don’t accept discrimination on genetic grounds (e.g. your gender or race) so anyone giving you a hard time about it is the type of person who should be bracketed with sexists or racists.

    As for how to improve your odour – Relax, be yourself, eat organic (no steroids), plenty of fruit and veg, avoid alcohol, drink apple cider vinegar, + treat underarms with acidic type natural products but everyone’s different, find what works for you. I sometimes do the above, but most of the time I just don’t care what other people think

  7. Brenda

    I’ve tried everything for my stinky, cat urine smelling armpits. Nothing worked until I started using Dial Gold Antibacterial body wash. I use it every day- sometimes twice a day and have no more bad smell. Wash with it, then apply deodorant after your shower and you’ll be fresh all day.

    • Awia

      I have this body odor too and it’s very terrible.
      I’ve tried many kinds of solutions but they seem to not be working.
      I wonder if there is any kind of soap out there that help fight body bacteria?
      Please help.

  8. Aniekpon

    I used 2 have a very bad body odour, so I tried lime juice but it didn’t give me what I wanted. Now I am using white vinegar and it is really working.

  9. Aoife

    Hey I am a young teen and I was wondering if a citrusy BO was a symptom for diabetes type one or two??

  10. sally

    I have tried applying vinegar but it never worked. Then I tried baking soda that smelled even worse. I am afraid to try magnesium. I am totally devastated. I want this over with so I can enjoy people’s company coz now I avoid people and I have no boyfriend. I think the smell is a contributor. HELP

  11. T white

    I’ve had armpit odor for the past 12years I’ve tried lemon juice, vinegar, baking soda if not all, most of the deodorants on the market, went to the doctor and they recommend I try drysol, can some please tell what to try next, it’s so embarrassing.

    • judi

      Try Acidophilus tablets from the pharmacy for strong body odor.

  12. nah

    I was a little skeptic about using vinegar for my underarms. I was looking for natural/ homemade antiperspirants/ deodorant because I’ve lost faith in all the manufactured ones. They leave a messy sticky feeling that I find very uncomfortable especially bcoz I sweat a lot, hence the odor.
    I tried both lemon & its juice but I couldn’t get rid of that sweat smell for long. Then I tried baking soda which burns a Lil & I ended up with a lot of dead skin that was blackening even though it took care of the odor.
    That’s when I decided to give the white vinegar a try. I must say, its the best natural deodorant I have come across yet. I never have to worry about that stinky sticky feeling ever again. I go all day still smelling fresh. Its amazing!!!

  13. km

    I’ve had similar experiences trying everything and ending in disappointment. I’d scrub till my armpits bleed and then within minutes of my shower I would stink again. I tried everything, I mean EVERYTHING.
    By chance, I found what worked for me. It was the zinc cream for baby rash, etc. They sell a big jar of it cheap at stores like walmart. Just apply a thin layer. Really thin, like invisible. Rub it in. You don’t need gobs of it – that will just feel gross and won’t work any better.
    I don’t know if it will work for you, but I thought I’d pass it on.
    Best of luck.

  14. smd

    Sorry to say I have not found anything that works all day. Before I shower in the morning I use witch hazel. Then after I shower I use a tea tree oil deodorant which I reapply throughout the day. This works as long as it does not get really hot or I do not do anything really strenuous. Still looking.

  15. IB

    I did all of that too including drinking liquid chlorophyll, lime water, taking magnesium and zinc and still nothing. Did you ever find anything that works?

  16. nj

    I have irritated underarms over the years with odor.. I just want some helpful advice to how can this be eliminated?.. My girl left me because of this.. and I don’t even get closer to the girls I want because of my underarm odor… please help me… thanks
    PEOPLE’S PHARMACY RESPONSE: Some people find that baking soda helps; others like milk of magnesia. In some cases, a bad odor results from bacteria that need to be treated with an antibacterial topical cream by prescription from the doctor.

  17. NYG

    I cannot thank all of the contributors enough for their comments! I was completely at my wits’ end with my armpit odor. I shower daily (sometimes twice) and the odor would be back within minutes after stepping out of the shower. I rubbed with a soapy loofah till my skin was raw. I decided to try the vinegar first but I couldn’t stand the smell. The next day I tried undiluted lemon juice straight from the bottle. I was completely floored—I smelled like a flower and didn’t need to use deodorant. I dabbed a little of my favorite perfume on after the lemon had dried and haven’t needed to use deodorant since.
    I even went without a shower one day and smelled great the next day. Again, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU all!

