What Are Moisture Wicking T-Shirts?

Many athletes wear moisture wicking T-shirts.
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  • Written By: R. Stamm
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 30 March 2014
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Moisture wicking T-shirts help to keep a person dry while sweating through the addition of nano-particles to the material. The addition of these particles helps the body stay cool in hot weather and warm in cold weather. There are other fabrics that incorporate this technology with odor-controlling properties to help them retain freshness. T-shirts are made by a variety of manufacturers, and some types are better than others. Long-term health and environmental effects of fabrics made with these technologies are yet to be determined.

The term wicking refers to the fabric’s ability to absorb liquid from the surface and into the material. Unlike conventional fabrics, which retain moisture, these fabrics use capillary action to wick sweat away much like a paper towel. Moisture wicking T-shirts are embedded with microscopic pores on the inner surface of the fabric. The fabric pulls perspiration away from the skin and spreads it across the surface and then evaporates into the air. They are breathable and nonrestrictive, which make them ideal for sports apparel.

Some moisture wicking T-shirts contain odor-reducing silver particles. The silver fibers are woven into the fabric and neutralize bacteria-causing odors by smothering the molecules. Silver woven into the fabric will last for the lifetime of the garment, helping the material to stay fresher for longer periods of time. Manufacturers claim that this technology is safe to wear, but scientific studies suggest they may be harmful to the environment.


While there are cotton and polyester blends of moisture wicking fabrics available on the market, polyester-blended fabrics tend to be a little better. The original fabric, created by Dupont, is called Coolmax, but other companies have developed their own versions. Dri-release, Underarmour, and dri-fit are a few of the other types of moisture wicking fabrics available. Two of the most popular manufacturers of odor-resistant fabrics containing silver are Polartec and Power Dry.

Scientific studies have shown that moisture wicking T-shirts or other clothing created with this technology may present a health hazard. The fabric contains carbon nano-particles that have similar effects in the body as asbestos if inhaled. Other moisture wicking fabrics contain nano-silver particles used to control odors that are released into the air and water when washed. While safe for wearing, these silver particles pose more of a hazard to public waterways than the bleach used for washing and are difficult to clean up.


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