Wicking Fabric

Wicking fabrics are modern technical fabrics which draw moisture away from the body. They are made of high-tech polyester, which, unlike cotton, absorbs very little water. Cotton will absorb 7% of its weight in water, polyester only 0.4%. Cotton will therefore hang onto your sweat, making your garment heavy and unpleasantly clammy. Wicking polyester has a special cross-section and a large surface area, which picks up moisture and carries it away from your body, spreading it out, to evaporate easily on the outside of the fabric. So you stay cool and dry.


Some people will refer to wicking fabrics as being breathable – that is, they let air in and sweat out. Breathable showerproof and waterproof fabrics have tiny pores in the fabric, larger than water vapour molecules (so these can get out) but much smaller than drops of rain (so these can’t get in).

Serious Science

You’ll see a lot written on garment labels about wicking properties, but read what they are telling you and it often amounts to no more than ‘this fabric moves moisture away from your body’.

The two properties normally used to predict wicking performance in a fabric are capillary pressure and permeability.

Capillary pressure is the main force responsible for the movement of moisture along or through a fabric, where the force of the surface tension between the liquid and the walls of a narrow gap or pore overcome the forces between the molecules of the liquid, moving it into empty gaps until the forces even out. Permeability is the measure of a fabric’s ability to transport moisture through itself, and is determined by a combination of sizes of spaces within it and the connections between the spaces.

Other properties that certainly do effect the wicking properties of a fabric include yarn twist (how threads in the fabric turn around each other), contact angle (between the fibre and the liquid), knit or weave (the larger scale construction of the fabric), yarn roughness and a whole lot more.

Browse our products made from wicking fabrics.

  • Polo Shirts
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  • T Shirts
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  • Vests
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  • Shorts
  • Bespoke Shorts
  • Training Base Layer

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This post was first published 07/15.

Yes this is where most wool comes from but the term wool is more of a blanket term for a material that can come from many different animals.

Wool can also be cultivated from goats, muskoxen and rabbits.

Basically wool just means that the material is made up of mostly protein with a small amount of lipids as well.

It’s no surprise that wool is so great at wicking considering it’s what keeps some animals warm and dry while living outdoors.

Typically we see wool in a heavy knit sweater or thick garment that might be cozy to wear on a cold winter night but isn’t exactly what we think of when looking for clothing to wear when we need to keep dry during activity or adventures.

Let’s be honest, you don’t see a group of runners competing in a half marathon wearing big wool sweaters.

Instead they’re usually wearing thin, tight fitting clothing that is reflective and technical looking.

You wouldn’t think that any of that stuff is made of wool but you could be wrong.

Big companies like Nike are now using wool in some of their active wear because of it’s many great qualities like;

  • moisture wicking
  • heat regulating
  • breathable
  • lightweight
  • odor resistant

Moisture-wicking material is commonly found in athletic sportswear. Often made from man-made fibres such as polyester, it’s wide surface area means it can quickly move sweat to the fabric’s outer surface to be evaporated away from the body. It absorbs very little water compared to cotton.

How Stuff Works gives this example on how moisture-wicking works: “Just like a candle draws wax up the wick to the flame, wicking fabric pulls moisture from the body to the exterior of the shirt.”

This is called capillary action and what’s happening in your moisture-wicking clothing is actually very similar to what capillaries in the human body do. Capillaries are small blood vessels that feed oxygenated blood to the body’s tissues. Lumen Learning describes this as ‘the ability of a liquid to flow in narrow spaces without the assistance of, and in opposition to, external forces such as gravity.’

Water moving through a paper towel is an example of capillary action. So, too, is a plant taking on water through its roots or using a drinking straw to enjoy a glass of water.

What Fabric is Moisture Wicking?

Most moisture-wicking material is synthetic. Polyester and nylon, for example, are often used in sportswear as they’re not ‘water-friendly’ which means they don’t absorb liquids very well. You’re likely to see spandex and polypropylene on clothing labels, too. Some big brands have specifically trademarked their moisture-wicking clothing signalling to customers that they’re buying performance wear. Nike has Dri-Fit. Under Armor has HeatGear, and GoreTex is another trademarked name.

Not all moisture-wicking fabrics are synthetic, however. You might be surprised to find that both wool and bamboo have excellent ‘dry’ qualities. Merino wool is particularly popular if you’re hiking or exercising in a cool environment where sweat left on a shirt could cause the body’s temperature to drop whenever physical exertion slows.

Wool has the added advantage as it resists odours in a way than man-made sweat-wicking fabrics don’t.

Do Moisture Wicking Fabrics Keep You Cool?

Yes. Moisture-wicking fabric isn’t just about keeping you comfortable but it’s also designed to help keep you cool when exercising. Evaporation is how our body naturally regulates its temperature and so, as a moisture-wicking facilitates this, you’ll be cooler than if you were wearing cotton, for example.

Do Moisture Wicking Fabrics Keep You Warm?

Yes, and incidentally it’s the same process keeping you warm as keeping you cool. Moisture makes it harder to stay warm so if there’s no moisture — thanks to the wicking fabric — then you’re less likely to feel the cold. Sweat-wicking clothing is often used as base-layers for people who hike or climb in environments where maintaining warmth is essential.

