Farmer Pits: Natural and almost plastic-free deodorant

soap making

I've been making our "Farmer Pits" Natural deodorant for about seven years now but it feels like it's only in the past 2-3 years that I've gotten the recipe really polished. In the early days I experimented with baking soda before discovering the amazing non-irritating and excellent odor eliminating properties of magnesium hydroxide.

The most recent big change was switching from beeswax to candelilla wax a few years ago. The problem with beeswax was that as I used it at higher rates to try and keep the bar solid in hot summer temperatures, the bars started to feel very sticky and tacky and did not apply smoothly. Candelilla wax, on the other hand, not only made the bars more solid with less wax but also gave them a silky smoothness. Since the switch, the big experiment has been with finding the right amount of wax to use in the recipe. Too much and it's hard to get the bar to leave enough product on your armpit, too little and those of you who live south of Vermont start finding a squishy puddle where your deodorant should be!

This summer we were "lucky" enough up here in northern Vermont that we had several weeks where the temperature regularly got above 80F. As a result I got to play around with adding more wax to the recipe (and adjust the tallow/coconut oil ratio) and see how it behaved in more challenging temperatures.

But that's enough of the backstage chatter, I also wanted to address some common questions about Farmer Pits.

Why doesn't your deodorant come in a roll up tube?

The reason I avoid the plastic roll up tubes is to reduce waste. Unfortunately I can't say the product is 100% plastic free because the paper wrapper does have a thin layer of plastic on the inside which keeps the oils in the deodorant from soaking through. Even in solid form fats and oils love to soak into paper! 

Another option is the cardboard push-up tubes. I have experimented with these in the past and quite honestly I struggled with the filling process. It requires the liquid mixture be at a very specific temperature so that it doesn't leak out the bottom (too hot) or leave lots of air bubbles (too cold). Also, at the volume I would buy them in, the tubes are very expensive and would add up to $2/bar to the price of the deodorant. Perhaps if I get big enough that I start using equipment with automatic temperature regulation I'll give them another try but given the price factor, I think they would only ever be one option, with the original paper wrapped version still available. 

Another truly plastic free option I've heard suggested is bee's wrap, though that again runs into a cost issue, even small squares are expensive! Maybe someone wants to make bulk 6" squares for me (or 3" square bags)? If you could do them for less than $1/square (and have a way to fasten them closed), get in touch!

How do you apply it?

Personally, I just grab the unwrapped bar and swipe it on. There's nothing wrong with getting some on your hands and if anything it's moisturizing! If you don't like the feel of it on your fingers, you can keep the wrapper and fold it around the bottom half of the bar to give yourself a hand hold. I know a few customers who gently heat the bar until it's liquid and pour it into an old deodorant tube! As long as you don't heat it above about 160F there should be no change in effectiveness.

Does it leave residue on clothes?

If you've ever perused the instructions on the back, you'll notice that I suggest waiting a few minutes after applying to put on a shirt. This is just so that the product has a chance to absorb into your skin and doesn't immediately come off on the inside of your shirt. Like most deodorants, this one can leave a bit of residue behind, especially after a sweaty day. The best way to get rid of it is to wash the clothing in warm or even hot water (if the fabric can tolerate it!) and to pre-treat with a stain stick (our Household soap works great for this!) Stubborn residue can be soaked before washing in warm/hot water with washing soda and/or your regular detergent.

Can you make a {fill in your favorite scent} scented bar?

As you've probably noticed by the not uncommon out of stock notices, I have a bit of trouble sometimes keeping up with the scents I currently offer! I've been adjusting to making larger batches recently, so there may soon be room for some additional scents but I want to make sure I can keep up with the current offerings first.

Something I consider with all the essential oils I use is price. Certain essential oils are much more expensive than others. Sandalwood, for example, is more than 70x more expensive by weight than cedarwood, while rose is about 40x more expensive than palmarosa. In both these cases the cheaper alternative is considered a good scent match, so that's what I use. These are the most extreme examples but in general I focus on scents that are a good balance of price and what people want!

Another factor to consider around a specific group of essential oils is something called photosensitivity. There are certain essential oils in the citrus family that can cause the skin to become hypersensitive to sunlight if applied in the form of a salve or deodorant that stays on the skin. This is why I avoid the use of scents like bergamot and grapefruit in my deodorants. There are dilutions that are safe to use on sun exposed skin and there are plenty of people who probably keep their armpits out of the sun but there is enough debate about the exact numbers that I choose to just avoid these scents altogether. Though do note that any citrus can safely be used in soap since it is rinsed off the skin after use. If you want to read up on the details of photo sensitive essential oils, here is a great article: Photosensitivity and Citrus Essential Oils

Does it work??

Yes!! I will happily refund your purchase if the deodorant doesn't work for you. I always tell folks that I call it "Farmer Pits" because it works for us stinky farmers so it will work for you!

There are certain commercial natural deodorant brands out there that still use baking soda in their formulas, which unfortunately is not long lasting. The mineral in farmer pits, magnesium hydroxide, helps keep you stink-free all day. The magnesium hydroxide I use is a high-quality, dietary supplement grade powder. Unlike the aluminum compounds used in antiperspirants, it does NOT block pores or stop sweating. So while you will still sweat using Farmer Pits, the ingredients work together to balance the pH of your armpit and make it an unfriendly environment for smelly bacteria.

If you are switching from an antiperspirant to Farmer Pits, you may need to give your body a few weeks to adjust to the new routine. Your sweat will need to flush out your pores after being blocked up by the antiperspirant and your skin bacteria will also need time to adjust. If you are switching from another natural deodorant or no deodorant at all, there should be little to no adjustment period.

If you are someone who is especially sweaty, I do recommend choosing either the tea tree or patchouli scents, since the essential oil in each of these adds a little extra deodorizing punch. 

My dog just ate my deodorant...

The tallow in Farmer Pits can be irresistible to some dogs! Fortunately, there is nothing in Farmer Pits that will seriously harm your dog in most cases, though the magnesium hydroxide is a mild laxative when taken internally in large enough amounts. So if your dog eats a whole bar or your dog is on the smaller side they may experience some digestive upset. Typically there is no need to induce vomiting unless recommended by your vet.

If you are worried, the best thing to do is contact your vet and/or Pet Poison Helpline and be ready with the list of ingredients. If you don't have the wrapper, all ingredients are listed on the product page. The concentration of essential oils in the deodorant is about 1.5%. Each scent contains only the single essential oil listed. So the lemongrass Farmer Pits only contains lemongrass essential oil, etc.


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