Underarm odor develops when bacteria feed off the sweat produced by the apocrine sweat glands. While it is of cosmetic concern, underarm odor is rarely serious. However, a sudden change in odor may indicate a potentially serious disease, such as diabetes, liver or kidney disease. Therefore, new cases of body odor require medical evaluation. Keeping the underarms dry and controlling bacterial growth are the primary treatment goals. Generally, home remedies are as effective at getting rid of underarm odor as traditional treatments.
General Cleanliness and Hygiene
Bathing daily reduces the number of bacteria under the arms, which helps keep odor under control. During summer, when sweating is more frequent, severe cases of underarm odor may require washing twice each day with an antibacterial soap and warm water. Wash clothing in hot water and soap to remove dirt and oil, and wear only clean shirts and undergarments. Wear clothing made of natural fibers, such as cotton and silk, as these absorb moisture and allow the skin to breathe. When exercising, opt for fabrics that wick moisture away from the underarms to prevent odor.
Stimulants, such as caffeine, increase the activity of the apocrine glands. Eliminating caffeine may therefore reduce body odor. Spicy foods and alcohol are other commonly consumed contributors to underarm odor. Some people may develop offensive body odor in response to special diets or over-consumption of certain foods. Removing potentially offending foods, such as fish, liver, eggs, legumes, and fried foods from the diet for one to two weeks is generally sufficient to determine if dietary changes are necessary to reduce underarm odor.
Vinegar, Witch Hazel, Peroxide, and Tea Tree Oil
Apple cider vinegar, white vinegar and witch hazel reduce underarm odor by lowering the skin’s pH. The bacteria responsible for underarm odor cannot survive when the skin's pH is low. To combat odor, soak a cotton ball in witch hazel or vinegar and apply it to the underarms instead of, or before, deodorant. Health911 states that 3 percent hydrogen peroxide is effective against body odor when diluted with water and used as a skin rinse. Tea tree oil may also be beneficial due to its antibacterial properties.
Baking Soda and Cornstarch
Baking soda and cornstarch can be used individually or together to help eliminate underarm odor. Baking soda, when applied to the underarms, will help absorb sweat, kill bacteria, and act as a deodorant. Apply the powder directly to dry underarms. Cornstarch is extremely absorbent and may be more useful than baking soda in cases of excessive perspiration. The two can also be mixed together for a combination application.
Stress, anxiety, anger and excitement increase sweat production. Learning to control these emotions can reduce underarm moisture and odor. Relaxation techniques, such as meditation, yoga, biofeedback, and guided imagery are effective stress-reducers for many people. Chronic stress or anxiety may require professional evaluation and treatment.
Other Home Remedies
A variety of supplements and foods are available to naturally reduce underarm odor. Columbia University suggests taking wheat grass or chlorophyll supplements with meals to deodorize underarm sweat. Magnesium, zinc, and B-complex may help reduce the body's natural body odor, according to Health911. Diluted rosemary also works as a natural deodorant for some people.