make your own: deodorant.

September 16, 2014

deodorantIn the summer that I turned 19, I spent a month in the Vermont woods not showering.

There was some trail clearing and bridge building in there too, but the not showering bit is probably more impressive than any physical labor I attempted. And you thought that three-day hair was something to write home about.

I returned to civilization with the best-defined arms of my life, an incredibly itchy scalp, and a stench that has surely made my dad a candidate for sainthood since he was the one who drove the entire 6-hour trip home with me without complaint only complaining once.

Since then I’ve rarely gone more than a day or two without showering and my personal aroma is something that I’ve devoted a fair amount of time and energy to. You probably already know this. The subject of my stench is, afterall, not a new one for these tea leaves.

But, in my ever-fascinating quest to spend less money on things that I need (basic hygiene and food being necessities) and more money on things I don’t need (wine, and fancy underwear, and donuts being luxuries), I decided to finally take the advice of so many of you and make my own deodorant.

Because I am more lazy than not about these kind of things, I opted for the simplest recipe I could find.
deodorant Here’s what I used:

Aluminum-Free Baking Soda Arrowroot Powder Coconut Oil Tea Tree Essential Oil, 10 drops Lavender Essential Oil, 10 drops A drop of olive oil
A small glass jar with lid*

I mixed together equal parts baking soda, arrowroot powder (~three tablespoons of each was about the right amount for the jar I had). I blended in enough coconut oil to make a thick paste and added 10 drops each of tea tree and lavender essential oils. These both have the advantage of smelling fresh and boasting anti-bacterial properties to help with the stink. The olive oil trick was stolen from a reader who made claims that a drop or two would help the coconut oil from firming up too much in cooler temps.
deodorant Arrowroot powder and baking soda, mixed. deodorant Combined with coconut oil. deodorant Sweetened up with tea tree and lavender oils. deodorant Fin.

Here’s the thing. This was incredibly easy to whip together. And it worked.

This is to say that when I use it, I do not stink. Not really at all. I smell faintly of coconut oil, which is already the case since it’s what I use to slather on my infant child’s bare bottom.

But. The consistency is not as lovely as the Soapwalla Deodorant Cream I’ve been using for over a year. It goes on smooth enough, but then it kind of crumbles. It’s not a terrible kind of crumble, but suffice to say that wearing a sleeveless black number and this concoction presents problems.

Would it make all the difference if I took the time to melt a bit of shea butter into the mix? What are your homemade deodorant secrets, O Internet? I know you have them.

*In an effort to help you guys with your shopping, I’ve added links to these products, but all them are things you can likely find quite easily in your local grocery or natural food store.

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  • Reply Sweet Love and Ginger September 16, 2014 at 11:37 am

    An interesting idea, though I rarely use the stuff. Though I wear a lot of black. A woman I work with uses a shea butter version and says she doesn't have the flake problem. Though I don't know what her recipe is, it may be worth a try.

  • Reply catie September 16, 2014 at 12:54 pm

    hi erin!
    i made my own – very similar – this summer. i've been using it exclusively for more than 2 months in summer heat. i did add shea butter & mine still gets rolled up into little crumbly bits if i'm not careful. my consistency problem seems to be the baking soda – it's 'sandy' almost. the key for me is to put in on right out of the bath, apply a little lavender lotion beforehand, and to get it really warm & smooshy in my hands first. still, i wait a while before getting dressed. i'm getting ready to make my second batch & will tweak the ingredients to make it smoother.
    during the day, i use this to 'supplement':—Citrus__636874040813.aspx
    and good for you – i don't think chemical deodorant is ever a good idea, but especially when breastfeeding.

