About three months later, the process was repeated with the same male "donors" and female sniffers, and a new batch of t-shirts.
"Women scored the six male odors consistently across the two tests," the researchers write. The most popular smell scored an average of 5.5 out of 7, and the least pleasant scored just 2.33.
Similarly, the women's ranking of the scents in terms of potential partners also remained steady between the two tests.
The fact that the women's preferences remained constant indicates there are "underlying genetic contributions to individual body odors," the researchers say.
This also suggests that humans use body odor in much the same way as other animals, where smell helps signal aspects of a potential mate's quality, they say.
"Our results ... lend weight to the assumption that body odor constitutes a meaningful cue of quality that can be used in individual assessment during human interactions," they conclude.
The results build on a growing body of evidence that humans use smell to help select their sexual partners, as do many other animals, said Rob Brooks, a professor of evolutionary biology at the University of New South Wales.