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Why Polartec Picked Peppermint for Performance Fabrics

Material innovator Polartec is tapping an all-natural ingredient to promote odor-resistance in across its line of performance fabrics.

The Massachusetts company announced Tuesday that it will be switching from metal-based odor-fighting agents to peppermint oil. The move marks an evolution away from common additives to a renewable and biodegradable solution—a part of the brand’s eco-engineering push. The company aims to find sustainable alternatives to environmentally unfriendly coatings and additives that help fabrics to stand up to the elements—and wearers’ sweat.

Anti-odor agents have long been used to extend a product’s lifespan and cut energy usage by skirting the need for frequent washing, said Polartec, which has been looking for an eco-friendly option that doesn’t sacrifice performance. “Knowing that body odor occurs when bacteria metabolize fatty acids and proteins in sweat, and secrete waste, Polartec turned to peppermint oil,” it said. The odorless formulation developed by the in-house researchers “effectively inhibits the growth of odor-causing microbes in the fabric,” it added.

Polartec's PowerDry fabrication will be among the materials imbued with odorless peppermint oil.
Polartec’s PowerDry fabrication will be among the materials imbued with odorless peppermint oil. Polartec

Polartec’s trials saw a 99 percent microbial reduction on fabrics, even after 50 wash cycles, rendering the treatment “effectively permanent.” What’s more, the company’s “sniff judges” said the odorless peppermint oil offered equal or superior protection compared with metal-based fabric treatments used in the past. Polartec is moving forward with the treatment in all Power Dry, Power Grid, and Delta fabrics, with production in Italy and China to begin in the late fall. U.S. production will integrate peppermint oil within the next 12 months.

“Sustainably harvested using an eco-friendly steam extraction process, peppermint oil is a naturally derived solution to an age-old problem,” said Karen Beattie, Polartec’s senior marketing manager. “This new odor-resist treatment using responsibly sourced, all natural peppermint oil aligns with our overarching Polartec eco-engineering mission, which is to develop performance materials based in sustainable science.”

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As a part of that mission, the company announced in July that it would eliminate PFAS (per- and polyfluoralkyl substances) in its durable water repellent treatments. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has warned that PFAS can accumulate in the human body and the environment over time without breaking down or biodegrading. These chemicals can lead to adverse health effects such as higher cholesterol levels among those exposed and possible immune system problems.

Polartec said its PFAS-free development provides a similar degree of durability and water repellency and has already been rolled out across numerous product lines.