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  1. How To Stop Your Base Layers Smelling

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    Image of a lady holding her nose - How To Stop Your Base Layers Smelling

    The key to finding out how to stop your base layers smelling is to understand the biological mechanisms causing the stench in the first place.

    When humans sweat they excrete two different types of perspiration, eccrine and apocrine. Eccrine sweat is excreted all over your body and is watery, slightly salty and generally unoffensive smelling. Apocrine sweat on the other hand is made up of fatty compounds excreted from your groin and glands in your armpits, and is unsurprisingly a lot smellier.

    The real stench however comes from the waste products of a range of viral, bacterial and fungal strains contained in your skins natural micro-biome breaking down the apocrine sweat, as well as other bodily products, such as dead skin cells.

    Now we understand why we smell, lets talk about strategies for keeping our base layers smelling fresh:

    Wash Base Layers Regularly

    This might sound obvious but a regular cleaning routine for your base layers will do wonders for keeping the niff at bay. Removing the smell causing bacteria’s food source i.e. perspiration, will greatly reduce lingering odours. Regular washing will also reduce the build-up of stink causing microbes in the first place,

    *Just a quick word of warning – Always remember to follow the manufacturers washing instructions for your base layers. These will be found on a sewn in neck or side label. Do not freestyle, as you may end up with deformed, shrunk, or literally destroyed thermals.

    Use A Dedicated Base Layer Cleaner

    If you just use household detergents to clean your base layers, then you are missing a trick. Not only can regular use be damaging to base layers, they often only mask smells rather than remove them.

    Once in a while, give your thermals a bit of TLC and treat them to a dedicated cleaner such as Storm Cares Base And Mid Layer Wash. Not only will they help to remove stubborn ingrained smells, they will also soften the fabric and decrease the drying time.

    Avoid Fabrics Microbes Love

    Polyester base layers are manna from heaven for smell causing fungus and bacteria. If someone next to you stinks after going out for a run, then you can bet your bottom dollar that their base layer is produced from polyester

    Fabrics most inhospitable to smell creating microbes are those made form natural fibres, like wool and cotton. The downside of these base layers is they are not very good at moisture management, are not particularly easy to wash, and often have short shelf lives if used regularly.

    A good compromise is to wear Polyamide base layers. These are more robust and just as easy to wash as polyester base layers, but are nowhere near as attractive to microbes, allowing you to smell sweeter for longer.

    Dry Base Layers Thoroughly

    No wash is going to remove all the smell causing microbes from your base layers, and a damp one is a breeding ground for smell causing nasties – Anybody who has left a sweaty thermal in a plastic bag for a few days will testify to what we are talking about.

    The good thing about modern synthetic base layers is that they dry very quickly, and the quicker you dry them, the less time there is for microbes to multiply.

    Again, remember to read the garments washing instructions thoroughly as many base layers cannot be dried in a tumble dryer.

    Store Them Washed And Dried

    When it comes to storing your base layers away for the summer, always wash them thoroughly first, preferably with a dedicated base layer cleaner, ensuring they are fully dry. This will help to reduce smells reappearing in storage as you remove the food source and optimum environment for smell causing bacteria to grow.

    If you can, avoid placing them in plastic storage bags as any moisture present will linger and provide an ideal growing medium for any smell causing bacteria. The best way would be to hang them up in a wardrobe, or place them in a draw where clothes are constantly moved around.

    Conclusion: How To Stop Your Base Layers From Smelling

    We’ve all experienced the unpleasantness of stinky base layers, either our own or a friends. Smells that linger are usually caused by poor laundry habits, and can usually be remedied by washing them regularly using a dedicated base layer wash and ensuring they are fully dried before folding away.

    Sometimes though, base layers have been neglected for so long that they are passed redemption. If this is the case with yours then think about investing in a good quality durable thermal that can be easily laundered, such as our Factor 1 Plus base layer range.

  2. Washing Synthetic Base Layers Correctly

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    Washing base layers correctly guide by Sub Zero

    Synthetic Base Layers

    As the name implies, synthetic base layers are those that are manufactured from any man-made fibres. These will usually be fabrics knitted from yarns of polyamide, polyester or polypropylene, and sometimes a combination of two or more. Sometimes a bit of acrylic is also used but these are usually on cheap products that probably will not make it past a few washes anyway. If you have a base layer that is a blended yarn of both natural and man made fibres then you need to take extra care and follow the care label precisely.

