Polyester Stinks And Here's A Study To Prove It
In the 70's fashionable men wore polyester 'leisure suits.' Fashionable women wore polyester or nylon Emilio Pucci patterned dresses. They were supposed to be cool, but really they were hotter than heck. Then, thankfully, there was a return to natural fibers in textiles - not only cotton, silk, and wool, but several fibers like hemp, bamboo, and soy that were relatively new to the fashion industry. Now the pendulum is back to the synthetic, and it's not pretty. As a matter of fact, it stinks!
And that was proven by scientists at Ghent University in Belgium. Their study, which compared the bacteria content and odor of various synthetic and cotton shirts worn by healthy men and women after athletic activity, is now published online in Applied and Environmental Microbiology.
Twenty-six healthy men and women gave up their t-shirts to the researchers after an hour of vigorous cycling workouts. The t-shirts were made of polyester or cotton; a few were blends of synthetic materials. After wear, the t-shirts were stored in air-tight plastic bags for 28 hours and left in a dark room, a bacteria stimulative environment.
After the storage period, the shirts were presented to a panel of seven trained odor assessors who evaluated the odor of each t-shirt armpit on hedonic value (pleasant or unpleasant), intensity, musty, strongness, amonia, sweatiness, and sourness. The panel assessed all values significantly higher for the polyester and blended t-shirts except for the hedonic value which was higher for the cotton t-shirt. In other words, the polyester shirts were more stinky than the cotton shirts.
It should be noted that testing the smell of the t-shirts after strenuous exercise was only one aspect of this study. The main objective was to learn what bacteria grow on what materials and which of those bacteria produce the strongest odors. This information, in its current stage, will be most interesting to bacteriologists and can be found in the study report. Eventually, the study's lead author, Chirs Callewaert, hopes to learn why certain synthetics grow specialized bacteria.
Callewaert's ultimate goals are to help manufacturers find ways to minimize the bacteria producing fibers in their garments and to help persons with body odor by transplanting microbes from non-malodorous relatives to them.
In the meantime, maybe we should be wearing cotton.