Do You Stink? Surprising Sources of Body Odors

by Charlotte on June 3, 2012 · 22 comments

You’re welcome. Happy Monday morning!

Due to a tragic laundering error involving a potty-training* toddler’s underwear and the family’s general laundry comingling in the dark recesses of my washing machine, I went to the gym the other day smelling like…


At first I couldn’t figure it out as the scent of fecal matter was faint and sporadic. I checked all my kids before sending them off to be cared for by others while I pursued a self-indulgent activity and they were a-ok. I didn’t smell it again until the weight floor when I was halfway through my workout. Gingerly, I peeled up my sweat-soaked top and sniffed. Nothing but Downy freshness dampened with body odor – just like it should be. But then I lifted up the bottom hem. I was a human TURD SCRATCH-N-SNIFF STICKER. (Admit it: You loved scratch-n-sniff when you were a kid. My fave were the smelly pencils. Which is probably why I love my chocolate with a side of graphite to this day. Mmm.)

Right as I came to this embarrassing conclusion, Gym Buddy Megan looked right at me and said, “I smell.” I waited her to finish her sentence with “… the business end of a baby” but she didn’t. So I finished it for her. “It’s me,” I hung my head in shame, “I smell like poo.”

“What?” She looked confused. “No, I smell. I stink. Seriously.” She even sniffed her own armpit for good measure. (Yes, we are beloved on the weight floor.) “Whooo-eee!”

After Megan and I established that while we could both smell our own offensive scents neither of us could smell the other’s, then it was Gym Buddy Allison’s turn. In Spin class she kept making funny faces. At first I thought it was just the sweat dripping off her nose but finally she declared, “I can’t wipe my sweat off. My towel smells like a skunk.”


“I dunno, I washed it last night!”

“Well then I’m sure it smells fine.”

“It doesn’t. It reeks. I think the handlebars on my cycle contaminated it.”

“You think a skunk was the previous occupant of your cycle?”

She glared at me.

“Fine, give me your towel.”

“What? Why?”

“Well, now I have to smell it. Gimme.” (This is the gym equivalent of “smell my finger.”)

She handed over her towel. I sniffed it. It smelled like skunk. For the record, this is the same girl that once threaded her towel through the legs of her gym shorts to protect her delicate behind from the bike saddle. Not that I can talk. I use old burp rags as sweat towels – yes, purple duckies and everything – and no matter how often I wash them they still kinda smell like puke. ANYHOW.

The fact is that people stink. They smell funky at the bank, the grocery store and (times 10) at the State Fair. And they especially stink at the gym. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve played the “how many workouts can I get away with before washing this sports bra” game… and lost. Nothing ruins good push-up form like dropping low and getting a good puff of nasty sweat smell right in your face.  And if your own stank isn’t bad enough, at the gym you are often dealing with other people’s stank which is 100 times worse than yours. (You know how you love the smell of your own bellybutton – yes, you do, don’t lie – but even watching someone else sniff their belly button makes you want to hurl? Yep.)

But do you know why you stink? B.O. is an obvious culprit but where exactly does it come from? And how is it so, well, stinky? I covered 10 Sneaky Sources of Body Odor for Shape and even I was surprised by how many weird reasons there are that you smell. For instance, did you know that one of the first signs of a UTI (urinary tract infection) is stinky pee? And that if you hold your pee in (because it hurts to pee when you have a UTI, duh) that the ammonia smell will actually come out your pores making you smell like the kid you sat next to in kindergarten? Also, did you know that wearing deodorant (literally de – odorant, get it?) can make your pits smell worse?? Check it out and read the other 8 reasons in my slideshow!

Do you have a good smelly gym story? Feel free to rat out your fellow gym goers too! Anyone else ever discover a weird source of their smell?

*Potty training is the BANE of my existence! Any tips you have would be much appreciated! Also, yes, I showered. Then I rewashed that entire load of laundry, sans undies, with bleach. While I was in the basement my toddler pooped on the carpet. Such is motherhood.

This video is probably the entire reason YouTube got invented in the first place. I think I saw it at least 1,000 times before I finished high school and it still makes me giggle out loud. Ahh, the classics.

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Miz June 4, 2012 at 4:34 am

how had I never ever seen that classic youtuuuube before.


Charlotte June 4, 2012 at 8:34 am

Hahah – I LOVE that monkey. Glad we share a similar juvenile sense of humor;)


Crabby McSlacker June 4, 2012 at 6:38 am

Oh good, I don’t have workout buddies, so it’s great to hear that often we smell ourselves much more than others do. There have definitely been times when I’ve grossed myself out… often with gym clothes that are theoretically clean but worn so often that the old-sweat smell never leaves.

Summer for me means basement home gym and outdoor workouts so I get to take a break from worrying about what sort of stink i may be giving off, hooray!


Charlotte June 4, 2012 at 8:34 am

OOoh yes, I’ve had to get rid of many an otherwise still decent pair of of pants for that reason alone:(


Naomi/Dragonmamma June 4, 2012 at 6:38 am

You forgot about yeast infections. I’ve never had one, but I can always tell when somebody else does, I’m very sensitive to that odor.


