I never thought I would make homemade deodorant, believe me, but as I told you when we talked about the hazards of antiperspirants, I wanted to take a baby step away from antiperspirant. I had used Degree for years because many other name brands didn’t work for me. I’m not a dainty little lady who doesn’t sweat!
It was Christmas break, and I’m an at-home-mom, so I don’t have a lot of people around to offend with my body odor. I grabbed that baking soda from under my sink and stuck it in the bathroom as a rinky-dink homemade deodorant. After my next shower, I remembered to put it on my still-moist underarms. I thought nothing of it that day. Pleased that I didn’t stink out the family, I tried the same thing again after the next shower. My baking soda was caked in little balls from being exposed to moisture as I used it as a cleaner, so it was actually really easy to apply it to my armpits by grabbing a chunk and (gently!) rubbing it in over the sink.
Baking Soda as Deodorant
Testing the Baking Soda
You might be thinking that I didn’t sweat much because it was winter, and I live in Michigan. With the house at 64 degrees, this is probably true. That second day however, I thought the baking soda “homemade deodorant” was doomed for sure. I went out shoveling after a massive snowfall, and I could feel the sweat dripping down my back under my work coat that totally doesn’t “breathe.” I could feel that nagging perception of wetness under my armpits, too, that I wasn’t accustomed to anymore after using anti-persperant for years. I could almost smell my B.O. in the ol’ imagination, certain that I had come to the end of an interesting experiment.
Much to my great surprise, I did not stink. Unpleasant wetness, sure, but no negative odor. The only time I really noticed body odor with plain baking soda was when I was due for a shower and wore synthetic silky PJs at nighttime. Most antiperspirant, in my experience, is wearing off by bedtime anyway, and from what I read, synthetic materials cause our B.O. to be worse. Weird, but definitely true. (And yes, I buy baking soda in bulk, since I use it for cleaning, too.)
I continued using baking soda exclusively for a month or two until my mom gave me a gorgeous powder puff container that she had sitting in her cupboard. It was begging to be used.
I decided I’d mix an equal part of cornstarch in with the baking soda, for dryness. This took all of 2 minutes to complete, and again – no commitment, no up-front cost. Again, all was well. I began to worry about summer and sleeveless shirts, however.
I’ve since learned that many people have trouble with cornstarch irritating their skin. A company that makes a natural deodorant emailed me this: “Cornstarch can contain many chemicals and alum salts from the soil.” I use arrowroot powder now.
Adding Coconut Oil
I’d had this post at Passionate Homemaking bookmarked for several month, but I didn’t have bulk coconut oil until I found this deal at Soaper’s Choice. At that point, it was time to make a real mimicked deodorant by adding coconut oil to the baking soda and cornstarch mixture. I used a fork in a little plastic dish that I’m not using much for food anymore. It made enough that I was still using the first batch 6 months later.
Step by Step Instructions for Homemade Deodorant
- Mix about 1/4 c. baking soda and 1/4 c. arrowroot starch in a small bowl.
- Add unrefined coconut oil, not melted, about a Tablespoon at a time, mashing with a fork until all the dry ingredients have been mixed in. I find it takes 4-6 Tablespoons.
- Optional: If you’d like a scent, add a few drops of your favorite essential oil at this time.
- You could use this mixture as is and apply with your fingertips, but it’s pretty messy. Best option: use an old deodorant container.
Coconut oil has antibacterial properties and a nice, light coconutty scent, so it’s really the ideal medium for the baking soda (for odor) and cornstarch (for dryness). It goes on easy and dries clear – sleeveless shirts, here I come!
Homemade Deodorant Recipe Alternatives
Helpful folks have shared alternatives to this recipe, which is handy in a pinch or if you’re allergic to one of the ingredients:
- Dab rubbing alcohol on your ‘pits (warning: see comments for a note about alcohol!)
- Just coconut oil works for some
- Rub in a squirt of aloe vera gel and allow to dry
- Some omit the baking soda (it can cause a rash)
- Some find a “better” brand of baking soda
- Some omit the cornstarch
- Many find it important to have a well-sourced coconut oil (use the code STEWARDSHIP to get 10% off) .
- When I didn’t want my deodorant to melt all over my bag in the summer and didn’t have access to a fridge, I tried my MadeOn lotion bar – I figured with coconut oil in it, it had to be better than nothing. It was! In a pinch, the lotion bar did a decent job, and paired with a dabbing of baking soda it was just about right.
