Why Your Sweat Smells Like Vinegar

The idea of leaving the house smelling unpleasant can be a nightmare. A lot of times, the culprit for a funky smell coming off the body is sweat. Sweat may seem like nothing but a nuisance, but there's actually a purpose for it that makes it necessary. As explained by Henry Ford Health, sweat prevents the body from overheating by maintaining its temperature at 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. "If we didn't sweat, our bodies would literally cook from the inside out," said Pamela Webert, an exercise physiologist at Henry Ford Health.

Sweat mostly consists of water, but it also contains calcium, chloride, magnesium, and potassium, as described by the Cleveland Clinic. According to Harvard Health Publishing, sweat itself is odorless, but it will smell when it mixes with perspiration in the apocrine glands on the armpits, groin, and other areas.

There are a number of variables that can contribute to excessive sweating, such as increased body weight, health conditions like the cold and flu, or mental health conditions like depression and anxiety. Several medications can also induce sweating, including antidepressants, blood pressure medications, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and diabetes medications.

Knowing that sweating serves a purpose doesn't make the smell any less inconvenient, and an already foul-smelling odor can become even more distressing when it smells like vinegar. It turns out that several factors can make your sweat smell like vinegar, including your diet, hormones, and certain medical conditions, as noted by Medical News Today.

Factors that can make your sweat smell like vinegar

It might surprise you to learn that a vinegar-like body odor can indicate serious health concerns in some cases. For instance, sweat that smells like vinegar can sometimes be a symptom of kidney disease, according to Medical News Today. People with kidney disease may have difficulty breaking down urea, a waste product released from the body through sweat and urine. In other cases, sweat that smells like vinegar can be a diabetes symptom. When a person has diabetes, their cells receive less glucose to convert into energy, as explained by Healthline. As a result, fat is burned for energy, and acetone is released into sweat. Acetone can smell sweet, fruity, or vinegar-like. 

Certain bacterial infections, like trichomycosis and corynebacteria, can contribute to a vinegar-like odor. Hyperhidrosis is a condition that causes excessive sweating that leads to a vinegar smell, and can sometimes be associated with menopause and thyroid disease. Stress can also trigger sweat that smells like vinegar because stress-related sweat is produced by the apocrine glands instead of the eccrine glands, as noted by Medical News Today. Hormonal changes are another factor that can impact the smell of sweat. 

There are less severe reasons for vinegary sweat, including what you've had to eat lately. Consuming red meat, milk, cheese, and other foods that contain volatile compounds can make sweat smell abnormal. Eating spices and seasonings like vinegar, onions, garlic, and curry can also contribute to a vinegary smell.

How to get rid of the vinegar smell

A sudden change in your body odor can make you miss your usual scent. The good news is that there are ways to treat the vinegar-like smell and hopefully get rid of it once and for all. Individuals struggling with vinegary sweat can try deodorants or antiperspirants to minimize the odor, according to Medical News Today. Deodorants cover up sweat smells, and antiperspirants get to the root of the problem by inhibiting sweat glands and preventing bacteria from interacting with sweat. 

When washing your clothes, you should make sure to wash them right away because leaving them sweaty can make it more difficult to get the odor out, as explained by Jumpstart by WebMD. If you wash your clothes frequently, you will also be less likely to get fungal skin infections.

It will be helpful to pay attention to your diet and avoid certain seasonings and foods that make your sweat smell like vinegar. You may be able to dilute your sweat and decrease the vinegary smell by staying hydrated, as noted by Healthline. In addition, it's important to be mindful of any other unusual symptoms. Along with vinegary sweat, nausea, vomiting, confusion, and fatigue are symptoms of diabetes to look out for. Symptoms like frequent urination, bloody urine, fatigue, and dry skin may indicate kidney disease. If you're ever concerned about your sweat smelling like vinegar, you can consult your doctor for input on what to do next.