Do Anti-Stink Clothing Treatments Really Work?
I worked, exercised, and slept in the same Polygiene shirt for eight days to find out just how well it could fight my BO. The good news: My wife didn't want to kill me after a week.
Outside's long reads email newsletter features our strongest writing, most ambitious reporting, and award-winning storytelling about the outdoors. Sign up today.
We all know wool base layers resist stink. Synthetics, on the other hand, get smelly and often need to be laundered after a single use. But Polygiene wants to change that. The Swedish company harvests a silver-salt liquid from recycled electronics that allegedly fights odors. It then applies that solution to preproduction fabric.
I wanted to find out if a Polygiene-treated shirt would buy me an extra week of use, so I ran, worked, and slept in the Patagonia Fore Runner Shirt until my wife demanded I take it off. Now, I showered during the test, but I never washed the shirt, and when it wasn’t on me, the shirt was left balled up in a corner. I should also note that my wife has a high tolerance for stink. (We courted when I was a truck-bound river guide who had ditched deodorant.) When I told her the premise of the review, she responded, “I would never kick you out of bed for smelling bad.”
I did my best to prove her wrong.
Day 1: I put on the clean shirt at 10 a.m. and ran 5.6 miles with 1,101 feet of elevation gain in 85-degree heat—while sweating out a high-octane IPA hangover from night before. Later in the day, I slow-cooked aromatic ramen broth for dinner, then went to sleep using the shirt as my pajamas. Result: The shirt went unnoticed by my wife.
Day 2: I wore the shirt over to a friend’s pool party, where he was smoking ribs. I swam most of day without the shirt on and spent some time admiring his ribs and smoking technique. Slept in the shirt. Result: It went unnoticed
Day 3: I worked all day in front of the computer with the shirt on, then ran 3.1 miles with 693 feet of elevation gain in 70-degree weather. I went to bed with the shirt on, but I took it off when I got too hot. Result: I noticed that the shirt had changed smells, but it didn’t bother me or my wife.
Day 4: Another workday in front of the computer, broken up by a 6.7-mile run with 1,265 feet of elevation gain and temps in the 80s. After my run, the shirt did have a musty smell but didn’t stink of BO. I’d compare it to what a cotton shirt might smell like after two days of normal use (no exercise). Result at bedtime: The shirt went unnoticed.
Day 5: A full day of work and a 5.6-mile run with 1,101 feet of elevation gain and temps in the low 80s. Result: When my wife gave me a hug after coming home from a friend’s house, she paused for a second but didn’t say anything. We went on with our evening, and I wore the shirt to bed.
Day 6: Rest day. I cleaned the house and worked in the yard. Result: I wanted my wife to really smell the shirt, so I took it off and had her take a whiff of the chest and pits. “I don’t mind it. It smells like you,” is her reaction to the chest. “There’s some BO [in the armpits]. I wouldn’t say it smells good, but it certainly isn’t polypoopalene [our nickname for old polypropylene that always smells awful].”
Day 7: A day of computer work with a 3.1-mile run with 785 feet of elevation gain and temps in the high 70s. Result: My wife took another whiff and said the shirt doesn’t smell bad, but it doesn’t smell good. She didn’t object to me wearing it in bed.
Day 8: A full day of computer work and a 3.1-mile run with 785 feet elevation gain and temps in the low 70s. Result: My wife was out of town at a conference, so I took the smell test. The armpits didn’t reek of BO, but they did smell slightly sour—not enough to bother a running partner but certainly enough to deserve a wash. I’d say the shirt smelled as bad as a non-Polygiene shirt might after one long run. It went into the laundry machine.
I’m impressed. No one, minus a few hundred thru-hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail, really need to go eight days in the same shirt without a wash, but it’s a convenient, energy- and water-saving feature nonetheless. I appreciated that I got the benefits of a quick-wicking synthetic shirt while running in summer heat and could go a full week without wasting any water on a wash. If you sweat a lot, work out in high temperatures, and don’t want to invest in a lot of shirts, I’d highly recommend a Polygiene-treated product.