This Is Why Gym Clothes Smell SO Bad — Even After You Wash Them

This Is Why Gym Clothes Smell SO Bad — Even After You Wash Them

This week, Mary decodes: Workout fabric.

Are you extra smelly after a workout? It might not actually be you. Your GYM CLOTHES could be the culprit.  

Over the past year, I’ve been trying to maintain a weekly intense workout session and hot yoga class and that’s when I started to notice that my clothes would reek ALL THE TIME! I’m not sure how many times I’ve had to rewash my leggings and t-shirts. They seem to smell like ammonia no matter how many times they go through the wash. After some research and investigation, I know why:

 

decoding why gym clothes smell - kaia naturals

PHOTO BY LULULEMON.

 

BACTERIA GROWS ON DIFFERENT FABRICS

In a research study conducted at Ghent University, the overall odor of different clothing from a focus group was compared after an intense one-hour spinning class. They wore t-shirts made of either cotton, polyester, or a cotton-synthetic blend. The T-shirts were collected, sealed in plastic bags, and stored at room temperature in the dark, so bacterial growth occurred.

Results from an odor panel determined that the polyester clothing smelled SIGNIFICANTLY LESS PLEASANT. It was described as more intense, musty, strong and sour.  I can’t even imagine having to be on that odor panel smelling these sweaty, musty clothes!

So the study then analysed the bacterial composition of each fabric and what they discovered was the following.

All of the shirts grew several types of bacteria, but it was found that Micrococcus (a type of odor-causing bacteria) grew on:

  • 100% of the synthetic t-shirts worn in the study
  • 82% of the cotton-synthetic blend t-shirts worn in the study
  • 0% on the cotton t-shirts worn in the study.

It was even found that that stinky Micrococci bacteria grows better on synthetic fabrics than on your underarms! This explains why gym clothes seem to smell even worse than when our bodies sweat.

 

decoding why gym clothes smell - kaia naturals

PHOTO BY FITENSITY.

 

WHAT WORKOUT CLOTHES ACTUALLY DO:

“Moisture-wicking” or “Sweat Technology” often comes to mind when we think of workout clothes. I know I definitely look for that, because who wants to feel like a sweaty mess when working out. It’s hard enough to get yourself to the gym!

However, what you may not know is “moisture-wicking” basically means the clothing is made out of synthetic fabric like polyester, designed to keep you dry while you workout.

Polyester is a petroleum-based synthetic fiber and doesn’t have any natural properties which means it has very poor ADSORBING capacity. While your sweating, the moisture would evaporate THROUGH the fibres of your clothing instead of adsorbing INTO the fibres.

 

Adsorbing vs Absorbing

Adsorption = the process in which liquids from a substance adhere to a surface of the adsorbent.

Absorption = the process in which a fluid is dissolved by a liquid or a solid.

 

WHY DOES IT SMELL SO BAD?

Even though “moisture-wicking” means that fitness clothes will dry faster, the problem is bacteria from your sweat gets trapped IN BETWEEN the fibres as it passes through the garment.  

The bacteria that becomes trapped in between the fibres will create a pungent odor, we often smell in our gym bags and clothes. I think I just lost my appetite thinking about it!

 

Bacteria + Sweat = Odor

 

The more you wear the garment and sweat in it, the more bacteria and odor that will become trapped, making it even more difficult to wash out.

 

decoding why gym clothes smell - kaia naturals

PHOTO BY AMBER MARTIN.

 

WHAT YOU SHOULD WEAR INSTEAD

Cotton is a natural fiber (originating from the Gossypium cotton plant) almost entirely made up of cellulose, which gives it the ability to adsorb sweat and odor RIGHT INTO the fibres. This avoids bacteria becoming trapped in between the fibres and allows for better removal from the fibres when washed.

The weird part is, depending on whether you wear synthetic fabric or cotton, your workout clothes will end up smelling differently by the time they make it to the laundry hamper.

 

decoding why gym clothes smell - kaia naturals

PHOTO BY NIKE.

 

HERE’S WHAT YOU CAN DO

If stinky gym clothes are making your whole closet smell, don’t leave them sitting for a week before they make it into the wash. Bacteria LOVES a dark, cozy place like a gym bag or laundry hamper to grow even more bacteria.

 

  • Try hanging your clothes up to dry instead of throwing them damp directly in the hamper.
  • Wash your clothes immediately after you workout if you can.
  • Swap out your synthetic garments for cotton alternatives.
  • Use a sport laundry detergent designed for this type of bacteria.

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The ONE Body Odor Problem That Is Always Overlooked

The ONE Body Odor Problem That Is Always Overlooked

 

This week, Mary decodes: Fabrics that can produce body odor.

 

With the holidays coming up, tis the season for parties! If you’re planning on dancing into the night, pick your party dress carefully as some fabrics will hold bacteria from your sweat. If you are going to be in a crowded room with plenty of cocktails, things could get a little warm, so a moist body covered in a fabric that does not breath is a magnet for bacteria!

 

The Research: The Clothing + Sweat Study

 

Sweating in Cotton vs Synthetic Fabrics

In a study conducted at Ghent University, the overall odor of different clothing was compared by researchers when 13 men and 13 women participated in an intense one-hour spinning class. They wore t-shirts made of either cotton, polyester, or a cotton-synthetic blend.

The Results

It was determined that synthetic clothing caused a significantly worse smell than cotton fabrics. The odor panel described the scent as, “more intense, more musty, more ammonia-like, and more sour.”

 

clothes hangar - fabrics that can produce body odor - photo by shein.com

PHOTO BY SHEIN.COM.

 

What Happens When You Sweat While Wearing SYNTHETIC Fabrics:

 

Polyester is a petroleum-based synthetic fabric made with no natural fibres.

The nutrients in natural fibres have the ability to adsorb sweat components, which means the sweat adheres to the surface of the fabric. Synthetic fibres traps sweat and bacteria in the spaces between the fibres. Therefore, synthetic fibres are not able to breakdown bacteria and this traps sweat and bacteria together inside the clothing, a combination that results in odor.

 

Adsorption vs. Absorption

Adsorption = the process in which liquids from a substance adhere to a surface of the adsorbent.

Absorption = the process in which a fluid is dissolved by a liquid or a solid.

Why You Should Wear Natural Fibres Instead

Opt for clothing made out of a natural fibres like cotton, bamboo, wool and linen. These fibres are able to adsorb moisture itself and don’t trap the smelly bacteria in the fabrics like synthetics do.

As natural fibres are much more breathable, both sweat and bacteria can evaporate easier from the fibres.

 

cotton fields - fabrics that can produce body odor - photo by ecofriendlycotton.com

PHOTO BY ECOFRIENDLYCOTTON.COM.

 

The Solution

If there’s a dress or shirt that will rock your holiday party but it’s synthetic? Not to worry! Try wearing a fitted 100% natural cotton t-shirt or bodysuit underneath to help absorb the sweat and bacteria.  You can also use a natural antibacterial soap and cleanse the 6 areas of your body that hides the most bacteria before heading to your party.

 

Have you experienced body odor issues from fabrics or certain pieces of clothing? We want to know! Please comment below.

 


 

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(Offer valid for new customers only; limit one per customer. Can’t be combined with other offers.)

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