News / Edmonton

U of A researchers study the science of sweaty, smelly shirts

Summer is upon us, which means warm weather and likely some sweaty days.

Thankfully, two University of Alberta researchers have determined cotton as the best fabric for warding off stinky sweat molecules.

Textile science professor Rachel McQueen teamed up with chemistry scientist James Harynuk to hand out two specially sewn T-shirts to 18 people to wear during 20 workouts over 10 weeks.

“Odour would be a reason why people wash clothing frequently – or the perception of odour.”-Rachel McQueen, U of A textile science professor

Three fabrics – polyester, cotton and cotton treated with an antimicrobial finish – were tested.

The armpits were then cut out, put in vials and tested two ways.

McQueen said the sniff testers voted cotton less smelly, which is also what scientific results showed.

“With polyester, over multiple wash and wear cycles, we saw the number of molecules would drop and the abundance of the molecules would drop, but there were still a lot,” said Harynuk. “So the washing was not as effective in removing the smelly molecules as it was with the cotton.”

The antimicrobial finish had little effect, he added.

Both McQueen and Harynuk said they would like to do more controlled testing, eventually resulting in a garment that can be washed less often.

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