Have you ever questioned why a polyester t-shirt seems to retain more odor than a cotton one after a workout session? A recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Alberta sheds light on this phenomenon. By analyzing various fibers immersed in a simulated sweat solution, the scientists discovered that cotton and viscose fibers, derived from plants, absorbed and subsequently released smaller amounts of odor-causing compounds compared to polyester, nylon, and wool.

Rachel McQueen, a clothing and textiles scientist at the University of Alberta, highlighted the significance of the research findings. She emphasized that while it has been commonly observed that polyester garments tend to be smellier after sweating, the underlying reasons were not well understood until now. The study’s innovative approach involved using a simulated liquid sweat solution to explore how odorants were selectively absorbed by different fiber types.

Traditionally, odor retention in textiles has been evaluated by focusing on how odor passes through the air to the fabric. However, the study revealed that the transfer of odorants to fabrics through liquid sweat is a crucial factor that should not be overlooked. McQueen emphasized the realism of the study’s approach, stating that understanding how smelly compounds interact with clothing provides valuable insights for consumers.

The research findings have practical implications for consumers when selecting clothing. McQueen advised that individuals concerned about smelly clothes should avoid polyester garments, especially in fast fashion items. Despite claims of anti-odor properties on clothing labels, the study suggests that the fiber chemistry plays a significant role in odor absorption. Therefore, choosing garments made from cellulosic fibers like cotton and viscose may result in less odor retention.

Beyond consumer choices, the study’s findings could also influence textile scientists and manufacturers in developing improved fabrics. McQueen hypothesized that engineering polyester to be more water-loving and less prone to absorbing oily compounds could lead to less smelly garments. By understanding the interaction between fiber chemistry and odorants, advancements in fabric technology may offer solutions to common issues like odor retention.

The research conducted at the University of Alberta provides valuable insights into the reasons behind smelly clothes, particularly after sweating. By comprehensively analyzing the absorption and release of odor-causing compounds in various fiber types, the study enhances our understanding of textile science and consumer choices. As we navigate the world of fashion and sustainability, being informed about the impact of fiber chemistry on odor retention can empower us to make more conscious decisions when building our wardrobes.


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