Water wicking fabrics can play an important role in the life of those of us that sweat excessively. It's important to understand how these fabrics work so that the purchasing experience can be optimized both from a effectiveness and dollar perspective. Water wicking is a fabric's ability to pull water away from the body's surface and depends on two principles, percolation and evaporation. Essentially, percolation refers to a fabric's capacity
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to absorb and transport water away from the skin it covers. Having said this, it is equally important for the fabric to be able to rid itself of the water it absorbs through the process of evaporation. So, on the one hand a fabric must absorb water, and on the other, it must dispose of it.
How a fabric performs on both these levels depends on the recipe used to make the fabric. For example, a natural fiber may be able to absorb better than a synthetic fiber but the latter may dry faster. Manufacturers have played with different natural/synthetic fiber mixes in efforts to develop fabrics that effectively wick and dry. In our last blog we talked about cotton and its ability to absorb water. Although it remains a choice fabric for comfort and its ability to 'breathe', it is not the ideal moisture wicking fabric. Its ability to dry remains on the 'slowish' side. To quote a professor of textile chemistry at the University of Nebraska, Yiqi Yang says: 'you want [the fabric] to wick water as good as cotton, but you don't want it soaked'
As a result, some manufacturers have chosen to weave cotton/polyester fiber mixes (e.g. 85% polyester/15% cotton) that do a great job at keeping the body dry. Others have chosen to actually make changes in the physical shape ( more or less a clover-leaf shape) of the polyester fiber, creating channels which draw and expel water away from the skin's surface.
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