You don’t have to be a stinky traveler


If you’re anything like me, you’ll find that travel days can be stinky days. There’s nothing like some transportation-and-logistics-stress sweat, plus some aerobic-workout-of-running-through-the-terminal sweat, followed by tightly clamping my armpits together while I’m squished in a seat for hours at a time to get that pit stank a’going.

Also, if you’re like me, you prefer not to use drug-store deodorants because 1) even when travel-sized, they’re not very travel-friendly, and 2) they’re kind of nasty. So I’ve come up with some go-to solutions.

Top Methods for Taming the Travel Stink:

  1. Stink prevention with deodorant paste or crystal deodorant
  2. Stink removal with wet wipes or hand sanitizer

Part 1: Stink Prevention

paste deodorants

Deodorant Pastes

How to Use it: Put a pea-sized amount on your finger and rub it into your pit evenly like you would a lotion. Don’t rub too hard because the baking soda can be a little abrasive on sensitive skin.

Pros: These containers are tiny. Since you use so little at a time, a container lasts for several months. Also, since they’re not liquids, you really don’t have to worry about them interfering with airport regulations. The containers are made of metal or glass — and are reusable — which is infinitely better for the world than plastic. And if you run out, you can just make some more. Though it takes several batches and lots of experience to get it just right, you can still mix up some effective deodorant-to-go with the common and easy-to-find ingredients: coconut oil, baking soda, and corn starch.

Cons: I find that the oil gets into my clothing. This is fine, as while traveling, I am usually washing my clothes by hand anyway. So I just put a little more attention to the shirt pits. And just a heads up — if you’re traveling for extended periods of time where your toiletries will become super hot (leaving it in summer hot car for hours), you may experience deodorant melt. If this is the case, simply stir it and pop it in a freezer or fridge for 20 min. If I were camping in the desert, I suspect that this deodorant would be liquid constantly. However, when I’m traveling via climate-controlled transit and hotels, melting hasn’t been even a remote concern. And for the record, my current living space is 83F and there’s no threat of melting.

How well does it work?: For me, really well. Like 1 application on most days, maybe 2 on a travel day. Both brands work equally well for me, though for travel, I prefer the small size and metal container of the Pit Polish brand.

If you want to get some: I’ve used both Primal Pit Paste and Pit Polish. The Primal Paste brand’s “unscented” is truly unscented. Wow! And Pit Polish carries a very light natural scent that’s reminiscent of shea butter and honey. I’ve found Primal Paste in most natural grocers and Pit Polish online.

crystal deodorants

Crystal Deodorant

How to use it: Wet the stone a little bit then rub it all over your pit until you get nice coverage. Let your pits dry. Let the rock dry — and don’t store it in a puddle or it will dissolve faster.

Pros: It’s pretty straightforward. It’s a salt rock, you rub it on your pit. No worries about it melting from heat. It’s completely, unquestionably, unscented. You only need a little splash of water on it to use it, so it’s easy to top-up even without water if your armpit is currently sweaty. It’s got minimal packaging, if any, which is an environmental win. It packs super small. It’s cheap and a travel size rock will last ~2 years with daily use — OR until you drop it.

Cons: Which leads me to… don’t drop it. Once you drop it, you’ll have sharp fragments that cut and sting like the dickens — because you are literally causing and rubbing salt into a wound at the same time. Even with regular use, you may get a crack and that crack will have sharp edges. You can sand your sharp edges down, and I recommend that you do. Since you’re dealing with a wet salty rock, between Mike and me, it’s not a matter of if but when we will drop it. We’ve been able to prevent loss by standing over a rug so that it won’t crack as easily if dropped. The good news is, you can save your shards and mix them with some filtered water to make a deodorant spray that works just as well.

How well does it work?: For Mike, really well. For me, about 70% (I prefer a pit paste). And we both do a couple or more applications on a travel day. We’ve carried just a naked crystal cube for a while, but honestly, we prefer the one in the plastic container because it’s way easier hold on to (ahem, not drop) and the base prevents it from sitting in a puddle after use.

If you want to get some: We’ve used Crystal, Thai Crystal, and similar salt stones we’ve purchased at farmer’s markets. As far as I can tell, I think the first two are identical stones with different labels and they’ve all worked just as well. Both of the brands are available in most US grocery stores next to the regular deodorant.

Part 2: Damage Control

Wipes & Sanitizer Gel

Normally, I’ve found that I can just reapply my deodorant of choice and the stink instantly vanishes. Normally…

But if the stink your day brought to you was too much for any preventative measure to bear, it’s time to start over. You’ve got to remove the bacteria from your pits, then apply a deodorant. Personally, I’m a fan of using soap & water at a sink — or a nice shower — but we all know that is a traveler’s fantasy. So the next best thing?  unscented wet wipes.

How to use Wipes: If you’re going with the wipe, just wipe wipe wipe your pit and sniff and repeat until the stink is gone. Wait for your pit to dry and apply your deodorant anew.

How to use Gel: If you’re using hand sanitizer gel, rub a generous amount in each pit and let it dry. Give it a sniff and repeat until the stink is gone. This is not ideal, as the gel may take a while to dry and will then be sticky. Once it is dry, if you can, wipe it off with a wet cloth, then reapply your deodorant.

If you want to get some: You can find both of these things at most grocery stores, gas stations, airports, and convenience stores. Also, in a pinch you could find a parent with a baby and offer to trade them something (coffee! tea! chocolate!) for a wipe.


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