Body Odor No More – So What Is Merino Wool and How Does It Work?

Picture of man with Stinky ShirtIf you’ve got a friend who has a problem with body odor keep reading.  Ever since I wore the Icebreaker merino wool base layers in Alaska for eight days straight under heavy sweat conditions with “no stink” I have had a ton of questions on the science behind it and a few skeptics who still don’t believe it.

So in this post I will try to unravel the mystery.  First off  it is important to note that sweat itself has no odor, if it remains on the skin in time bacteria develops and that is what creates unpleasant body odor.   Yes sorry folks you still need to shower.  But why does merino wool succeed in eliminating body odor smell on the clothing itself where synthetics and other materials fail?  The first plus for merino wool in reducing the opportunity for body odor to generate is that it is more efficient than other textiles at absorbing sweat and evaporating it into the air.  Merino wool is  renowned for this wicking ability however what I find really amazing is that even though you are sweating heavily the clothing still feels dry to the touch.

That’s because merino wool has a much greater capacity than other fibers to absorb moisture. In fact, it can absorb 35% of its own weight in liquid. The moisture is bound within the structure, and so is not available to microbes which cause body odor.  Merino wool fibers are scaly and studies  have shown that bacteria are more attracted to the smooth, positively charged surface of a synthetic fiber than the scaly surface of a merino fiber which carries no charge thus bacteria are less likely to penetrate it.

So how good is merino wool at curbing the smell and when does it break?  Sir Peter Blake, a legendary New Zealand yachtsman wore Icebreaker merino wool clothing for 40 days and 40 nights while sailing around the globe without it getting whiffy.  One mans testimony is fine for most but I decided to take it a step further and take it til it breaks.

I’ve enrolled a group of crazy Canadians to take the Icebreaker “No Stink” Challenge.  Big thanks to Icebreaker for providing the test garment, just in case it explodes:))


In a nutshell there’s one shirt and many participants.  Each person will subject the shirt to a series of events that under normal circumstance would generate “mucho stinko” in any other garment.  When they are done they pass the shirt to the next participant and so on.  Did I mention no washing in between!!!  The event launched August 28th where I took it for two days worth of trail runnings.  At last report it had done 36 holes of golf and was holding up just fine.  I will have a full report for you when we break it, whenever that is.

If you can’t wait for the results and want to buy now go to the “Icebreaker Store” You may choose the country you reside in from a drop down menu at the top left of the site so that you may shop in your currency.


This entry was posted in Wildlife Photography Gear Review and tagged , , , , .


  1. Tina November 10, 2015 at 6:12 am #

    I disagree. I have had numerous Merino shirts, and all of them start smelling after the first time I wear them. I learned quickly that “airing” them out isn’t enough. So I regularly wash it every time I wear them, even then it still begins to build a smell that won’t wash out after a week or two. I have to soak it weekly in baking soda to try to keep the smell at bay. I wish the merino worked for me like it does everyone else. I can wear a cotton or polyester shirt more often with less washes with no smell. It is just merino. Something about it doesn’t mix with my chemistry. 🙁

    • Bill Maynard November 15, 2015 at 4:12 pm #

      Hmmm very unusual indeed, you’re the first person I’ve heard with this issue. For me it’s crazy how long I can wear merino without it smelling whereas my synthetics are smelly in one workout.

      • Matt November 13, 2018 at 4:24 am #

        There are definitely different causes of B.O. In the end all are chemistry, but most are generated from microbiology, but there is also an ammonia smell generated from a low-carb diet and lots of exhertion. Where wool prevents build up bacteria, maybe with something like that, it simply holds it in and builds it up.

        • Bill Maynard November 15, 2018 at 2:32 am #

          Hey Matt, I’m no scientist but understood that it had something to do with the composition of the individual merino fibers. In the end all I know and probably need to know is that it works, no smell after hours of sweating, drying and sweating again, it’s crazy good.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *