Deodorant: going natural without the stink


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Some of us are blessed with a distinct lack of BO. Others, like me, seem cursed with it.

Today’s post will talk you through how to switch to a natural deodorant – without the worry that you will end up stinking out the car, bus, classroom, office or house.

Sorry if this is TMI for those of you who actually know me in person… but I have personally struggled with BO for a number of years. I would lace myself in deodorant and still find some days where I felt so self-conscious about my BO that I would have to keep my arms locked by my sides. Not to mention the effect it had on my clothes. Some of you may know what I’m talking about. If you don’t, consider yourself lucky.

Whether or not you have a BO issue, people are becoming increasingly concerned about some of the ingredients in commercial deodorants, as well as the impact that antiperspirants may be having on our bodies’ normal functions.

It won’t come as a shock that sweating is a normal and useful function of your body. So why are we obsessed with stopping it? Some people may be embarrassed by sweat patches (fair enough, it’s not a great look, I’ll agree), but for many it’s more the smell that accompanies the sweat that is the primary concern.

I had both concerns, and went so far as to order this insanely chemical-filled deodorant that promised no sweat just to wear at my wedding. (Yes, it worked, sort of, but the list of ingredients on that thing was downright scary.)

The primary function of sweat is to regulate the body’s temperature, but it is also one of the ways that the body can release toxins.

After the wedding, I decided to switch to natural deodorants and used a home-made recipe. I felt way better about the ingredients I was putting on my skin, as well as the lack of packaging. However, I still had issues with BO and concluded that the natural deodorant just was not enough to combat my smelly armpits.

Then one morning, quite by accident, I received an email newsletter from Hello Charlie (great online store, especially for kids’ stuff) about the ‘armpit detox’.

It has changed my life.

Maybe not so dramatically as I just put it, but I did the armpit detox 6 months ago, have had two top-ups and not a single day of BO since. We are now hitting peak summer and I am still odour-free and have not used a commercial deodorant since June. If you have any concerns about BO, please, please try the armpit detox.

So, what causes BO? It’s not the sweat itself that smells bad. BO actually results from bacteria that live on the skin breaking down the proteins found in sweat into acids. So – the key to reducing BO is actually to reduce the number of odour-producing bacteria that inhabit the armpits.

Obviously, the first step is to keep your armpits clean by washing them regularly. At this stage on my journey I’m still using commercial body washes and soaps but will gradually transition to home-made ones so keep an eye out for those posts later on. Some websites suggest that keeping your armpits de-haired also helps with controlling the environment, as it allows sweat to evaporate faster and thus the bacteria have less time to produce odours. But I’m not interested in advocating either way on the hair-removal issue. That’s a personal choice for each individual.

So – back to the armpit detox. It requires a 20-minute per day commitment for 7 days. It’s very easy, and the ingredients will cost you about $20.

There are two ingredients: Bentonite clay (I got mine from a health-food shop) and apple cider vinegar (from the supermarket if you don’t already use it for salad dressings or hair rinses).


DIY armpit detox

Mix about 3/4 tablespoon of bentonite clay with enough apple cider vinegar to make a paste that will spread and stay on your armpits. Then spread it on your armpits and leave it for 15 minutes. Finally, just like a facial mask, wash it off with warm water (or, like me, just hop in the shower and wash as normal).


Check out the full article on Hello Charlie if you want more information or an even lazier option (you can buy a pre-made armpit detox product):

The proportions I suggest are different from those in this article – purely because on my first attempt I diligently measured out the proportions and found the resultant paste crumbled off my skin onto the floor and then I had a big clean up job. So I preferred a slightly wetter paste that stayed on much better and worked a treat.

After doing this once a day for 7 days, I reverted back to my natural deodorant.

I have had only 2 days of slight BO since this (as compared with almost every day, and some days that were really bad, before doing the detox). Both days I did a once-off detox again as a refresher and have been odour-free for over 6 months.

I cannot recommend this highly enough.

