Why Polyester Fails the B.O. Test After Exercise

FRIDAY Sept. 5, 2014, 2014 -- The reason polyester clothes smell worse than cotton apparel after a hard workout is because odor-causing bacteria grow better on them, a new study shows.

Researchers collected T-shirts from 26 people after they did an intense hour-long bicycle spinning session. They "incubated" the shirts for 28 hours, and then analyzed them for bacteria.

The main type of odor-causing bacteria on clothing are micrococci. The researchers found that micrococci grow better on polyester than on cotton, according to the study published online recently in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

The researchers are now trying to find out why polyester encourages the growth of micrococci, and suspect it has to do with the nature of polyester's surfaces.

The study is part of a larger effort to learn more about how to help people with unpleasant body odor.

"B.O. is taboo, and its prevalence is greatly underestimated," study first author Chris Callewaert, of Ghent University in Belgium, said in a journal news release.

"There is little these people can do to help themselves. Some of them are too psychologically distressed to talk to strangers, or even to leave the house, afraid of what people might think of their smell," he noted.

Wearing cotton clothes can help somewhat, as can avoiding overuse of antiperspirants, Callewaert said. He explained that antiperspirants can actually enrich odor-causing bacteria.

"That is what I have heard from people with B.O. -- the more they use it, the worse it eventually got," Callewaert said.

However, deodorants do not seem to make body odor problems worse, he added.

More information

The Mayo Clinic has more about sweating and body odor.

Posted: September 2014


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