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 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. 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.

  2. 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

  3. 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!

  4. 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.

  5. carlo
    tagapo starosa laguna

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

  6. Mary harvin

    I will try these

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