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Why do my sports clothes stink?

Posted by Jerry Graham on

Why do some items of clothing smell so much worse than others after we’ve worked out or been hiking? It's a mystery that every rucksack, gym bag and laundry basket in the world has been subjected to.

These days, when we exercise the choice of what to wear is usually some sort of technical clothing, like a sweat-wicking wool shirt for a days hiking or skiing, or a high-tech polyester T-shirt for a fitness class. However, I’m sure we've all noticed that there are certain items in our wardrobe that always smell worse than others, even after they’ve been washed. 

Why do some clothes always smell?

Modern technical clothing does a great job of taking sweat from your body and wicking it to the outside to evaporate, but in doing so, it actually holds on to the oils and salts from your skin. The bacteria that create the stinky odours, love to feast on these oils that get trapped in the clothing.

Rachel McQueen from the University of Otago in New Zealand, has been conducting groundbreaking research over the last few years.

Sweat itself is odourless, she explains; body odour happens when bacteria on our skin feeds off the sweat and breaks it down into smaller, stinky compounds. The most common strains of bacteria found in our clothing armpit after heavy sweating include Staphylococci, which are associated with normal body odour, and Corynebacteria which produce more unpleasant smells.

And different fabrics have different interactions with the odour and the bacteria.

McQueen had volunteers wear test T-shirts for two days, then conducted odour evaluations on fabric swatches cut out of the T-shirts' underarms. Smell tests were conducted after 1 day, 7 days and 28 days. 

The results showed that polyester was the smelliest and merino wool was the least smelly. 

Using microbiology, McQueen also examined bacteria levels in the fabrics over the 28-day study period. Interestingly, bacteria survived the longest in the merino wool, while it dropped significantly over time in the polyester fabric. "This blew up the myth that wool is antibacterial," she says.

 

DID YOU KNOW!

The mohair that makes the Corrymoor Camino hiking socks is not wool but hair from Angora goats and has totally unique properties that means there is nowhere for bacteria to hide and replicate, so they never smell anyway.

Why do my clothes smell after washing?

The same technical aspect of your clothing that wicks the sweat away from your skin, means that when you wash it, the water passes right through and misses the oils secreted from your skin, so they remain hidden for bacteria to feed on. This is why your clothing can smell ok when you take it out of the wash, but as soon as you have it on for a hike or a workout, the malodorous odours waft through.

The reasons for the contrasting smells in our clothing is the different make-up and behaviour of natural and synthetic fibres. An example of this is the way they deal with moisture.

Natural fibres like cotton absorb moisture, including the smelly compounds produced by bacteria, which get trapped inside the fibres where they can't reach our noses. 

Synthetic fibres on the other hand, do not absorb moisture. Instead they attract oils. This means that they hang on to the oil from our sweat which sit on the surface of the fibres, waiting to be guzzled by whatever odour-producing bacteria happen to come along.

Traditional detergents were made for traditional fabrics, such as cotton, and aren’t as efficient when it comes to penetrating these synthetic fabrics. As a result, all that bacteria, sweat and body oil get trapped inside the fibres and continue accumulating with every workout. The added fragrance in some detergents may help temporarily, but it’s more of a cover up and not a solution to an ongoing problem.

byoms

What is the answer?

First, remove the clothes as soon as you can and don’t just drop them in your kit bag or laundry basket. Instead, turn them inside out and spray with byoms Probiotic Spray.

The bacteria that cause your kit to smell, feed off darkness, and heat can magnify the smell from the residual bacteria, so you shouldn’t throw your sweaty clothes in the wash bin and just leave them. 

By giving the most affected areas a squirt of byoms, it will allow the living probiotic bacteria to get to work and rapidly replicate, crowding out the living conditions in which smelly bacteria thrive.

Once you’re ready to wash your hiking or gym clothes, there’s a couple of points to keep in mind. 

Use a specific detergent for sports clothes

Using just 25ml of byoms Probiotic Wash at 30° - 40°, (yes honestly, you can wash sports clothes at 30°!), will allow the probiotics to get to work again, letting the bacteria rapidly reproduce in the washing machine.

Modern detergents are not the answer. Firstly, they are primarily designed to work on cotton fabrics and, as the water easily passes through your activewear and performance fabrics, all that does is leave behind detergent in the fabric, which is a food source for remaining bacteria that creates odour. So it will smell fragrant when you put it away, but as soon as you wear it again, the stinky bacteria will jump into action.

And secondly, adding a commercial disinfectant and washing it twice, only serves to kill all the bacteria and create a vacuum that will be filled as soon as you sweat again. 

And anyway washing twice at high temperatures is damaging for your clothing and an unnecessary drain on environmental resources.

What is byoms Probiotic?

byoms from Denmark, is perfect for the fitness enthusiast and casual hiker. 

Containing natural plant-based probiotic bacteria and made from organic material, these ’good’ bacteria work to eliminate the root causes of smells, rather than just masking with polluting chemicals. Simply spray the clothes you were wearing on your walk and you can wear them again the next day. 

An essential addition to your life and it doesn't harm the environment.

What are probiotics?
Pro-biotics mean "for life" and are the opposite of anti-biotics (which kill bacteria). We live surrounded by bacteria; we can not avoid them, but we can choose to be surrounded only by the good bacteria called probiotics, which are living microorganisms that occur naturally both inside the human body and outside. There are many different beneficial bacterial strands. byoms use the bacterial string bacillus coagulans which is a robust beneficial bacterium that can survive in hibernation in the "harsh" environment. 

Works for up to 8 days
The good bacteria continue their fight for up to 8 days after they are distributed / sprayed. Just like probiotic supplements keep your stomach in balance, the good bacteria in byoms products will keep the balance right in your home or your sports bag. byom's probiotics are hard on odours, but take care of our children and the planet.

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