Thursday, July 1, 2010

Update: Odour Takes a Powder

Back in January I posted a blog about an easy home-made deodorant. At the end of that post, I mentioned I was working to find a comparable liquid form for summer. After some research and a few test trials, those results are now ready to share.

The first concoction I researched was another simple recipe consisting of one tablespoon of alum dissolved in one cup of warm water and (optionally) scented with a drop or spritz of a favourite perfume or cologne. Ammonium alum is available at most compound pharmacies, and is intended for topical use. Its price was reasonable: $4.49 (Can) for 125 grams, which is enough for eight (nearly nine) preparations, each supplying eight ounces of liquid deodorant. It seemed a great option until I began researching the ammonium alum. This double sulfate, also known as ammonium aluminum sulphate, is made from aluminum hydroxide, sulfuric acid, and ammonium sulfate. Though this chemical is said to be non-toxic, I was concerned when I read the words "aluminum hydroxide." That mineral is used in the production of aluminum chloride, a common ingredient in commercial deodorants and the one which has been linked to Alzheimer's, breast cancer and respiratory problems. I'm certainly no chemist, but I was reluctant to use this fluid for the same reason I avoid commercial brands.

Next I checked out a cream deodorant. It involves a little more processing, but it's still a relatively simple recipe using common ingredients. To prepare it, mix equal parts of baking soda, petroleum jelly and talcum powder (I substituted corn starch) in a double-boiler and dissolve the mixture over low heat, stirring frequently until a smooth cream develops. Put the preparation in a container – preferably glass – with a tight-fitting lid. This cream is applied by hand so, to avoid its contamination, I prepared small batches. The cream works effectively; however its greatest drawback was the oily residue it left on clothing. This stain proved resistant to laundering and, for this reason, I don't recommend it. Why ruin clothes with oil stains? There's no frugality in that.

In continuing my research for a home-made liquid deodorant, I performed experiments with water and baking soda. The usual bicarbonate effect happened though, and when the bubbling activity subsided, all that was left was an insoluble mass of soda sunk to the bottom of the water. Subsequently, I tried a mixture of equal parts baking soda and glycerine. This resulted in a loose cream which could be applied by hand but, while it worked effectively, the skin felt too sticky for comfort.

Perhaps one of the most intriguing formula I discovered was a deodorant tea, which works from the inside out. The recipe calls for a mix of equal quantities of sage leaves, parsley, alfalfa, and melilot (also known as sweet clover.) This herbaceous mixture will deteriorate in light and so should be made in small quantities and then stored in an opaque container. To prepare the tea, brew ½ to 2 teaspoons of the mix in ½ cup hot water and steep a few minutes. The instructions did not specify ingesting daily, only "regularly." I presume its use is dependent on one's personal need.

The tea got me thinking, though. If these herbs and plants can have a deodorizing effect, then the reverse must also be true: some foods, drinks and spices must contribute to body odour. From personal experience, I can attest that consuming certain foods – beef, fried foods, alcoholic beverages, and spices and herbs such as curry or garlic – does indeed produce unsavoury body odours. Even the strongest commercial deodorants only mask their (often foul) emanations. So, I have begun to take note of various foods which produce those unpleasant results, and now eat them only occasionally.

Ultimately, I ended up back at the beginning. The original powder formula – equal parts baking soda and corn starch – remains my favourite. And, I needn't have been concerned about "powdery armpits." This deodorant, it turns out, disappears very quickly after application, to become as invisible as any commercial brand. Unlike those store-bought deodorants, however, this powder, if it ends up on clothing, is easily brushed off or laundered out. Its cost – only pennies per bi-weekly batch – also makes it a thrifty choice for budget-conscious households.

So, with all the experimentation behind me, I'm back to using the original powder preparation and am pleased to report my underarms are tank-top friendly.

Have you got a home-preparation I haven't tried? If so, I'd like to hear about it. Please leave a comment to share your formula and observations.