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jca's avatar

If you were friends with someone with bad body odor, would you tell them, and if so, how? or is it better to not tell them?

Asked by jca (36002points) October 24th, 2010

I have a good friend (opposite sex, platonic, no sexual intentions) who has bad body odor. To be specific, it’s like un-washed underarms. I don’t understand how he does not smell it himself because it is very strong. He’s a fun person but this smell is gross.

Should I tell him, and if so what is a way to say it tactfully? Or should I just leave the topic alone?

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15 Answers

GeorgeGee's avatar

Faced with this situation with a co-worker, I said regarding an upcoming meeting “it will be really important to make a good impression, so let’s make sure everyone is freshly bathed, squeaky clean, and wearing our Sunday best.” Thus it wasn’t singling him out, yet directly addressed the need.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

I’ve heard that it is difficult for people to detect their own body odor, including bad breath. This might explain why he isn’t aware of it.

As for whether to mention it or not, it depends. I’d learn to live with it unless you know that other people feel the same way and it might jeopardize relationships, jobs, etc. If you decide to talk to him about it, just tread lightly, as it is unsolicited advice. Have some solutions on hand on how to control the odor.

cazzie's avatar

Miss Manners said that you should only point out things that something can be done about. Like, spinach in the teeth, or lipstick on teeth. If someone has a horrible mole or thinning hair, you wouldn’t mention it.

Body odour is tricky because maybe he can do something and maybe he can’t. Have you ever discussed allergies or illnesses with him? Perhaps the subject can be brought up in some other context.

Are you that close of friends to really chat about bath products and bathing routines? If you’re not, do you know of someone he’s closer to that may be able to have that talk? If you walk around town together, make some excuse to go into a bath and body shop, like Lush or something. The conversation of showers and bath and soap wouldn’t be completely out of context, He may have a glandular and hormone problem.

Another problem is that sometimes clothes get impregnated with smells that don’t come out in some wash cycles, so he could have layers of stink in his shirts, making it much worse. Oxygenated washing powers with sodium percarbonate (made up of sodium carbonate and hydrogen peroxide) helps remove dirt and smells.

I couldn’t hang around someone that smelled bad all the time. My sense of smell is very sensitive and it would upset my stomach. I would really have to say something.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

It wouldn’t be easy,but I would tell him…from a distance ;)

john65pennington's avatar

I have to tell this. my wife went into shock, when these words left my mouth.

I was at the eye doctor. this man is not only my eye doctor, but a good friend. i had just had cataract surgery and was returning for my first office visit, after surgery. i was sitting in the eye examination chair, when my doctor walked in. if you have ever had your eyes examined, you understand the closeness between you and your doctor, when the eye exam is in progress. your face and your doctors face are really close to each other. approximately four inches apart.

I held my breath as long as i could. then, it finally happened. i let out a deep, deep breath and stated to my eye doctor: “you’re breath ain’t makin’ it. you need Scope.” my wife’s face turned red as she slumped down in her office chair, next to me. my doctor said, “is my breath bad?” i offered him a breath mint.

We became best friends after this. i took him an FOP coffee cup, on my next visit, as a form of apology. he said he understoond.

KhiaKarma's avatar

I have had this conversation several times with teens ( I approach it from the angle of body is changing etc….) and once with a friend when we were both in Elementary school. However, i haven’t had to tell any of my adult friends, so I am not sure how I would approach it, but if we were close I would definitely say something. (I would want to know!) I might just say that I have noticed an odor and talk about what kind of deodorant they use. I would try to make a joke about myself as well to lighten the mood…..

I think what @cazzie stated about telling people about things they can control is a good gage, but is tricky in this instance.

bobbinhood's avatar

It would depend on how close of friends I was with this person. It would also depend on whether they smelled bad all the time. If someone smelled bad every time I was with them, I would assume there was some sort of medical issue causing it. If their smell was hit and miss, I would be much more likely to broach the subject. Exactly how I broached it would depend on the person in question. Since I would only do so with someone I know very well, I would have a good idea how to approach it.

I will say that I have had times where absolutely no deodorant worked for me. I would smell delightful when I first emerged from the shower, but it wouldn’t last long. Fortunately, I have one that works right now. Hopefully it lasts, because I don’t really know what to do when nothing works. All that to say, it’s probably unwise to assume that someone is not trying or has terrible hygiene habits unless the evidence firmly points in that direction. Even then, I would proceed with caution.

mollydrew's avatar

I did tell my friend that she smelled and I handed her soap and a towel and told her to take a shower. She was grateful. Come to find out she hit hard times and her water was shut off.. I helped her find financial aid to help with utilitiy bills and got our local YMCA to give her a month free membership while I worked on getting the utilities turned on. (she could shower daily at the YMCA) I know this situation is easier than yours but I didn’t know that when I said “you smell”

YARNLADY's avatar

Sometimes body odor is the result of a treatable medical condition. You would be doing this person a favor to draw his attention to it.

My Dad had a cleanliness issue, he only believed in taking a bath once a week. Some people from work anonymously mailed him some ‘free samples’ of a deodorant and bath soaps, but he didn’t see it as a hint until my mother told him that’s what it was.

Kardamom's avatar

I read an article recently which said that most women can still detect body odor, even if it’s covered up with perfume or cologne, but lots of men couldn’t. So apparently women’s olfactory system is more sensitive than men’s. It’s likely that your friend doesn’t realize how bad he smells.

I worked for a boss, in a very close quarters, in which our jobs were very physical. He made a statement to the rest of us (both males and females) in our department, in passing, that he doesn’t wear deoderant because he doesn’t need it. We didn’t have the heart or the nerve to tell him that he wreaked of rancid butter.

I would tread very lightly with this situation. You don’t want to humiliate this guy. If you say anything, make sure you are in a completely private place where you won’t be overheard and then just say something like, “John, you might not be aware, but you’ve smelled a little ripe lately. Maybe you can bring some wipes and deoderant to work like I do. Sometimes I get really hot at work and start to sweat, so I always keep wipes deoderant in my desk.” Try to make it sound like he’s not the only one who sweats or smells bad. You can also refer to the article about women having more sensitive noses than guys.

perspicacious's avatar

Tell them. TELL THEM. Yes, I have told people. It’s easy. “Look, you have a body odor smell; there are washcloths in the cabinet in the bathroom as well as alcohol wipes. We won’t start dinner until you get back.”

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Depends on how close we are…I’d definitely say something, just in case they’d care that people can smell something.

Kraigmo's avatar

Get your friend’s email, do it on the down low, then go to this website:

mollydrew's avatar

If it is someone you spend a considerable amount of time with them you must say something. You do not need to be mean or condescending; there are tactful ways to share good hygiene news. Now, if it is someone you do not know, they just really stink, I say hold your breath, get off the elevator at the next floor and count your blessings.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@jca Okay Update Lady…what ended up happening? Did you mention it to the friend or let it go? Has the situation changed?

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