Moisture Wicking Vs DriFit Vs HeatGear.

DriFit is just moisture-wicking clothing made by Nike. HeatGear is made by Under Armor and both use moisture-wicking fabrics in their sports performance lines.

Are EarHugz Moisture Wicking?

Yes. EarHugz were designed to move sweat away from your headphone cushions quickly and efficiently. Sweat is corrosive and it can damage both the earpads and the internal components of your headphone. Made from 82% polyester and 18% spandex, they wick sweat away before it can crack, wrinkle and peel the cushioning material. Sweat-proof covers will help to keep your headphones fresh and functioning for many years to come no matter how hard you’re hitting the gym.

Are EarSnugz Moisture Wicking?

EarSnugz are headphone earmuffs designed to be worn in the colder weather to help keep your ears toasty warm and to help make on-ear and over-ear headphones more comfortable. They don’t need to be moisture-wicking. If you’re looking for moisture protection during exercise, then we’d suggest adding a pair of EarHugz instead.

Is Cotton Really That Bad to Wear in the Gym?

Cotton is a breathable material which is good because it’s not going to make you sweat more than you already are, but it’s rarely the best choice of material for gym wear. Wicking material generally tends to be a tighter fit, too, with cotton being looser and baggier. This can sometimes be a risk in the gym where anything that hangs too low or too freely can become caught in a machine. Cotton just isn’t going to stand up to repeated tough workouts, either. It tends to lose its shape relatively quickly, and as it doesn’t wick sweat away it’s going to signal to everyone just how sweaty you really are.

How do You Wash Moisture Wicking Clothing?

The general advice is that you should wash your gym kit after each workout. You may be able to get away with every other workout but that will depend on how much you sweat and how hard your workout was. As with all gym gear, you should resist the temptation to roll it into a ball and toss it into the bottom of your bag. If you can’t put it in the washing machine straight away, then hang it up and allow air to circulate around it. Don’t add too much detergent as this can lead to a coating on the synthetic fibres that will actually make it harder to get out any lingering odours. You may already have noticed that problem: that your kit still smells of sweat even after it’s been thoroughly washed. You can use white vinegar or bicarbonate of soda either as a soak or in the machine to help rid these stubborn odours.

Remember, too, not to use fabric softener and don’t put your moisture-wicking kit in the dryer.

Are you a fan of moisture-wicking clothing or are you old-school and 100% natural cotton? Drop us a message below and let us know.

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In hot summer months, the difference between a pleasant day out and discomfort in the heat may depend on the lightness of your clothing. Many lightweight fabrics are breathable, durable and retain color well. Many of these fabrics are also used for wedding dresses and other formal wear.


Chiffon is a lightweight fabric made from cotton, silk or nylon. The word chiffon comes from the French word for cloth or rag. Chiffon is sheer and plain woven. People often use chiffon for wedding dresses and other formal evening wear. It can feel slightly rough to the touch and often has a small amount of stretchiness.


Linen comes from flax, a plant that grows throughout the Mediterranean and large parts of Asia. Linen cloth is especially lightweight and has been traditionally used for summer wear. Linen is twice as strong as cotton and can be used for many years with proper care. Linen also lends itself to dying and holds dyes well without losing its color.


Ramie is a plant fiber-based fabric similar to linen. Ramie comes from a plant that grows in eastern areas of Asia. Its threads are very strong and ramie clothing can last much longer than cotton. Ramie is naturally a pure white but holds dyes easily. This fabric is also naturally antimicrobial and resists bacterial growth.


Silk is a versatile fabric. Fabric makers can produce very heavy silks, such as dupioni silks, as well as very lightweight varieties, such as crepe de chine. Crepe de chine, despite having a very light weight, is very durable. Many tailors find crepe de chine easy to work with due to the ease with which it accepts thread as well as its tendency to stay together rather than fray when cut.

A New Way To Shop

Here are the best breathable summer fabrics to keep you cool!

1. Cotton

Where to Wear it?
Cotton is perfect for all climates, which is why it’s widely worn & loved. Wear this in dry heat or humidity, too.

What’s The Benefit?
This natural fiber allows air to circulate & move freely through the fabric, which makes heat more bearable. It’s like a built-in air-conditioner for your body!

Stylist Tip: Remember, cotton can shrink in the dryer! In the summer, take the extra minute to hang dry your cotton garments (it’s hot anyways!).

2. Chambray

Where to Wear It?
Because this is cotton, it too will keep you cool in dry heat & humidity.

What’s The Benefit?
Chambray often comes in a higher thread count, which means it’s a finer weave & more breathable fabric.

Stylist Tip: Chambray has a similar look to denim so you can get the look without feeling weighed down.

3. Rayon

Where to Wear It?
Rayon is best in dry heat. Since it’s still not a natural fiber, it won’t wick away moisture as well as cotton.

What’s The Benefit?
Rayon is a thinner thread than cotton, so it’s great for delicate, lightweight clothing that drapes ever so well.

Stylist Tip: Light-colored garments in white, cream & pastels don’t absorb sunlight like dark colors do. Wear them to stay cool.

