Baking Soda as a Deodorant: What Are the Benefits and Side Effects?
Due to some concerns about the ingredients in conventional deodorant, there’s been a lot of interest in natural options for combating underarm odor. One such alternative is baking soda, also known as sodium bicarbonate.
Baking soda is an age-old, multipurpose product that’s traditionally been used in cooking, odor prevention, and cleaning. More recently, though, it’s been touted as the go-to natural ingredient for numerous other purposes, specifically in the realm of health and personal care.
Here’s a look at the purported benefits and drawbacks of using baking soda as a natural deodorant, and what you should know before using it.
Baking soda is well known for its ability to absorb odors. For instance, if you have a bad smell in your refrigerator, leaving an open box of baking soda in your fridge can help get rid of the odor.
This odor-absorbing ability has resulted in baking soda becoming a popular option as a natural deodorant.
Although studies have been done on the benefits of baking soda in general, there’s very little scientific research to specifically support its use as an underarm deodorant. The reported benefits are based on anecdotal evidence of people who have used it to combat their body odor.
One studyTrusted Source suggests that baking soda may have antimicrobial benefits, which could potentially mean that it has the ability to fight off odor-causing bacteria under your arms. However, this older study was done in the context of dentistry, and not skin care.
There may be other potential benefits of using baking soda instead of a conventional deodorant. This is especially the case for people who have a sensitivity to chemicals and ingredients used in many commercial deodorants, such as:
- Aluminum. Some people are concerned that absorbing aluminum from a deodorant can increase their risk of breast cancer and other cancers. However, there isn’t any scientific researchTrusted Source to date to support this.
- Parabens. Although research is still ongoing, some early studies indicate that parabens found in beauty and personal care products may increase the risk of cancerous skin damage.
- Triclosan. This ingredient may disrupt some types of hormones.
- Artificial colors. These may cause skin irritation.
As a deodorant, baking soda may help neutralize odors. This benefit could come at a cost, though, especially if you have sensitive skin.
If you have dry or sensitive skin, you could be more prone to the following side effects if you use baking soda under your arms:
- scaly skin
The drying effect of baking soda is likely due to its alkalinity. A pH of 7.0 and above is considered alkaline, and baking soda falls somewhere around 9.0 on the pH scale.
According to researchTrusted Source, healthy skin is more acidic, at a pH of around 5.0. So, when you apply an alkaline substance like baking soda, it could upset your skin’s natural pH levels. This, in turn, could lead to excessive dryness.
One way to sidestep possible side effects is to test your skin’s sensitivity to baking soda before applying as a deodorant. This is called a patch test.
You can do a patch test by taking a small amount of baking soda and applying it to a small area of your skin, like the inside of your elbow. Then, wait for up to 48 hours to see if your skin develops any sort of reaction or irritation.
If you want to stay dry, you may have to reapply baking soda throughout the day. That’s because deodorants in general, including baking soda, only mask body odor, while antiperspirants work to prevent wetness by blocking your sweat pores.
To use baking soda as a deodorant, you can pat a small amount on your underarms. But this method can become quite messy and likely won’t work too well.
A better option is to make a deodorant paste by following these easy steps:
- Mix about 1/4 tsp. baking soda with a small amount of lukewarm water in a bowl until it forms a paste.
- Apply the paste to your underarms, gently patting it onto your skin with your fingertips.
- Make sure the paste is completely dry before getting dressed.
You can also combine baking soda with other ingredients without using water.
- Mix 1 part baking soda with 6 parts cornstarch, which can act as an antiperspirant to keep you dry.
- Mix 1 part baking soda with 2 parts shea butter or coconut butter, which may be helpful for dry, sensitive skin.
- Mix 1 part baking soda with 4 parts coconut oil, and add a drop of an essential oil, like lavender or tea tree oil
No matter which recipe you choose, it’s important to conduct a patch test ahead of time to make sure your skin isn’t sensitive to any of the ingredients.
If baking soda causes your skin to dry out, itch, or become irritated, you may want to consider trying other natural deodorant options, such as:
- apple cider vinegar, diluted in water
- coconut oil
- shea butter
- witch hazel
- tea tree oil or other essential oils diluted in a carrier oil
Due to its odor-fighting properties, baking soda may be able to combat underarm odor.
