Q. I enjoyed reading your article about using old-fashioned Listerine for smelly armpits. Another approach is for men to shave their armpits.

Q. I am a very active male and, especially in the summer, my armpits smell bad even after bathing. I get much better results after shaving the hair off. Armpit hair seems to be an odor sponge.

A. Body odor (BO) is often caused by a combination of bacteria and perspiration. The more you sweat, the easier it is for bacteria to flourish in your armpits.

Anything that reduces perspiration or bacteria can help control BO. Shaving might help a bit, but most men probably won’t want to shave their pits.

Readers tell us that milk of magnesia (MoM) can also help: “I have suffered with STRONG underarm odor since I was 12 years old, and believe me, as a woman, it is embarrassing. Nothing I tried worked until I put milk of magnesia on my underarms. What a blessing!”

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  1. Dennis

    I noted that one guy says he shaves his armpits and he is straight. What does shaving your armpits and being straight have to do with each other? I am also straight and I shave my armpits.

  2. D. B. Cooper

    Well let’s look at what causes the odor:
    1. Moisture, and
    2. Bacteria, and
    3. A medium for the bacteria to grow.
    When you have a nice big colony of bacteria on your pits, they release Sulfur containing gasses – yes, Body Odor.
    So, if men or women shave their pits:
    1. There is moisture, but it evaporates more easily because the hair does not hold it by capillary action.
    2. Bacteria – still there, but use deodorant soap.
    3. Medium: Here is the big one. If you shave, you not only remove the hair, but also exfoliate the dead skin cells. So there is less “food” for the bacteria.
    BOTTOM LINE: Shaving your pits makes them more fresh. Not just theoretical, I know for experience and I’m a straight guy.
    ~ D

  3. ahmed

    To get rid of underarm B.O. ~~~~~take a teaspoon of Baking Powder in a saucer; add a few drops of water to make an even paste. Apply to armpits.
    This works for 12 hours or so.
    No side effects. I have never , ever used any ready made deodorants.

  4. LJM

    The way to stop the odour, is to find a scent that blends your smell, no jokes, I always had bad odour until I accidentally used a different smelling deodorant… now the more I sweat the better it actually smells. it’s weird o.o

  5. Nathan L.

    This seems to make sense to me. Since the smell doesn’t come from the perspiration itself, but from chemicals generated by the bacteria attracted by the perspiration, killing the bacteria would probably do the trick. I’ve got to try this.

  6. Nathan L.

    Even the strongest deodorant or antiperspirant just won’t do the trick for some of us. In fact, I have found that some antiperspirants seem to have adverse effect on my sweating. So no. This is not the bottom of the barrel; this is a very real issue.

  7. F

    I recently found a cool technique to get ride of the sweat patches which from on my shirts and t-shirts. Apart from wearing darker colors you can try sanitary towels, the very very small ones. They are about 10cm in length and have an adhesive side. Just invert your t-shirts / shirts and stick to the seems forming an arc when you wear the garment. I found this not only absorbs excess sweat, but also some of the odor…

  8. olen

    I found spraying a cologne or aftershave directly into the armpit eliminates body odor. It’s the alcohol. If you don’t like fragrance, try the rubbing alcohol technique. And here’s an odd but oh-so-helpful technique that I use in “emergencies”: I was out on the town at a club after having forgotten to apply deodorant that day and a good friend said “boy – you stink!” So I ordered a vodka on the rocks – no mixer, tonic, juice, etc. – went into a bathroom stall, peeled off my shirt, and rubbed some of the vodka into my pits. Works like a charm! No lie!!!

  9. honey

    Shaving your armpits does not make you sweat less. However, the bacteria will have less hair to cling to and it may help with odor.

  10. M.P.M

    To RMD: There are people like myself that have tried “deodorant” and it doesn’t help. It stops working at some point. I always had the sweating problem, but not really the B.O. part of the problem until I had my first child. I’m looking for a solution for my B.O… I’m used to the excess sweat for now, but thank God for the people that have suggested MOM because I used it last night and today there is no B.O. so far and not a lot of sweat (still some, but not a lot). Hopefully this will stop it for sure.
    I have tried Certain Dri (AM and PM) doesn’t work..I tried Mitchum Deodorant, didn’t work either. My only options are to either go to a dermatologist to treat my hyperhidrosis or start experimenting with men’s deodorants. But I’m still hopeful about the milk of magnesia and I will keep using it to see if it really does work.

