I’ve acquired some hilarious pairs of oxymoronic genetic traits. My most favourite is probably that I’m built for sports, but sweat like crazy. Like, ridiculous amounts. To the point that my “sweat wicking” t-shirts wet out and end up slowing me down. Thanks, genes?
Anyway, this sweaty-ness is a pain outside of sports too – especially my arm pits. And I know this problem makes a lot of people self conscious, so here’s all the stuff I’ve learned about controlling it and dealing with it over the last decade or so.
One caveat here: This is what’s worked for me. It might not work for you. But, let’s try anyway…
Finding a strong / good enough antiperspirant
If you sweat a lot, like me, you need a specialist antiperspirant. And to be clear, Deodorant is not Antiperspirant. A regular deodorant will not stop you sweating.
Axe/Lynx, Sure, Mitchum, all the regular antiperspirant stuff, wasn’t strong enough to stop my super sweat. So I had to upgrade to something more specialist. Finding what worked for me took a lot of experimentation, so I’m sharing what worked (or didn’t) for me.
The strongest/best I used was:
Both of these are available in the UK from pharmacists like Boots and Superdrug, and some supermarkets. However, while they worked awesome by stopping all my arm pit sweat, they ended up irritating my skin, to the point that I’d be in pain at night before I went to sleep. Your experience may differ, though (I hope it does!)
For the last 8 years or so, I’ve settled on the following two:
- Sure Maximum Protection. It comes in a 45ml size, and is available in both genders scents – and you can get it in regular UK supermarkets, so it’s easy to find. It’s strong enough to keep me mostly dry, but doesn’t irritate my skin. In the US, it’s called Degree Clinical Protection. I wish brands were consistently named across regions – it’d be so much easier to recommend things to fellow people on the internet 🙂
For super stressful times (like, if I need to speak at a major vendor conference…):
- Triple Dry Roll-On. Specifically the roll on, not the sprays. This is stronger than the Sure Maximum Protect, but doesn’t irritate my skin as quickly as the Strongest ones I listed above.
Dealing with sweat on clothes
Sweat is a massive pain in the arse on clothes. Over time (and not even that long) bacteria builds up in the arm pit area and when you do sweat, your clothes (and you) smell. If I washed my clothes on a hot wash to try to combat this, they just end up looking faded. Damned if you wash at low temperature, damned if you wash at a high temp 😉
When I used to wash at low temps, the build up of bacteria led to me putting a lot of my clothes in the “re-purposing” bins where they’re converted into rags, because it’s not fair to donate them to charity and there’s no way I’d just throw clothes out into the general rubbish/land fill. But to be more environmentally friendly, I wanted them to last longer.
Here’s some things that do work pretty well for me
Polyester and other synthetic fabrics which are great for sweat wicking, also harbour different, smellier bacteria than say, cotton. When the bacteria get wet, that’s when the smells appear again 🙁
The best ways I’ve found to prevent or remove odour from my sports clothing includes:
- White vinegar: Soak your clothes in a 200ml of white vinegar + 2litres of warm water (~40c is fine) over night. Then wash normally – but do not use fabric conditioner (more on that shortly). Don’t worry, the vinegar smell won’t stay 🙂 This works especially well for smelly football training bibs!
- I’ve also experimented with using Dettol Anti Bacterial Laundry Cleanser (available from most supermarkets in the UK). I think it’s meant for washing baby clothes, but it seems to kill the arm pit sweat bacteria pretty well. I’ve only been using this for about 6 months or so. You just put it in the fabric softener compartment in your washing machine as part of a normal wash (but again, don’t use fabric softener as well!)
- Do not use fabric conditioner. Do not, ever, ever-ever-ever! use fabric conditioner/softener on synthetic clothing, including sports clothes. It makes them smell worse, and it prevents their sweat wicking abilities from working.
- Use whatever detergent you need – my preference is liquids, and especially liquid laundry soap, as it washes out easily. I find that powders tend to stay in the fabric and stiffen the fabrics over time (again, your experience may differ), so I just use liquids now.
Cotton for me tends to take longer to start smelling than synthetic fabrics, but they do often end up smelling.
Consider wearing white?
Curiously, I’ve observed that my white t-shirts don’t seem to smell in the arm-pit area even after a long time, and I wonder if there’s some different/special in laundry detergents meant for whites that causes that? Maybe there’s bleach in there or something that just totally nukes the bacteria.
T-shirt armpit strategies:
- Using Dettol Anti Bacterial Laundry Cleanser: I turn my cotton t-shirts inside out, and using a cheap spray bottle with 50% water and 50% Dettol laundry cleanser, spray the arm pit area just before running my washing load.
- White vinegar: Same as above, 50/50 mix with water, spray on arm pits – but this time, leave it an hour or so before washing. It just seems to take a bit longer, probably because it seems more “gentle” than Dettol.
After doing either of the above, wash normally, and with cotton you can use fabric conditioner (indeed, you should! or your clothes won’t last as long in my experience). Spraying my arm pits does seem to be slowing down how quickly my cotton t-shirts smell – but I’ve only been experimenting for about 6 months.
Don’t soak coloured clothing overnight in white vinegar: it’ll fade the clothes, in my experience.
Dealing with where the sweat goes next
Just because you stop sweating in one place, doesn’t mean you stop it altogether. Nope. It just pops up in other places instead! Yay.
Groin rub 😐
Some additional sweat, plus my genetic thunder thighs, means I tend to get a groin rub chafing rash thing going on – especially as I cycle to work and tend to walk a lot at weekends. To combat that, I use Udderly Smooth Chamois Cream, daily. It’s amazing, and very cost-effective. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen it in supermarkets, but it’s readily available on Amazon and places like cycling stores online. It’s available in the US and the UK from the looks of things.
If I can’t get Udderly Smooth, I use Lanacane Anti-Chafing Gel. It’s good (and a good size for travel) but is less cost-effective, in my experience.
Wet snowboard boots
When I snowboard, my boots used to get super wet. I assumed they were leaking, but nope! It was my feet sweating. So now when I snowboard I use a standard antiperspirant spray on the soles of my feet and since I started doing this my feet are much drier – yay!
Sweaty feet, trainers, shoes
I rotate footwear daily. I almost never wear the same pair of trainers every day – which lets them air out between days. I’ve found this stops my shoes/trainers smelling.
K, I’m done
I think that’s it. Hopefully some (all?) of this helps. If it does, let me know. And if you have other ways of coping with sweat, let me know too – I’m always happy to learn new stuff! 🙂