What’s The Connection Between Artificial Fabrics And Body Odor?

There’s nothing worse than the moment you notice the smell of B.O. on your clothes. You might also notice some clothes in your wardrobe are more prone to smelling than others. Inspecting the tag on these textiles will undoubtedly reveal artificial (or synthetic) fabrics.

But with buzzwords like ‘sweat-wicking’ or ‘ultra-breathable,’ you would assume these fabrics can combat sweat and odor. So why isn’t your clothing doing the job?

Today we’ll examine the connection between body odor and artificial fabrics and share the best materials to wear for body odor prevention.

What is Artificial Fabric?

Unlike natural fabrics made from animal or plant-based fibers, artificial fabrics contain petroleum-based polymer chemicals. Believe it or not, you can find these polymers in ketchup bottles, in the varnish on your dining table and many of your clothes.

The first synthetic fabric was invented in the 1930s. It served as an alternative to silk, which was expensive and hard to come by. Today, these fabrics make up about 60% of clothing on the market.

Here are the most common artificial fabrics:

  • Nylon
  • Polyester and Polyester Fleece
  • Spandex
  • Acrylic
  • Olefin
  • Microfiber
  • Neoprene
  • Vinylon
  • Synthetic fur, suede and leather

The above make up some of these branded synthetic fabrics you may recognize: Gore-Tex, Lycra, Polartec, Dri-FIT and CoolMax.

Artificial fabric has many advantages that manufacturers, clothing companies and consumers desire. Artificial fabric is:

  • Wrinkle-resistant: You’ll often see terms like “wash and wear,” “no iron,” and “easy care” on synthetic fabrics.
  • Quick-drying (sweat-wicking): Artificial fabric resists water, setting the standard for nearly all workout wear.
  • Inexpensive: Artificial fabric is exponentially cheaper to manufacture, resulting in low price tags for shoppers.
  • Stretchy and strong: Artificial fabrics are durable, stretch significantly more than natural fabrics and retain their shape after washing.

Learn more: What is Anti-Odor Technology?

The Connection Between Body Odor and Artificial Fabrics

Artificial fabrics seemingly have a lot of benefits. But why are they culprits of body odor?

Artificial fabrics are hydrophobic, meaning they repel water (think “sweat-wicking”). When we sweat, the clothing wicks water away from the skin.

While human sweat does contain water, it also contains a thicker, fattier secretion. Artificial fabrics fail to repel or absorb this secretion.

Artificial fabrics may be hydrophobic, but they are also oleophilic or oil-loving. Synthetic fabrics can wick sweat away, but still leave behind the oily substance in your sweat. This sweat byproduct permeates the fabric, creating the optimal environment for odor-causing bacteria to grow.

As a result, manufacturers use antibacterial additives such as silver to combat bacterial growth. While there seems to be an initial success in keeping odor at bay, tests show that machine-washing deactivates most of these agents after only ten washes on average.

Here’s the main takeaway: Artificial fabrics intensify the smell of body odor due to their synthetic, non-natural material and construction. It’s nearly impossible to prevent odor from flourishing on these fabrics or remove it with washing.

Best Fabrics for Odor Prevention

Natural fabrics or blends should be your go-to if you have concerns about body odor. Unlike synthetic fabrics, natural fibers are absorbent, meaning they won’t leave behind the oily residue that causes body odor to permeate clothing.

Here are our top recommendations for odor-resistant fabrics:


Cotton is a trustworthy fabric known for its softness and breathability. It also ranks high on the list for odor prevention.

Cotton is highly absorbent and will not leave the concentrated oily sweat on your clothes the way synthetics do. Plus, cotton can stand up to heavy washing in hot water.


Bamboo contains natural antibacterial properties making it the perfect odor combatant. It is also lightweight, breathable, moisture-wicking and hypoallergenic.

Merino Wool

Merino wool is surprisingly breathable. Like cotton, it is also very absorbent and can absorb moisture from the skin, keeping you dry. This soft wool smells fresh and stays clean through multiple wears.


Linen is a natural fiber made from flax. It is similar to bamboo, as it contains antibacterial properties. Linen is durable, hypoallergenic and high-quality.


Hemp is naturally antibacterial and three times stronger than cotton. Hemp is sustainable, requiring very little water to grow and is biodegradable, unlike any synthetic fabric.


Many textile blends combine the best of both natural and synthetic fabric. These blends incorporate the moisture-wicking benefits of synthetic fabric and odor prevention benefits of natural fabric.

Tackle Body Odor with the Thompson Tee

Meet your new wardrobe staple (and say goodbye to odor-causing synthetic shirts!).

The Thompson Tee Premium Undershirt is made with a soft and luxurious Supima cotton and MicroModal blend. It’s infused with revolutionary Odor Shield™ technology, a natural, non-toxic hydrogen peroxide-based solution that eliminates 99.9% of bacteria in the fabric and can withstand at least 70 wash cycles.

Our Premium Undershirts are available in crewneck or v-neck styles - perfect for everyday wear.

Try the Thompson Tee risk-free today! 

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