University of Alberta researcher wants your smelly, stinky, sweat-soaked clothing

Do you have any really smelly clothing that, no matter how hard you try or how many times you wash it, you just can’t seem to kick the odour? Don’t throw it out because the University of Alberta will happily take it off your hands.

Rachel McQueen, an associate professor in the Department of Human Ecology, is conducting a study to determine which fabrics absorb underarm odour the most, and she needs test subjects for her research.

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    “We’re just asking for people to donate clothing that has that persistent odour,” McQueen said. “It’s underarm odour that there’s been a persistent buildup of that odour over time and to the point of no return where the clothing’s been washed but it still smells.”

    McQueen hopes to find out which types of fabric are most prone to odour accumulation where laundering doesn’t help. Or, the article of clothing may smell okay as soon as it comes out of the wash, but doesn’t take long to start to stink once you put it on.

    “Sometimes it can happen faster in some products than others,” McQueen explained. “Is there a certain type? Is it consistently a certain type? Or is there a number of different types? And if there is, there’s likely to be different reasons that different types of fabrics can pick up odour than other types of fabrics.”

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    Yoga instructor and studio owner Pernille Tjelum experiences the putrid problem all too often.

    “I’m going to guess that I have probably gone through at least 40 outfits, if not more.”

    Tjelum admits the reason she goes through the garments so quickly is because of the revolting smell, not the quality of fabric.

    “Every time I stepped into the yoga room, I couldn’t stand the stench, the off-gassing, coming off my clothes.”

    It took years, but Tjelum finally found a brand that doesn’t stink. She did her part and donated some of her old smelly yoga gear to the university’s research.

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    McQueen and her team of researchers will look at the weight, thickness and fibre content of the fabric. She hopes her research will help people decide which types of clothing to buy, while helping companies decide which fabrics to work with.

    McQueen is looking for 100 to 200 pieces of clothing – no matter how funky. In particular, she’s looking for T-shirts, tank tops, sweaters or any other garment that touches your armpit. She only has one request – that you wash it before donating it to science.

    “We’re not necessarily asking for people to donate currently stinky stuff, but there would be some stink on it that’s residual, or persistent odour,” she said. “Ideally we would like people to actually give us something that is clean, not dirty.”

    For more information on how to donate your clothing, head to the University of Alberta’s website.

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