  11. SD

    This solution works like a charm. I was amazed. It does sting for a moment or two if you have just shaved, but it’s incredible and I’ve TRIED everything!

  12. J.E.D

    I stumbled onto this underarm odor cure by accident. Lightly dampen a cotton ball with rubbing alcohol. Wipe onto your underarms. I have used it full strength and it does not burn. One could probably dilute it by half and it would still do the job. The alcohol evaporates and I do not have any odor, even during the most stressful of days. The alcohol cleanse lasts for at least a day. It is a very inexpensive solution to the problem.

  13. Bill H.

    I have not used deodorant for several years now. I do not use soap either. I don’t use anything on or in my body except natural tooth paste. These things (soap, makeup, lotion, vitamins, prescriptions, sugar, perfume, aftershave, ect, ect, are not natural to your body and are considered foreign and toxic. I work and sweat plenty but do not have strong or offensive odors (only a slight dank sweet smell).
    Your problem with odor is your diet. Toxins in commercially processed foods and meats are the culprit. Even if the food in question does not have any additives and seem all natural. Any processing changes the chemical composition into something unknown to your body. When unknown foods are ingested your body stores this as fat because it does not know what to do with it. Then when you sweat this is the bad odor.
    I eat only foods I can eat raw. I do cook sometimes (only to warm it or soften it a tiny bit) but primarily eat everything raw. Other words: If it has to be cooked I don’t eat it. I do not eat anything processed. Absolutely no salt, sugar, grains, legumes or oils. Yes, I do ever so slightly cook my meat. One last point! I always search high and low for the highest quality organic foods regardless of cost. I don’t have much money so I eat less in an effort to balance this because organic is more expensive.

  14. Russ1a

    From my perspective there is no need to shave my armpits and doing so may in fact be detrimental to my method of controlling underarm odor.
    I was very happy to stumble across the recommendation of using vinegar as a deodorant, almost a year ago. I use white vinegar diluted with an equal amount of water dabbed on to my underarms every day, or two, or three. The strong smell of the vinegar disappears after several minutes. If you sweat a great deal, more frequent applications would be called for.
    I believe the vinegar works by reducing the PH on the skin, which the odor producing bacteria find inhospitable. The hairs present absorb some of the vinegar and therefor extent the effect of lowering the PH. Shaving the hair off would defeat this purpose.
    Sincerely, Russ

  15. Teresa B.

    My 12 y.o. suffers from excessive sweating and believe me, it’s an embarrassing problem. Anti-perspirants do not work for her but Certain Dri (sold at most drug stores) DOES work, a roll-on which closes the pores, sold at most drug stores.

  16. tjg

    To the person who thought that under arm odor is not a health problem you are very wrong. I don’t have that problem but I do know of people that do and for one it’s very embarrassing and very real. No one want’s to be around anyone with B.O. It leads to things such as depression, self esteem problems and so on. DEODORANT is not always the answer, these people are looking for help just as you are for what ever reason you came into this site.

  17. RMD

    Wow! Bad Armpit Odor, we are really hitting the bottom of the barrel with this one.
    I have a unique idea,…..HOW ABOUT A DEODORANT! Humans have only been using them for about 500 years. Can’t we find something important to discuss?

  18. ML

    I, too, am a woman with strong body odor. Milk of Magnesia works for me. It doesn’t keep me dry, but it controls odor better than anything I’ve tried.

  19. Cindy B.

    I found that regular washing of my blouses and bras did not fully get rid of the perspiration or bacteria causing odor. In just a matter of an hour or two of sweating the odor would start up. I began spraying the underarms of these garments with vinegar in a spray bottle. I left it for a minute or two to soak in before putting it in the washing machine. This helps greatly. ~ Cindy

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