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What is Wicking Apparel?

By Grayson Millar
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Wicking apparel refers to clothing manufactured for fitness and outdoor activities that is specifically designed to remove moisture from the skin as the body produces sweat. Moisture wicking clothes utilize capillary action to pull sweat from the skin into their generally nonabsorbent material, where it will evaporate more rapidly than on the body. Wicking apparel is commonly made from synthetic fabrics, like polyester and other microfiber blends, which are highly nonabsorbent, often in combination with natural materials such as cotton and wool. Due to their high performance during physical exertion, moisture wicking clothes are popular for all varieties of athletic activity, whether worn under outer layers for skiing, snowboarding, and other outdoor activities or as quick drying fitness clothing for the gym.

The designers draw on capillary action to construct clothing that pulls sweat away from the skin. Capillary action is also at work in candle wicks from which wicking apparel draws it name. The small pores, or capillaries, of the wicking material soak up sweat as it emerges from the skin's pores. Since the clothing is generally made from at least a blend of nonabsorbent material, the moisture quickly moves away from the body and evaporates.

Moisture wicking clothing ordinarily relies on the nonabsorbent qualities of synthetic materials such as polyester, modal, and other microfiber blends. These synthetic materials are often blended with comfortable materials like cotton or other natural materials like wool that possess wicking capabilities. Blending cotton with synthetic fabrics functions to make it less absorbent, while blending wool can make it softer and more comfortable.

The types of blends used in wicking material varies widely depending on the desired function of the clothing in question. For example, workout clothing will often maintain a high percentage of cotton with a small quantity of polyester or another synthetic material blended in to increase wicking capabilities. A wicking layer for winter activities will often feature wool or a higher percentage of synthetic fabric.

Moisture wicking apparel is requisite for outdoor winter sports due to its capacity for keeping the body warm, but not hot, while removing moisture from the skin. Its qualities are also beneficial in most varieties of team sports and other workout activities. There are a wide range of varieties of wicking apparel available, both in terms of function and price range.

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