4. Linen

Where to Wear It?
Anywhere! Linen was made for the heat.

What’s The Benefit?
Linen textiles are some of the oldest in the world—people have been wearing it for centuries, and for good reason. The natural fiber and light weave allow for maximum breathability; the coolest of the cool.

Stylist Tip: Wrinkles are part of the carefree, lived-in beauty of linen. Hate to iron? Lightly spray your garment with a water bottle and smooth over wrinkles with your hand.

5. Blends

Where to Wear It?
Synthetic fabrics are known for detracting moisture (think: athletic wear), so they’re great in humid climates.

What’s The Benefit?
Blended fabrics keep their shape & require little to no maintenance (like ironing!).

Stylist tip: Blended fabrics resist heat well, so you can wash and dry garments without worrying about damage or dreaded shrinkage. Machine washable = huge time-saver!

Ready to beat the heat? Tell your Stylist which breathable fabrics you want to add to your closet!

By: Margaret Murray

8 of the Best Fabrics for Summer Clothing

There’s nothing worse than that sticky, sweaty feeling when it’s ‘el scorchio’. You rather want to flail your arms around in that envious care-free summer manner. So, when the weather is hot hot hot, make sure you’re not not not that person everyone avoids on the tube and discover our pick of the best fabrics for summer clothing.

These lightweight, breathable fabrics are designed to keep you cool when the sun will *hopefully* put on a show this summer. For people who are lucky enough to enjoy the heat without the fear of melting into your clothes, these summer clothing fabrics should dominate your holiday wardrobe. Each one is custom printed with your original designs, allowing you to create a bold statement with your summer style.

1. Paris Chiffon

Elegant and ethereal, you can’t help but love Paris Chiffon. It radiates femininity, so why not make a sultry summer nightgown to wear around the home on those balmy evenings? Light and airy with a silky surface texture, it slips easily over the body and feels luxurious against the skin. Because it’s so delicate, it’s best to sew using an under layer or layer with multiple pieces to build up strength.

Paris Chiffon Summer Shawl or Sarong

2. Florence Net

Florence Net is a finely knitted tulle fabric, with some serious stretch and serious strength to match. Yep, that’s right, don’t let the fluid drape and delicate appearance throw you off; it’s a power-mesh material that has many qualities and uses. Use it to create your own beach camisole to slip on after having a splash around in the pool. The net-like construction allows heat and moisture to leave the body, ensuring you’re the epitome of ‘cool’.

Florence Net Beach Dress

3. 100% Linen

From simple linen trousers to a gorgeous lightweight summer jacket, 100% natural linen is an essential fabric to prevent you from overheating. Woven from slub yarns on the warp and weft, its rustic appearance embodies the nostalgia that the summer season brings. Light, airy and characterised by the distinct texture, linen is a fine choice for hot weather attire.

4. Pima Lawn 100% Cotton

How could I do a roundup of the best fabrics for summer clothing and not mention cotton? Cotton is the number one choice for many people when it comes to summer clothes because it’s so light and breathable. Although it has a natural drape, pima lawn cotton has a slight stiffness, lending itself well for making lightweight summer shirts. It’s time to ditch your polyester work shirt and join the cotton club.

Cotton Pyjama Bottoms by #ContradoCreative Anoelle Jay

5. Silk Georgette

Similar to chiffon, the real silk georgette is a sheer, fluid fabric and only weighs 50gsm. It’s one of those materials you can get really creative with and use in many ways. Enhance a plain top by sewing on statement sheer bell sleeves, made from gorgeous delicate silk georgette. Or you could make your own oversized kimono for those balmy evenings, where you can bask in the later afternoon sun looking simply radiant.

Silk Georgette Scarf

6. Jersey Stretch Light

Jersey is popular all year round, and for good reason. Breathable, stretchy and just down right comfortable, use this 130gsm light jersey to make your own t-shirt dresses, tops, shawls and summer style cardigans. It’s quick drying with slightly water absorbent properties, so take your jersey clothes to the beach or pool and don’t worry about taking a splash.

Light Jersey Crop Top

7. Loose Knit Jersey

This unique loose knit jersey is reminiscent of cheesecloth, so naturally it’s one of the best fabrics for summer clothing. The distinctive uneven knit creates a random pattern where the yarns are dense in some places and sparse in others. With a construction like this, the structure allows air to flow in and out. Soft, stretchy and moisture-wicking, I recommend using this gorgeous fabric for lightweight summer knits. Think cardigans, jumpers and even retro style summer shift dresses.

8. Airflow Sports Stretch

Enjoy some beach volleyball or a game of cricket in the sun wearing your custom-made airflow sports stretch tank top. The unique holes from the pique knit allow air to pass through, keeping you cool during long afternoons spent at the park. Doing exercise in the heat doesn’t exactly sound appealing, but airflow fabric is designed specifically to keep you comfortable whilst working out.

Airflow Sports Stretch Vest Top by #ContradoCreative Josef Mcfadden

Feeling ready to soak up in the sun in style? Discover these and way more fabrics in our amazing swatch packs. You get to get up close and personal with 100+ fabrics and decide on the perfect one for your project. Click the banner below and choose from 4 swatch packs. With your first swatch pack order, you’ll also receive a £10 voucher to use on custom fabric prints!

