The science behind odour-fighting wool clothes allows brands to champion a ‘wear-more wash-less’ collection, with research proving wool is naturally resistant to odour.
Wool garments and textiles are naturally odour resistant due to the fibre’s unique properties. Wool fibres can absorb large quantities of water vapour – twice as much as cotton and thirty times as much as polyester – helping to keep the skin drier and prevent the build-up of sweat, bacteria and unpleasant smells. The unique chemical structure of wool also enables it to absorb and lock away odours which may develop, and only release them on washing.
Wool naturally resists body odour
Wool has a number of unique moisture management properties that allow it to minimise the effects of body odour:
- Wool is a hygroscopic fibre, meaning it readily absorbs moisture – up to 35% of its own weight – keeping the skin surface drier and discouraging bacterial growth.
- Wool absorbs and locks way odours during wear. The wool fibre actively binds odours within the fibre where bacteria do not thrive. As a result, the garment remains fresh for much longer.
- These odours are then significantly released by wool garments when laundered, with wool garments retaining less odour than cotton and synthetics after washing.
Wool keeps you fresher for longer compared to apparel made from other fibres
Wool fabrics are less odorous after wear than fabrics made from other natural or man-made fibres, such as cotton and polyester. Research has shown that high levels of odours persist in unwashed polyester clothes, but odour levels remain low in unwashed wool clothes. One New Zealand study which involved 13 skilled olfactory (smell) assessors found that wool fabrics on average retained 66% less body odour intensity than polyester fabrics and 28% less than cotton fabrics.
Wearing wool is proven to reduce body odour
The odour sorption and emission characteristics of fabrics affect their functional performance, particularly for sportswear.
This study, conducted by the Institute for Frontier Materials at Deakin University, systematically evaluated the impact of wool in polyester/wool blends on body odour retention properties. It was found that wool had the highest odour sorption capacity among all the test fabrics.
Under high levels of body odour, where sorption plays a more important role, 100% wool showed higher sorption capacity than all the polyester/wool blends.
CSIRO odour-wearer trials studying sock performance in activewear
Odour-wearer trials conducted by the CSIRO (see below graphs) show that Merino wool socks were preferred for both lack of odour after wearing, and also for lack of odour after washing, especially when compared to synthetic socks.