Charlotte June 4, 2012 at 8:33 am

Agggh! I’m not sure whether I’m more impressed by your nasal acuity or worried for the day I meet you in person;) Seriously though, I think that’s like a superhero talent!


malevolent andrea June 4, 2012 at 10:50 am

Oh, this is like my worst fear realized. There were times two or three years ago when things were out of whack in the ladyparts that I thought I could smell my own crotch, especially in the summer when I was just wearing a dress and underwear, and I was always embarrassed that other people might be able to smell it too. Then I’d reassure myself that that was silly :-/


Grace June 4, 2012 at 9:26 am

I go to bootcamp six mornings a week but only have three sets of workout clothes. So, twice a week I wash them separate from other clothing in hot water for the longest cycle possible. Most of the time that tames the smell, but sometimes, when I am just starting to sweat the smell comes on strong. Since everyone else is sweating also, they haven’t kicked me out yet.


geosomin June 4, 2012 at 10:54 am

Sadly, I can only relate by saying I have a really old cat who occasionally likes to poop on the carpet.
As for me? Well, I sweat a LOT…so my gym bag is atrocious. I just hope it smells worse to me than it does everyone else :)


deb roby June 4, 2012 at 12:13 pm

True confession here: sometimes I smell like skunk.

I have not been able to find anyone who can explain this. It seeps out my pores, so simply taking a shower doesn’t fix it. It started when I was on a high carb diet and continued on a high protein diet.

Someday I will understand it.


Brem June 25, 2013 at 11:47 pm

You should try a high-fruit diet (more raw foods). Eating more living foods that are naturally made my nature will help with the overall management of your body. Think about it — your body will release the smell of fruit as opposed to decomposing meat.


Helene @healthyfrenchie June 4, 2012 at 1:46 pm

I tend to lose the “how many times can I wear my sports bra before washing it again” too lol And I cannot stand belly button smell. Not at all.
I get all embarrassed when I smell, but I still have to have someone make a “you stink” face at me… So I guess I can smell it, but nobody else can (Or at least not THAT much)


Jody - Fit at 54 June 4, 2012 at 7:33 pm

I can’t find anything to help my smell. I wash everything after I wear it & use the clinical strength deo… I sweat & smell. Sometimes I try not to get near people at he gym due to the fact that I can smell how bad I smell! ;-) I even use the powder fresh scent!!! Seems to have gotten worse with age! ;-)


Redheadedmama June 5, 2012 at 8:44 am

I find it especially difficult to get the stink out of dri-fit clothing that all gym-wear is made out of these days. Great for working out and keeping you dry, but the worst for stink-factor! There are some new detergents that work well on the material to get the smell out, but I can never wait long enough to do an entire load of gym-only clothes to warrant using the detergent (yes, I’m “saving” my special detergent and I realize as I write it how ridiculous it sounds).

To make things worse, while I have to change deodorant brands every few months or they stop working, my husband never has to wear any! And, he doesn’t ever smell of body odour! He sweats like a beast, but he never stinks and has never owned any type of deodorant EVER. I was fascinated to learn this when we first started dating: interesting fact of the day — he is of Asian decent and people of Asian decent tend to have fewer apocrine glands (the sweat glands that cause body odour) than caucasians. I’m so jealous.


Kirstin Juhl June 5, 2012 at 9:45 am

True story- I once had a workout partner who lacked the sense of smell, so my job was to smell her workout clothes to determine if she could wear them to the gym.


Charlotte June 5, 2012 at 1:00 pm

You are officially the best friend ever!


The Girl in Yoga Pants June 5, 2012 at 2:21 pm

This was so funny! I have an 8-month-old and am constantly covered in baby spit. When my youngest daughter was potty training, the first time she sat on her potty, she went #2. It made a loud thud when it hit the bottom and nearly scared her to death. I didn’t think I’d ever get her potty trained after that because she was terrified of toilets. Not long after, I noticed a nasty smell in the living room and saw a wet spot on the couch. To my horror, I discovered she was secretly peeing into the couch cushions! I nearly died. I went out and bought an upholstery cleaner and sanitized the heck out of it. She finally got over the toilet thing, thank goodness! So, all is well.


Karens28 June 5, 2012 at 6:16 pm

I love love love the picture of the ‘sniffing’ dog. Crazy! I’m super aware of odors too, but I know people that don’t ever smell anything – my husband for example. I just try to pretend everyone is like him!


Thpt! May 15, 2013 at 1:06 pm

You’ve got to wash your gym bag with your clothes, so that lingering stench will go away…


BreeAna September 13, 2013 at 3:29 pm

im a cheerleader and all i can say is I SMELL after 2 hrs of cheering. I’m only 12 but i dont think that matters does it??? anyway i always have a nice smelling lotion on and a 48 hr lasting deodorant on..ever since i got the 48hr deodorant,i havent smelled as bad all the time and i dont sweat as much which is good! lol REMEMBER, JUST CAUSE WE’RE GIRLS, DOESNT MEAN WE SHOULDNT AND DONT SMELL!!! we’re not perfect! -BreeAna<3


Reza February 21, 2014 at 7:06 am

first I must say I am not an English speaker . sorry if I write the words wrong or Failure to observe the rules of grammar.
since 8 years ago I have bb and bo and I don’t know the reason of this but the main problem for me is that when my bladder is full I start smell like Cigarette.did anyone has this problem or someone knows sth useful about this shit.
forget about the grammar .


Courtney April 20, 2014 at 9:33 pm

Use Lavilin!!! See them reviewed below. I have been raving about this product for years, finally they get the attention they deserve :)


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