What are Moisture Wicking T-Shirts?

R. Stamm

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.

Many athletes wear moisture wicking T-shirts.
Many athletes wear moisture wicking T-shirts.

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.

Runners often wear moisture wicking shirts during workouts.
Runners often wear moisture wicking shirts during workouts.

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.

Sweat, which is absorbed by most traditional materials, mixes with bacteria on the skin and causes unpleasant odors.
Sweat, which is absorbed by most traditional materials, mixes with bacteria on the skin and causes unpleasant odors.

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Discussion Comments


After reading this article, I think I'm going to have to do a little more research before I invest in moisture wicking clothing. I have a really big yard to mow, and I spend a lot of time on the water with my new boat. I get very sweaty, and I really hate that feeling of wet clothes sticking to my skin.

I've seen moisture wicking polo shirts at the local sporting goods store, but this is the first time I've heard about any potential health hazards. My dad wears a ventilated shirt whenever he goes fishing, but I don't think it has wicking properties. If the reviews are bad on moisture wicking shirts, I may try his kind of shirts with a ventilating panel sewn into them.


When I first started jogging again, I'd come back home absolutely drenched with sweat. It made me think twice about doing any outside exercise at all. My doctor suggested I try moisture wicking clothing, like Coolmax tee shirts, the next time I went for a run. I bought a few moisture wicking shirts and ran the same course. I was sweating, obviously, but I felt a whole lot more comfortable.

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