Sniff my pits!

Filed in Blog, Product reviews by on April 28, 2010 32 Comments
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Mrs Green checks out her new zero waste deodorant

Mrs Green checks out her new zero waste deodorant

No, go on – it’s ok. Come a little closer and have a good inhale of the aroma of my armpits.

Not bad eh?

And it’s zero waste too.

Mr Green and I have been having a bit of a tussle over the past few months with my choice of deodorant. Way before I could even care less about landfill I bought a deodorant; a stick deodorant which was kinda woody, musky and spicy.

I don’t like heady scents like patchouli or jasmine and I don’t like floral unless it’s completely pure. Rose essential oil is fab, but rose scented products made from chemicals make me barf.

So I’m what you might describe as chypre or citrus when it comes to my chosen scent and Mr green tends not to like it. He prefers the scent of me.

The scent of me is pretty good except when I’m nervous, angry, have eaten onions or am expected to stand up in front of a class of 30 kids and talk about waste. The latter is happening more and more frequently at the moment and I’m giving my deodorant a good run for its money.

The trouble is, it tends to leave Mr Green running in the opposite direction.

It wasn’t really serious enough for a Relate matter, but Sally from Natural Spa Supplies, who I have talked about before, may just have saved our marriage, as well as my embarrassment from sweaty pits.

She challenged me to try out a bit of rock. A piece of alum crystal to be precise. I’m sure you’ve all seen these stones in health food shops and the like; they look like bits of clear glass and you swish them around your smelly bits.

The thing is, all crystal deodorants are NOT equal. I’ve learned some fascinating stuff and if you want to really in depth details (I said IN DEPTH details – you may be gone some time, but I can assure you, you’ll return with a degree in alum) you can read more on Sally’s site.

Suffice to say, Sally collects potassium alum from the desert surface. The crystal deodorants you see for sale are almost without exception ammonium alum.

Sally told me “This ammonium alum is made with waste from aluminium factories and nylon factories – it doesn’t work well and because industrial waste is never ‘cleaned’, but just used as a cheap ingredient, the synthetic alum is always contaminated and does cause allergies”.

“Health food shop owners as well as consumers are confused because deodorant manufactures state ‘ammonium alum – pure natural mineral salts’ Ammonium alum does not exist in nature.”


Sally reassured me that she had a female triathlon ‘extreme tester’ who had found without doubt that this alum deodorant was the only product which actually worked for her.

Well I might not be a female triathlete, although I can run up the stairs pretty fast when Little Miss Green lets out a bump and a cry, but I probably let out a few pints of the whiffy stuff when about to start my presentations to an audience of eager children.

Sally sent me a piece of alum wrapped up in cardboard and tied with string. There is no packaging for the deodorant itself and I tried it out for the first time on a day I had to go into a school! Man, it was SO hot in there. There was a lot of shaking hands to do and some close contact in the staff room, but I was whiff free for the entire morning.

In fact I completely forgot about my experiment until I was sitting eating a late lunch with Mr G and he asked me how I got on. I was very impressed; excited too that I had found a natural, safe, effective and zero waste alternative to my deodorant. My clothes didn’t so much as hint of any nervousness by the end of the day and I just smelled, well, of me.

Mr green is very happy and so am I!

Have you found a zero waste solution to deodorant?

Oh, I’m back to washing my skin and hair in clay too, but that’s another story …

About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (32)

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  1. This is great!!!
    I started using a “natural” deoderant (faith in nature one) which I though was just like this , but after a week or so of using it I had a reaction and “burned” my armpits!!
    This kind of explains it! (just read the back and yup ammonium alum )
    I was so sad about it because It WAS working, nice clean smell, but after that I had to bin it and smelt of Sudecream for a month instead 😛
    Will look at the link later (school run 😛 ) and defo looking at getting some 🙂

    Thanks x

  2. indiebird says:

    Weeellll that sounds really impressive. I didn’t realise the difference…. am off to do a bit of research then. Thanks for that! 🙂

  3. Sarah says:

    Hmm, I use and sell PitRok but I’ve just had a peek at the packaging and ingredients and it’s…. (shock) Ammonium alum!

    Further investigation needed methinks.

    I do have the Tom’s of Maine stick deodorants but they’re in a plastic container – it’s a type 5 though and happily goes through the tesco recycler thingy.

  4. Sarah says:

    Oh, the Tom’s ones are based on Hops and witch hazel, no alum of any kind in sight.

  5. Sue says:

    I have been using the Faith in Nature one for a couple of years, the whole family (4 of us)uses it. Never had any problems with reactions, and seems to work fine.
    Might research it further and go for another brand then when its finished! (But I bought 6, and they last well!)

  6. LJayne says:

    I get mine from a different site and they are sourced in the US as potassium alum doesn’t occur here, but the same for your suppliers. I currently use the roll ons but that produces a waste question as the Americans don’t label their plastic. It looks like 1 or possibly 5. So when I run out of current stock I’ll switch to the crystals.


