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Gear Guy

How do I wash the sweaty odor from my hat?

How do I wash the sweaty odor from my polypropylene toque? I used Wisk liquid detergent without success. The toque is clean but it still smells badly. I need help. Alexander Do Toronto, Ontario, Canada

A: Alas, Alexander. Your sad plaint is hardly unique. Some synthetic fabrics —- older-style polypropylene was particularly prone to this —- don't just absorb body odors, they actually chemically BOND to those odors. Think of a spinning little polypropylene atom. Among its electrons and protons you might find, in the case of your toque (now, THERE is a funny word —- toque!), actually stink electrons that have insinuated themselves into your hat's atomic structure. I believe this was the case for the guy who sat in front of me at a showing of Lord of the Rings last week, and unbuttoned his thick, cheap parka in the warm theater. Well, pretty soon a certain aroma had insinuated itself through about six rooms, making it difficult to focus on the screen even when the jaw-droppingly beautiful Liv Tyler made an all-too-brief appearance.

So, you can wash the thing in pure Wisk, and chances are your toque will still stink. You might try spraying it with some Febreze, an odor-remover that seems to work pretty well. But my advice is this: Buy a new hat. Get yourself a Manzella Power Dry Cap ($12 U.S.), a nice, lightweight hat made with modern Power Dry Polartec. It not only will better resist smell bonding, it even comes with an anti-germ finish. Or, for something warmer, an Outdoor Research Windstopper Alpine Hat ($23), made with wind-proof fleece for extra warmth. It, too, is made of new-generation material that is far less apt to smell.

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