Science: Polyester Makes You Smell


Ladies, open your closets and I’m sure even the most conscientious of you will find at least one offender lurking in there. A sneak peek in my wardrobe doesn’t just present me with a lone culprit hiding between a chic silk smock and a collection of elegant organic cotton haute couture. What I’m presented with is a veritable assault of brash, brightly coloured and unreasonably unapologetic polyester garments stinking out my style. And guess what? It’s not going anywhere. You can throw out polyester but it won’t biodegrade. You might think burning it is a solution but it will just coat your lungs in toxic fumes. It doesn’t just stubbornly hang on for dear life, though, it’s a collector. Polyester spends its days out recruiting every available stench, harbouring stale perfume, smelly feet (ask yourself why they smell), exhaust fumes and cigarette smoke. Every halitosis breath that’s ever been exhaled on to your polyester blouse will be stored in its very fibre for the purposes of breeding in your closet.

The thing polyester prizes above everything else is your sweat. Every trickle of lady-like perspiration you've ever radiated will be gathered-up in your polyester maxi and invited to a bacteria orgy. Whereupon, it will get down to the dirty business of procreating and, before you know it, you have a great, stinking, sweaty, monster of germs.

That escalated  quickly from you buying a poly-mix sweater to having the Frankenstein's Monster of sweat living in your bottom drawer, but if you think I’m exaggerating, give the contents of your gym bag a quick sniff then come back and talk to me. The truth is that polyester doesn’t just stink, it makes you stink too.

Now, before you get too downhearted I’m here to tell you this: YOU DON’T SMELL! Your delicate little perfectly formed rivulets of perspiration are really quite innocuous. Sweat smells of nothing at all. However, when your perspiration is hosted by polyester – which is essentially plastic – which in reality is petrochemicals, it becomes a hotbed for a bacteria called micrococci. Micrococci are nasty little stinkers that use your synthetic clothing and your hard-earned sweat to fornicate themselves into an unholy stink, and there’s not much you can do to get rid of them. They simply love synthetic fibres and eating sweat (each to their own right?). You might think that laundering could eradicate them? Sorry ladies, but you’d think wrong. A good ol' eco-wash will generate an ideal mating temperature for them and on they’ll go. A boil-wash won’t help you much either, you’re liable to just temporarily mask their foul aroma with that of laundry powder but that doesn’t mean they’re not still going at it.

Micrococci have been described as an “opportunistic pathogen”. In other hosts, they can actually contribute to the biodegradation process, which sounds like a glimmer of hope. It isn’t. They won’t rot away your polyester for you. Together, they’ll likely be the surviving partnership in a nuclear meltdown.

Speaking of “partnerships” I want you to stop what you’re doing and consider for a moment what wearing synthetic underwear is doing for you. Contemplate it. Imagine everything I just told you and now imagine those unwanted party guests breaking all kinds of hell loose in your panties. Picture that Frankenstein Monster of stench we discussed at the outset and now he’s in your knickers AND YOU CAN’T GET HIM OUT.

Polyester panties ought to be a criminal offence and if you’re not with me on this one then consider this for a moment. The Ig Nobel Prize, awarded by Nobel-winning scientists, in honour of some of the strangest scientific research and absurd lines of enquiry, awarded Egyptian Sexologist Ahmed Shafik this year. Shafik, for reasons surely known to himself, wanted to know what the results of making a rat where trousers for six months would be. As it goes, there weren’t really any particularly alarming results. None of the rats, as far as I know, asked for matching double-breasted jackets and a cravat. However, the rat that was decked-out in polyester (kick-flares?) had one very notable side-effect. He no longer wanted to shag. This particular hipster rodent went right off the nooky. Shafik suggested this could be because of the electro-static charges created by synthetic fibres. But knowing what we know about the vile stench of the gate-crashing stench monster, I rather think the poor animal was just hiding in a corner, unable to make eye contact with his prospective partners due to the gross and pungent aroma coming from his pants. Don’t be the humiliated hipster rodent in the corner

Let’s collectively admit that polyester makes us stink and start making eye contact again.