Anti-bacterial clothing refers to activewear purported to have anti-bacterial properties. The benefit to this is that you stink – when going hard at the gym, on the sports field, and otherwise breaking a sweat.

With that in mind, anti-bacterial clothing may help you stink a little less.

Sure enough, much like you’ve seen anti-bacterial soaps and detergents at your local pharmacy, you don’t have to look far to find clothes sold with that pretty label. Companies push anti-bacterial clothing to keep folks smelling nifty when it matters most.

You can buy anti-bacterial socks, underwear, and shirts, among other garments that make your eyes water ’cause, well, they’re anti-bacterial! But should you?

Why You Stink When You Sweat

Ironically, sweat doesn’t stink. Bacteria does, when it quickly multiplies and breaks sweat down into acids and proteins. The more you sweat, the more this happens – and the more likely you are to smell kinda rude.

This serves a vital function to your body, but biology didn’t exactly have roses in mind when it designed this process

Body odor is especially bad in the armpits and groin. That’s because you have high concentrations of apocrine glands – the gland most often linked to body odor – in these areas.

Anti-Bacterial Clothing: Good Or Bad?

Well, that depends. You’ll hear different opinions on this. The good folks at Prevention say clothing pitched as ‘anti bacterial’ or ‘germ-resistant’ is typically treated with anti-bacterial chemicals, including silver, triclosan and trichlorocarban.

A study by the Swedish Chemical Agency found these odor-killing compounds washed out very quickly – sometimes after just 3 rounds in a washing machine.

Silver fared a little better. However, when used in nano-particle form, like some activewear makers do, these tiny particles can enter the blood stream, and make their way to the brain.

You’ve likely heard that many non-stick cooking pans are dangerous. Indeed, while they are improving, it’s likely best not to use pans treated with PFOA – a suspected carcinogen.

The same idea applies to anti-bacterial clothing. Things can get hairy when fabrics are treated by chemicals known to have adverse health effects.

Is Bamboo Clothing Anti-Bacterial?

Bamboo fiber comes from bamboo plants, which can grow quickly on small plots of land. Good karma to and Photo by kazuend on Unsplash

The Bamboo fiber you find online, and indeed, even in our own Abenaki Bamboo Cross-Trainer t shirt is a viscose fabric. That means it’s made from regenerated fiber – in this case, bamboo.

It’s important to clarify viscose fibres are broken down and then treated with chemicals. The difference, however, is that bamboo fiber is typically not treated with anti-bacterial agents.

Bamboo fiber is exceptionally light and wicks moisture. It stretches well, and notably, the argument has been made it is more naturally resistant to bacteria than polyester and wool.

A 2011 study in the Journal of Consumer Sciences appears to support this theory, although it stops short of saying regenerated bamboo fiber preserves natural bamboo’s anti-bacterial properties.

What About Merino Wool?

Merino wool comes from Merino Sheep (who’da thunk?). Its wool has a smaller diameter than other sheep. That gives it a softer touch and less itching than you’d get with other wool garments.

Sheep make a wax from their glands, called lanolin, that appears to have anti-microbial properties. I am not aware of any studies done specificially on merino wool to test its efficacy in the science of stink. While it appears wool is more prone to bacterial growth than bamboo, many people wear merino wool can be worn for weeks without wash.

That might be owing to Merino Wool’s tighter weave. And, like bamboo fabric, Merino Wool is not immune to false advertizing, (not all Merino sheep make wool suitable for clothing).

Still, as many folks will tell you, Merino Wool appears to be a good option in the ongoing fight to smell like roses. That’s especially useful if you’re physically active, travel a lot, or just sweat more than other folks, as some people do.

Should I Buy Anti-Bacterial Clothing?

Well hell yes! We would love it if you moseyed over to our store and bought the Abenaki Bamboo Shirt. But it depends on what you’re after.

As we’ve discussed, some fabrics appear to be more naturally resistant to others. Bamboo fiber and Merino Wool are good anti-bacterial clothing options if you’re looking for activewear that can take a licking with plenty of comfort.

Anti-bacterial clothing made of fabrics like polyester and which are then treated with anti-microbial agents may not hold these properties for long. They might not be safe, either.

Bamboo clothing is light and tends to stretch well. Merino Wool does appear to hold off stenches. The takeaway here? Bamboo fabric makes good anti-bacterial clothing for quick and intense time in the gym. Merino Wool is a good option for travelling light because you can wear it longer with less concern it will stink.

Disclaimer: Abenaki sells a bamboo workout t shirt because we think bamboo is f**kin’ rad.