The personal blog of Frank Lesko. Award-winning writer. Non-profit entrepreneur. Activist. Religious professional. Foodie. Musician. All around curious soul and Renaissance man.

See also my professional blog: The Traveling Ecumenist.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

1 Week, Follow-Up

I've worn nothing but baking soda as deodorant for a full week. The verdict? No smell. I was just sweating in the garden this morning--90 degrees and humid today. No smell. Nothing. I check my armpits often, and I actually enjoy the smell--I don't know how to describe it, but the word "fresh" comes to mind. Baking soda does freshen things up, like your refrigerator.

I like this a lot and hope it holds up. Baking soda is a chemical, sure, but probably one of the safest. I don't have to read ingredients or gamble one toxin versus another against my health. Its cheap and effective. And the big corporations don't want you to know. Most people have trouble believing that it can be this easy. An expensive product with lots of advertising must be better!

The theory is simple: Your sweat does not smell. The smell comes when bacteria feast on your sweat. So all you have to do is change the pH by making your armpits more basic (baking soda) or more acidic (vinegar) and bacteria won't grow.

I have had baking soda on for periods longer than 24 hours and still no smell.

To be very clear, there may have been a small hint of a smell on the first day I tried this. I may not have applied it properly on the first day. The smell was not on me, but rather on the underarm of my shirt. So I rubbed my shirt lightly on my armpits to pick up some baking soda residue. The next time a I checked, I didn't smell anything (it was so faint I might not have even had a smell--occasionally I catch a whiff of someone's food or something in the air, and I think its me sweating, but then when I check again I realize its something else).

Another alternative is to apply vinegar through a spray bottle to your armpits. I figure if the baking soda fails, perhaps the bacteria found a way to tolerate it. So if that happens, I would alternate vinegar for a while to offset that. I hear that you don't smell like vinegar when you do this--the smell dissipates quickly.

The skin irritation I was experiencing the first few days went away. I am not sure if that is because I applied two coats that day, rubbed it in too firmly, or whether my body adapted to it. I should also note that my armpits were already mildly irritated from using the Trader Joe's deodorant, so maybe the baking soda just made an existing condition worse, rather than generating it.

I am firmly in the Vinegar and Baking Soda Club. They can do almost anything. Clean your floors with it. Put it in your food. Deodorize yourself. I hear that spraying vinegar on weeds is as effective as Round-up--and certainly not a harm to you or the environment at large.

For more information and links to sources, see recent posts (and comments) on baking soda and another that is a write-up about Trader Joe's deodorant and issues of toxicity of deodorants in general.

UPDATE: See this more recent post on concerns about baking soda and a switch to vinegar.


  1. I want to report in that I have officially tried the baking soda method - just the first few hours but I agree that I smell delightfully fresh. This is definitely a less scary way to go and a much more economical way to go- thanks for the tip!

  2. Wow, I really never expected to know so much about your underarms. Does the soda work as an antiperspirant, too, or just as a deodorant?

  3. Its just a deodorant. Your body needs to sweat to cleanse itself of toxins. People who wear anti-perspirants give themselves a double whammy--not only are they adding new toxins from the anti-perspirant, but they are preventing their body from cleansing itself of other ones!

    You may find that the amount of sweating you do isn't an inconvenience.

    Even when I do sweat, an anti-perspirant won't stop me, so I figure there's no loss for me in giving them up.

  4. Man, I really sweat bad, though. I'm one of those people who sweat when thinkiing about cycling; so when I finally do go cycling, I'm a mess!!

    And I really don't like the way I smell when I sweat. Other people (ie, the boyfriend whom I've hugged while he was sweaty) smell fine... I'm just not comfortable with my smell...

    You gave me something to think about. But I think I'm still going to stick with my Secret for Women. I havent known anyone to die from toxins from deoderant so I'm blissfully not worried. The baking soda thing sounds like too much work.

  5. Mars Girl-
    Not much work at all and so far, I have not really sweated yet- and I am a healthy girl who acknowledges that I sweat. No denial here.

    Still smelling fresh too. I did get a tutorial from Frank to make sure I understood how to do it.

    It was simple though.

    Put 1/8 teaspoon in palm of hand, dribble a litte water, swoosh around with fingertips, and then splash on armpit. That was it.

    Most economical deoderant yet and I know it is better for you than the stuff on the market.

    I am excited to teach this to my son, he is 11 and the thought of him adding toxins to his body for years and years is not appealing to me. I just wish I knew about this before.

    I suppose I am more aware and open to things after my sister went through cancer and died. She had no idea where her cancer came from and was a relatively healthy person. I suppose it scared me.

    I miss her a bunch and I want to do whatever I can to 1. Preserve my life and improve the quality of my life and 2. Share whatever tidbits I can with others.

    So, please take this with a grain of salt. I just think it is worth trying. I shared this info with everyone in my department at work today. I have been so pleased with the results that I felt compelled to share.

  6. I should have mentioned this earlier:

    I have to credit Erin for renewing my search for a healthy deodorant. I had tried them years ago and gave up. They failed. Then Erin buys the Trader Joe's deodorant, and I gave it a try, and it seemed to work. Then came some more research.

    I am excited to hear about other peoples' experiences with it.

    You can apply it dry, too, but I hear it is a little gritty, like sand.

  7. Do you get that sticky feeling under your arms, the way you feel when you dont have any deordarant on?

    Maybe I should put it to the real test: use some baking soda on my next 100 mile ride...

    It is amazing and scary that they put so much toxins in deoderant... I wonder if those cause the scary lump I feel under my arm every once in awhile... (I dont think it's cancer. It's not always there, but it could be a lymph node, I dont know.)

  8. Hmm... I do need someone to put it to a real endurance test...

    I don't notice any sticky feeling.

    All lumps need to be checked.

  9. Well, I'm doing a century July 20th... I could try it out then!

    To clarify: I didnt say it correctly in my last post. From TIME to TIME, I get a lump on either side of my underarm. I am pretty sure it happens when I nick myself while performing that stupid ritual women have to of shaving our underarm pits (of course, I COULD be a true feminist and go all-natural, but I'm not THAT brave about facing the social implications). Whenever it happens, I notice the lump because my underarm hurts due to whatever I did to it. I guess that's a testament to the toxins... since after I nick myself shaving, I'm putting deoderant back on... probably not a great idea...