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A moisture-wicking fabric has two jobs: one is quickly moving (wicking) sweat to the fabric’s outer surface and the other is drying rapidly so that your sweat doesn’t saturate the fabric. The result is that you’re more comfortable because your body can regulate its temperature efficiently and the fabric touching your skin has a dry, non sticky feel.



Fabric softeners lay down a waxy residue that interferes with a fabric’s carefully engineered finish. So, do not use it.



When you’re breaking a good sweat, that sweat evaporates and produces a cooling effect. After skin temperature cools to a comfortable level, your body stops sweating. It’s a super-efficient process, and one that an effective moisture-wicking fabric will complement.



Generally, you want moisture-wicking fabric on any apparel that touches your skin, like a long underwear base layer. You also want it on clothes you plan to wear while you’re doing aerobic (sweat-producing) activities like hiking or running.



Which Fabrics Are Moisture-Wicking?



Most moisture-wicking fabrics are synthetics: When moisture gets absorbed into a fabric’s yarns, it’s trapped there instead of moving through the fabric. That’s a recipe for poor moisture-wicking performance. Synthetic fabrics are “hydrophobic,” which means they resist the penetration of water. That’s why you see a lot of synthetic fabrics, like polyester or nylon, excel at moisture wicking.



Cotton is the “anti-moisture-wicking” fabric: The classic example of a non wicking fabric is cotton, which gets completely saturated with sweat and then takes forever to dry. Initially, it makes you feel hot and sticky; ultimately, it leaves you feeling cold and clammy.