  7. Sooz says:

    Oh brilliant! I have a crystal deoderant (don’t know what brand but it was from holland and barretts) and it extremely does not work and not only do I smell sweaty but the rock smells sweaty too – it’s gross, I’m off to research the other kind now! Thankyou 🙂

  8. Esdee says:

    I prepare mine in 2 minutes every morning : some aloe vera gel + one drop of clary sage essential oil. If it’s very hot then I add some bicarbonate of soda. It works well !

  9. Karen says:

    For a year now I have been using Bionsen 100% natural japanese spa mineral spray. It is safe to use all over your body. It is available in Superdrug and some of the big supermarkets. It comes in a spritzer bottle full of lumps of crystals. You activate them by adding water. This can be done up to 5 times or more. I usually transfer leftover crystals to the next bottle. It seems to last a long time. I am sure the bottle can be used for something else although I have not come up with an idea yet.

  10. Mrs Green says:

    @Kelly Basford: Ouchie! That sounds really bad. Well I hope you get one of these and find it works for you. I’ve been using it for over a month now and it’s great!

    @indiebird: You learn something new every day 😉

    @Sarah: I was using a Toms of Maine one too. I think I had a Pitrok a few years ago but I never got on well with it. I still seemed to be a bit whiffy.

    @Sue: If you don’t have any problems and you’ve found something you like, then better the devil you know I say!

    @LJayne: Hi Lesley, What I love about this product is that there is no packaging at all – you literally get a hunk of crystal. It might not be practical for some, but it’s fine for me.

    @Sooz: Ooooo, a sweaty rock! I feel a song or a cartoon sketch coming on 😀

    @Karen: Sounds great; I’ve never heard of that. I’ll have a look for that.

  11. sandy says:

    I have a crystal as well as some from Lush, I really like both and can’t choose between, I work in a hot kitchen for breakfast and both work

  12. Magdalena says:

    I’ve used the alum, not knowing what it was, but it didn’t work well. I like Tom’s; if you are in the States, contact Tom’s for recycling. They will (or used to) let you send the empties to them. This is timely, because I’ve had a reaction to the kind I used for years – Adidas, which has a cotton absorbent rather than alum. But now I’m irritated and miserable – and it’s got to be the underarm stuff, not my soap. I’m going to hunt down some Weleda baby cream for the irritation (smells like roses for real if I remember correctly) and in a couple of weeks, try something else for the underarm.

  13. Jen CleanBin says:

    I hear you on the public speaking sweatiness! I’ve been using baking soda/cornstarch, but as the summer approaches, and we talk to more and more community groups, I don’t know if it’s going to hold up.

  14. Teresa says:

    I use a rock crystal as deoderant but I don’t have any packaging or ingredients list so I don’t know what it’s made from. I haven’t had any adverse reaction from it though so that’s a good sign.

    I don’t really need a deoderant much of the time but feel peer pressure to use it. I mentioned to someone that I sometimes didn’t use it and you’d think I’d told them I had leprosy!! No-one notices if I don’t tell them. And no, it’s not that they just don’t like to say!!

    Teresa x

  15. Mrs Green says:

    @sandy: Hi Sandy, thanks for that – I haven’t investigated the LUSH products; I bet they smell great!

    @Magdalena: I never knew about the cotton absorbant in Adidas – what a great idea; I’m going to look out for that. Cool that Toms take back the packaging too. Calendula is one of the most healing and soothing herbs for any skin irritation – hope it clears up soon.

    @Jen CleanBin: At times like that I add a drop or two of essential oil such as lavender 😉

    @Teresa: We were discussing this yesterday, Teresa; I think people are scared of their ‘real smell’ and by that I don’t mean something nasty and whiffy, but just au natrelle – it’s such a shame …

  16. nicola says:

    @Kelly Basford: Hi Ive just had the same kind of reaction to sure’s new ‘natural minerals pure’……really bad an im in agony…wonder if anyone else has had same problem.

  17. @nicola with me it looked like really bad sunburn under my pits. At first I though I had done something wrong but I always made sure either my skin or the stick was very wet first. It took a long time to heal, so if you havn’t already discontinue use NOW!!

  18. Nice to see this issue raised: We are constantly told by the media that we must be dry and whiff free by the media, and I am always worried about being a “Sweaty Betty”.
    In the past, I have used all manner of anti persperant deoderants and found NONE of them to be effective enough for me.
    I eliminated sprays to deal with chemical pollution and stuck to roll ons for many years. but found they made me less smelly, but more sticky! Before I cared about pollution to my person, I used some extra strength formulas, designed to stop you sweating at all, and had a severe reaction to these, so stopped using them.

    In recent years, since I have aimed to use natural, waste free products, I have tried many “green” alternatives.

    @Kelly Basford: Sures “natural minerals” deoderant, Is as far from environmentally friendly as I could find…. While it containts natural extracts, it combines them with the same harsh chemicals used in normal deoderants. I stopped using this pretty quickly, and i would reccomend you do the same, Its NOT an eco friendly alternative, Its simply a normal deoderant, with extracts, and a green marketing ploy.

