Editor’s Note: The more I spoke with Drew Westervelt about Odor Balance, the more my curiosity grew. I wanted to see if his product really worked, and I wanted to see it tested like it had never been tested before. I sent a sample kit of OB’s Offense and Defense down to my brother in the most humid and disgusting, yet awesome, place I could think of: New Orleans. Here is Lee Wilson’s totally unbiased experience with Odor Balance.
Like many others, I can be a pretty sweaty guy. I used to be able to drop 7-8 pounds in a single wrestling practice without the use of sweats or a rubber suit. Take a jog on a breezy 40 degree day? I guarantee that I will sweat through my shirt (EN: I saw it happen this Christmas).
On top of this physical issue, I have chosen to locate myself in New Orleans, a place renowned for hot and steamy weather. Even when it is cool here, it is still humid, and I sweat profusely. Physical activity in this kind of weather leads to odor. Odor leads my wife to ban my athletic equipment from inside the house.
Outdoor gear storage can be good because it does have a chance to breathe a little bit, but on rainy game days, everyone knows it is a horrible feeling to pull on wet gear before the game even begins. The humidity of New Orleans also wears out the elastic in my equipment quickly as it is always exposed. My arm pads are always sagging down to my wrist just in time for an opponent to lay a nice slash to my elbow.
My brother Connor took pity on me, and more importantly, my wife. He thought I might be a good candidate to try out a new product from OdorBalance, co-founded by Drew Westervelt of the Philadelphia Wings and Chesapeake Bayhawks. He sent me the two part system consisting of Offense and Defense.
The Offense is meant to wash away sweat and dirt and other odor causing particles from inside the equipment. The Defense is meant to create a coating which stops sweat and dirt from getting into equipment and causing odor in the first place.
This is perfect, because my equipment is both dirty and smelly. I fill my shoes with sweat three times and week and play boxla every Sunday morning. When I do wash the gear, the results are short lived and odor returns after only a few uses. I think I am a prime target for the potential benefits of OdorBalance products, but being me, I did have some concerns:
– Does the Offense really get in deep to get the dirt out?
– I have pretty sensitive skin, is the Defense truly hypo-allergenic?
– Are the products easy to use?
– Will the results last more than a few days?
– Do they just have some terrible phony perfume smell to cover my own personal brand?
– Will they impact the feel of the leather in my gloves, or the fabric of my shoes, and arm pads?
– The Ultimate Question: Will my wife find out if I hide the offending gear under our bed? She is pregnant and has a heightened sense of smell right now. Perhaps this is a risky maneuver, but it is all in the name of accurate product testing, so I’ll risk it.
I spoke with Drew on the phone and he advised me that there are two potential methods to apply the products:
1) You can make the Offense water solution in a bucket and manually scrub the equipment. Then you can wash the equipment out and make the Defense water solution and soak the gear.
2) You can put the equipment in a washing machine and let the machine do the work. If you place the Offense in the detergent compartment, and the Defense in the fabric softener compartment, the washing machine will apply the products and the required elbow grease.
I figured I would try both methods in the interest of scientific completeness. Right shoe, right arm pad, and right glove in the bucket. Left shoe, left arm pad, and left glove in the washer.
I used 6 ounces of each product using the manual method and let everything dry on a rack. This method was mildly laborious. I put three gallons of water in a bucket and added 6 ounces of Offense. Then I soaked everything for a few minutes and started agitating the gear with my arms and squeezing the gear to make sure the liquid got good penetration. The water turned brown quickly as I mixed everything up.
Then I pulled it all out and wrung it out down the drain. Then I filled the bucket with 3 more gallons of water and added 6 ounces of the Defense solution. I submerged the gear and squeezed it to make sure the solution got in there deep. The water turned a little brown indicating that I could have probably used another round of Offense treatment, but in the interest of keeping the test subjects similar, I didn’t do it.
Then I grabbed the gear, wrung it out and put in a rack to dry.
I used 6 ounces of each product in the washing machine and dried everything in the dryer. This method was extremely easy. All I needed to do was measure the correct quantities of solution and turn the washing machine on. Then when the washing was over, I transferred everything over to the dryer and turned it on to the low heat setting.
Everything certainly looked a lot cleaner when it was all done, but most importantly, the horrid smells had mostly vanished. Sweet.
As a treatment to clean gear, the OdorBalance system performed admirably. The machine method was certainly easier, but I wonder if better penetration through soaking was achieved using the manual method. While drying, the gear had a slightly chemical cleanser smell, but once dry, the smell all but disappeared. My hands did suffer a little treating the gear manually. It felt like all the natural oil on my hands had been washed off (makes sense) and my palms felt a little raw and were a little red. I would probably recommend dishwashing gloves if one were to use the manual method.
The next step was the one that truly counts: I subjected the gear to two standard weeks of sweat torture and hid it all under my bed when my wife wasn’t looking. I can be very sneaky.
After a traditional washing of my gear, I can usually bring it back to intolerable odor within about a week. After a good cleaning with Offense and a Defense treatment, my gear has lasted two weeks of solid use without reverting to its previous smelly incarnation.
The Offense really went deep and removed the dirt and grime that made the gear so smelly. My skin has had no adverse reactions to any of the chemicals, even after wearing the arm pads for a few hours at a time. The manual method was a little labor intensive, but the machine method worked just as well and required almost no effort all. I would definitely recommend the machine method.
Two weeks is not the longest period for testing, but past experience tells me that things should have started going South by now, and there is no change since the original treatment. My concern about the possible perfume type smell accompanying other products was quickly addressed. Once the equipment was dry, there was no smell accompanying it whatsoever.
In terms of gear feel and performance, there is virtually no impact. The leather of my gloves felt sticky for about 15 minutes when I first used them after the treatment. The sticky feeling went away and the leather is as soft and pliable as it ever was. The fabric in my shoes and arm pads didn’t seem to be affected structurally by the treatment at all. Apart from the absence of smell and stain, there was no difference.
Now for the big question: Did my wife ever notice my sweaty gear hiding beneath the bed?
NO! She didn’t notice at all. She won’t even know about this until she reads this post…
I would recommend OdorBalance for any athlete who has limited space to store their gear: College players in dorms, anyone in a city apartment, guys who never take their stuff out of their trunk except on game day (gross), and people with family members who disagree with housing smelly gear inside. I would not recommend OdorBalance for any attackman who thinks his smell will repel a potential defender, but that is just bad sportsmanship.
To finish up, I have created a chart to show the improvements my gear made in the smell department. They are definitely a whole lot more tolerable now!
Scale 0 = Perfume Smell / 5 = Neutral Smell / 10 = Dead Animal Under the Porch Smell
EN: as an update, I saw my brother the weekend before Christmas and we played box lacrosse in New Orleans together. His equipment was still the least smelly that I’ve ever experienced in person.