Don't Sweat It

November 28, 2001

There’s one thing we know about dance clothes: After even one class or rehearsal, they get sweaty faster than anything else in your closet. But synthetic materials like polyester, often found in dance and fitness clothing, tend to smell worse (and stink even faster) after exercise than other materials like cotton.

In a recent study, researchers at Ghent University in Belgium collected t-shirts (made of cotton, polyester or blends) from 26 individuals after an hour-long spinning session, and tested the bacteria on the shirts. A type called micrococci, known for its ability to cause bad odor, flourished most on the polyester shirts.

It’s unclear why this happens, but researchers suspect it has to do with the nature of polyester’s fibers. Manufacturers have been working to make the material less susceptible to this bacteria. For now though, polyester is still a good choice for athletes, as it’s lightweight, comfortable and breathable. And there’s always deodorant.