What Is Moisture Wicking Clothing And The Reason Behind It


Not familiar with moisture wicking clothing?

Don’t worry. Many outdoor athletes aren’t. There are secrets about moisture wicking clothing you normally don’t read about online.

As a professional tennis player and teaching professional I meet athletes every day who wear improper sportswear or don’t know to look for the right mix of SPF and moisture wicking clothing material in their sports clothing

The Secret Ingredients Of Moisture Wicking Clothing

Let’s define a few terms before we get to our conclusion:

Wicking

The ability of a liquid to flow in narrow spaces.  As the liquid disperses into a bigger area, in our case the sweat, it is easier for the liquid to eventually evaporate.  Take for example a puddle on tennis court.  As soon as the water gets rolled away in different directions it dries quicker.

Sweat

A liquid that contains mainly water. It also contains minerals, lactate, and urea.

Sweating

The natural way for the body to cool down by evaporating the sweat.

Evaporation

The change of a liquid into a vapor by using heat.  Take the example of boiling water that disappears as time goes by.

When a person starts sweating, this process cools down the body because it needs to use heat to evaporate the sweat.  It is NOT the fluid on your skin that cools a person down but the heat that is being taken away from the body to evaporate the sweat.  The problem comes when the body has to try to evaporate sweat from a very condensed area such as in the case of a shirt made out of 100% cotton which retains water and doesn’t disperse it.  As in the example of a puddle on a tennis court, it will take too long for the body to evaporate the water and benefit from giving away heat.

Let’s define a few more terms:

Polyester

Synthetic material that can be weaved into very thin strands or threads. When these strands are woven together a “microfibre” fabric can be made that is almost as soft to the touch as cotton fabric, even though polyester is, after all, plastic. The great virtue of polyester is that it is hydrophobic – it does not absorb moisture.

Spandex

A synthetic material known for its exceptional elasticity and ability to retain its initial shape. 

Synthetic materials such as polyester and spandex don’t retain moisture like natural fabrics do. Unlike regular polyester, though, wicking fabrics are woven in such a way that the moisture is forced into and through the gaps in the weave so it can find the outer shell of the material. The weave itself makes the material highly permeable.  They are what we call breathable, they let the air in and the sweat out.

Exercising increases your body temperature. When your hypothalamus — an area of your brain that acts as a thermostat — senses either a rise or fall in body temperature, it takes action to protect your body. With increases in core body temperature, your hypothalamus directs more of your blood flow to the skin and signals the body to start sweating.  Obviously you must replace the water that you lose when you sweat to avoid dehydration.

When you use moisture wicking clothing, keep in mind that when the humidity is higher, the air is already saturated with water making it harder for the body to evaporate the sweat and lower the body temperature.  Therefore you will feel hotter in higher humidity and will run the risk of becoming dehydrated.

By wearing our moisture wicking clothing, your body will have an easier time cooling off and dispersing the salt in the sweat which can rub your skin raw and potentially cause a rash or even scrape the skin.

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