What is the Most Breathable Fabric? 9 Fabrics that Don’t Show Sweat

In our fast-paced world, finding clothes that look good and feel good can be quite a feat. You want to look your best, yet you also want to be as comfortable as possible, especially if you sweat a lot. You may feel like you’re on a never-ending search for the most breathable fabrics, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Fabrics that don’t show sweat are often breathable to help prevent sweat. Breathable fabrics allow air to flow through them easily, which speeds up sweat evaporation and keeps you cool. Moisture wicking fabrics also keep you comfortable and dry when sweating.

Here we look at the nine most breathable fabrics to help you look your best, even when you are sweating the most.

As one of the most breathable fabrics, cotton offers comfortable and fashionable options in both casual and professional attire. It is not only breathable but also durable and soft. It is an easy-care option, which means no costly dry cleaning. If you find you sweat less when you are cooler, cotton is a good option.

Downside: Cotton tends to absorb moisture instead of wicking it away from your skin. If you tend to sweat regardless of the temperature, it’s not the best choice for you.

Breathable fabrics allow air to flow through them easily, which speeds up sweat evaporation and keeps you cool

2. Polyester

Polyester is a popular fabric used in workout clothing and activewear because it is lightweight and breathable. Just how breathable is polyester? Very; it’s lightweight and water-repellent so moisture on your skin evaporates instead of soaking into the fabric. Does polyester remove sweat? Technically, no. But because it’s not absorbent, the sweat doesn’t absorb into the fabric.

Downside: Polyester tends to retain odors and can even contribute to bacteria growth, which attributes to lingering odor after washing.

3. Nylon

Nylon is often used in activewear. It wicks away moisture and it also dries quickly should you break a sweat. Is nylon breathable? It varies in breathability based on how the nylon is made or blended.

Downside: Nylon tends to retain odors.

4. Rayon

Does rayon make you sweat? No. It doesn’t cause you to sweat because it offers moderate breathability and has a silky texture. For the most part, it drapes nicely and dries quickly if you do sweat.

Downside: Rayon doesn’t wick away moisture and requires dry cleaning.

5. Linen

This is the go-to summer fabric, especially for casual clothes. It requires minimal care yet offers excellent breathability due to its large fibers and open weaves.

Downside: Linen tends to absorb moisture instead of wicking it away. Linen also dries slowly so avoid it if you anticipate an exceptionally sweaty day.

6. Silk

Silk is a popular fabric choice for underwear and higher-end casual summer wear. While described as luxurious, it is very lightweight and breathable.

Downside: Silk tends to retain odor, and it requires hand-washing.

7. Micromodal

This is a form of high wet modulus rayon. It’s popular for undergarments because it is exceptionally soft and durable. It is a natural fabric made of beech tree wood pulp, which is why it’s so breathable. Micromodal is 50 percent more absorbent than cotton so perspiration is wicked away from the skin, leaving you feeling dry.

Downside: Micromodal is prone to issues with pilling and stretching, which is why it is most often used for underwear and pajamas.

8. Merino Wool

Merino wool is usually thought of as a winter fabric, but it is also used in summer apparel. Why? Because it breathes well, wicks away moisture and doesn’t retain odor.

Downside: Merino wool is less durable than other fabrics, and some people find it itchy, even with today’s smoother weaves. It also may require hand-washing and air-drying to retain its shape.

Breathable fabrics help you look your best, even when you are sweating the most.

9. Chambray

Chambray is like denim. It is a tightly woven cotton fabric, which means it is sweat-absorbent yet breathable. It is lighter weight than denim, which makes it a good choice for summer wear.

Downside: Chambray is not as durable as denim and tends to easily wrinkle.

Today’s apparel features many breathable fabrics, ranging from all natural cotton to synthetic polyester. Each type of fabric offers an advantage if you experience situational, or even excessive sweating.

Whether you consider yourself a ‘sweaty person’ or not, at some point this summer you’re bound to have some kind of sweat patch fiasco.

Whether you’re someone who needs only a small spritz of deodorant in the morning, or the girl whose friends whisper ‘S.U.L.A’ (sweaty upper lip alert) to her in a social gathering, the predicted unprecedented hot climes of this summer in the UK are playing havoc with our sweat glands.

Your Bottega Venetta quilted leather skirt might be the height of cool, but the dribble of sweat running down your legs after a hot bus ride rather undermines the statement. And that Balenciaga wool blazer isn’t going to be such a clever investment when you realise that even the best dry cleaner can’t over turn the pong of your overheated underarms.

Seriously summer, you’re really going to test our patience

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Hot weather is great and all (Pimms, park, vitamin D), but we’re seriously struggling to know how to dress not only for the increased temperatures, but for our excessive public sweating.

As a result, we’ve rounded up a list of fabric do and don’ts for the summer because let’s face it, we’re tired of looking like our elbows are permanently glued to our sides.

Summer fabric Dos:

There’s a reason your summer wardrobe consists of so many cotton dresses, shirts and flared skirts.