Is Homemade Deodorant Working For Me?
Friends and family, here’s your chance! Please comment if I’m wrong about this, but I don’t think I’ve been stinking it up this summer at all! Even if the risks of aluminum/antiperspirant are overblown or minimal at best, I’m still going to stick with ingredients that are so safe I could eat them with no harm done. It’s a simple step to take, very frugal, and exceptionally safe.
Besides all that, the natural solution is working.
There are plenty of benefits I’ve found so far:
- No sting on newly-shaven pits!
- Pleasant smell
- Avoid risk of parabens, aluminum, and other unnatural stuff
- For nursing mothers, there’s a serious change in my peace of mind now that I don’t cringe when baby’s hand works its way up into my armpit. Well…I still cringe, but I’m not worrying about toxic chemicals finding their way into her mouth!
You Can Smell Good
A fun option that I didn’t try right at first is mixing a few drops of any essential oil into your deodorant mixture. I’ve used jasmine, and my husband likes that I smell more feminine (especially since my “shampoo” doesn’t smell so sweet anymore).
There have been just a few disadvantages:
- Coconut oil has a 76-degree melt-point, which means it turns to liquid in the summer. I store mine in the fridge, but it’s hard(er) to remember to go out there and put it on in the mornings! It is easy to apply, even when cold. Just touch your skin for a second and it already starts to soften.
- Travel is tricky. Even in temperate climates, a warm car will cause the coconut oil to liquefy and you’ve got a mess in your toiletries kit. I either travel with the deo in a cooler, upright and in a plastic bag in a side pocket of my luggage, OR I just use my MadeOn lotion bar and a bit of baking soda patted on manually. It’s worth it to avoid the mess. Some people melt a bit of beeswax and add it to the homemade deodorant recipe to help it remain solid above 76 degrees.
- It takes 5 minutes or so to mix up a batch, although I’ve only done that once and just refill as needed. Of course, I bet I spent more than 5 minutes per stick of antiperspirant cutting and organizing coupons and matching with the best deals, then standing in my pharmacy trying to find the exact version on sale.
Yes, It Can Stain Clothing
Unfortunately, I’ve discovered that on tighter fitting shirts, bold colors, and silky materials (like perhaps a red dress shirt you might wear at Christmastime), there’s a definite risk of an oil stain.
Oil stains on clothes are my absolute number one laundry nemesis. Somehow our family is constantly getting little (or large) grease spots on our shirts. It’s so bad that this week I put on a new, solid-colored shirt and at breakfast joked that we should lay odds on how long it would take me to get a grease spot on the shirt. I was as careful as could be, but by the end of the meal there were four little spots on my belly. Aughhhhhhhh!
So often I don’t catch them to pretreat at all until the shirt has already been through the wash, and then it’s nearly a hopeless cause. It doesn’t help that my favorite color scheme seems to be solid and bold. Please excuse my ranting – surely I am digressing from the point – but I want to make it clear that these oil stains on the armpits are no small matter to me.
It hasn’t been enough to get me to stop using the homemade deodorant, but sometimes I question it! I have two methods of attack, one preventive and one combative.
- It helps to try to let the deodorant sink into your skin. When I remember, I try to put it on right away after getting out of the shower, then put my shirt on last to give the oil as much time as I can. Of course, this doesn’t help on the “every other” shower days or when I forget to do it.
- I try to be on top of the stains. If I wear a shirt that is a likely culprit, I check the pits before tossing in the hamper. I find that a good dishwashing soap (also Shaklee H2) and hot water cut the grease, so I’ll scrub the problem area and hang to dry before laundering. It’s not perfect, but it works most of the time.
The reason I don’t give up on this deodorant is that I know commercial antiperspirants will stain my clothes, too. The homemade stuff attacks mostly darks, the commercial, aluminum-laden stuff gets the whites. Nobody wins!
Other Options for Non-Toxic Deodorant
My mother, who listens to my stories of all the things I’ve been trying, is on the walk to more natural living alongside me. She chose to find a natural deodorant (not antiperspirant) to avoid aluminum. There are some name brand ones out there (Arm and Hammer) and things like Tom’s of Maine. They’re working for her, but she also said she saw in the ingredients triclosan, the FDA banned ingredient in antibacterial soaps. You just can’t win! Others have luck with a crystal deodorant that you can find at health food stores.
