a bowl of white vinegar

No doubt you have seen the television commercial that ends with the tagline, “What’s in your wallet?” They are advertising a credit card. We have a different question? “What’s in your armpit?” If you use an antiperspirant, you have aluminum in your armpits. Is there a better way to control body odor?

Vinegar for BO?

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 body 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.

Readers Share Their Vinegar Stories:

This reader calls vinegar a “miracle”:

“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.”

Antiperspirants and breast cancer:

“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.”

Eliminated the stink without the sticky:

“I was skeptical about using vinegar on my underarms, but I have lost faith in commercial deodorants. They leave me feeling sticky and messy. White vinegar got rid of the stink without making me sticky. It’s amazing!”

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:

Lemon juice but not when you shave underarms!

“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.”


J.H. says Milk of Magnesia came to the rescue:

“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.”

Kim says Milk of Magnesia is a miracle:

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

Jeckle used a combination to solve the body odor problem:

“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!”

Keep It Simple with MoM:

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:

M.R. is enthusiastic:

“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.”

N.R. loves MoM Roll-On:

“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!!”

What’s in Your Armpit Now?

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. Lisa
    Central Virginia

    Listerine works well to control my body odor during the colder months, but is no match for the hot and humid Central Virginia summer. Yesterday I tried vinegar after reading about it, and it worked amazingly well. After I applied it, I ran errands in 90-degree heat (75% humidity) and then worked in the yard for an hour. Although I was soaked with sweat, there was no odor.

    This morning I used it before a 45-minute run and a half-hour workout with weights and again, no odor (I am used to being pretty rank after a workout). It is amazing. Thank you for the suggestion!

  2. Betsy

    I use white vinegar deluded with the same amount of water and put it in a small plastic bottle. I dab it under my arms each morning with a cotton ball. Then I take a small amount of Johnson’s powdered cornstarch (no aluminum) and pat it under my arms. This keeps me odor free with only an occasional wetness with hard exercising. I have done this for at least two years, and I never went back to anything else. It works for me!! Don’t use the vinegar after you shave.

  3. Karen M.
    Portland, OR

    Some years back I ordered Milk of Magnesia roll-on, and it worked pretty well, not great but okay. Then I began to notice my breasts were itchy. The itch grew worse and worse over the weeks. Closer inspection of my black bra showed that it was full of flaky white stuff: dried-up MoM was sloughing off into the cups and making my breasts itchy. I quit using MoM when I realized I was allergic to it.

  4. Frank
    Chapel Hill NC

    Isn’t female perspiration much higher ph (more alkaline, less acidic) than male perspiration? If so, I wonder if the acidic vinegar might be a nonstarter for men’s underarm odor.

  5. Sunny
    St Paul MN

    This is about deordant, etc. but Just want to say: Be sure to buy baking powder that does not contain aluminum. The label should say.

  6. Jane

    I love your MOM roll-on deodorant. All my adult life, regular deodorant/antiperspirants left me with a skunky smell at the end of the day. Now I am odor free. If the MOM wears off, any trace of odor is minor and much less unpleasant than before.

  7. PattyPR

    I want to caution people who want to use the “natural” crystal deodorant stones. I heard they may contain aluminum, so I bought one at a local reputable health food store, took it to an environmental testing lab, and had it test for aluminum. The lab results were that is contaoined over 70% aluminum. Yes, it works, but you may be poisonoing yourself with more aluminum than is in commercial deodorants.

    I’m going to give vinegar a try. My hub no longer needs deodorant for some reason, but I do. He was previously using Everclear, a very high-proof clear grain (drinking) alcohol when he did seek natural methods. It worked for him extremely well, but when I tried it, it felt it was going to dissolve my skin. Definitely too strong for me.

  8. SUSAN

    Have never used deodorant. Since i have been a teen, I have used nothing but alcohol. Just buy a spray bottle and fill it up and spray each day. I have never had a odor problem since I was a teen. And I am 63 today! About 15 years ago I started noticing some dryness under my arms so I added baby oil to the alcohol. Each time i go to spray my underarms I shake the bottle and spray. No more dryness and it is not greasy. I add just enough to add a little moisture.

    So much better than using all the chemicals that are in store bought deodorant. Not to mention the savings on your pocketbook.

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