Maybe you've never heard of Sciessent, whose brands include Agion Antimicrobial, Lava and Agion Active, but they are improving outdoor wear with such clients as Solomon, Under Armour, Woolrich and Carhartt’s. Textiles are coming full circle as skiers and hikers embrace the warmth of natural products like merino wool, feather down and cotton instead of synthetics, but with some significant differences. Using technological advances the best features of natural fibers are being enhanced to improve odor control and wicking action. Sciessent (based in Wakefield, MA) owns several odor control brands that are working with partners like Cotton, Inc to bring us soft, comfortable cotton that wicks away moisture.
To understand how Sciessent’s products work on fabric it’s helpful to look at the individual components: Agion Antimicrobial, Lava and Agion Active. Being Bluesign approved means that Sciessent brands adhere to principles of sustainability, safety and environmental responsibility.
Agion Antimicrobial: Ionic silver, copper and zinc are utilized to control odors in fabrics and fibers by leveraging their inherent antimicrobial qualities. Ions from metallic elements are released when the product comes into contact with moisture and attack the microbe’s cellular processes while being harmless to humans. When the bacteria responsible for body odor is killed clothes smell sweeter, even after a hard workout.
Lava: This new Sciessent odor control product uses non-toxic minerals called zeolites, derived from lava, to further enhance the process.
Agion Active: Combining metallic ion-based Agion Antimicrobial and the mineral-based Lava products, Agion Active takes odor control even further.
In testing a couple of products with Agion Active I found that the materials treated with Agion Active feel the same as the equivalent untreated product but acts more like synthetic products, bringing together the best features of both. An Under Armour UA Base 5.0 shirt, with Under Armour Scent Control that features Agion Active, was thick, warm and breathable—perfect for cold, blustery days on the ski slopes of Tahoe. Base layers have been steadily increasing in price over the years, possibly due to the addition of specialized finishes, in addition to other factors—this product has an MSRP of $79.99.
I also tested a UA Tech Short-Sleeve V-Neck T-shirt with TransDry cotton,a new product that is the result of a partnership between Sciessent’s Agion and Cotton, Inc’s TRANSDry, a boon to cotton lovers who shy away from the fabric because it lack the moisture wicking properties of synthetics. Cotton’s ability to keep you cool with a soft fabric can’t be beat in high heat and humidity. The TRANSDry process solves the wicking problem by blending water repellent yarns with cotton fibers, endowing them with the same wicking properties as high-tech synthetics. According to company literature TRANSDRYdries faster than untreated cotton after washing.
[Added August 2014]
My husband and I put Agion to the ultimate test, hiking 170 miles of the John Muir Trail in one hiking shirt each over 23 days. We washed our shirts once in a commercial washer and every 2-4 days in lakes and rivers. I sometimes added a couple of drops of bleach to the laundry bag in the backcountry, but no soap. Incredibly, the shirts never developed even a whiff of body odor in all that time. Steve developed a little skin irritation where his pack straps rubbed, but it was hard to tell if it was just from the friction or if he was sensitive to the fabric. I used the shirt mentioned earlier while Steve wore a Woolrich Destination Tee.
The finishes appear to be safe, non-toxic and non-irritating and an internet search didn’t reveal anything on the negative side. Company toxicology reports show that Lava is non-irritating and Agion is non-sensitizing. Several scientific and lay articles commented on the antimicrobial and detoxifying benefits of metals and zeolites. Skin irritation can be caused by a variety of natural and treated fibers but nothing pointed specifically to silver, copper, zinc or zeolite, though some individuals might have sensitivities to those substances.
Fabrics treated with Sciessent products, including Agion and Lava, have enhanced odor control properties, and can be combined with moisture wicking TRANSDry.
Cons: The naturally occurring products used by Sciessent appear to be safe, non-irritating and non-toxic but, as with any substance, some individuals could be sensitive. It is likely that products using multiple technologies will be more expensive than untreated products.
Sciessent’s products use naturally occurring, non-toxic substances such as silver ions and zeolite to control odor, while partnering with companies like Cotton, Inc to produce wicking properties with TRANSDry.
See related article on my blog, Inga’s Adventures.
Disclosure of material connection: I received two sample shirts treated with Agion Active from Sciessent in consideration for an unbiased review.