Athletes around the world rely on their apparel to help improve their performance. They choose clothing and gear made from high-performance, moisture wicking fabrics that allow them to focus on the next pass, kick, or jump without being distracted by damp, restrictive, sweat-soaked uniforms.

If professional and amateur athletes rely on clothing to help optimize their performance and increase their concentration, why not industrial workers?

Can high performance flame resistant (FR) fabrics improve employees' focus on their work and safety because they aren’t distracted by their clothing?

1. Superior Garments Provide Long-Lasting Moisture Wicking and Reduce Distractions

High-performance, moisture wicking fabric has been around for more than twenty years. Advanced fabrics were originally created to improve athletic performance in extreme outdoor situations, providing a cooling effect in hot weather and a warming one in the cold. These fabrics have evolved substantially over the last few years, making it challenging for the consumer to understand the difference between brands and determine which fabrics provide optimal comfort and performance.

Moisture wicking fabrics were originally crafted with a synthetic fiber, like polyester, which was coated in a chemical finish that allowed moisture to spread. Eventually, the finish would wash out and the fabric would lose its wicking capabilities. These wash-away moisture wicking fabrics are still in the marketplace, but luckily, they can be easily identified by checking the garment tag. A garment with 100% of any fiber that claims to be moisture wicking is a garment with a chemical finish that won't last after a certain number of washes.

A superior moisture wicking garment will never lose wicking capabilities and this will be guaranteed by the manufacturer. This means that industrial workers will never need to worry about the performance of their gear, reducing distractions and keeping their mind on task, even in changing weather conditions (for more on keeping workers comfortable, see New Trends in Equipment to Help Outdoor Workers Beat the Heat).

2. The Right Moisture Wicking Fiber Blend Can Improve Comfort

The latest generations of moisture wicking fabrics are made from a combination of fibers. The best fabrics are typically a mix of hydrophobic (water repelling) and hydrophilic (water absorbing) fibers. The big question then becomes: what is the optimal blend of these two fibers that creates the best performance and the softest hand?

Blends of these two types of fibers can range from 90% hydrophobic/10% hydrophilic, all the way down to 55%/45%. Testing has proven that a more balanced the blend of fibers – around 55% hydrophobic and 45% hydrophilic – allows for better transporting of moisture across the fabric. It really is a balancing act: if you don’t have enough hydrophilic fibers, the fabric won’t absorb moisture, but if you don’t have enough hydrophobic fibers, the fabric won't push the moisture out to the front.

Mastering this balance of fibers is what improves comfort and makes a garment a good fit for demanding jobs where temperature changes and work conditions are variable.

3. Moisture Wicking Fabrics Can Improve Layering Capabilities and Safety

High-performance fabrics have some additional criteria that can be evaluated to determine the best type of garment for your team.

  • Vertical wicking rate measures how fast and far moisture spreads across a fabric
  • Back to front moisture transport rate is critical to help clothes dry faster, which will lessen the chance of heat rash for the wearer. This also allows more heat to escape the body, helping thermoregulation and preventing heat stress (see Workers and Heat Stress: What You Need to Know to find out more)
  • Water vapor transmission rate calculates the breathability of the fabric, and was developed to quantify how much moisture moves or “breathes” through a fabric

Each of these factors is extremely important to consider as you select the optimal fabric for your workers, but none is more important than the others. Determining which high-performance fabric is better comes from understanding how these various ratios and rates affect the amount of moisture a fabric moves, as well as how the fabric distributes that moisture across the garment. This knowledge becomes critical when workers begin to layer garments during the workday and through the changing seasons.

Layering allows you to wear lighter weight garments that, in turn, keep the body drier, and either cooler or warmer, depending on the conditions. Several lighter weight garments can be layered to keep the worker drier and warmer than a traditional, single heavy winter garment typically would.

Layering safety improves with high0performance moisture wicking garments because:

  • Worker functionality and mobility increases by wearing multiple, thinner, lightweight garments, the combined weight of which is substantially less than that of traditional winter wear
  • Optimized water vapor transmission is critical for mid-layers, as sweatshirts and outerwear become the conduit to transfer moisture from fabric to fabric and away from the wearer

Improving Safety with the Right Fabrics

A high-performance moisture wicking garment can improve safety by improving comfort and reducing distractions with long-lasting wicking, balanced fiber blends, and improved layering capabilities.

The same high-performance fabrics that the world’s top athletes compete in are available to the industrial athlete as well. Your team will stay focused on doing their job in the safest most efficient way possible throughout the entire workday and won’t be distracted because of the wet and clammy clothes they’re wearing.

Interested in learning more about moisture wicking and improving performance on the job by choosing the right FR garment? Take a look at this free eBook now.

Check out the rest of our content about Personal Protective Equipment here.