60% of Men’s Sports T-shirts were Below Par on Odour Suppression Wide Disparity in Quick Drying Performance of Women’s Sports Bras Taking as Long as 14 hours

15 July 2020
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  60% of Men’s Sports T-shirts were Below Par on Odour Suppression Wide Disparity in Quick Drying Performance  of Women’s Sports Bras Taking as Long as 14 hours

    People drench in sweat when doing exercise. A good breathable sportswear would keep the body dry and comfortable. A test conducted by the Consumer Council on 30 models of sportswear products including 15 men’s sports T-shirts and 15 women’s sports bras, their fabric and composition are tailored according to the different needs of men and women. As such, their performance relating to water vapour permeability and quick drying varies vastly. Although the fabric of men's sports T-shirts are relatively light and thin, 60% of them failed to inhibit the growth of microorganisms and reduce the chances of body odour from sweating. Of which, the 1 claimed with odour-control function was found to have the weakest deodourization capability in the test. Men who sweat a lot have to be mindful on this. While the breathability of women’s sports bras are usually lower due to the multiple layers of fabric, one third of the tested models may give a hot and stuffy feeling when wearing, of which 6 models with a thicker bra pad took at least 8.5 hours to completely dry up from the state of completely wet, and the longest model needed almost 14 hours. In addition, after being washed for a number of times, 40% of the sports bras has deformed or started to wrinkle on the inner and outer sides of the cups which would affect the physical appearance when wearing.

    In view of the test result, the products of some famous sport brands may not necessarily be superior in quality over the other brands. Consumers are therefore reminded that when purchasing sportswears, they should not focus on the prices or the popularity of brands and their promotions, but their quality and durability.

    The prices of 15 men’s sports T-shirts and 15 women’s sports bras tested varied. The marked price for sports T-shirts were from $80 to $450, and that for the sports bras ranged between $129 and $480. The test items covered level of comfort, durability and accuracy of fibre composition, and compared the performance of men’s sports T-shirts in their control of odour.

Men’s T-shirts

    The moisture evaporation rate of the 15 sports T-shirts varied by three-fold, vaporing between 0.76mL and 3.27mL per hour. If wearing a sportswear with poor sweat wicking and quick drying performance, the body would feel sticky and discomfort when exercising and the trapping of sweat may cause itchy skin or rash.

    Sweat is odourless in itself but the breaking down of perspiration by microorganisms on the skin would cause unpleasant smell. The better the antibacterial performance of the fabrics, the more it can inhibit the growth of microorganisms and thus lower the chances of having odour from sweating. In measuring the antibacterial performance of the 15 sports T-shirts, 2 test microorganisms were inoculated on the test models, and the concentration of surviving microorganisms was measured after a set period. The result showed that 60% (9 models) could not effectively inhibit the growth of the test microorganisms before and/or after washing, scoring only 1 or 2 points. After washing for 30 times, 3 models had a drop in their antibacterial capability.

    If the fabric has good performance in deodourization, even if its antibacterial performance is not good enough in inhibiting the formation of odour, it can still reduce or even eliminate the unpleasant smell. The test has made reference to the international standard and used 3 chemicals to simulate the odour caused by sweat, including ammonia, acetic acid and isovaleric acid. The result showed that the reduction of concentration of ammonia in the 15 models varied the most, from a reduction of 13% to 75%. Of these, 1 claimed that it had odour-control function, but its deodourization capability was found to be the weakest in the test. As for the odour of acetic acid and/or isovaleric acid, the majority of the models could reduce the concentration by more than 70%.

    In order to avoid sportwear becoming the breeding ground of microorganisms, it should be washed as soon as possible after exercising. However, after 30 times of washing and drying, colour-fading in 4 sports T-shirt models was rather obvious, while 1 model had even transferred colour onto other cloth fabrics after being washed and/or soaked with simulated sweat.

Women’s Sports Bras

    Breathability and comfortability are the priorities in sportswear, yet the water vapour permeability of 15 sports bras was relatively low, ranging from 525 to 911g/m2/24hr, and the performance of 5 models even fell below 600g/m2/24hr, which may feel stuffy when wearing.

    To increase support and comfort, manufacturers often use thicker bra pads or add multiple layers of fabrics in the cups of women’s sports bras, but sweat could then be easily soaked up and trapped. However, the time required for the models to fully dry up from wetness took 153 to 829 minutes, a huge difference of more than 4 times. 6 models with thicker bra pads took at least 8.5 hours to dry up, while 1 model took the longest of almost 14 hours, which obviously could not keep the body dry during exercise. Moreover, after soaked with simulated sweat and/or being washed, 3 models had even transferred colour to other fabrics.

    As for durability, wrinkles or deformation appeared in the inner and outer sides of the cups of 6 women’s sports bra models after 30 times of washing and drying, which would affect appearance when wearing. In addition, the pressure on the under band and shoulder straps of another model was high, which might make the wearer feel strained and uncomfortable.

    The test also revealed that the labelled composition of 1 women’s sports bra differed 5% from the actual measurements. It failed to comply with the international standard requirement for blended fibres that the difference between the labelled composition and the actual composition should not be more than 3%. There were another sports bra and 1 sports T-shirt models that did not show the details of fibre composition at all and do not comply to the European Standard’s requirement. The manufacturers concerned should update on the label as soon as possible and improve the transparency of information on product composition. 

    When selecting and wearing sportswear, consumers can consider the following:

- Read the information on the fibre label and the tag. Check if it has wicking and quick drying features, or indicates the use of commonly known wicking and quick drying fibres, such as polyester, nylon, etc;

- Some sportswears use mesh design for the sweaty parts of the body such as the back and armpits. The mesh can facilitate air flow to the body through the fabric and help heat dissipation;

- Choose the sports bra suitable for the body size and appropriate for the type/intensity of exercise. Better try it on before buying;

- The wider the straps for sports bra, the better it is to relieve the pressure on the shoulders and the chest. Therefore, it is advised not to choose fine straps when doing highly impact exercise;

- Sportswear should be changed and washed as soon as possible after wearing, to avoid being the breeding ground for microorganisms, and cause mould growing and unpleasant smell;

- Sportswears are usually made of synthetic fibre. Therefore, do not wash them in hot water or dry them at high temperature, so as not to damage the fabric’s wicking and elastic performance and to cause shrinkage;

- Not to use fabric softener, as it would likely trap dirt in synthetic fibre, leave the smell on the clothing and spoil the elasticity of the materials. 

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