Sweat Smells like Vinegar [Causes and Treatment]

Today you will discover why your Sweat Smells like Vinegar. What Causes it and how to Treat it.

Sweating is a normal process that helps the body to release the toxins. While sweating is healthy, you should be concerned when you start noticing something different about the smell of your sweat.

Actually, this is one of the earliest signs that indicate something is not well with your body.

Changes in your body smell can tell a lot. In this article, we are going to discuss some of the reasons why your sweat may start smelling like vinegar and how you can prevent it.


Natural Production of Sweat

As you probably know, we have various sweat glands in our bodies. These glands are generally concentrated on our armpits, back, feet and palms these sweat glands are usually classified in two groups. These are the Apocrine and

Eccrine Glands

The Apocrine glands are usually located in our armpits, eyelids, genitals, and breast. We also have these glands in the earlobes, which plays a crucial role in removing the earwax. The other group, the Eccrine glands are usually distributed all over the body. These glands main work is to ensure that the body doesn’t overheat. They do so by releasing the excess heat through the various minute tubes on the surface of the skin.

Why Does My Sweat Smell Like Vinegar?

The Apocrine glands are usually responsible for the body odor. Human sweat is full of protein. When the bacteria break them down, the odor results. The specific strain of bacteria that causes the vinegar odor is referred to as the Propionibacteria.

These bacteria will break down the sugars. This is usually known as cellular respiration. Depending on the type of the bacteria that are involved in this process, this process is usually referred as anaerobic where no oxygen is required and aerobic where oxygen is required.

When the bacteria in the sweat break down the sweat amino acids, it will give various by-products. One of these many byproducts is usually referred to as Propionic acid. This acid has a structure that is similar to that of Acetic acid. For those of us who know basic chemistry, the acetic acid is the chemical name of vinegar. This means that the Propionic acid produced will have the vinegar smell.

Main Reasons that makes your Sweat Smells like Vinegar

As indicated above, the bacteria activity in breaking down the amino acids in sweat leads to the vinegar smell. However, this is not common. This means that these are over stimulation that leads to this bacteria type to increase. Below are some of the factors that contribute to this.

The food That We Eat

Certain foods will contribute to over-activity of the bacteria. When the food rod, it smells bad. The organic compounds and sulfides in the food are responsible for this smell. When you consume food, these components are absorbed and then released in sweat. Because of their natural pungent odor, your sweat will never smell good.

A very good example is when you eat garlic.

If you don’t brush your teeth immediately after eating it, you will notice a stinky mouth breath. Garlic contains Allicin, which will break down into gases that contain sulfur, thus the stinking breath. Some of the other foods that contain similar compounds include egg yolks, red meat, onions, garlic, and seafood.

To avoid the pungent odor, you should limit the consumption of the food mentioned above.

Hormonal Changes

Hormonal imbalance is another primary cause of pungent body odors. This is a common side effect to women especially those suffering from menopause. Hormonal imbalance is also common in girls in the pre-pubescent because of the abrupt hormonal level changes. When a woman reaches menopause, the body will reduce or stop the production of estrogen.

When this happens, the hormone levels change erratically. This will result in body odor change.

Why does the Estrogen production matter?

The Estrogen hormone will affect the functioning of the hypothalamus. For those who skipped our biology lessons, the hypothalamus is the central part of the brain that is responsible for controlling our body’s temperature.

When the estrogen levels decrease significantly, your brain will get false messages. The brain will decode the message and start the mechanism of cooling the body. This leads to increase of sweat production, and eventually body odor changes.

Unfortunately, it is inevitable for all women in menopause to experience this. The incidence is usually referred to as hot flashes.

Additionally, the genetics will also play a role in influencing your body odor. Some people are predisposed to sweating profoundly or less. A good example is people who come from East Asia. These individuals have lesser apocrine sweat gland. This means that they are less prone to the pungent body odor.

Poor Hygiene

While you cannot change the genetics, there are things that under your control such as your hygiene. Generally, it is recommended to take a bath once every day. For those who seat more profoundly, you should do so twice or more. Doing this will help reduce the dead skin, sweat, and bacteria.

Remember, dead skin is comprised of Keratin which is usually a chain of amino acids. As we mentioned earlier, when the bacteria break down the amino acids vinegar odor will develop.


Diabetes leads to a disorder that causes mal-absorption of glucose. When this happens, the body will excrete more sugar in form of sweat. Breaking down of sugar will cause a change in body odor.

Minor Factors Responsible for Odor

We also have other factors that can contribute to body odor. This includes
Weather change.

