London, is it too much to ask to PLEASE control your body odour?

It’s reaching breaking point, says Robyn Vinter

If you’re a regular reader of, you’ll note my “beat” tends to be politics, business and economics, with a few other bits thrown in – so forgive this slight departure. It’s an issue that’s been specifically tormenting me this week and I know I’m not alone.

It’s come to the attention of almost every public transport goer in London in the past few days that we are experiencing a serious soap-dodger offensive.

Everyone is familiar with the problem I’m talking about – if you’re not, it’s probably you – as it comes around every summer. As soon as the mercury hits 25C, a faint whiff of body odour descends on London’s public transport and gradually intensifies as the temperature rises. And with this year’s record July temperatures, it’s really hitting home.

It’s the scourge of armpit-height individuals like me, who frequently through no fault of our own find our faces nestled into a be-shirted person’s underarm, just praying their 24-hour antiperspirant holds up for the short journey between Marble Arch and Bank.

This is almost a new phenomenon to me, something I hadn’t experienced much before moving to the capital four years ago. I don’t think it’s that my home town of Leeds doesn’t have smelly people – perhaps it’s just that in the north it’s cooler or that there’s more space between commuters.

Those who haven’t experienced London’s malodour problem might make assumptions about the individuals responsible – but as we Londoners know, when you’re looking round for the source of the stench it’s not always obvious which of your fellow passengers it derives from.

I’m not heartless – I can forgive the hum of a hard day’s work from someone who physically toils for a living when I’m making my way home at 5 or 6pm. I’d sweat buckets in this heat if I had to do anything more strenuous than getting up from my office chair to put the kettle on a couple of times a day.

But the bath-evaders who blight our muggy buses at 7am with their unsavoury bouquet are a different species altogether. They’re the ones who seemingly wear yesterday’s office attire, haven’t showered and are oblivious to the stench that’s palpable to all around.

What do we do about this? Even with my Yorkshire-bred bluntness, I could never approach these people through fear of causing them certain humiliation (and also usually my eyes are watering enough from two metres away).

So this is an anonymous appeal to the workers of London – it doesn’t have to be like this. Let’s end it now.

We can’t change the weather or do much about over-crowded Tubes and buses that leave us inhumanely pressed together, but we can all agree to shower in the morning and put on clean clothes. For the sake of our fellow humans. Please.

How do you tackle the smell of fellow commuters? Let us know in the comments below…


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