  18. Paragon

    I live in Central Florida where it’s super hot 6 months of the year. I must stay dry. I wonder which would be best for me?

  19. Sally

    I use 70% Isopropyl Alcohol and MOM for my underarm deordorant and it works great. I put the alcohol on with my fingers – it dries fast and then apply the MOM. I find the two together work better than MOM alone.

  20. smd

    I have tried vinegar, milk of magnesia, baking soda, witch hazel, aloe vera, tea tree oil, and many many natural deodorants. NONE of these has worked for me.

  21. Peggy

    I use MOM when I shower but I use apple cider vinegar every day. I take a cotton ball, dip it into the vinegar and wipe under my arm. It works great! I also use it for the little “skin tabs” one gets as they age. I had one on my eyelid which is almost gone. (Be sure to keep your eye closed). Vinegar is good for lots of things and through Peoples Pharmacy, I have learned more. Thank you.

  22. CG

    I use vinegar for around-the-house cleaning and I love it, so when I heard it could be used instead of deodorant, I thought it was a great idea. I went out shopping that day and was in a dressing room when I realized it did. not. work. At all. Not only did the vinegar smell not dissipate, I was really stinky, only a couple of hours after my shower. I smelled like a sweaty pickle. I’ve also tried crystal deodorants, Listerine, lemon juice, and MOM, with zero success. I really don’t like using strong chemical antiperspirants, but I just can’t find an alternative!

    • judi
      Brazil, SA

      Don’t be afraid to try the Milk of Magnesium. Try it, you have nothing to lose except the odor problem. Check on the net about Acidolpholis tablets. They help with body odor as well. You can get them at the supermarket or pharmacy.

  23. Kimberly

    I would like to comment on underarm odor. Odor that smells citrusy can be a symptom of diabetes. My underarm odor changed to a stinky lime smell a little over a year ago. Since I had read that changes in body odor could signal disease, I went to the doctor. Sure enough, I was diagnosed with diabetes. Now that my blood sugars are back in the normal range, the odor has disappeared.

  24. rg

    I tried MOM for a while and it worked fairly well but was messy and I didn’t like the feel of it. Lately I’ve tried rubbing alcohol which kills bacteria and it worked really well but I was not sure using it daily would be good for my skin so I now am trying vodka! It also kills bacteria. The smell is milder than the rubbing alcohol and is gone by the time it has dried which is very quickly. The vodka works as well as the rubbing alcohol. I hope there is no harm in using the vodka because so far I am very impressed.

  25. TKB

    Just wanted to comment to charle s., who uses Hibiclens: be very careful not to get it in your eyes; it will cause eye opacities and can lead to blindness.
    An old wound care nurse

  26. Ellen S.

    I tried the MoM and it did not seem to deter odor at all and did absolutely nothing for wetness. I imagine that different products will work for different people, depending on the chemical/bacterial/Ph makeup of one’s skin.I will try the vinegar next. I always have that on hand.

  27. charle s.

    I’ve seen the vinegar and MOM and lemon juice remedies for underarm odor.
    For years, I’ve use Hibiclens – at the end of my shower, I wash my underarms and feel with Hibiclens – have had no underarm or foot odor aince I’ve been using the Hibiclens.

  28. betty

    I bought a lump of Milk of Magnesia and used it for a week. One day I went shopping and OMG I stunk so badly. But I had driven so far. I stayed away from people in the store and apologized to some when they got too close, and told them not to use trust milk of magnesia. I could not even try on clothes because I stunk so badly. I soon drove the hundred miles back home and felt I had learned a big lesson that day.
    How does one buy a “lump” of milk of magnesia? Milk of magnesia is available as a liquid laxative or in a roll-on deodorant from People’s Pharmacy. We cannot imagine a solid form of MoM.

  29. cpmt

    I HAVE A very strong odor under my arms. Milk of Magnesia ( I got the info. here) works very well for most of the day. Thanks

  30. LM

    I use diluted apple cider vinegar after every shower . It keeps my hair shiny too.

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