  • Reply ariana September 16, 2014 at 1:15 pm

    I made my own deodorant for the fist time earlier this summer, too. My recipe is almosttt identical to yours, except I used cornstarch for arrowroot (because I had it), and I melted it all together with a bit of beeswax before pouring into an old deodorant container. I loved it the first few days (zero stink!), but then I noticed it was staining my lighter clothing yellowish. Not appealing, and something I'd hoped to leave behind with aluminum-filled deodorants. I still wear it with darker, casual clothing, but I'm thinking I need to whip up wax-free version, too.

  • Reply Anonymous September 16, 2014 at 2:31 pm

    I'm a fan of the crystal. It's simple and cheap considering that it lasts forever. Oh, and it works.


  • Reply Jessica September 16, 2014 at 3:09 pm

    Erin, I've been singing from the rooftops about this recipe to anyone who will listen:

    It's the first homemade deodorant I've tried, though like you I've tried A LOT of store-bought natural ones that didn't really work. This recipe closely mimics Soapwalla's without the fancy clay that probably gives it the nice texture. Regardless, I have no crumbles or yellowing of clothes, and this has worked so consistently over the sweaty Brooklyn summer (with no a/c) that sometimes I would forget to put it on just because I forgot that I stink without it. True story.

    I sub in shea butter for coconut butter (Nubian Heritage's shea butter infused with goat's milk and chai smells incredible — like roses) and corn starch for arrowroot powder just because I have them around.

    Good luck!

  • Reply Elizabeth Rebecca September 16, 2014 at 4:17 pm

    I've honestly never thought about making my own deodorant before but I do suffer from stains and flakes. πŸ™

    Lizzie's Daily Blog

    • Reply Erin September 17, 2014 at 6:12 pm

      My theory is that the staining is mostly from sweating. I used to use chemical deodorants and blamed them. Then I made the switch to natural and the yellowing followed me. I have a feeling it's just part of the human condition!

  • Reply Ginny September 16, 2014 at 4:19 pm

    I used to get the clumping issue with mine too (same exact recipe). But I've found that using a little less resolves that problem. I only use about a small blueberries worth of the stuff and it does the trick without getting all clumpy and weird.
    I've even converted my man to using the stuff and he loves it too, so I you should get James on board if he isn't already!

    • Reply Erin September 17, 2014 at 6:14 pm

      GENIUS. Did this this morning and it worked. TOTALLY. (James is still using up all the expensive Soapwalla, the little devil. Should be able to convince him to make the switch now that I know the secret!

  • Reply Erin Oliver September 16, 2014 at 4:58 pm


    I love this natural take on deodorant. Perhaps I'll be trying it soon (I've always had an aversion to the smell of store bought deodorants…like even more than the smell of sweat).
    Also wondering what sort of stamper/printing(?) you used to make the "deodorant" label, I love its lovely simplicity (and it's also much neater than my handwriting will ever be!!).

    -Another Erin

    • Reply Erin September 17, 2014 at 6:11 pm

      It's an alphabet stamp from Staples. Super simple and inexpensive!

  • Reply Anonymous September 16, 2014 at 5:16 pm

    It's funny that you wrote this because I switched from making my own deodorant to using the crystal deodorant this summer because I had horrible staining on my light shirts. I used a recipe with a great texture (humble bee and me) and I even poured it into an old deodorant tube. But the staining was too much for me. My guess was the combo of olive oil and beeswax (I'm not sure that this was her fault as I'm pretty sure I subbed out what I had for what she listed).


  • Reply Nicole Bagozzi September 16, 2014 at 6:42 pm

    I use equal parts baking soda, corn starch and coconut oil and add a few drops of lavender essential oil. I'll have to try the drop of olive oil trick!

  • Reply Neurotic Workaholic September 16, 2014 at 8:15 pm

    I didn't even know that you could make deodorant; that's so cool! And I bet it's much nicer than the storebought kind.