Cotton is a natural fibre which allows air to circulate and move freely through the fabric, ensuring airflow that dries out damp areas of the body. A good quality lightweight cotton also absorbs moisture and comes in a variety of styles and colours.

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However, be warned, because cotton creases easily. So, when it comes to packing for a holiday, a cotton polyester blend may be your best option.

It’s also worth noting that seeing as cotton soaks up moisture, it can become heavy and wet, so opt for light rather than dark colours in order to avoid pit patches.

All hail, linen. Linen is a loosely woven fabric which allows heat to escape from the body, it absorbs moisture and dries quickly.

What does this mean? You + linen = cool as a cucumber.

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It’s also pretty malleable so doesn’t tend to stick to the body. However, it can wrinkle quite easily so look for linen blends if crinkles aren’t your bag.


A chambray is a plain weave fabric, woven with a coloured yarn in the warp and a white yarn in the weft, similar to denim.

It’s lightweight, breathable and darker shades commonly absorb the majority of sweat meaning ‘goodbye, bum sweat’.

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Swap denim wardrobe options for chambray alternatives and see your summer sweat days officially over.

Summer fabric Don’ts:

While the fabric is highly stain-resistant and durable, polyester is also a sweaty woman’s nightmare in summer.

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Woven or knitted from polyester thread or yarn, polyester base fabrics are water resistant which means they’re horrendous at absorbing any indication of moisture. Basically, wearing polyester means you’ll be trapped in a vacuum of your own sweat all day.

This might explain why those bargain garments in your wardrobe stay exactly there – in your wardrobe – during summer.

Swap polyester for cotton, for all our sakes.


Rayon is a sneaky devil.

It’s a man-made fabric blended from cotton, wood pulp, and other natural or synthetic fibres.

While the thin fibres of rayon make it light and prevents sticking to the body, let’s not forget it’s made of synthetic fibres, just like polyester, meaning it’s more likely to repel than absorb water.

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If you remember one thing from this, it’s that you want your summer fabrics to absorb not repel water. Yes, this may sound contradictory to someone who suffers from sweat patches on their clothes but textures that repel moisture actually mean areas of dampness are more likely to show on what you wear.


Yes, those original Levi shorts may look cute in the park, but you’ve got to be one hell of a brave soul to wear denim in summer.

Denim is a durable, heavyweight fabric which means it isn’t breathable nor stretchy – two words which basically mean ‘anti-sweat’.

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Bum sweat, chaffing, increased sweat – let’s just say denim is not your friend, my fellow sweaters.

Say it with me now: ‘Chambray.’

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The Best Uniform Fabrics to Keep Your Employees Cool – Service Uniform

Do your uniforms keep your employees cool or do they function more like an oven? With summer approaching, it may be time to consider whether your uniform fabric is helping or hurting your business.

We’ve all had one of those long, unbearably hot days – the kind that seems to go on forever, melt the muscles right off our bones and fry our brains. While this can often be easily remedied at home with some air conditioning, a quick shower and a change of clothes, things may not be as easy at work.

Working in hot conditions has far graver consequences than just the embarrassing pit stains and reduced productivity. Too much heat, in extreme scenarios, can strain the heart and lungs and cause painful muscle cramps.

But one of the more common, but certainly not less dangerous, consequences of working in hot conditions is reduced concentration which, in turn, raises the risk of occupational injuries and accidents. This problem is not only specific to industrial and outdoor workplaces – it is also a common problem in indoor work spaces. Aside from making sure that common solutions against heat stress are in place (i.e. air conditioning, water supply, etc.), it is important to select work clothes and fabric that keeps you cool and keeps your employees cool.

The Types of Fabric That Keep You Cool

More than design, the type of fabric used in work clothes makes the difference between comfort and suffering from heat stress. Here are some of your best choices:

  • Cotton – This classic choice has long been a summer staple. Cotton is a very breathable fabric, allowing for proper air circulation. It absorbs sweat effectively, keeping its wearer cool and comfortable.
  • Polyester – Polyester is one of the most commonly-used materials for microfiber fabrics. This synthetic material is not only well-known for its durability, but it is also a preferred material for its ability to draw moisture away from the skin, hence its popular use in athletic apparel.
  • Polyester Blends – While polyester is excellent as it is, it becomes an even more effective cooling fabric in combination with other fibers. One of the most popular combinations for cool and comfortable clothing is polyester and cotton. Poplin, a type of fabric usually made of a polyester and another type of fiber (i.e. silk, wool, other synthetic materials), is a popular choice for sportswear and summer wear for its breathability, water-resistance, and lightness.

The Best Types of Work Clothes That Keep You Cool: Moisture-Wicking Technology

One of those terms that many brands love throwing around is moisture-wicking technology. It’s used in the marketing of both regular clothing and athletic apparel. But what exactly does this do?

Moisture-wicking fabrics are basically designed to keep the wearer dry. The combination of fibers in the fabric, usually a tight polyester-cotton blend, pulls away the sweat from the skin and ‘wicks’ it away towards the exterior of the clothing where it can evaporate more rapidly. This means that the wearer can more comfortably keep on with his/her activities, reducing the effects of heat and sweat. Many of our uniforms feature moisture-wicking technology.

