Scientists have determined that each of us has a unique "odor-print," as distinctive as our fingerprints, and predict that some day we’ll use biometric sniffing devices to identify people. This odor-print isn’t altered by the recent garlic-laden meal or by perfumes, aftershaves, or deodorants.
Varying ratios of about 120 chemical compounds create individual odor-prints. These complex mixtures contain huge amounts of information well beyond the scope of this post to discuss.
What’s more, changes in diseased cells produce odors, some of which dogs can identify, that may eventually lead to development of biomedical devices that sniff out these changes to diagnose diseases earlier and more accurately that current methods allow.
Below, a few tips for managing the more superficial breath and body odors:
I’m talking here about temporary conditions resulting from eating a garlic- or anchovy-laced meal, or pecking away at a plate of Roquefort. See your dentist and doctor about chronic bad breath, which can result from gum disease, cavities, various infections, and some serious health conditions.
First, swish water around in your mouth after each meal or snack to rinse away food particles.
Floss often, and brush your tongue every time you brush your teeth.
Brush and/or rinse with baking soda, a natural odor neutralizer and potent antimicrobial.
Even the ancients knew the value of chewing a few aromatic seeds to tame powerful breath. Try fennel, dill, caraway, cardamom, anise, clove, or a mixture.
Or try chewing a sprig of parsley or a couple of fresh mint leaves.
Sweating is natural and healthy. It only smells when it comes into contact with bacteria on the skin.
Many people prefer deodorants, which simply neutralize odors, to antiperspirants, which actually cause the cells lining the sweat ducts to swell, plugging the openings of the sweat-gland ducts to prevent escape of sweat.
The simplest way to deodorize sweaty parts of the body: Sprinkle baking soda on a damp washcloth and pat the sweat-prone area. Alternatively, spritz areas with a spray bottle filled with ½ apple cider vinegar and ½ water. The vinegar smell dissipates within a few minutes, while the antibacterial power of the vinegar remains.
Or you could make this recipe to create a ready-to-use deodorant: Mix ¼ cup baking soda with ½ cup of cornstarch or arrowroot powder. Add a few drops of essential oil (I use lavender and/or tea tree, both antimicrobial). Shake to mix well. Pat on with a damp washcloth or cotton ball. Adding three tablespoons of coconut oil and stirring well until it forms a thick paste will allow you to refill an old deodorant dispenser and use it as you would the commercial product.
Although nothing beats soap, water, and vigorous scrubbing for removing bacteria from hands, soap and water alone don’t do a good job of removing many smells from your hands.
If you have discarded lemon or lime wedges, vigorously rub them between hands. Adding a tablespoon or two of salt or baking soda to your handwashing routine will also do the job of removing food odors.
Or add two tablespoons of baking soda to a small bowl of water, then soak your hands for a minute and rinse.
The cheapest and most intriguing way I’ve found to remove food odors from hands: just rub your hands on a piece of stainless steel as you rinse them under cold water. I run mine around the inside of a small stainless mixing bowl, often as I'm washing it. You could also rub your hands against a stainless faucet or sink, a large stainless spoon, or other utensil.
Rub smelly hands with fresh or used coffee grounds or a couple of tablespoons of table salt after you’ve been doing maintenance chores on the car or lawnmower.
Tame foot stench by adding ½ cup of table salt or baking soda to a pan of warm water and soaking your feet for half an hour. Alternate salt soaks with cider vinegar baths (1 cup to a couple quarts of water). If you suffer from athlete’s foot or nail fungus, consider adding 20-30 drops of tea tree oil to the bath.
Throw your smelly socks into the foot bath when you’ve finished, and add a cup of vinegar or half a cup of baking soda to the washer before laundering.
Margaret Boyles lives in a wood-heated house in central New Hampshire. She grows vegetables, eats weeds, keeps chickens, swims in a backyard pond in summer, snowshoes in the surrounding woods in winter, and commutes by bike whenever possible.