    Follow The Manufacturers Instructions

    Care labels on base layers are there for a reason, to be followed. They are not rough guidelines for you to interpret how you wish. They provide instructions for the maximum levels of certain processes such as wash temperature, and processes that shouldn’t be used, such as ironing and dry cleaning. Below are three scans of care labels for different synthetic base layer fabrics. As you can see they all look similar but the washing instructions and care instructions are slightly different:

    Washing Instruction Labels For Base Layers
















    For a handy guide to wash care symbols please visit the Love Your Clothes website

    Dry Cleaning

    A big no no when it comes to synthetic base layers. The harsh chemicals used in the cleaning process will strip out any treatments on the yarn such as softeners and hydrophilics, and the drying process can lead to shrinking and melt spots.

    Detergents And Fabric Softeners

    Washing detergents can be used on most base layersUsing detergents are a bit of a grey area as it depends on the yarn content of your synthetic base layers:

    Polyamide base layers, such as Sub Zero Factor 1, have a hydrophilic chemical treatment pressure injected directly in to the yarn during the dyeing and finishing process. It is not everlasting but it takes a very long time for the treatment to be washed out, even when using fabric detergents.

    Polypropylene base layers very rarely have any treatments applied to them due to the yarns properties so washing machine detergents can be happily used on them.

    Polyester base layers often have softeners and hydrophilic treatments applied to the outside of the yarn. These are easily stripped out by washing detergents so you may need to treat them every few washes with a dedicated base layer treatment wash.

    Fabric softeners on the other hand shouldn’t be used on any synthetic base layers. They coat the fibres with a waxy finish that affects their moisture transportation capabilities. If you should use a fabric softener by mistake, then just rewash the base layer with a normal detergent.

    Separating Colours

    It is always a good idea to separate light colours from dark colours in any wash if you want your whites to stay bright. Some clothing colours will leach in a wash leading to colouration of lighter garments if mixed together, especially base layers manufactured from polyamide yarn. Polypropylene base layers are usually resilient as they do not absorb any moisture, so can be mixed with different colours. If you are in any doubt, then use a colour absorbing sheet in your wash.

    Washing Loads

    If you are intending to mix garment styles in a single wash then be aware of the possible consequences. Any jacket or trousers with either a zip or Velcro fastenings could potentially damage your base layer during the washing process. The hooked harsh face of Velcro can be especially damaging as it catches the base layers fine filaments and can lead to pulls and ladders. It is always a good idea to wash Velcro and zip containing clothing separately.

    Wash Temperature

    Most dedicated synthetic base layer washes and general detergents will work perfectly well on a low temperature setting such as 30ºC. Even if the care label states a higher wash temperature tolerance, it is not a requirement to get synthetic base layers clean these days.

    Some people advocate washing synthetic base layers by hand in cold water, but this is time consuming and unnecessary for most garments. If in doubt, check the neck label.


    Line Drying Base Layers Is Recommended

    The beauty of synthetic base layers is that they absorb very little moisture. If the wash has been put on a spin cycle then the base layers are going to dry very quickly on the clothesline in decent weather. If you need to hang the washing up inside the house, then please avoid hanging the base layers directly on radiators. Use a collapsible clothes horse to hang your base layers on and position near to the radiator. In our house we do this but place the horse near to our wood burner without any problems.

    Using a tumble dryer to dry synthetic base layers is best avoided as they can be unpredictable and  untrustworthy. Most base layers that shrink in tumble dryers are not down to the heat, but the length of time they are left in the dryer. If you do need a base layer quickly out of the wash, then set the tumble dryer to the coolest setting, remove any collected lint from the collection screen, and keep an eye on it. It is better to underestimate the time and keep on adding small increments after checking the dryness. Shrinking your synthetic base layers in a tumble dryer is not reversible.


    Again, ironing synthetic base layers is best avoided. It is very easy to use the wrong temperature setting when ironing a pile of clothes, and an iron on a high setting will glaze some synthetic fabrics and will melt others. If you hang them up tidily for drying and then fold them neatly when dry then creases will be avoided. In any case, who is going to see your base layers when you are outside anyway.

    Word Of Warning

    If you do wash and launder your synthetic base layers incorrectly and not according to the instructions, and something does happen to them such as a shrinkage or a deformity, the manufacturers will know it is your fault. Fabrics are so stable these days and manufactured in such high quantities that one bad item out of a batch of thousands is going to stick out like a sore thumb. The best tactic is to stick your hands up and admit you made a mistake, and if the manufacturer is half decent, they may give you discount off a new set or exchange the base layer in exchange for some PR material.

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