PEOPLE’S PHARMACY: Is Listerine a mouthwash, and a deodorant?

Q: I have suffered from foul-smelling armpits as far back as I can remember. I have tried every deodorant on the market to no avail — Dove, Lady Speed Stick, Soft & Dri, Degree, Suave, Mitchum, Ban, Crystal, vinegar, baking soda, milk of magnesia, alcohol, Arrid Extra Dry and Certain Dri. Certain Dri was the best of these, but there still seemed to be an underlying aroma to my pits.

I decided to try Listerine, as I’d seen it in some comments on your Web site. I was worried that I would smell before the day’s end, but I was actually fresh when I got home. That just doesn’t happen, trust me. Listerine is the way to go!

A: We are as surprised as you are that Listerine worked to control odor so well.

This old-fashioned mouthwash has no antiperspirant activity, but perhaps the alcohol and herbal oils (thymol, eucalyptol, menthol, methyl salicylate) kill germs and fungi well enough to prevent an unpleasant smell for hours.

Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist and Teresa Graedon is an expert in medical anthropology and nutrition. They can be reached at

4 comments Add your comment


August 16th, 2009
4:41 pm

I’m not surprised by Listerine’s multiple uses. Just this weekend, I desperately searched the Internet for something to get out the smell of dog urine and found a posting that recommended mouthwash. I used most of the Listerine I had on hand – and amazingly, the urine smell evaporated with the mouthwash smell.


August 16th, 2009
5:17 pm

I have some vague recollection of hearing about people using Listerine as a deodorant in the 1930s. This is very vague and I’m not sure I’m remembering it right.


August 17th, 2009
6:38 am

Good News then about the Listerine. It was invented to be an disinfectant and not just a mouthwash.

Another thing to remember, and sorry the next quote, ‘you are what you eat’. If some one is suffering from acute body odor, a change of diet may well help. By all means keep using the Listerine, but try eliminating one food item from your diet for 36-48 hours and see what happens. It could be a meat or milk product.


August 17th, 2009
3:25 pm

thats great to know i will be trying it out on my teenager, i also read and tested out mouthwash and water is also a insect repellent keeps them away for a few hours, spray on outside furniture and yard grounds. you will be surprised.