In August, nearly 400 Zymers donned bright green Novozymes running T-shirts and braved the mud and rain to run 5km in the center of Copenhagen. 106 teams from Novozymes participated in the 25km DHL Relay and returned to the tent, sweating, but happy.

For the majority of the 117,000 participants who took part in the week-long event, this is where the hard-work ended. But that was not the case for scientists in the hygiene group of our Household Care division. One person’s laundry pile of smelly running tops is apparently another’s fertile ground for research!

We caught up with Novozymes’ Research Associate, Jonas Jakobsen, to come clean about his dirty shirt collection. “We collected 100 sweaty running T-shirts after the DHL Relay and we plan to use them all. The T-shirts help us explore what our enzymes can do with removal of sweat and body soil, while also building knowledge of the complexity of the chemicals behind the smell,” Jonas explains.

“Before we started the trials, the T-shirts smelled like a combination of an unairconditioned locker room and football kit, which had been left to fester in a gym bag for a week!” Fortunately for Jonas and his team, these trials focus on the effect of enzymatic solutions on the smell of clothes after washing.

Jonas and his team collected the running shirts to test multiple solutions, both commercial and early stage products. “We have already begun washing trials with the first portion of T-shirts,” says Jonas. “We have two different ways of testing malodor in our laboratory. Gas chromatography can qualify and quantify the chemicals in the shirts, which tells us what is behind the sweaty smell. Sensory relates to human perception, which is ultimately the most important – which T-shirt smells most pleasant to the human nose after washing,” elaborates Jonas.

“It was really cool to see how interested Zymers were in participating in this research,” says Jonas. “It is great to have had the opportunity to do the DHL collection. I enjoy spending part of my daily routine imagining new ways of testing our enzymes. On a larger scale, it’s great to work in a green company, where the aim of our solutions is to build a better future for the planet.”

So next time you exert yourself, spare a thought for our dedicated scientists – making biological solutions for a better world, one sweaty T-shirt at a time.