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Smelly T-Shirts

September 23, 2014

How stinky your workout shirt will become depends on what it’s made of.



A lab that studies body odor. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Chris Callewaert’s job really stinks. But he doesn’t mind. As a microbiologist studying the bacteria living on armpits, bad smells come with the territory. In the journal Applied Environmental Microbiology, he and his colleagues at Ghent University in Belgium report on their work analyzing the smell of polyester vs. cotton t-shirts worn by volunteers during intense workout sessions.

CHRIS CALLEWAERT (Ghent University):

The 100% cotton clothes were significantly assessed as better than the 100% polyester clothes.


They found that both types of shirts had the same total numbers of bacteria, but the polyester shirts had more micrococci bacteria—known to produce bad smelling compounds. And the bacteria lived happily in the shirts even after laundering and drying. The team’s now looking into fighting body odor by transplanting bacteria from people with mild smelling armpits to people with less pleasant smelling ones. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.