  • Reply Anna September 16, 2014 at 11:47 pm

    I gave homemade deodorant a go this summer. One week into using it, my skin broke out and it was back to the store-bought kind. "Natural" deodorants always seem to make me break out, as do regular women's deodorants. So I end up buying the guy's stuff, because it works and doesn't bother my skin. I keep thinking about trying another recipe for it, but I'm not sure I want to invest the ingredients and then have something that I can't use after a week or two yet again.

    • Reply Erin September 17, 2014 at 6:15 pm

      Oy. Individual body chemistry is definitely the missing link in a lot of these recipes! Hope you find something that works!

  • Reply Amelia September 17, 2014 at 2:41 am

    the best natural deodorant I've found is plain milk of magnesia. done. weird, but it works (find the kind without bleach though – equaline brand is safe, so are some other generic store brand versions).

    when I used baking soda deodorant I mixed coconut and sunflower oil, which is goopier but mostly eliminates the crumbling issue.

    • Reply Erin September 17, 2014 at 6:16 pm


  • Reply Jana September 17, 2014 at 3:02 am

    Erin, What do you use to make the jar label? Lovely! Deodorant is on my to-do list, but I do make my own diaper salve and face/body cream.

    • Reply Erin September 17, 2014 at 6:10 pm

      I used a simple alphabet stamp from Staples!

  • Reply Camie September 17, 2014 at 4:59 am

    I just swipe on some coconut oil and then pat on baking soda with a reusable cotton round. Works for me even on hot days.

  • Reply Erin Freeman September 17, 2014 at 6:12 pm

    I've been making this recipe since it was originally published in Bust in 2009:

    It is a bit expensive to order the shea and cocoa butters initially (I got mine from Mountain Rose Herbs), but it will last forever and ever, amen. I am not exagerrating when I tell you that I have only made this recipe three times in almost six years. Also, it truly works and doesn't leave a residue. (p.s. I use orange sticks to scrape out just what I need, because I hate getting the deo under my fingernails.)

    • Reply Erin September 17, 2014 at 6:15 pm

      Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply madeleine September 18, 2014 at 1:20 am

    this is pretty much exactly the recipe I use, but I add a lot of extra shea butter (usually about 1/4 cup of each baking powder, starch, coconut and shea) because otherwise it is too harsh on my skin. then I also make sure to rub it in well to avoid the flakes.

  • Reply Claire September 19, 2014 at 11:47 am

    I came to your blog today looking for the name of the deodorant you said you used and poof! a post about homemade deodorant! I make my own using this same recipe – just beware, in the summer it will melt into a crazy mess. I keep mine in the refrigerator in the summer – sort of weird, but it keeps it solid. I was looking for the name of the other one you use to keep around as a back up. πŸ™‚

  • Reply Rebecca September 19, 2014 at 3:43 pm

    I use a few drops of olive oil in my homemade deodorant to keep it from getting to hard and dry (more of a problem in cooler months). Like prior posters, I warm it up in my fingers before application. I've been using this since July 2012 and will not return to the "conventional" stuff. Love it.

  • Reply katie d September 21, 2014 at 10:31 pm

    i made a very similar recipe a few months ago…worked like a charm for about four days, until my armpits broke out horrifically from the baking soda πŸ™ if you have sensitive skin, beware! baking soda can be very harsh.

  • Reply Gee September 24, 2014 at 3:45 pm

    i use this recipe from wellness mama minus the optional ingredients. i store my "bar" in the fridge.

  • Reply Kaylin Lydia September 24, 2014 at 11:57 pm

    Oh I have so many deodorant woes. I have tried to transition to natural deodorant but have failed so far – I did the crystal for awhile but then it broke me out in an awful rash, I concluded it was too harsh on my sensitive skin. I then tried Tom's but I smelled awful, really really awful – like I had to leave work early one day it was so bad. Sigh! Thanks for the suggestions, maybe I will try the Soapwalla. Does it work all day or do you have to reapply? xo.

  • Reply Anonymous June 12, 2015 at 12:47 pm

    Try Lavilin. It is one of the better all-natural deodorants out there.

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