What are the bugs – or the fabrics — that make hockey equipment smell?

Nothing has quite the stench of (ice) hockey equipment.

Entire cleansing cabinets have been created to lessen the smell.

girls.ice.hockey.14When I played hockey I’d wash my jersey maybe once a year.

The stench imparted by the gloves is equivalent to the stench imparted to the hands of a fish monger.

However in all the years coaching girls’ hockey, I can generally say the girls are somewhat more particular to the odor aspect.


On Sunday, the team I coach had an hour practice.

This was followed by a girls only session sponsored by the IIHF (International Ice Hockey federation, below, exactly as shown) for their annual World Girls Weekend.

Sorenne was back out on the ice.

Then I coached a come-and-try session for kids learning how to play from  3:30-4:30 (Sorenne wasn’t on the ice for that) followed by the final league games of the season (Sorenne played, I helped ref).

That’s a lot of hockey.

And a lot of smell.

Whereas I’d leave my stuff to ferment in the bag, Amy ensures Sorenne’s stuff is aired and washed regularly.

Callewaert, et al. examined the microbial basis of exercise stench and concluded they type of undergarments determines the stench of the smell.


Abstract below:

Clothing textiles protect our human body against external factors. These textiles are not sterile and can harbor high bacterial counts as sweat and bacteria are transmitted from the skin. We investigated the microbial growth and odor development in cotton and synthetic clothing fabrics. T-shirts were collected from 26 healthy individuals after an intensive bicycle spinning session and incubated for 28 h before analysis. A trained odor panel determined significant differences between polyester versus cotton fabrics for the hedonic value, the intensity, and five qualitative odor characteristics. The polyester T-shirts smelled significantly less pleasant and more intense, compared to the cotton T-shirts. A dissimilar bacterial growth was found in cotton versus synthetic clothing textiles. Micrococci were isolated in almost all synthetic shirts and were detected almost solely on synthetic shirts by means of denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis fingerprinting.

A selective enrichment of micrococci in an in vitro growth experiment confirmed the presence of these species on polyester. Staphylococci were abundant on both cotton and synthetic fabrics. Corynebacteria were not enriched on any textile type. This research found that the composition of clothing fibers promotes differential growth of textile microbes and, as such, determines possible malodor generation.
Microbial odor profile of polyester and cotton clothes after a fitness session

Appl. Environ. Microbiol. November 2014 80:6611-6619;
15 August 2014, doi:10.1128/AEM.01422-14

Chris Callewaert, Evelyn De Maeseneire, Frederiek-Maarten Kerckhof, Arne Verliefde, Tom Van de Wiele, and Nico Boon

This entry was posted in Other Microorganisms and tagged , , , by Douglas Powell. Bookmark the permalink.

About Douglas Powell

A former professor of food safety and the publisher of barfblog.com, Powell is passionate about food, has five daughters, and is an OK goaltender in pickup hockey. Download Doug’s CV here. Dr. Douglas Powell editor, barfblog.com retired professor, food safety 3/289 Annerley Rd Annerley, Queensland 4103 dpowell29@gmail.com 61478222221 I am based in Brisbane, Australia, 15 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time