Maggie A's Meanderings




January 30, 2011

Home Remedies that Actually Work -- Stinky Sweat

This is a change from my usual topics, but I didn't decide to call this site "Meanderings" for no reason.  

You can't go through life without figuring out a few "how to's."  Here's one of mine.

Do you have a problem with stinky sweat?  Then you might be surprised to learn that sweat by itself is actually innocuous, practically odorless.  It's when the sweat interacts with the bacteria on your skin that the smell happens.

So dealing with stinky sweat requires a two-fold approach to minimize both the sweating and the bacteria.

The three most common offending areas are the underarms, the feet and the groin.  When it comes to the underarms and the feet, it's well known that the odor problem is from sweat.  It's not so well known when it comes to the groin -- especially if you're a woman convinced from years of commercials that the problem is vaginal odor.  But unless you've got something medically wrong with your vagina like a yeast infection, the smell is probably coming from your sweat.  The sweat glands in the groin, on both men and women, evolved to produced pheromones which can potentially have an odor.  So if you've got smelly privates, don't immediately jump to the conclusion that it's coming from the penis or vagina because it could be your sweat. 

As to why these specific areas tend to be the problem areas, it has to do with the number and type of sweat glands they have.  The feet are so sweaty because they have over 3000 sweat gland per square inch.  (So do your hands which is why your palms can get so sweaty.)  That's ten times the number of sweat glands found on other areas of your body like your back.  These are eccrine (also called merocrine) sweat glands.   This sweat is mostly water and is odorless.  The reason why your feet stink while your hands do not is because your hands are normally open to the air, so the sweat evaporates.  Your feet are confined in socks and shoes.  The other type of sweat gland is the apocrine sweat gland. These are on your underarms and your groin.  These are the kind of sweat glands that produce pheromones.  It also contains protein which bacteria love to munch on, and when the bacteria break down the sweat is when the stink starts.

This list is the "shock and awe" level of treatment.  You may find that you don't have to do everything on the list.  Your problem might go away if you only do steps 1 and 2.  (If you only do steps 1 and 2, you'll still be sweating just as much, but if there's no odor problem you might not care.)  Or you could skip directly to step 4 and see if that works for you.

1. Wash the area thoroughly with an antibiotic soap.  Be sure to scrub well.  
2. Disinfect the area.  Which disinfectant works best for you depends upon the bacteria on your skin.  Try the following:

Facial antiseptic / skin toner -- Any type that you have handy will do.  But if it's alcohol based it can sting.  That can matter depending on the area of the body you're applying it.
Hydrogen peroxide -- The hydrogen peroxide you buy at the store is typically 3%.  There are stronger concentrations available, but don't go above 6%.  (Don't get it on your clothes as it can bleach them.)
Witch hazel
Rubbing alcohol
Vinegar -- Any type of vinegar will do, but the cheapest is white vinegar, though the apple cider vinegar is not expensive.  The vinegar smell will fade in a few minutes.
Bleach -- Use a very dilute solution of bleach mixed with water.  (Again, be careful not to get this on your clothes as, naturally, it will bleach them.)
3. Dry thoroughly.  Then apply powder to the area.  If you don't like baby/bath powders, use plain corn starch.
4. Apply an antiperspirant.  Antiperspirant is not just for your underarms.  It will work on any part of your body including the feet or groin.  (Use it on the skin areas only, not the mucus membranes.  The mucus membranes do not have sweat glands.)  If you're covering a large area of your body, use a spray antiperspirant rather than a roll-on. 
5. Wear loose clothing whenever possible.  Natural fabrics like cotton are better than synthetics.
6. If you can, keep the area aired out.  Wear open shoes or sleeveless shirts.

You may find that this helps with your problem, but it doesn't last 24 hours.  In that case, feel free to repeat as often as necessary.  You can even keep a small toilet kit on hand with wipes and travel sizes of everything else.

If you're dealing with stinky, sweaty feet, then you have to deal with your shoes as well.  

1. Use odor absorbing liners and replace them frequently.

Spray the inside of your shoes with an antiseptic spray like Lysol.  Repeat as necessary.

3. If you don't mind dealing with the powder, sprinkle baking soda inside your shoes.  Let it absorb the odor; then shake out the excess.  Also repeat as necessary.
4. Don't wear the same pair of shoes two days in a row.  Let your shoes dry out for a day between wearings.  If you have to wear the same pair of shoes, then you'll need dry them out:
The safest, quick way would be to use a blow dryer on them.
Position a fan so it's blowing into the shoes and leave overnight.
If you have floor registers, then place the shoes upside down on top of the registers.
You can try using heat like an oven set on low or putting them on a radiator, but you have to be very careful to make sure the shoes don't get ruined.
5. If your shoes are washable, use bleach, hydrogen peroxide or vinegar in the wash to disinfect them.
6. When you get a new pair of shoes, do all these things to them from the start to try to keep the odor from building up.

If you want to read more about sweat, check out the following:

Stinky Sweat cartoon

For something else to avoid, check out "Three Major Nationwide Restaurant Chains that Have Completely Jumped the Shark" or "7 Scary Things You Didn't Know about Your Pet's Food." Please take a moment to look around the Archive.



Home                     Archive                    Email Me