Service Uniform has a whole range of work tops and pants from Red Kap that are designed to keep your employees cool and comfortable through their long, demanding shifts. Red Kap’s Touch Tex™ II shirts and pants boast permanent softness, moisture management, stain release, color protection and durability. Improve your image, employee morale, safety and productivity all with one simple uniform solution!

Make the right choice today. Contact Service Uniform at 303-936-4701 for more information on our specialized work apparel!

June 6, 2018 | Customized Uniforms, Uniform Rental

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Know Your Fabrics! A Guide to Wool, Cotton, Polyester, Viscose and Silk

I (used to) know virtually nothing about the differences in fabrics. Perhaps that silk was silky, wool came from animals and that polyester was synthetic but the details were few and far between. Not knowing the properties of different types of fabrics can be a nightmare. It makes it hard to take those details into account when shopping online, and unless you’re the kind of person who reads and listens to labels (c’mon, they’re being over cautious… right?) laundry time can result in disaster.

I took it on myself to familiarize myself with a few of the more popular types of fabrics, so that I can make more educated choices and care better for my clothes. There are many different kinds of fabrics, especially when you start mixing and matching (‘blending’), but I’m going to look at wool, cotton, polyester, viscose and silk.

Wool actually comes from a variety of animal coats, and its the way in which the wool fibres have little curls in them (think, sheep for example) that create a ‘spongy’ feel and gives way to its characteristic cozy warmth.

Not all wools are scratchy either, the coat above is a wool blend but the materials is quite soft with a fuzzy surface. Characteristic of wool, along with the fact that it has very little shine or sheen.

Wool is a resilient fabric, it’ll return to its original condition after being stretched or creased, and is pretty resistant to dirt, and wear and tear.

It will also absorb up to 30% of its weight in moisture without feeling damp, which makes it excellent for winter wear.

Wool is generally bulky and heavy, but other varieties such as worsted wool are smoother and finer. Worsted wool is a bit more ‘shiny,’ and unlike wool-wool holds creases.

Caring for Wool

  • Don’t wash wool to often! Washing wool too frequently can wear out the fabric, and shorten its life.
  • Instead, in between washing wool garments brush off the dirt and don’t let it settle. I’ve also heard that you can ‘refresh’ wool by putting it in a steamy bathroom.
  • When you do need to wash wool, put it on a delicate settings and don’t rub it.
  • Wool should never be put in the dryer, as that is likely to result in shrinking.

Cotton is soft and comfortable. It’s best property is its ability to ‘breathe’ by absorbing and releasing perspiration quickly. It’s a high quality fabric, can withstand high heat and lasts for years.

Unfortunately cotton wrinkles, and 100% cotton garments must be ironed regularly to keep their appearance.

Cotton will shrink the first time it is washed, although some cotton clothes come pre-shrunk it is important to check this out.

Lower quality cottons are prone to pilling.

Caring for Cotton

  • Cotton is relatively low maintenance and can be washed in a washing machine using warm water and soap.
  • Cotton can also be dried in a dryer on a low heat, or hung to dry on a clothesline, but be careful when putting dark-coloured cottons in the dryer as this will cause the colour to fade over time.
  • Iron to remove winkles, but take care not to iron over stains as this will end up ‘setting’ the stains (making them permanent).

Polyester has a bit of a bad reputation, but current polyester fabrics have a reasonably nice feel. Its best property is that it’s strong and resistant to creasing, thus polyester garments keep their shape quite well. You’ll often find polyester blended with cotton to help the cotton keep its shape and prevent it from wrinkling (this is known as a ‘permanent press’ property).

Polyester is resilient and resists biological damage, it wears quite well and is easy to wash.

100% polyester fabrics (like the top above) are actually quite soft and smooth. Almost satiny. They have a bit of give give in them.

Caring for Polyester

  • Polyester is machine washable, and can be dried on low heat setting in your dryer or by hung out to air dry.
  • If you are putting polyester items in the dryer, don’t leave it running too long. This can cause shrinkage.
  • Polyester usually doesn’t require ironing, but you can use an iron on a warm setting if need be. Don’t use a hot setting as polyester can scorch.


I’ve done a bit of research, and I still can’t say what the difference between viscose and rayon. Some say that rayon and viscose is the same thing, just different terminology, others say that viscose is a type of rayon. For our purposes, we’ll look at them together. Viscose has a silky appearance and feel, it breathes like cotton and has a good ‘drape.’ It’s relatively light, resulting in lightweight clothing.

Its main drawback is that it wrinkles very easily, which is why I’m always finding my viscose t-shirts crumbled and crinkly.

Caring for Viscose Rayon

  • Viscose requires delicate hand in cool – luke warm water with washing for proper care, with no wringing or twisting (apparently this can cause the fabric to rip).
  • If its a relatively unimportant item (t-shirts, for example) you may be able to get away with putting it in a wash back for a machine wash on a delicate setting… but tread with caution!
  • Hang wet items and let them dry that way, this will also help to remove any creasing.
  • To remove wrinkles, iron using a medium setting with steam.