I do think though, not that there’s much scientific evidence that I am aware of, that this needs to be paired with a natural deodorant. The above-linked article suggests that the commercial antiperspirant deodorants muck up the microbiome of bacteria living in our armpits and cause an imbalance in favour of the odour-producing bacteria. Personally, I don’t really want to go back down the commercial deodorant route just to test this out, but it seems logical to me.

So you may also want a recipe for the natural deodorant that I use. It originally came from a site called The Prairie Homestead (link:

Note this recipe is easier on a hot day, as your coconut oil will already be melted and therefore really easy to measure out and mix in. If your coconut oil is solidified, you will need to melt it first – try soaking the jar in hot water.

DIY natural deodorant:

Mix 1/4 cup bicarbonate of soda, 1/4 cup tapioca/arrowroot flour and 4 tablespoons of cornflour (make sure it’s actually corn, not wheat) in a bowl.

Add 1/3 cup coconut oil and mix.

If desired, add 5-10 drops of essential oils. Choices popular for their odour-reducing properties include peppermint, tea-tree and lemongrass, though I choose mine for the fragrance they give off. (I am currently getting through a batch with ylang ylang, bergamot and rose geranium. It smells divine and I even had a compliment from a friend about how good I smelt when I wasn’t wearing perfume.)

Pour or spoon (depending on the consistency) your deodorant into a jar or jars. Don’t over-fill containers as they will leak out the top. I had too much for the containers in my last batch and had the leftover in a small, uncovered dish sitting on my bathroom counter for a couple of weeks. It was fine.

To apply, use clean fingers to wipe the deodorant over your armpits and then wash your hands after. Easy peasy!


1 – you can experiment with the consistency of the deodorant by adjusting the amount of coconut oil or bicarbonate of soda you add.

2 – be careful with essential oils as in high concentrations they can irritate the skin. Don’t add more than 10 drops for this quantity of deodorant and if you aren’t sure about your reaction to a certain oil, you should dilute some in a carrier oil (even plain olive oil is fine) and test it on the inside of your wrist for a few days to check that your skin won’t react to it.

3 – Depending on the weather, the coconut oil will alter how liquid or powdery the deodorant is. I’ve found the product is just as effective when it is more powdery, but it is easier to apply when it’s a little melted. If it gets really hot, it’s possible the deodorant will separate out and need re-mixing.


I can’t recommend these highly enough, whether you have issues with BO or are just concerned about the long-term effects of ingredients in commercial deodorants. Or maybe, you are primarily concerned with the packaging of commercial deodorants. Regardless of your motivation to try this out, it’s a small commitment time wise, and will save you lots of money in the long run.

Let me know if you decide to try out the armpit detox and the natural deodorant!

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3 thoughts on “Deodorant: going natural without the stink

  1. Hi Alex.

    Love reading your blog – thanks for sharing your personal struggles in a really human and non-preachy way. You’ve inspired me to consider how I can change some of my own habits!

    I’m looking forward to reading your thoughts on sustainable cleaning products. I use vinegar where I can however have found that some products marketed as ‘earth-friendly’ either aren’t effective or seem more like ‘slightly less earth-unfriendly’ than traditional products.

    Thanks and look forward to the next chapter.


    1. Hi Danny, thanks so much for the comment! I’m currently embarking on DIY cleaning products and am waiting for some ingredients I had to buy online to be delivered, but I’ll be onto it soon and will definitely write about the journey. First one is likely to be toilet cleaner as I have just run out of the one I used to use and am trying to commit to not buying any new cleaning products now and just making my own as each one runs out.


      1. If you’re worried about the enviro effects of vinegar, I recently read that you can use over-brewed Kombucha instead (for cleaning and I imagine other things). I haven’t tried it, but plan to when I make my next batch for Kombucha (or when life gets a little less chaotic)!
        I LOVEEEE my homemade deodorant and am in the midst of converting Sal.

        Liked by 1 person

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