    I moved onto Pit rok, after sure natural minerals.
    Pit rok, although being “more natural”, I have just checked, does use ammonium alum. This deodorant has caused minor stinging sensations, understandably due to the unclean raw ingredients used.

    Thanks for the heads up on this, Once my stock is used up, I am going to try Esdee’s recipie suggestion, and possibly purchase some of your reccomended crystal, Glad to hear it doesnt come in a plastic tube/bottle, like pit rok, either!

  19. Mrs Green says:

    @Michelle Morgan: The only anti perspirant that ever worked for me (and this was when I was a teenager) was Imperial leather spray but I’d probably faint if I actually knew what was in it! The one I use does ‘smart’ after shaving, but it doesn’t sting in the way others do – it’s slightly alkaline and styptic, so I think that’s why.. It’s bearable though 😉

  20. Sally says:

    I have just read your article on natural crystal deoderants & am so disappointed. I try to use as many natural personal products and cleaning products as I can. I use Crystal Spring, Salt of the Earth natural deoderant, which I buy from a health food shop. I have just looked at Sally’s site & checked the ingredients of my stick – sure enough , it’s Ammonium Alum. I will be getting my next stick from her. Can someone tell me where I might get the Tom’s of Maine sticks – it’s really hard getting a 16 year old boy to consider what he uses on his skin, but I’ll give it another try. If it looks normal enough he might just go for it! Thanks for the tip & what a brilliant site!

  21. Teresa says:

    I’m using Lush Aromaco and Body Shop’s Deo-Dry alternatively and although they contain a few chemicals I trust they are safer than the aluminium compounds in anti-perspirants. The Deodorant Stone UK from Carmarthenshire sells deodorant stones and related products made from potassium alum.

  22. Mrs Green says:

    @Sally: Hi Sally, welcome to the site and I’m glad you found the article. Although it can be disappointing to read new information, it’s better to be informed 😉 I get my Toms of Maine from our local health food shop; most of them sell it. If you get stuck let me know and I’ll get one and stick it in the post to you.

  23. Teresa says:

    Both the Lush and the Body Shop deodorants contain propylene glycol but you can make your own deodorant sprays with witch hazel solution, flower waters, vegetable glycerine and essential oils or just use a mixture of salt and sodium bicarbonate.

  24. Mrs Green says:

    @Teresa: Yes, I’ve used the neals yard remedies recipe for lemon and coriander deodorant from their book and it was wonderful. You’ve reminded me and I should make it again, as spring is coming!

  25. Barbara says:

    I was very hesitant about this “Stone” as a deodorant, I mean who rubs herself with a “Stone”? But I am open for experiments and since my baby doesn’t want to nurse once I used a deodorant and I don’t want to smell myself all day long (neither wants my husband :-)) I thought I give it a try.
    As suggested in the article I bought the natural version not the aluminum one. Positively surprised by the price the effect and easiness to use it almost throw me off.
    Now I am working on getting my siblings hooked too, because it is environmental friendly , comparably cheap and works wonders.

  26. Mrs Green says:

    @Barbara: So pleased things worked out for you Barbara!

  27. Hi Mrs. Green. Well, I was over at Living Lightly in a Wavering World reading about DIY deodorant (the post was listed in my Meet & Greet Monday post). After reading the post, I saw your comment which lead me here and wow … as always, you teach me so much. I have wondered about those crystal deodorants in the stores … the fact that they come in different versions (roll on, dry, etc.) has made me wonder & worry about them. I’ve been using alum rocks which I’ve purchased from a Mexican store in their spice department. The rocks aren’t pretty but I just look for large pieces and then I wet them and rub them on. They work so well! I will have to look, however, to be sure that I’m getting the potassium alum and not the ammonium alum. Thanks so much, Mrs. G

  28. Mrs Green says:

    @Small Footprints: You’re welcome; it’s thanks to Sally that I learned all this – so much is hidden 😉

  29. Tracey says:

    After going out and buying a stick from Sally at Natural Spa Supplies when I first read this, I have only just started using it as I was trying to work through the last of the old deodorants I had lying around.

    And now I am kicking myself that I didn’t just bin them and start using it sooner. It’s great and, like yourself, totally forget about it because I don’t find myself all sweaty when I panic, so I’m not reminded every 5 minutes!

    Thank you again for sharing! 🙂

  30. Mrs Green says:

    @Tracey: Yay!! Glad you love it too 🙂

  31. Rebecca says:

    Has anybody tried Native Unearthed Crystal Deodorants. I hear they have infused their crystal deodorants with Aloe Vera, Curcuma and Mangosteen. I am intrigued since mangosteen is normally £200 for a litre or so, yet the deodorant is quite cheap! Any feedback guys?

    • Mrs Green says:

      I’ve not heard of that one, Rebecca – but like you, I’m wary of products sold cheaply that contain expensive ingredients. Maybe it says something like “Warning, may contain traces of mangosteen’ on the label 😀

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