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Wool clothing anti-stink questions

Old 02-20-17, 12:20 PM
  #1  
tyrion
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Wool clothing anti-stink questions

Does any kind of wool have this anti-stink power, or is it only Merino wool? It seems like Merino wool is attributed this property, but maybe that's just good PR from the Merino people.

Must it be pure wool? Do blends degrade the anti-stink power proportional to amount of non-wool in the blend, or does 10% nylon ruin it?

What other cloth has similar anti-stink powers?
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Old 02-20-17, 05:02 PM
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Reminds me of a story. Once long ago when I was a kid, my great grammy gave me a real-deal Hudson Bay blanket. Itchy as all get out, but warm and cozy. I took it camping all the time. It was as awesome in the spring and summer as it was in the fall. If it wasn't so heavy, it would be the ideal touring companion. Dries fast, does not get smelly (mine was never washed - ever), and durable.

It never stank at all. In fact, I can't remember any of my wool GI clothing ever smelling at all. The wool socks that I have never reek of rancid cheesy-toe like my cotton and synthetic socks do.

My best guess is that its all wool, and not just merino.
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Old 02-20-17, 05:20 PM
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Wool in general, but merino wool is more comfortable with regard to not being itchy.
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Old 02-20-17, 05:40 PM
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I used Patagonia treated Polyester.. easier to wash and dry in the field..

Washing it wool/etc, removes your skin oils (human lanolin) .. bacteria = stink..

Last edited by fietsbob; 02-20-17 at 05:43 PM.
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Old 02-20-17, 06:15 PM
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Washing and being excessive about wool and odor will reduce it's value for warmth over time. I've experience an animal odor when wool gets damp which leaves once it drives. I try never to wash wool and always hang to dry if I do. The wool I use for dress clothing is different, but I still try to have cleaned infrequently.
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Old 02-20-17, 06:28 PM
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I use Icebreaker merino when touring for an off the bike shirt. Icebreaker is a new Zealand company that makes great clothing which is all preshrunk. I've just been touring for the last 9 days and wore the shirt every afternoon with only one wash.
Groundeffect also make great touring clothing. I've been wearing their clothing since they very first started
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Old 02-20-17, 07:46 PM
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Has to be 100% wool.

Wool blended with anything else does not work. The bacteria can't/won't grow on the wool, they'll just grow on the % that is poly or cotton or whatever. I have some tops that are 90% wool and 10% poly and they smell just like regular poly. Wool blends are good because they can be cheaper and warmer than regular poly. They're not nearly as good as 100% wool.

100% wool with not pick up odors from sweat. It will smell if material like food/blood/etc gets into the fibers but for just sweat/water/etc it will not pick up odors.

Kind of unintentionally I went an entire winter season without washing a wool top baselayer. Never smelled and looked like new all winter even though I had several rides where it was soaked with sweat. I had planned to wash once it smelled but it never did so I just kinda forgot.
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Old 02-20-17, 09:00 PM
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My experience is 100% wool never stinks. I wash mine only rarely. If it doesn't look dirty I just keep wearing it. If it gets wet, I let it air-dry or wear it and it dries quite quickly. My experience is all wool is good but merino feels the best.

I'm an Icebreaker fan. It's pricey but worth it, IMO. I try and buy end-of-season close-outs for good deals.
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Old 02-20-17, 09:16 PM
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I'm another icebreaker fan, but I do wash it.
What is it about 100% wool that keeps it from stinking? My understanding is that the odour comes from bacteria and your body oils. Is there something in wool that keeps the bacteria from multiplying?
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Old 02-20-17, 09:20 PM
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We wear numerous garments from Ibex in merino wool. Get a lot of benefit out of the no-smell properties, tho we don't push it as far as the gent who did the entire winter season. Maybe there's a reason military uniforms in N Europe were always wool, eh?
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Old 02-20-17, 09:25 PM
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I'm with bikebob in post no. 4. There are lots of great synthetics that keep you warm when wet and are easy peasy to wash and dry.
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Old 02-20-17, 10:26 PM
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I think wool has a slight anti-stink edge but OTOH for me synthetics stay pretty fresh as long as washed daily plus it's nice how they can be dry enough to wear right out of the wash. Worst stink I got was riding all day in hot weather with no socks, I wrongly assumed the plastic shoes wouldn't harbor bacteria.

