Why Baking Soda is a Great Deodorant

This post is inspired by Queen Composter’s post on “DIY vs. Chemistry” on the Green Phone Booth on Friday. It addresses the whole “these greenies are dissing ‘chemicals’ but really it’s all chemistry” dilemma…and I’m really glad it does. Because she’s absolutely right.

A few years ago my mom sent me a chemistry lesson email on why baking soda does indeed work as a superb and cheap deodorant. She was a chemistry prof for years, and if I’d had her in high school instead of who I did, I might have stuck with it longer.

I think this is brilliant, and I offer it to anyone who thinks they might like to give up the aluminum chlorohydrate stuff and try doing the non-stinky thing without rubbing a metal solution onto freshly shaven skin really close to, you know, your breasts, those lovely things that so often seem to be a place where icky malignant cells seem to gather and party…

“A short lesson in buffering, sodium bicarbonate, and bad smells:

smelly goat

smelly goat

Lots (most?) of bad body odors are the result of the production of stuff that is either acidic (butyric acid – essence of rancid butter,  caproic acid – eau de male goat, eg)  or alkaline (many many amines, the products of protein degradation – dog anal gland exudate being an example here). Baking soda is able to “neutralize” those amines by transferring its hydrogen ion to the amine, changing it into an odorless amine salt.  In the case of the smelly acidic stuff, it steals the hydrogen ion from the acid, forming carbon dioxide and the odorless acid salt–almost magic, huh?  Thats what buffers do – they can neutralize both acidic compounds as well as alkaline compounds by taking or donating a hydrogen ion.  And since sodium bicarb is pretty much neutral itself, it does all this at the body’s normal pH and isnt too acidic or alkaline itself to cause any irritation, at least for THAT reason.  AND ITS CHEAP!!!”

There you have it. From my mom the chemistry prof. Chemistry at work. She’s my litmus for suspicious-sounding crunchy remedies, and if it works, she’s likely to know why. And when she can explain, through chemistry, exactly why something does work, I’ll buy her explanation every time.

Posted on June 21, 2014, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. OK, so now comes the really practical question: what sort of “delivery system” do you use to apply baking soda as a deodorant? I’m a huge baking soda fan and I want to try it, but I’m envisioning a huge mess.

  2. Hi Kate, sorry I didn’t see this sooner! a lot of people mix it with coconut oil and smear it on, but something about the combo gives me a rash–honestly, I just mix it with an equal amount of cornstarch in a ziplog baggie and add a few drops of essential oils (like tea tree and lavender–maybe 10 drops per 2 tbs powder?), schmush it all up in the ziploc till it’s well-mixed, and put it in a little wide-mouthed jar. Then I just pat a little on my armpits in the morning. Not messy at all.

    There’s a pretty big “recipe roundup” here, if you’r curious–check it out!

  1. Pingback: Michael and other Quick Takes | So much to say, so little time

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