A lot of people looking for a natural alternative to antiperspirants turn to a crystal deodorant, often sold at health food stores but becoming more mainstream. I never tried it, but it’s often recommended.
I’ve learned recently that you have to be careful even there: many crystals include aluminum as well. It doesn’t do much good to stop wearing antiperspirant so you’re not exposed to as much aluminum and then purchase a new product with a different kind of aluminum in it. Check the ingredients for anything with “alum” in it.
Herbalix Restoratives contacted me about their line of deodorants that are all-natural and even include a detox deodorant, to be used at night for the first 30 days to cleanse your body of toxins and make it so that you don’t have as much body odor to combat after that.
I’ve been impressed with the company and their commitment to sourcing quality ingredients, avoiding chemicals, doing their research and talking to consumers. However, I’ve put off writing this because I hate saying bad things.
Now this is exactly what the deodorant was supposed to do – get out the toxins, which will stink. I just couldn’t stick with it. I would forget, I would skip the part about rinsing my ‘pits before applying (or was it in the morning to get rid of the stink? I can’t even remember…), and I hated that the stench would carry with me throughout the day since I don’t typically shower daily.
Their daytime deodorant, geranium scented, made me smell like an old lady with BO. The tropical scented smelled better, in my opinion, but it still couldn’t cover the body odor, and I kept coming back to the fact that with my homemade deodorant, I had been getting much better results.
I’m sure I didn’t complete the full 30 days of detoxing, so this isn’t really a fair review. I’m just a wimp! It’s one of the reasons I don’t use supplements to detox.
I can’t say I enjoyed trying the Herbalix products. I hate to do it, but it’s the truth (and what my dear readers deserve and expect!).
However, here’s what the company claims the nighttime detox can do, that I have no way of commenting on one way or the other:
- Dilates sweat ducts to enhance flow of waste fluids
- Removes all types of aluminums
- Alkalizes underarm pH
- Promotes a healthier lymphatic system
- Encourages a reduction in daytime odors
If that sounds like something you’re looking for, and you’re ready to be stinky or wash your ‘pits every morning, you might be interested in giving Herbalix a go. The ingredients are solidly in the “natural” category – I can pronounce everything and recognize all the parts as plant-based. It goes on fine and doesn’t melt in the summer (one reason I was so excited to try it out!).
Other Natural Deodorants
- I tested Primal Pit Paste and wrote about it a bit in a great post on armpit detoxing that is a must-read.
- Life Without Plastic now carries Hoda’s Herbals cream deodorant. I haven’t tried it yet, but it only has five ingredients!
- Also visit Real Food, My Way for a recipe with essential oils included.
- Lindsay has published a fabulous update on her deodorant recipe detailing some common FAQs.
- I also got a Miessence gift certificate in a blog giveaway, and I decided to try their deodorant (again seeking a non-melting stick for summer travels). I was totally nonplussed and walked around many days thinking, “Mine is better.” To their credit, I did order a scent that ended up being sort of manly, which didn’t help! The ingredients are ultra-pure and very safe, but it just didn’t work and was very pricey.
A Side-by-Side Deodorant Comparison
When I traveled to my parents’ for 10 days this August, I knew I had to pack my homemade deo in the cooler so it wouldn’t melt all over my toothbrush in the hot van. I had my conventional stuff with me, too, in case I forgot to pack it. I did, and was quite content with the fact that I’d get to do a real comparison. I figured I might find better results from the old antiperspirant on hot days, but I was also not looking forward to that old stinging sensation of antiperspirant on nicked-up underarms.
I was quite surprised to find that I stunk more with the “real” stuff.
My clothing had a more unpleasant scent after a long day. I can only imagine that it’s the chemicals in the antiperspirant mixing with the sweat and odor that does get through. I was quite happy to get back home and break out the cold coconut oil from my fridge.
I have a theory, too: I think my body is used to its sweat glands being left alone, not bothered by chemicals fighting them closed. I’m guessing they just “work” better naturally and aren’t trying to overdo it. Plus, when I learn about how bacteria works, I probably have more natural body bacteria rather than the super-strong ones that would be left after chemical deodorants (sometimes containing triclosan!). They’re just milder.
In the comments ot the aluminum in antiperspirants post, Jen (formerly of Mommy’s Soapbox) has another very intriguing theory. She says that when she started eating traditional foods, she noticed a decrease in her body odor. That’s one I’m going to ponder for a while!
