Are moisture-wicking fabrics all they are hyped up to be? Three average athletes and one outdoor worker take the test.
Chances are, you’ve heard some hype about moisture-wicking fabrics. Often used to make athletic apparel, workout-wear, and business polo shirts, manufacturers claim these performance fabrics can help keep you dry and comfortable by wicking away sweat. But can fabric really do that?
The quick answer is yes. For those of you who like details, here it goes:
- Most wicking fabrics are made from polyester or polyester blends. Polyester can only hold a small amount of moisture (.4 percent) compared to cotton, which can hold up to 7 percent.
- Unlike old-fashion polyester, new wicking blends are woven into a high-tech pattern that forces moisture through gaps in the weave and up to the material’s outer shell, where it evaporates much faster.
Still skeptical? We asked a weekend bike-rider (Kurt), a daily outdoor runner (Tiff), an indoor cardio kick boxer (Toni), and a landscape designer (Ben) to do their thing in 100-percent cotton on one day and in a polyester-performance blend the next day. Here’s what they found:
- Kurt: I ride in cotton T-shirts most of the time, but when I did the comparison (I rode 10 miles on the same trail each day) I felt like I sweat a lot more in the cotton than I did in the performance T-shirt. Kinda surprised me. I wasn’t expecting that much of a difference.
- Tiff: I have been wearing performance fabrics for my daily runs for years, so it was little weird to go back to cotton. While the cotton was very comfortable when I started my run, by the end of my typical 5 miles, it was pretty damp. The next day I did the same exact run in my performance T-shirt, and it felt and looked much dryer.
- Toni: Like Tiff, I stayed dryer in my performance capris and tank top than I did in a similar 100-percent cotton workout outfit. Gonna stick to performance fabrics from now on.
- Ben. I was installing a large landscape project with my team on both days. On day 1, I wore a cotton polo. By the end of the day, I looked like I just stepped out of a shower with my clothes on. On day 2, I wore the performance polo, and while I still sweat, I still looked presentable to my clients, and I felt much more comfortable.
Are all moisture wicking fabrics alike? No! For a moisture-wicking fabric to work properly, it needs to be both sweat-wicking and breathable. Some fabrics (like cotton and linen) can be breathable, but they aren’t sweat wicking. The weave of a polyester fabric also makes a difference. A polyester running shirt usually features a knitted, mesh-like structure of yarns (think chain link fence). A polyester rain jacket, on the other hand, is made from a non-permeable weave (think canvas awning). When choosing moisture wicking wear for working or working out, read the manufacturer’s description and look for words like “dry-fit, sweat wicking, stay-dry, performance, or fast drying.”
Author: Amber Barz