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There have been a quite a number of studies on how the microbiome of the skin and body odor is in contact with the clothing we wear. Sweat itself is odorless and sterile, but no sooner it interacts with our body’s bacteria which vary from one individual to another than it metabolizes into volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and gives off the foul smell. Thus the action of sweat on bacteria and odorous compounds interacts with our everyday wear.
Nowadays, you can find clothes marketed as odor-fighting from silver nanoparticles synthesized on fabric to a finish of triclocarban or triclosan, and materials including merino wool, bamboo rayon or saltwater seaweed fibers which supposedly is due to the fabric’s anti-microbial properties, though it can be somewhat misleading. Bacterial action on sweat continues to discharge foul odors, meaning adding antimicrobial agents into your clothes may help. However, what can be off-putting is that the bacteria produced is either trapped inside the cloth or carried away on a breeze. This, of course, depends on the fabric type.
What about athletic brands that call cloth fabrics, including polyester and other petroleum-based fibers, as “sweat-wicking” or “hydrophobic”, meaning they are water-repellent and dry fast? They aren’t free from body odor-causing oily compounds trapped inside the fabric, which could accumulate over time.
Natural fibers such as merino wool, cotton, and rayon made from trees, bamboos and seaweed are hydrophilic or attract water that is why cotton gets soaked in sweat after a workout. The advantage here is that because water is absorbed, laundering can be easy as with the detergents it can help discharge these compounds.
But any cotton or wool shirt after use allows for a greater amount of evaporation and brings about the odor in the process. Merino wool has better drying quality than cotton, making it a preferable workout and athletic apparel. Cotton is 100% machine-washable, though not merino wool always.
If you feel wearing a nylon or polyester workout or gym gear works fine, which, in any case, will look better than cotton fabrics, then a silver treatment could keep lasting sweat stink at bay. However, you should still wash synthetic fabrics, including acrylic sweater, polyester blouses, and nylon yoga leggings, in a laundry facility before you put them on again.