What is wicking fabric?
Wicking fabric draws moisture away from the skin towards the outer layer of the fabric to keep the wearer dry and comfortable. These technical fabrics have an increased surface area, allowing for a larger absorption of water away from the skin and a quicker rate of evaporation. Through a complex 'capillary' like construct, moisture is transported through this network to the surface where it's spread out into a thinner layer.
Wicking fabrics are also known as breathable fabrics, as air can leave freely and enter freely. These properties lend wicking material well to making sportswear, where body temperature rises and perspiration is inevitable.
Popular wicking fabrics include
- Breathable Waterproof
- Airflow Sports Stretch
- Speaker Cloth
- Softshell Jersey
How is it manufactured?
High-tech polyester textiles are treated with wicking agents which, when knitted with fine, water-repellent fibres, creates a technical capillary system that increases surface area. Polyester, unlike cotton, absorbs only 0.4% of its weight in water, compared to 7%, so all wicking material is made from synthetic fibre blends.
Each wicking fabric is made using different yarns that will affect the performance of the wicking capabilities and preferred end use. Heavier fabrics are made using thicker yarns, so the wicking ability will be less effective than lightweight fabrics, however heavier wicking materials are good for colder climates and
These capillaries diffuse the highly concentrated areas of moisture to lower concentrated areas in order to increase the rate of evaporation away from the fabric.
Purposes of wicking fabrics
Typically, technical wicking fabrics are used for sportswear so the person can stay cool and maximise performance. Other clothing garments are made using wicking material, such as wetsuits, jackets and t-shirts. The Speaker Cloth is also used for covering speaker grilles and in arts and crafts too.
Because there are so many different choices when it comes to wicking fabric, there are also many properties associated with them. Here are just a few favourites:
- Breathable – easily let's air in and out, helping to regulate body temperature during exercise or hot climates. If you were to exercise wearing cotton, and you're in a cold environment, sweat will build up and leave you feeling freezing, which can be dangerous.
- Quick drying – the fact that the moisture is transported to the surface and spread over across a large, thin layer, means it can evaporate quickly and the area can dry.
- Permeable - this is the fabric's ability to transport moistures through its own construction, and the extent of how permeable a fabric is will depend on the sizes of spaces between yarns.
- Wicking – wicking fabrics don't just absorb water, they absorb and then move the moisture to drier areas, ideally the surface, where it can evaporate.
- Insulating – many wicking materials are also great insulators, in that the sweat doesn't pool and have chance to turn cold.
Advantages of wicking fabrics
Wicking fabrics are perfect for making sports apparel, as they help the wearer to excel at their performance and stay comfortable. Not only do they mitigate the problems with moisture retention in fabrics, they're also soft, comfortable and highly technical with many other desired properties.