Silk is made from the fibres of the cocoon of the Chinese silkworm. It is spun into a smooth, shiny and sleek fabric. Silk absorbs moisture, which makes it cool in the summer and warm in the winter – and its this high level of absorbency that means it can be dyed many different colors.

It feels quite luxurious! Silk retains its shape, drapes well and caresses the figure.

Caring for Silk

  • Silk care will depend on the type of silk, so here I do recommend checking the label. Sometimes you will need to take silk to be dry cleaned.
  • Unless the label clearly states that the item is machine washable, was by hand. Use gold water, and massage soap through the garment, gently! Rinse our the soap with cold water.
  • To dry, never ring out/twist silk as this could damage it. Instead, lay it out on a dry towel, and then use another towel to soak up the excess water. Hang the garment up once you’ve removed the heaviest of the water, and let it dry out on the hanger. Padded hangers are recommended – wire ones will leave an impression and are generally just not good, and wooden hangers can stain the fabric.
  • Don’t hang sin the sun, as it will eventually yellow/fade.
  • Use a low setting on an iron to remove any persistent wrinkles – but most will cease on their own.

Polyester: Not Just Your Father’s Leisure Suit

Remember the 1977 film “Saturday Night Fever”—disco music coupled with young dancers clothed in garish shades, bell-bottoms, wide lapels and shirt collars the size of hang gliders? Much of it made from polyester fabric.

Fashion (thankfully) has changed a bit since then, and so have plastic fabrics. Instead of the somewhat coarse fabric of many leisure suits of that era, polyester fabric today is generally soft and smooth, whether used in fine apparel or active wear.

So … did something happen to polyester clothing since the ’70s?

The History of Polyester Fabric

First, some history of plastic. (Hey, I’m a professor.) Polyester plastic was discovered in a DuPont lab in the late 1930s, but scientist W. H. Caruthers set it aside to work on his newly discovered nylon. A group of British scientists applied Caruthers’ work in 1941 and created the first commercial polyester fiber in 1941 called Terylene. DuPont purchased the legal rights in 1946 and created another polyester fiber: the now familiar Dacron. Eastman Chemical created another polyester fiber in 1958 called Kodel.

The polyester fabric market rapidly expanded, to include by the late ’70s the ubiquitous and much maligned double knit polyester pantsuits, leisure suits, golf pants and other fashion atrocities.

What is Polyester Fabric?

Like other polymers, there are many variations of “polyesters.” The most popular is polyethylene terephthalate, or PET, which is widely used in both packaging and clothing. Polyesters are defined as (snooze alert!) long-chain polymers chemically composed of at least 85 percent by weight of an ester and a di-hydric alcohol and a terephthalic acid. The term refers to many (poly) esters (the building block compound—many fats and fragrances are esters).

Plastics makers produce polyethylene variations under distinctive trade names—thus Terylene, Dacron and Kodel mentioned above.

To make polyester into fibers, the plastic is melt spun, meaning the plastic is heated and forced through spinnerets into fibers (a spinneret is essentially an industrial mechanism similar to a spider’s silk spinning organs). The fibers are stretched to five times their length, typically combined into yarn and then weaved or knitted into polyester fabrics.

Regardless the variation or the decade, polyester fabrics always have been strong, resistant to stretching and shrinking, easy to clean, quick drying and resistant to wrinkles, mildew and abrasions … a perfect combination for clothing.

How Polyester Fabric Has Changed Through the Years

So why did some ’70s leisure suit fabrics feel different than today’s polyesters? Mostly it was the double knit nature of the polyester fabric used in those suits and the relatively larger size of the fibers.

In reality, there were many wonderful polyester fabrics in the ’70s. The choice of fabric rested with the garment maker, who often wanted to keep down costs. And since trends during the economically challenging late ’70’s were toward saving money and living less formally, many Americans were attracted to the very inexpensive leisure suit. (I never was. I swear.)

Polyester Today: A Modern Fabric for Savvy Consumers

Today’s consumer (mercifully) demands better. And innovations in technology continue to improve polyester fiber and fabric through:

  • Refinements in production of the resin (usually highly guarded trade secrets);
  • Changing the shape of the spinneret, which changes the shape and feel of the fiber;
  • Stretching the polyester fiber beyond the typical five times its original length;
  • Crimping the polyester fiber to create more texture and bulk for insulating and elasticity;
  • Various additives that alter the polyester fabric’s sheen, increase colorfastness, improve drape and more; and
  • The creation of microfiber, extremely fine fibers approximately 1/100 the diameter of human hair that are used in all sorts of fabrics and clothing (and many other applications).

The cultural backlash against the leisure suit (and disco, for that matter) struck a blow to the image of polyester fabric. However, studies done in the early ’80s found that nearly nine out of 10 Americans could not differentiate between polyester and fabrics made with cotton, wool and silk.

Frankly, people have become more interested in the look, feel and cost of fabrics and clothing, not necessarily what they are made of. Constantly improving quality coupled with a “Say Yes to polYESter” marketing campaign led to a strong comeback for the once disparaged material.

