Honey, does this stink? My search for antimicrobial clothing

by Jan 23, 2019Humor

Body odor is a rather personal subject, so while it is not my intention to offend, I will admit I can stink. Which is how I found myself testing odor-free antimicrobial clothing.

Body odor is a rather personal subject, so while it is not my intention to offend, consider this a warning up front – I stink. You see, when my sweat meter is pumping, or if I am several days between showers and laundry facilities when traveling, my stink factor soars. Even my wife has been known to experience wooziness when approaching within several feet of me after a hard workout. So, naturally, I was both thrilled and slightly apprehensive at the prospect of testing antimicrobial clothing that claims to magically nuke offensive smells through a variety of processes: silver impregnation, free oxygen, and chemical concoctions.

I was thrilled because now, theoretically, I would be able to go weeks between clothes washing without triggering adverse olfactory responses from fellow travelers and friends. Not having to hover over a hotel or B&B sink washing my shirt, pants and undies every night would be divine! The downside to this miracle, and hence my trepidation, was that if my clothing no longer stunk, yet there was still a foul odor in the air, all fingers would point directly at me.

Still, I have to admit the thought of outfitting myself in a complete travel wardrobe of non-stink clothing was attractive. So, in the interest of product testing, I shopped. As I pawed through the travel catalogs, I discovered I could essentially outfit myself from head to toe in anti-microbial socks, undies, T-shirts, pants and more. I discovered a number of companies even manufactured sport bras with antimicrobial finishes, though I declined to mention this to my wife for the same reasons a husband knows to keep his mouth shut concerning matters of weight gain or age.

My testing began with the arrival of a travel shirt made from a fabric impregnated with zeolites. Not to be confused with any one of a number of historic religious cultures you may have read about in travel literature and history books, of course. Zeolites are microscopic mineral structures that release free oxygen, which is the arch-enemy of all bacteria that cause foul odor. Although wearing a garment that would, essentially, become a microbial battleground had me feeling a tad nervous, I toed the line and bravely began to travel and, of course, sweat. Then I did the unthinkable: Yes, after a multi-day trip with plenty of sweating toward the end, I tossed my still-damp shirt into the hamper and closed the lid! Two days later I returned to the hamper and opened the lid. I was expecting to encounter a smell that would remind me of the four-hour stint I spent enjoying solitary confinement in a high-school quarterback’s locker (I probably did something to deserve that). However, instead of a nasty, odiferous crumpled rag, I was greeted with an odor-free shirt that I could wear again without washing. Even my wife was impressed, though she reminded me that I, on the other hand, could use a shower. Round two of my tests began with the arrival of select silver-impregnated garments. Upon unpacking the boxes, I could see that just wearing the socks held great promise. After all, the accompanying literature proclaimed that silver would not only eliminate foot odor, it would also rejuvenate tired feet. How? Apparently, silver reacts with the body’s natural electrical field, offering, the literature boasted, benefits similar to acupuncture. Even more thrilling to me, though, was the discovery my body generated an electrical field which, I imagine, will come in very handy during the next power outage in California. 

But the fringe benefits don’t stop there, and yes, I know what you are thinking. Frankly, I immediately wondered the same thing. If socks with silver in them reacted with my body’s electrical field, imagine what underwear with silver in them would do. Eliminating odor would be a mere fringe benefit compared to walking around with a silly grin on my face all day.

Alas, after several weeks of testing various pieces of antimicrobial clothing (the end of which had my wife threatening to run me through a car wash while lashed to the front of her CRV), I felt no electrical lift to either my feet or my nether regions … not even a passing tingle. As for smell, while my undies and socks certainly did not have that fresh-as-a-daisy aroma, they were also surprisingly not malodorous. I know this because I had to sniff my own undergarments (my wife offered no help at all). Being a professional tester of travel gear can be hell.

On the upside, packing along antimicrobial clothing has meant I can now go a few days between washes and less time spent over a sink scrubbing undies and socks. It also means I am able to pack fewer clothes, and in the world of packing and travel, less is always more. Sadly, though, we’re back to me, and I still stink. At least that’s what my wife’s wrinkled nose just indicated while having to sit next to me on the train after 36 hours of travel.


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About The Author

Michael Hodgson

Adventurer, curious traveler, photojournalist, and lover of gin. Winner of multiple gold, silver, and bronze medals from NATJA for travel writing & photography excellence -- earning medals every year since 2018. Gold medal winner 2021 to 2023 in the IFWTWA Travel Photography Awards, Best in Show award winner in the 2023 photography awards, and winner of the Excellence in Journalism award in 2022. Winner of a Juror's Award and Best in Show in the 2023 California State Fair photography competition. Still searching for the perfect gin and tonic.