However, in the paper, ‘Wool in Human Health and Well-Being’ by Raechel Laing and Paul Swan, the authors concluded that “No evidence has been identified which shows wool is intrinsically antibacterial or antimicrobial”, but also that “Wool fabrics (garments) after wear, have less intense odour than matched cotton or polyester fabrics”.
When wool is processed for fabric most of the lanolin is removed.
Furthermore, in the McQueen et al. study mentioned above, the bacterial counts on day one were similar for all fabrics.
So then why is it that when tested wool garments consistently come in lowest on the odour scale?
If you look at what body odour is, you see a picture emerging. Body odour is caused largely by bacteria and other organisms that are present on our skin. When these interact with human sweat, they can result in an unpleasant odour. Clothing can attribute to this due to organisms that can reside in certain fabrics. So it makes sense that the less you sweat the less you smell and that what you wear can make a difference.
Wearing wool garments can slow thermophysiological responses meaning you remain comfortable in a wider range of conditions.
Wool is naturally hygroscopic and thus has the ability to absorb moisture and transport it away from the body leaving your skin dry and comfortable. Unlike synthetic fabrics where sweat build up becomes a breeding ground for bacteria, wool’s breathability reduces the risk of your clothes taking on unpleasant body odour.
Because of the above, wool clothing outperforms other fibres when it comes to odour resistance, and it doesn’t need to be washed anywhere near as frequently as synthetics. Simply airing your wool garment will help cleanse the fibre. This is an added benefit if you are hiking or biking and need to keep the clothing you carry to a minimum. Reducing the number of times you washing your clothes is also beneficial for the environment. (For more about this, read our blog post: ‘Are Our Clothes Polluting the Oceans?’)
Wear wool, sweat less, smell sweeter!