Polyester Fabric Trends and Innovations

And it’s not simply for casual clothes anymore. Most Americans probably don’t know this, but polyester and other plastic based fabrics are used throughout the high-end fashion world. Instead of identifying the materials, designers often use euphemisms such as “technical fabrics” and “techno fabrics.” Whatever. These fabrics are made with plastics, one of which is so light that a bolt of fabric weighs less than the cardboard roll it’s delivered on.

Similar polyester and other plastic based fabrics have taken the sporting and outdoor worlds by storm. Wander through any sporting goods store or outdoor outfitter and check the tags—nearly all plastics.

So go ahead and make fun of your dad’s leisure suit—or your own. But celebrate the resurgence of a superb product … and say YES to polyester fabrics.

Read More: The history of recycling

The 411 on Cotton vs. Polyester: The Pros and Cons

So, what’s the big difference between cotton and polyester fabric? There are those who swear by cotton, but cheaper polyester is pretty tempting, isn’t it? You may think that the lower cost of polyester means a lower quality product, but that isn’t necessarily the case.

Polyester is great for some projects, while cotton is great for others. The real trick is to weigh the pros and cons to decide which is the right choice for you. Some people only want to work with 100% cotton because it’s so easy to sew and is predictable. You know exactly what you’re getting. Others prefer polyester because it’s long-lasting and usually less expensive.

Let’s go over each.


Breathable: This natural fiber lets your skin breathe. It also absorbs moisture to keep your body temperature stable.

Soft, but strong: The fibers are less abrasive than polyester, so it feels super soft on your skin. That being said, some cotton fabric is designed to be strong and rough, like heavy duty cotton canvas. It all depends on the weave and the finish.

Great for sensitive skin: Because it is so much softer, those with sensitive skin tolerate 100% cotton better than polyester. With organic products becoming increasingly popular, you can find cotton fabric made with very little chemical processing.

Easy to dye: The fibers hold dye incredibly well. It also tends to dye evenly and produce a truer, deeper color. However, with excessive exposure to sunlight and time (decades), the dye will eventually fade. Also, cotton will shrink with the first washing and drying.

Biodegradable: Cotton will break down over time. Cotton isn’t as durable as polyester in the long run. However, proper care can prolong the life of cotton. Try to avoid prolonged exposure to excessive sunlight and moisture.


Long lasting: Polyester is a man-made fiber. It’s very resilient and can withstand a good deal of wear and tear. It’s basically plastic. In fact, plastic bottles can be recycled into polyester fabric. Polyester is not compostable, meaning it doesn’t break down well in soil. Think about this in a landfill.

Less fading: Polyester holds dye well to prevent fading, but doesn’t produce as “rich” of a color as cotton. High-quality polyester holds its shape well and doesn’t shrink.

Dries quickly: Unlike cotton, polyester isn’t absorbent. It’s definitely not your go-to for towels. However, it dries super fast. So if you want to reduce that electricity bill, you might want to sew polyester clothing.

Less wrinkling: It’s more resistant to wrinkles than cotton. This is great for anyone who dreads ironing.

Nonbreathing: Polyester doesn’t let your skin breathe like cotton. For instance, if you wear a polyester shirt in the summer, you might find yourself pretty sweaty. That being said, there are many performance wear polyester products specifically engineered to wick sweat away from your body, but it really only works if the fabric is skin tight. If you buy a low-quality product, you’ll notice a weird after smell.

Cotton/Poly Mix

This is the best of both worlds. Developers take the best qualities of both and weave them together to make one heck of a fabric. This stuff is great for apparel and home decor.

Quilters will still tell you to stick to 100% cotton and they have good reasons to say that. It’s easy to use, it’s predictable, and it shrinks at the same rate.

I say experiment with as much fabric as you can and see what you like best. It’s all about the individual sewist and how you like to sew.

What about the environment?

This can make or break it for some people. Many people prefer cotton because it is a plant-based product and is “sustainable”. Now, take a look at the two photos below.

Pretty similar, right? The first image is a cotton factory and the second image is a polyester factory. Either way, both fabrics are created in power-sucking factories. Both go through multiple chemical processes to make the final product and both products will be shipped around the globe. Even when you consider that polyester can be made from recycled plastic bottles, check out the huge process it goes through.

Now, consider all of the chemicals pumped into the atmosphere and all of the energy used to power the plants.
Before you start hating polyester, just know cotton has a dirty side, too. Cotton farming uses the most pesticides of any crop in the world. Every time it rains or the plant decomposes, chemicals leak into the ground water and surrounding water sources. Cotton takes a ton of land to grow and that land has to be watered a lot! Then, it all needs to be harvested using motorized farming equipment. Unless those tractors run on solar power, they aren’t great for the environment.

Do you want to really be eco-friendly? Up-cycle and sew every scrap. Use your sewing skills to fix your clothing and home goods instead of buying new.

You could also start your own organic cotton fields. You could hand pick and process the cotton, then weave your own fabric. I guess that would be the most eco-friendly.

Personally, I’m sticking with fabric off the bolt

Hey, I recycle. Don’t judge.

Frey, M., Li, L., & Browning, K. (n.d.). Retrieved from here
Baugh, G. (n.d.). Retrieved from here

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