BTW once read about cutting boards vs bacteria: wooden ones were assumed to harbor more bacteria than non-porous plastic ones but actually the wooden boards did a bit better.
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Old 02-21-17, 05:07 AM
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I never found the "no stink" claim to be true for me in the usage where I have used wool. I am old enough to have worn a lot of wool before good synthetics for outdoor wear came along. When synthetics came on the scene in the form of the original Lifa polypro stuff, I found that it quickly developed a stench, but over the last 30 or 40 years synthetics got better and better. Maybe I have weird body chemistry or find the smell of wool more objectionable than some folks do.

I have not found 100% wool to wear especially well. Nicer wool stuff tends to be pretty expensive. I have found it to soak up a lot of water and to dry very slowly.

I have found that I much prefer synthetics. I have found that some of my synthetic garments tend to stink more than others, so I choose which ones to take on tour with that in mind. I have found is that some of them do start to get a bit worse in odor after several weeks on the road. At that point, washing them with liquid Tide in hot water serves as a reset and they are good to go with getting rinsed out in the evening and cold water washing when available for quite a while.

For shirts I like running tees, Nike Dri Fit are nice as are similar ones in other brands. Most of mine were bought for $5-10 at Ross. The readily available and reasonably priced Champion stuff isn't bad either.

I have found that cheap poly sport socks in shoes with plenty of mesh work well for me and smell less than the $$$ wool ones that I have tried.
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Old 02-21-17, 07:16 AM
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Originally Posted by skookum View Post
What is it about 100% wool that keeps it from stinking? My understanding is that the odour comes from bacteria and your body oils. Is there something in wool that keeps the bacteria from multiplying?
Here's an interesting link: Rough Science . New Zealand . Shakers . Hand Cream | PBS

I think wool has a slight anti-stink edge but OTOH for me synthetics stay pretty fresh as long as washed daily
That's the point, you don't have to wash wool clothing items daily, or really even weekly for some stuff. If you can afford it wool is really great stuff.
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Old 02-21-17, 07:29 AM
  #15  
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I wear merino socks and a beanie, but everything else is synthetic because it is lighter, wears better and dries quicker. I wash my riding clothes every night so they never get a chance to stink.
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Old 02-21-17, 08:24 AM
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This is a religious divide. Either you are pro wool or pro synthetic.

I am pro wool.
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Old 02-21-17, 08:59 AM
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Originally Posted by skookum View Post
This is a religious divide. Either you are pro wool or pro synthetic.

I am pro wool.
Some probably use both. I find wool to be very resistant to odor, while synthetics do start to smell quickly, even high quality. In the summer I use quick dry shirts and just wash them whenever I can on tour. In cooler weather I take a wool sweater instead of a fleece, as it can go the whole way without washing. To keep stink foot at bay, all my socks are high percentage wool.

For day to day riding at home its the same. None of the wool I own is bike specific, just regular high quality sweaters with no patterns. They maintain more warmth in a light rain, and usually I wont bother with a shell.

As for washing, every once in a while I hand wash them with some hair conditioner instead of soap, something my grandmother taught me. It gets the dirt out, and seems to keep the natural fibers in good shape. Some of my sweaters are going on five or more years, not just cycling but stuff I treat rough cutting firewood and working outdoors, so it seems to work. It can also bring a sweater that has been washed in hot water mostly back up to its original size, but not quite all the way.
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Old 02-21-17, 10:01 AM
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Originally Posted by skookum View Post
This is a religious divide. Either you are pro wool or pro synthetic.

