A review of clothing microbiology: the history of clothing and the role of microbes in textiles

Biol Lett. 2021 Jan;17(1):20200700. doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2020.0700. Epub 2021 Jan 13.


Humans have worn clothing for thousands of years, and since its invention, clothing has evolved from its simple utilitarian function for survival to become an integral part of society. While much consideration has been given to the broad environmental impacts of the textile and laundering industries, little is known about the impact wearing clothing has had on the human microbiome, particularly that of the skin, despite our long history with clothing. This review discusses the history of clothing and the evolution of textiles, what is and is not known about microbial persistence on and degradation of various fibres, and what opportunities for the industrial and environmental application of clothing microbiology exist for the future.

Keywords: clothing microbiology; degradation; fibres; microbes in clothing; microbiome; textiles.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Clothing
  • Humans
  • Laundering*
  • Microbiota*
  • Textiles