-Sometimes when the weather changes, it becomes more conducive for the bacteria to grow. For example, we tend to sweat more during the summer
Being overweight

-Overweight people tend to sweat a lot even with simple exercises such as jogging or even walking. Remember sweating more equals bad body odor.


Although this is rare, it also has an effect on the change of your body odor. This condition happens when males are generating significantly low levels of testosterone. This is attributed to testicles malfunctioning. When this occurs, males develop side effects that are similar to those of women in their menopause.

When to See a Doctor

Most of the time, body odor shouldn’t make you panic. You can easily overcome the condition by making changes to your diet and lifestyle gradually. However, when you find that the acidic smell is persistent, it could be a sign of an underlying condition. For this reason, we recommend consulting a doctor so that you can have your hormonal levels checked.

Treatments and Solutions

bad smell

Use a Deodorant

One of the convenient options that are used from time immemorial is the use of deodorant. Deodorant has antimicrobial agents like alcohol or triclosan. The agents will help reduce the buildup of bacteria.

Apply Antiperspirant

Applying antiperspirant to the parts that sweat is also a great choice. These products will help control the sweat you produce. The antiperspirant is usually formulated with aluminum salts like aluminum chloride or aluminum chloralhydrate. These salts will dissolve the sweat fast and form a barrier that prevents the glands to release a lot of sweat.

Chlorophyll in Supplements

These are water-soluble chlorophyll derivative. While the antiperspirants and deodorant will offer a temporary solution, these supplements will tackle the cause. When you consume them, they will bind the various compounds that cause odors in the body. They will also remove the compounds from the body.

This makes them a great choice for individuals who are suffering from persistent odor.

Consume a Well Balanced Diet

As previously mentioned you should ensure that you do not over consume foods that have many sulfides. Consuming a well-balanced diet that is full of vegetables and protein is great. By reducing the consumption of the odor, causing foods will not only help you in reducing the bad odor but also ensure that you have a better overall health.

Drink Adequate Water

Water is one of the best detoxifying agents. When your body is dehydrated, you will produce sweat that is more concentrated. Ensure you consume at least eight glass of water every day. Those in dry areas or live in air-conditioned houses should drink more.

Natural ways of Getting Rid of the Vinegar Like Smell

Besides the tips above, we also have other natural remedies that should help you avoid the embarrassment of stinking smell. Use the following tips:

Baking soda

Baking soda does a great job to absorb sweat. By doing this the odor will subside significantly. Additionally, since Baking soda kills bacteria, it does a great job in decreasing the body odor.


  • In a large bowl, put a tablespoon of baking soda and mix it with a tablespoon of lemon juice
  • Using your hands, scoop the mixture and apply it on the sweaty areas including your underarms
  • Let it sit for a few minutes before rinsing it off with clean water
  • Make sure that you do not scrap as this may irritate your skin
  • Take a shower later
  • Do this at least one time a day for several weeks

Apple Cider Vinegar

This is another miracle worker when it comes to getting rid of body odor. As you probably know, acid provides an unhealthy environment for bacteria to grow. In addition, since this is a weak acid, it will not irritate your skin.


  • Prior to taking a bath, take a small piece of cotton ball and soak it in apple cider vinegar. Apply the vinegar gently by rubbing the cotton on the sweaty areas
  • This makes the Skin unfavorable for the growth of bacteria
  • Repeat these two times daily

Lemon Juice

Lemon also has acidic properties. Similar to the apple vinegar, rubbing a piece of lemon will lower the PH level making it unfavorable for bacteria to grow.


  • Cut a lemon fruit in half and rub one of the halves on your armpit and other sweaty places
  • Let the juice sit until it dries off
  • Take a bath and repeat this at least one time every day
  • People who have sensitive skin should dilute the lemon juice with water before applying it


Rosemary contains antibacterial properties that reduce the bacteria growth. Rosemary is also rich in chlorophyll and methanol. These compounds do a great work in neutralizing the strong body odor as they act as a natural deodorant. Besides, it also rich in zinc one of the nutrients, which is crucial to prevent body odor.


  • In boiling water, add some rosemary leaves
  • Allow them to steep before straining them
  • Add the water to your bathing water
  • Repeat this exercise at least one time every day
  • Adding eight to 10 rosemary oil drops and applying it to your armpits and other sweaty areas also acts as a great deodorant.


Addressing the pungent body odor is not difficult if you have the right information. Even if the smell may not go away instantly when you use the above mentioned, it should improve with time.

However, when you find no change, you should seek medical attention instead of masking it. As we mentioned at the beginning of the article, the pungent smell may be a sign of an underlying problem. Having it checked by a medical professional can help you treat the underlying cause early before it becomes worse.

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