Thursday, January 14, 2010

Odour Takes a Powder

A few years ago, concerned about the affects of aluminum compounds in various household products, I got rid of a few old pots and pans, stopped buying soda in cans, and quit using commercial antiperspirants.

Most antiperspirants (as opposed to deodorants) contain ingredients such as: Aluminum chloride; Aluminum zirconium tricholorohydrex glycine; Aluminum chlorohydrate; and Aluminum hydroxybromide ('How Stuff Works' article; May 2, 2001). Given the growing body of evidence linking these ingredients to Alzheimer's, breast cancer and respiratory problems ('Natural Medicine' article) the risks far outweighed – for me – the need to use an antiperspirant.

That set me on a path to discover an effective product that did not include those compounds. Health stores offered crystal and stick deodorants, most expounding the virtues of Aloe Vera, Tea Tree and/or hemp oil. While these additives are believed to be safe and, in some instances, beneficial, they just didn't work for me. Crystals crumbled and cracked, becoming torturous to use, and the fragrant ingredients in stick deodorants simply produced something viler than mere underarm odour alone. One product even resulted in a yeast infection. Not good.

My patience exhausted, I decided to try a home remedy of my own invention. Knowing that baking soda is effective at neutralizing odour and corn starch absorbs moisture – the latter once recommended by our family physician for my child's diaper rash – I combined the two. Applied like a dusting powder, using cosmetic pads (home sewn from scrap cloth; see: Rags to Niches) it can be a little messy so I do this over the bathroom sink.

It's astonishing how well this powder works. Not only does it completely eliminate odour and control perspiration, it's fantastically less expensive. It has an unexpected benefit to, too. Many commercial deodorants leave residue on clothing and some seem to lock odour into synthetic fabrics. This powder has the opposite effect. There is no stain, just a little dusting (at most), and the baking soda actually helps remove lingering odours from fabric.

To make your own, simply combine equal parts of baking soda and corn starch. I make small batches (one tablespoon of each ingredient) and change cosmetic pads daily to lessen the possibility of contaminating the powder. This two tablespoon batch lasts approximately two weeks, at which time I clean the container and make a fresh batch. The cosmetic pads are laundered in small-garment bags with regular loads.

For more than two months I've used this home-made product and, impressed with its effectiveness, cost, and bonus feature, doubt I'll ever buy commercial brands again. However, I am working on a liquid form for summer, when sleeveless tops will expose powdery armpits.