Sweat Odor In Clothes


I recently bought two hand made suits, both are quite tight fitting under the armpits. Having now used the suits about 12/15 times I notice an odor of stale sweat of both suits even after dry cleaning. It is not a personal hygiene issue as I shower twice a day and use deodorants extensively.




Dear Frustrated:

Our expertise is workplace communication issues, but we certainly receive a lot of questions about odor, so hopefully we can assist you.

Sweaty odor is the result of the bacteria in perspiration. If your suits are tight-fitting under the arms, the enviornment for bacteria to grow is perfect–warm and damp…just like inside shoes and socks, which is why those are so often bad smelling.

So, antiperspirants rather than deodorants are needed to stop the sweat and the subsequent growth of bacteria. However, even with antiperspirants sweaty smells can develop, because nothing purchased over-the-counter completely stops sweat and the resulting bacteria.

Unfortunately, some fabrics hold sweat and bacteria more than others–among them are the synthetic fabrics used for blouses, suit linings and similar items. Dry cleaning doesn’t remove those odors easily. Even regular washing may not do it.

Call several full service dry cleaners and ask them if they have odor removal methods (not all do). Sometimes they have treatments for situations just like yours. Give that a try first, to get the odor out of the fabric.

Then, start using an antibacterial soap under your arms (not regular shower gel, but something advertised as antibacterial). Apply antiperspirant to dry underarms, then apply a layer of talcum to absorb more moisture. Some doctors suggest using foot powder directly under the arms, because it is also antibacterial.

Hopefully those measures will get rid of the odor in the fabric and stop them from coming back.

In they aren’t successful, consider two more options: 1. Have a tailor replace that portion of the suit lining. The lining probably is holding the odor. 2. Get more space under the arms in your suits.

Consider using pin-in shields in your shirts or blouses, to block perspiration.

And finally, as another measure, turn your suits inside out and put them in the sun (with the outside fabric protected from sun damage) as a way to get the odor out. That isn’t very successful for a quick fix, but some have found it helpful.

I hope a combination of these things will get your suits good smelling again. It’s worth trying all of them, if it will keep you from having an odor problem at work.

Best wishes!

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.