Carefree M.D. Blog

Why Does My Sweat Smell Like Vinegar?

Carefree MD

January 19, 2022 | Blog

Everyone sweats. It’s perfectly natural. While initially, sweat is odorless, as it dries, it can often have a bad smell. That’s not unusual either. Yet, if your sweat smells like vinegar, that’s quite uncommon, and it can give you cause for concern.

Find out what an unusual sweat smell can mean, and how you can solve uncomfortable body odor.

What Is Sweat?

Sweat is a liquid made from 99% water and 1% salt and fat. The purpose of sweating is to help your body cool down. As sweat droplets form on your skin’s surface, the water evaporates, and your skin cools down.

Sweat is formed in a deep layer of the skin known as the dermis. There are sweat glands all over the body, but they’re more concentrated in some areas than others, including the armpits, forehead, soles of the feet, and palms.

If you sweat enough, it can even become visible. Unless, it’s soaked up by clothing or blocked by antiperspirant.

Just like every normal bodily function, the amount and quality of your sweat changes based on your health.

Common sweat-related problems include:

Why Does Sweat Smell?

Even when visible, sweat is usually odorless. Odor occurs when sweat dries.

It isn’t the sweat that smells, but the bacteria that live on your skin that digest the protein and fats in the sweat. (Deodorants work to combat these bacteria).

Smelly sweat isn’t just a body problem. It’s often a social problem as well. That’s why body odor isn’t generally thought of as a medical issue. However, especially smelly sweat can be a sign of a problem.

Sweat may smell musty or like onions, cheese, ammonia, and metal, among others. 

Sometimes, sweat even smells like vinegar.

Why Does Your Sweat Smell Like Vinegar?

Everyone has a different body odor.

Most of us don’t even notice our own smell, so if you suddenly notice a change in your body odor, you need to pay attention to it.

There are various reasons why your body odor changes suddenly.

It could be due to poor hygiene, excessive sweating, or puberty. It might also be due to medications, foods you eat, and the environment.

Sudden changes to the typical odor could also be a  symptom of an underlying medical condition. 

You might also notice that the change in smell is accompanied by itching, redness, or a rash. If you notice a vinegary sweat smell, you need to understand why and its potential implications.

6 Causes of a Vinegary Sweat Smell

You may notice the smell coming from all over, or a specific area of the body such as the armpits, genitalia, navel, feet, or throat and mouth.

There are various reasons why sweat has a vinegary smell:

1. Stress

There are two types of sweat glands: eccrine glands and apocrine glands

The latter are located mainly in the armpits and the groin area. The sweat produced by apocrine glands is activated when you’re stressed–usually due to an increase in body temperature–and this sweat is a thick and transparent liquid. 

When apocrine sweat mixes with skin bacteria, it produces a potent vinegar smell.

2. Diet

Most people know that eating certain foods can make your breath or pee smell different. But, you probably haven’t linked diet with sweat that smells like vinegar. 

Various compounds in foods when broken down create an odor that’s excreted in sweat.

There’s a list of foods that can cause a change in sweat smell, though none are specifically attributed to a vinegary sweat smell. This is because it is rare for any of the odor-causing foods to be eaten alone.

Foods with that can change the smell of your sweat include: red meat, dairy, cabbage, kale, cauliflower, asparagus, onions, curry, and spices and seasonings including cumin and garlic. Perhaps unsurprisingly, vinegar itself can change the smell of your sweat.

3. Trimethylaminuria

This rare metabolic disorder means that you lack the enzymes that break down trimethylamine. This is a compound found in certain foods, including cruciferous vegetables, beans, eggs, peanuts, and soy products.

Trimethylamine builds up in the gut during digestion and is released in sweat and other bodily fluids.

The excretion has either a strong vinegar or fishy odor.

4. Kidney Disease

With some kidney diseases, the kidneys can’t process urea effectively.

Urea is a waste product which when not broken down, is excreted by the body through sweat or urine.  It is the urea content that gives the vinegary sweat smell.

However, a vinegary sweat probably won’t be your first symptom of kidney disease.

5. Diabetes

Diabetes is an illness that causes high blood sugar levels. Uncontrolled diabetes can result in diabetic ketoacidosis

This is when your body burns fat instead of glucose for energy (which isn’t a good thing).

When diabetes isn’t properly managed, more glucose remains in the bloodstream rather than in cells where it can be used for energy. When fat burns, metabolites such as acetone are released through bodily excretions and this can give sweat a vinegar-like smell.

6. Other Reasons

Other potential causes of a vinegary sweat smell include:

  • Hormone imbalance: your hormones can change a lot about your body, including the smell of your sweat. Hormone levels change due to age, puberty, pregnancy, menstruation, menopause, or medical conditions.
  • Medications: certain drugs can affect a change in the smell of sweat.
  • Some health conditions: certain illnesses may result in a sudden change in body odor, for example, vaginal infections, skin infections, and cancer. 
  • Corynebacteria: Corynebacteria a is a skin infection on feet, groin, or armpits.

Treatment for Sweat with a Vinegar Odor

While a vinegary smell can be annoying, it’s not generally a cause for concern.

Unless you notice other suspicious symptoms as well, you can use home remedies to get rid of the odor:

  • Shower/bathe daily: use antibacterial soap and do not have the water too hot.
  • Wear antiperspirant and deodorant: antiperspirants prevent pores from releasing sweat while deodorants conceal body odor with a fragrance.
  • Change your clothes daily: body odor is far more discernible when perspiration dries. Worn clothes will harbor the odor.
  • Stay hydrated: keeping your body temperature cool with a sufficient intake of fluids is one of the easiest ways to keep vinegar sweat at bay.
  • Reduce stress: body temperature can increase during periods of stress and anxiety causing more perspiration than at calmer times.

Extremely odorous sweat may require medical attention. If you are trying home remedies and you still have a vinegar smell when you sweat, it could be a sign of the medical conditions outlined above.

Treatments recommended by a doctor or specialist include:

  • Antibiotics: to treat the cause of the odor.
  • Prescription-strength antiperspirants: these are stronger than those available over the counter.
  • Botox: Injections of botulinum toxin A in the armpits can stop nerve signals to your sweat glands, restricting their sweat production.
  • Microwave thermolysis: a new treatment for excess sweating where sweat glands are destroyed by high-powered energy beams.

Talk to a Doctor About Your Suspicious Body Odor

A strong body odor can affect your self-esteem, confidence, and social life. Generally, smelly sweat isn’t a cause for concern.

If you do have sweat that smells like vinegar, it is treatable either through self-action or by the medical profession if the simple home remedies do not work.

And if you’re unsure whetheryou need medical attention, or you’re worried about other symptoms, you can always speak to a doctor from the comfort of your home with the help of Carefree MD.

For just $17.95/month, you can speak to a state-licensed physician with a phone or computer, get prescriptions sent to your local pharmacy when medically necessary, and receive personalized advice on treatment options.

Talk to a doctor about body odor when you sign up for a Carefree MD membership today



The Carefree MD blog is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The text and pictures within the content are intended for information purposes only. Readers should consult with a licensed doctor or healthcare professional before seeking treatment.

The Carefree MD Card is not insurance and Carefree MD is not an insurance provider.