Fabric Fail: Odor

Introduction

FABRIC FAILS—WHAT THEY ARE AND HOW YOU CAN PREVENT THEM

Fabric Fails happen when you find yourself in clothes made of mystery fabric. They may be cheaper for manufactures, but can be a disaster for you. The problem is, it’s easy to mistake a mystery fabric for cotton. They can look like cotton and even feel like cotton—but only at first.

Learn more about odor (a fabric fail) to see what awaits if you don’t check the label.

Fabric Fail-Odor

 ODOR

71% OF PEOPLE SAY THEY ARE BOTHERED BY ODOR ISSUES IN THEIR CLOTHING.1

HERE’S WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

I am a victim of smelly pants! When I bought them, I thought they were cotton…that’s what they felt like. I later learned that they were a mix of synthetic fabrics. Plus, they were dry clean only…the worst! Just after a few wears, they started to smell. I dry cleaned them multiple times and the smell just wouldn’t go away. I even went against the care instructions and washed them…and still…the odor remained. Major fabric fail.

I can hardly stand the smell of myself when I’m biking in my cycling jersey. It’s some kind of spandex, lycra material. The worst part is that it still smells after I wash it.

ABOUT ODOR

Clothes shouldn’t smell like anything. Some fabrics are more prone to absorbing and retaining odors than others.

CAUSES

Odor can be caused by you or your environment. Body odor is caused by perspiration coming into contact with the bacteria on your skin. If that perspiration is absorbed into your clothes, they can retain the odor.

Once absorbed, odor in clothing can become more permanent with exposure to heat and time, meaning the odor is likely to resurface with repeated wears and laundering. Some fabrics wash more cleanly than others.

Some fabrics will also retain the smell of the environment they’re in—for example, the smell of garlic after cooking with the ingredient, or the smell of cigarette smoke.

TYPES OF FABRICS TO WATCH OUT FOR

All fibers absorb odors, but how much they absorb depends on the fiber’s surface and inner structure.

Generally, natural fibers are better than others at ridding themselves of unpleasant odors. Cotton, for example, releases the odorous substances during washing more easily than other fabrics. 2

Polyester, an oil-based fiber, has become notorious for odors because it holds odors even after washing.3 Both unwashed and washed polyester fabrics have higher odor intensity than unwashed and washed cotton fabrics.4

That’s why odor is a common consumer complaint about active wear, as athletic apparel is still primarily made of 100% synthetic fabric. The good news is cotton-rich active wear is available.

BOTTOM LINE

To avoid persistent odor in your clothing, choose natural fibers like cotton over synthetics like polyester.

CHECK THE LABEL

  • 1 Cotton Incorporated Lifestyle Monitor.™
  • 2 Cotton Incorporated Consumer Textile Research on Negative Textile Issues.
  • 3 Munk, et al. “Microbial Survival and Odor in Laundry.”
  • 4 McQueen, et al. “The Retention and Build-up of Body Odor in Cotton Fabrics: A Field Trial,” University of Alberta.
  • 5 Cotton Incorporated Customer Comments Project.
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