Even More Armpit Advice From the KS Community
The women and men in the KS Facebook community are amazingly full of wisdom and experience. They shared a bunch of ideas for fighting armpit problems. Here are some for you to consider if you’re not ready for full blown homemade deodorant or don’t think it will be strong enough for you:
- “Body odor is definitely related to diet. If you’ve been eating less green foods or more “mainstream” foods, that could do it. Chlorophyll reduces body odor, so eating lots and lots of green veggies can help. Zinc also helps eliminate body odor. Also, making sure you get your probiotics in can really help.”
- “I have to second the mention about chlorophyll as well. I noticed a definite improvement in all body odors (breath & armpits especially) when I was taking chlorella.”
- “Definitely detox, maybe take a good B-Complex with folate like Thorne Research, and some milk thistle.”
- “Try washing your pits with hydrogen peroxide.”
- “Drink more water.”
- “Tea tree oil cut with olive oil…..a little dab will do it….”
- “I’ve used a Kiss My Face deodorant that claimed to have enzymes that “contolled” the odor-causing bacteria…?”
- “I know you hated the Herbalix Detox deodorant, but it may have been what your body needed. After reading your post about it, I contacted Herbalix, and have been using the detox product for over two months now. Two months? Yep. So far it’s help clear up two separate rashes, and I believe it’s got a better than 50/50 chance of helping my clear up my bursitis (in combination with their Smart Salve) and some other health issues. I know it removes toxins, because early on when I was using it, I had to eat out at a really nasty restaurant for a family gathering. I put the detox on that night, and the next morning I stunk like I have never stunk before or since. Better out than in. If you still have some of the Detox deodorant left, I’d give it another shot to see if it can help your system clear out faster.”
- Note from Katie: This is so fascinating to me…if I could have put my hands on the Herbalix, I would have tried it in a heartbeat, but like most of my life, it’s “all packed up.” I love that my honest yet overall negative product review ended up getting them a new customer! Sometimes I give up too fast, especially on detoxing sorts of things that get worse before they get better.
- “The best natural deodorant I’ve been able to find is a spray-on by Herbaria.”
- “Wellness Mama’s homemade deodorant is hands down the most effective one I’ve ever used, secret clinical strength included.”
- “My husband was leery of natural deodorants because he gets pretty stinky so I made him a combination 2-step deodorant that he has been using for several months. He says it’s better than any store-bought regular deo/anti-perspirant he’s ever used. It’s not an antiperspirant, so he still sweats, but not profusely, and he never stinks. Don’t know if it will work for you or not, but the first step is a liquid: 2 tsp. zinc-oxide powder, 2/3 cup witch-hazel extract, 2 tbsp. aloe-vera juice (I used gel), 30-40 drops essential oil(s)–rose geranium, calendula or lavender oil is recommended as they are potent odor bacteria fighters. Mix these together and put in a roll-on bottle to apply or dab some on with a cottonball. Let it dry. Then use this mixture: 1/2 cup cornstarch or arrowroot powder and 1/2 cup baking soda (you can also add 10 drops of essential oils to this also). Pat on with a powder puff. Good luck!”
- “Yellow Dock, Liquid Chlorophyll, and lots of water helped me :)”
- “Essential oils that help are tea tree and lemon, don’t know if you should mix them though.”
- “Give Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar a try. I found that it works so well for me. After I shower / shaved my armpits, rinse my washcloth of soap, fold it in quarters and apply about 2 tblsp or less to the wet cloth and rub both arm pits well, then with the rag and under the shower keep rubbing and rinsing with the shower on. Dry off and let arm pits dry well before applying the deodorant you use. What this has done for me is given me extra deodorizing protection, I think the vinegar balances your ph ??. Any how it’s been working very well for me and my deodorant works all the better.”
- I had apple cider vinegar mixed with water in a spray bottle from my no ‘poo shampoo method, so I squirted a bit of that on after a shower. I think it’s something you’d have to do multiple times during the day, but it may have made a positive difference.
Get in on the conversation or read the rest right here.
In general, the homemade deodorant has worked great for me. Now if I could only find time for showers more often…
I know forfeiting your deodorant or antiperspirant is not for everyone. That’s ok. It’s something to think about, a little piece of my story that you may or may not want to try.
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