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  • March 03, 2021 3 min read

    Copper in Ancient Times

    There is some evidence going back that the knowledge that copper contains antibacterial properties goes back in different civilizations for thousands of years. In a  paper by the American Society of Microbiology, they explain that the use of copper by human civilizations can be traced back to between the 5th and 6th millennia B.C. A papyrus scroll of Eyptian medical text references the use of copper to sterilize wounds and purify drinking water. Similarly, the Greeks, Romans and even Aztecs “for the treatment of such ailments as headaches, burns, intestinal worms, and ear infections and for hygiene in general.” 

    Later, in the 1900s, it was discovered that workers who worked with copper were found to be immune to cholera. Subsequently, the element was used in a variety of preparations to treat a myriad of ailments and medical issues. In 1932, it was sold commercially as a component of antibiotics. The interest in copper has not waned, due to these long-held beliefs in the positive effects of copper and to scientific evidence that uphold the recognized benefits. Currently, there is an intense interest in “the use of copper as a self-sanitizing material, and many recent publications deal with mechanistic aspects of “contact killing” (contact-mediated killing) by copper.”

    The Proven Benefits of Copper

    The same study by the American Society for Microbiology  regarding the interaction of copper with bacteria, explains why copper works well in killing bacteria, yeasts, and viruses. The term that is in use to explain these agents being killed on metallic copper surfaces is called “contact killing.” The study explains, “Contact killing was observed to take place at a rate of at least 7 to 8 logs per hour, and no live microorganisms were generally recovered from copper surfaces after prolonged incubation.” The antimicrobial nature of copper is now not only proven from historical evidence, but also scientific evidence. In fact, the US Environmental Protection Agency registered copper as the first solid antimicrobial material around 2010. 

    Copper in Fabrics and Fibers

    While the study we referenced from the US Institute of Health does have some overwhelming and convincing evidence that copper surfaces have definite impact on bacteria and microorganisms, it is less sure if the same effect is felt in fabrics that are interwoven into fibers. We know that copper itself has an impact on the presence of bacteria, however the same studies have not been applied to fabrics.It can be surmised that copper’s proven antimicrobial benefits would certainly assist in the reduction of bacterial elements that collect in fabric and  create odor from sweating and activity. Although it can’t be known for sure, it’s certainly a correlation that would make sense. 


    It’s certainly clear that copper has positive benefits and a history of uses across civilizations, cultures, and ages. Copper is a powerful element and its presence (and assistance) in human innovation is surely important on its own. It’s up to us, and science to determine its true power in dedicated studies and we can only hope there’s future testing to explore the presence of this powerful element in fibers. In the meantime, we will trust ourselves to history and be sure to get a little more copper into our lives. 


    Shop some of our best-selling copper-infused items below: 

    1. The Pure Athlete Copper Cushioned Work Sock

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    2. Pure Athlete Copper Compression Ski Socks

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    3. Pure Athlete Ultra Thin Copper Work Sock

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    4. Pure Athlete Copper Running Sock

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