Polartec Infuses Fabric With Peppermint Oil to Combat Body Odor

This is a natural, metal-free alternative to conventional anti-odor treatments.

polartec peppermint oil treatment


Polartec, maker of technical fabrics used by outdoor gear brands around the world, has just announced that it is replacing conventional anti-odor treatments in the fabric with peppermint. This innovative new treatment relies on peppermint's natural antimicrobial properties to keep the dreaded B.O. at bay.

From a press release: "The bluesign®-certified peppermint oil odor resist treatment is an easily renewable, highly sustainable, and biodegradable solution for inhibiting odor at the source. The more environmentally-friendly push to use peppermint oil is just the latest in Polartec’s ever growing Eco-Engineering initiative."

Performance clothing has, in recent years, begun to tout odor-fighting capabilities. The idea is well-intentioned. A non-smelly workout or hiking shirt can be worn for longer, stretching the time between washes, saving water, and reducing wear-and-tear on the garment.

The effectiveness of the treatments, however, has been questioned, with one University of Alberta study finding that human-tested results differed greatly from lab-tested ones, and that clothes showed far less odor-fighting capability when actually put to use in real life.

Additional concerns have been raised about the release of silver nanoparticles—a metal often used to combat odor in fabric—into the natural environment through laundering. This contamination would affect the eligibility of biosolids (aka sewage sludge, collected at the end of a wastewater treatment process) to be used on agricultural fields.

All of this has contributed to Polartec exploring alternatives, with peppermint oil turning out to be the most promising solution. Body odor is the resulting smell of bacteria chowing down on sweat compounds, so peppermint oil naturally inhibits the growth of those microbes in the fabric. 

Polartec says that R&D trials found 99% efficacy, even after 50 wash cycles (the industry standard for testing). Perhaps most convincingly, "According to those results, the treatment is effectively permanent. In garment use trials, where it really counts, Polartec's 'sniff judges' rated the odor control as better than or equal to the protection offered by past metal-containing treatments."

As a result, the peppermint-infused fabric will begin production in China and Italy this fall, followed by the United States in 12 months' time. "A bellwether of peppermint oil-based treatment, all Polartec® Power Dry®, Polartec® Power Grid™, and Polartec® Delta™ fabrics will have permanent odor resistance."

Karen Beattie, senior product marketing manager, told Treehugger, "Sustainably harvested using an eco-friendly steam extraction process, peppermint oil is a naturally derived, plant-based antimicrobial that is both renewable and biodegradable, cutting down on the use of finite resources."

The company is on a years-long mission to make products that are easier on the environment—a noble aspiration for outdoor gear production in general, which is notoriously chemical-heavy and environmentally harmful. Another recent effort was to eliminate PFAS chemicals from all fabrics, which are traditionally used for their water repellency properties.

View Article Sources
  1. "Smelly Discovery Challenges Effectiveness of Antimicrobial Textiles." University of Alberta, 2014.

  2. Benn, Troy M., and Paul Westerhoff. "Nanoparticle Silver Released Into Water from Commercially Available Sock Fabrics." Environmental Science & Technology, vol. 42, no. 11, 2008, pp. 4133-4139., doi:10.1021/es7032718

  3. "Polartec Announces Switch to Peppermint for Metal-Free Odor Resistance." Polartec, 2021.