What Does Moisture Wicking Mean?
Moisture wicking is a process by which moisture is drawn away from the skin. Moisture wicking clothing allows the wearer to stay comfortable, cool, and insulated in conditions that cause them to sweat.
Moisture wicking fabrics have two main characteristics:
- Quickly transfering sweat to the top layer of the fabric
- Quickly drying out the sweat to prevent the fabric from soaking
Safeopedia Explains Moisture Wicking
Moisture wicking works on the principle of capillary action - a phenomenon where moisture is pulled out or up. Moisture wicking fabrics are made from a combination of two types of fibers:
- Hydrophobic (water repelling) fibers
- Hydrophilic (water absorbing) fibers
The Ideal Moisture Wicking Fabric Blend
The precise blend of fibers will affect the effectiveness of the a moisture wicking fabric. Too few hydrophilic fibers and it won't do a good job of absorbing moisture. Too few hydrophobic ones and the fabric won't be able to push the sweat to the surface where it can dissipate and evaporate.
The idea fiber blend is 55% hydrophobic and 45% hydrophilic (55/45).
The same blend works well in cold conditions, such as winter work. In that case, however, the moisture wicking fabric should be worn as a base layer so that the sweat can then be absorbed by thenext layer of clothing, keeping the wearer dry.
The Importance of Moisture Wicking for PPE
There are three conditions where moisture wicking fabrics can play an important role in keeping workers safe:
- Hot environmental conditions, such as outdoor work on a hot day or indoor work with heat-generating machinery
- Strenuous labor and extensive physical exertion
- Workers wearing heavy or thick layers of PPE and protective gear
All of these conditions can cause workers to sweat profusely, which makes moisture wicking fabrics very useful.
Not only does moisture wicking keep the wearer dry and more comfortable, it also helps their body regulate its internal temperature. In other words, it allows them to naturally combat heat stress and reduce the risks of working in high heat.
Additionally, damp clothing can contribute to cold stress. A layer of moisture wicking clothing, then, can improve safety in cold conditions as well.
Compliance and Comfort
Employers are required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to provide adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) along with safe working conditions. However, a major cause of stress and discomfort is bulky, non-breathable clothing that puts workers at a greater risk for heat- and cold-related illnesses.
Comfortable clothing not only keeps worker morale higher, it also encourages compliance.
Smart layering with breathable, moisture-wicking garments keeps PPE light and comfortable.