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Vinegar Vanquishes Body Odor

Using vinegar to fight body odor is an old fashioned home remedy. The theory is that changing the pH of the armpit discourages the bacteria that cause odor.
Vinegar Vanquishes Body Odor
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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. That’s guaranteed. The FDA requires all antiperspirants to contain substantial amounts of aluminum. Is there another 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 fifteen 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!”

T.E.R. uses a washcloth to apply vinegar:

“I wanted to stop using any product with aluminum. I tried several all natural organic deodorants but they didn’t work.

“I had read about using vinegar for foot odor so I thought I would try it on my underarms. I just pour some vinegar straight onto a dry wash cloth and wipe my underarms with it. Works better than any deodorant I have ever used! I use it every morning and zero odor all day! I’ll never go back to store bought deodorant! Never!”

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.

Sally reports:

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

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 alone didn’t work for me. So yesterday I went to the store and bought Listerine and MILK OF MAGNESIA. After a shower I applied undiluted apple cider vinegar with a cotton ball. I let my armpits dry. Then I applied undiluted Listerine and let it dry. Then I 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, Listerine 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.

Unscented 2 oz Aluminum-Free MoM Roll-on is now back in stock. We have a hard time keeping it on the shelf!

Women’s MoM Aluminum-Free Roll-on has a light floral fragrance.

Men’s MoM Aluminum-Free Roll-on is misnamed! It is also very popular with women and teenagers of both sexes. It has a fresh herbal fragrance.

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

Revised 4/5/18

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.” .
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