This post was written by Lindy Shopper.
Dearest dress, I never meant to hurt you. It’s not you, it’s me, and the terrible way I’ve treated you. Photograph by Frank Myers.
Don’t you hate it when you’ve been doing something your whole life and later discover that this thing you’ve been doing is harmful to something you love? My heart sunk to the bottom of the Marianas Trench when I read that my deodorant/antiperspirant, which I thought was great because it didn’t streak on my vintage clothing, was actually full of aluminum. Said aluminum not only made my dress shirt armpits sparkle with the most resistant strain of glitter herpes I’ve encountered to date, with an accompanying foul odor when the heat of an iron was applied, but it also caused a chemical reaction that made the armpits of some of my vintage clothing start to yellow/stain. How do I know this? There were casualties. Then research to determine the cause of said casualties. I never go down without a fight.
“Deodorants prevent odor-causing bacteria, while antiperspirants prevent sweat. To do so, antiperspirants rely on aluminum-based compounds, such as aluminum chloride, to cause cells in your sweat ducts to swell and block sweat from escaping. When these active ingredients (which also happen to be quite acidic) bond with your sweat, they’re prone to stain clothing.”
OH. MY. GOD.
Perhaps I’ve been lucky thus far with my antiperspirant not staining my clothing until recently, but I feel like this news should be broadcast, warnings posted in vintage clothing store dressing rooms, shouted from the rooftops. Maybe people don’t keep their clothing as long as I do, so it just doesn’t come up. Whatever the reason, I’m here to raise awareness of this issue and present some information on my journey to aluminum-free deodorant and stain/sparkle-free clothing.
We sweat a lot when we dance. We have to wear SOMETHING or our dance spaces will smell even more like locker rooms and foot cheese than they already do. I decided I could deal without the antiperspirant component of my underarm regimen, as I tended to select clothing for dancing that already doesn’t show at lot of soaked-through sweat, but the smell had to be UNDER WRAPS. But I had to change my deodorant fast, or suffer the consequences of damaging even more clothing.
I headed to the Internet to read reviews of aluminum-free deodorants and I found most reviews to be incomplete, overly-optimistic, and not descriptive enough. There were also options other than stick and roll-on, which sounded like a pain in the butt. Then I came across this article titled “Do Any of These Hippie Deodorants Work?” by Kat Stoeffel that was exactly what I needed – one person’s journey through a myriad of recommended deodorants with different applicators, brands, pros, cons, daily conditions, duration of effectiveness, and a ranking from worst to best. As everyone’s body chemistry is different, I went with her top two and was prepared to try others down the line if necessary.
Kat’s second highest recommendation, Le Couvent de Minimes Everyday Deodorant, is a French cologne which has alum stone as its active ingredient and dates back to 1862. True to Kat’s assessment, it did smell like a fancy Williams Sonoma hand soap, and would work as a nice unisex scent. Unfortunately, my skin had a sensitivity reaction to this deodorant. It did work well and I may try it again in a different season.
The deodorant with Kat’s highest seal of approval was Lavilin, an Israeli deodorant that featured images of athletes on the cardboard packaging around the bottle, which looked promising. I had to get used to wearing a roll-on, but it was usually dry by the time I finished drying my hair and I haven’t seen evidence of it leaving residue on my clothing when I remove it. It’s been working like a champ on regular office days for the past month. While it boasts 72 hours of coverage, I’d err on the side of caution when going to a swing dance – I would always reapply my old deodorant/antiperspirant before attending a dance, just to be safe, and that reapplication was needed with Lavilin if I wanted to continue to smell fresh at the end of the dance (per a self-sniff). Lavilin is my winner of the two.
Thankfully, it was just that easy, trying two and coming up with a winner. I am so relieved to have found a deodorant that has less of a negative impact on my wardrobe! If you have stories, recommendations, or other information about what works for you, please feel free to post it in the comments.
The guilt is immense. I’d like to say I have all the answers for my recovery plan, but I don’t. I’ve soaked the damaged red gingham dress in Oxyclean twice and the armpits are still yellow. I’ve used vinegar on a cranberry colored dress shirt and I can still see the glitter of aluminum embedded in the fabric. I did, however, manage to eradicate all glitter and stains from several white dress shirts following the advice of this video, using a paste of water, baking soda, and hydrogen peroxide:
I probably need to try this on my cranberry shirt and gingham dress, but the peroxide has me worried it will bleach the color…need some more confidence…please feel free to insert confidence in the comments section, as well. ;)
I realize there are all sorts of warnings and cautionary things we can do to protect our vintage clothing (like not wearing it – but where is the fun in that?), but a change of deodorant was a fairly easy lifestyle change for me to make and it’s also made with an eye toward protecting the lifespan of my modern clothing, as well! Hopefully, I’ll never have to make a peroxide and baking soda paste again.