I am pro wool.
Heavy in the "both" category.

I have synthetic gear for frequent overnights, commuting, etc. It wears hard and is cheap to replace. Uniqlo makes $20 baselayers that I live out of. I wash these all the time.

I have wool gear for long tours, expeditions, especially cold conditions, etc. I try to maximize the life I get from them.

In both categories, I buy cheap or I buy used. Wool with a couple of moth holes drops in price on Ebay by 150%. It's great!
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Old 02-21-17, 10:02 AM
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Oh, I should also say, I love Ragg Wool for socks and gloves. It never wears out and it's super cheap.
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Old 02-21-17, 10:30 AM
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Originally Posted by Spoonrobot View Post
Has to be 100% wool.


Kind of unintentionally I went an entire winter season without washing a wool top baselayer. Never smelled and looked like new all winter even though I had several rides where it was soaked with sweat. I had planned to wash once it smelled but it never did so I just kinda forgot.
I did something similar. Moved back home after living away for seven months for work. I have a merino wool zip up biking sweater and used it a lot over the seven months, including running a 5K in it, as well as commuting to and from work. Once I moved back, I realized I had not washed it once during the seven months. It had zero smell.
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Old 02-21-17, 03:27 PM
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Originally Posted by skookum View Post
This is a religious divide. Either you are pro wool or pro synthetic.

I am pro wool.
Originally Posted by shipwreck View Post
Some probably use both.
Exactly, I use both.

I tried using only wool for base and mid layers, but I found that even lightweight Ibex 100% Merino can't wick my sweat fast enough to keep me from getting cold in the winter. The Merino would hold onto the sweat which would chill the core of my body.

Now, I wear a polypro base layer (Terramar lightweight long johns) under my Merino wool, and I'm much drier and warmer. The poly base layer wicks the sweat away from my skin.

In cooler weather, I still wear a jersey or performance top (Under Armor, for example) under a light wool shirt.

In the peak of the humid Iowa summer, I don't wear any wool at all (besides some wool-blend socks). It just can't wick the sweat fast enough for me.


Regarding anti-stink, my Merino blends (like Ibex shorts, that include some spandex in the fabric) don't get stinky easily. I've never noticed them getting smelly like synthetics.
Most of my synthetics seem to do fine, but I definitely have a couple synthetic tops (Under Armor) that will always have a little stinky funk to them, even after repeated washings.
But I'll deal with the occasional stink for the dependable performance of my poly base layer. And I treasure the non-stinkiness of all my Merino gear.
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Old 02-21-17, 03:35 PM
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I appreciate everyone's responses here, learning a lot.
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Old 02-22-17, 12:35 AM
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Originally Posted by Spoonrobot View Post
Here's an interesting link: Rough Science . New Zealand . Shakers . Hand Cream | PBS



That's the point, you don't have to wash wool clothing items daily, or really even weekly for some stuff. If you can afford it wool is really great stuff.
Don't have to wash wool base layer even after all-day ride in hot temps?
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Old 02-22-17, 12:55 AM
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Maybe it's just me but - I've had success making wool socks smell. You just have to be committed to the project.
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Old 02-22-17, 08:07 AM
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I tried synthetics before discovering wool or before quality wool undergarments were easily available. I like synthetics for their durability but I found that not only do they stink, they seem to start to stink sooner as they age.

Once I discovered merino wool I never looked back. It simply keeps me decent ;-) I have the gift to make even wool garments smell a little bit.

Having said that, once the weather turns warm I find hardly any use to wear wool during the day unless we are talking about cold, windy and/or rainy weather. I might bring a wool undershirt in along but I end up biking majority of my time in cotton garments. Cotton also resists smelling as compared to synthetics. Not as well as wool but well enough.

The above was all about garments above my waist ;-)

For under my waist I do wear my bike shorts that are some kind of synthetic blend.
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