As you'd guess from the Latin prefix "de" (which means "away"), deodorant is meant to take away odor (or odour, if you're from Canada or England).

There are such products as room deodorant for rooms and industrial deodorant for... well, maybe rooms in industrial buildings. But the common, everyday, household use of the word refers to the stuff you put under your armpits.

There are two basic approaches to deodorizing:

  1. Remove the cause of the odor.
    When dealing with human perspiration, this is relatively simple: Aluminum ions cause sweat glands to swell up in a way that blocks the duct to the outside. Common substances used as active ingredients in anti-perspirants are:1
    • Aluminum Chloride
    • Aluminum Chlorohydrate
    • Aluminum Hydroxybromide
    Other approaches involve
    • chemicals which react with the odorous substances
    • using filters to extract those substances from the air, notably carbon filters.
  2. Overpower the odor with a different smell.
    This method was practiced as early as the Renaissance, usually using eau de toilette.

1 From "How Stuff Works",

De*o"dor*ant (?), n.

A deodorizer.


© Webster 1913.

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