However, baking soda isn’t designed for the skin. It’s much more alkaline than your skin, which could disrupt your skin’s natural pH balance. This may lead to dryness, itching, redness, and irritation, especially if you have sensitive skin.
If you’re concerned about your current deodorant and want a more natural option, talk to your doctor or dermatologist about the best natural options for your skin.
How many of those hanging car air fresheners would it take to get rid of the olfactory assault from last night’s fish dish? So many. Too many! Before you dress up your kitchen like a cardboard pine forest, take a deep breath — preferably through your mouth — and open your cupboard. Odds are you already have what you need to get rid of those food odors in one inexpensive little box. That’s right. That unassuming baking soda is a walk-on-water miracle for your kitchen.
Baking soda, unlike most commercial air fresheners, doesn’t mask odors, “it absorbs them,” says Mary Marlowe Leverette, a home economist and blogger. Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate in a convenient box) neutralizes stubborn acidic odors — like those from sour milk — as well as other funky smells lurking in your home. It’s a natural odor eliminator.
Ready to be wowed by all the ways baking soda can transform your kitchen?
Buckle up and get sprinkling.
Dishwashers are supposed to be Hallowed Havens of Cleanliness. If you don’t run the dishwasher every day, those rotten food smells can build up. Stop the stink by dumping a cup of baking soda into the dishwasher and running it through a rinse cycle. Ah! That’s a nicer smelling place for your dishes.
If you avoid using your oven because of that special burning smell, scrub it with a paste made of a 1/2 cup of baking soda and a few tablespoons of water. Coat the oven with the paste, and let it sit overnight. Then, wipe it away with a damp cloth and spritz any stuck-on paste with some vinegar in a spray bottle.
That greasy range hood is adding to your kitchen’s odor. Clean it with a mixture of about 1/4 cup baking soda, a good squirt of degreasing dish soap, and the hottest water you can stand (but be careful not to burn yourself!).
When you can’t place an odor, drains and disposals are often the culprits. Make them stink- and (bonus!) clog-free with a mix of 1/4 cup baking soda, 1/4 cup vinegar, and some kosher salt. It’ll neutralize the smell and give the drain a slightly abrasive scrubbing. Follow up with boiling water.
Clean smelly plastic food containers by scrubbing and soaking them in a mixture of hot water and baking soda.
Your microwave still smells like last weekend’s bacon? Clean and deodorize it with a solution of 2 tablespoons of baking soda mixed with 1 cup water. Put the solution into an uncovered, microwave-safe container and zap on high for three minutes. Then, simply wipe down the interior.
Toss a handful of baking soda into your kitchen garbage pail and recycling container to control ongoing odors. Refresh every few days.
Composting may be virtuous, but it can attack your nose every time you open the bin. Fight back by tossing a handful of baking soda into the compost bin before each deposit. Occasionally clean the bin with vinegar. When it’s dry, cover the bin’s bottom with a layer of baking soda.
Making fish tonight? Prevent odors before they start by soaking raw fish in one quart of water with two tablespoons of baking soda. Leave it in the fridge for about an hour, rinse, and pat dry before cooking.
The best thing about the cheap, odor-zapping wonder of baking soda is you can use it guilt-free. “You’re not going to harm humans or animals or ruin anything using baking soda,” Leverette says. “Plus, after you’re done deodorizing, mix it up with vinegar or lemon juice and some red dye, and make a cool volcano. The kids’ll love it.”
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Buy a fresh box of baking soda to treat body odor for maximum potency. Keep it in your bedroom or bathroom.
Shower or bath thoroughly. Dry well, especially in the underarm area.
Dump a little baking soda (about 1 tsp. to start) into your hand or on a dry cloth and pat it all around the underarm until you’ve covered the whole area. Wait until your skin dries before you put on your clothes. Otherwise, the powder could leave white marks on your shirt.
Mix baking soda with kitchen cornstarch or baby powder cornstarch (which is usually scented) to add more drying power and deodorant action.
Add 1/4 cup of baking soda to a warm bath to extend its benefits to the whole body.
Soak feet with foot odor problems in a baking soda solution composed of 4 tbsp. of baking soda to 4 cups of warm water. Apply dry powder to your feet after a shower to eliminate foot odor.
Watch your diet. Alcohol, coffee, strong spices and other foods can contribute to body odor. Make it easier for the baking soda to do its job by restricting your intake of foods that can worsen body odor.