Skip to main content

Brands Turn to Science and Innovative Tech to Combat Smelly Socks

Textiles and sweat often don’t mix well, often evidenced by odor-ridden socks—but that could soon change.

The plague of smelly clothes has long existed in warm climates or after a brisk workout, and while some efforts in recent years have helped reduce the effect, like adding antimicrobials into fabrics, the root of the problem hasn’t been fully understood and the problem hasn’t been fully conquered.

“There’s always an interaction between the human skin, the microflora, the sweat and the fabrics,” Timo Hammer, chief executive officer of the Life Science & Care Group at Hohenstein Institute, said. “Textiles are challenged by various types of odors. The main approach over the years to reducing odor has been to use antimicrobial materials to fight odor, for example, silver-based products.”

In a webinar, “Sweat Odor Management by Textiles–Beyond Microbe Control to Odor Adherence and Release,” Hammer explained that sweat odor has long been one of the main challenges for apparel fabrics.

But bacteria is just one factor, Hammer noted. Also important are the sweat odor molecules, which wind up bound to the textile, emitting odors as they are released. Odor molecules can be imbedded or adhered to the fabric and return after washing under heat.

“Fiber composition has significant impact on sweat odor and release,” Hammer said. “What we should look at, no matter what technology you use, is how does the textile behave as far as odor molecules and odor adhesion…Textile products that have strong binding or adherence properties can limit the odor.”

To help with the problem, Hohenstein has established an elaborate and extensive testing process for odor reduction materials. A product that passes this strict test can be awarded the Hohenstein Quality Label “All Day Fresh.”

Related Stories

Sock manufacturers in particular, have been working to tackle the odoriferous problem.

Alfredo Gonzales updated its winter collection with warm socks that promise to “Stay Fresh.” The brand’s socks are made of a wool and cotton composition, with Polygiene technology added to ensure feet stay fresh and warm.

Polygiene, a world-leading provider of odor control technology, developed Stays Fresh technology to prevent the growth of odor-causing bacteria and fungi at the source, permanently. To do this Polygiene uses low concentrations of silver salt that has antimicrobial properties and is naturally present in water and soil, to safely eliminate the ability for bacteria and fungi to grow.

The permanent treatment is applied at the finishing stages of textile production and field and lab tests show a high level of odor control beyond the usual lifespan of a garment. This lifespan odor control is possible as the technology is bound and permanently integrated in the fabric and will not wash out.

Polygiene silver salt technology is only active on the textiles itself and with a heritage in the healthcare sector Polygiene has applied its expertise and testing to ensure that there is no effect on the natural bacterial flora of the skin.

Brands Turn Science and Innovative Tech Combat Smelly Socks
photo credit: MP Magic Socks

Continuing the efforts to combat odor, MP Magic Socks, dubbed “The World’s Best Odorless Socks,” are infused with silver, copper and zinc to keep feet cool and odor-free.

This combination of metals provides greater antibacterial protection than any single metal alone. Silver is known as a great antibacterial metal, copper can kill bacteria and zinc can also reduce the bacteria and odor, according to MP Magic Socks.

The brand’s socks have toe and heel areas that match the shape of the human foot and are breathable and durable. The socks also transfer heat more efficiently, making them more durable, too.

In addition, MP Magic socks are equipped with metal circulation wire zones, making them fully conductive, boosting foot circulation and reducing stiffness.

Gekks socks has also taken a multifaceted approach to fighting sock stench.

The innovative no-show socks line the interior heel, sole and tongue of the shoe, instead of slipping into the foot first. A micro-thin fastener connects the sock to the inside of the shoe. Gekks moisture-wicking fibers work to pull the moisture out of the foot for a dry feel, and the construction, knit with high-tech silver anti-microbial yarn to eliminate odors from sweat has been used by NASA.