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What is the difference between absorptive and evaporative cooling products?

By Jessica Barrett | Last updated: January 20, 2020
Presented by Ergodyne

In hot work environments, cooling gear is a necessity to help workers stay comfortable and combat heat stress.

What many people don’t realize is that there are actually two different types of cooling products: absorptive and evaporative. Let’s look at what the difference is.

Absorptive Cooling Products

Absorptive cooling products, as the name suggests, absorb sweat to help keep the wearer cool and ensure perspiration doesn’t drip onto the eyes or hands and get in the way of safe work.


You’re likely familiar with these already, as many athletes (particularly tennis players) use them. Wrist sweatbands and headbands are the most common absorptive products, and often fit nicely under other PPE (like hard hats) to ensure comfort without compromising the effectiveness of the protective gear.

(Learn about New Trends in Equipment to Help Outdoor Workers Beat the Heat.)

Evaporative Cooling Products

Evaporative cooling products, on the other hand, activate using airflow and water. As body heat and the surrounding air cause the water within the item to evaporate, the wearer experiences a cooling sensation.

Unlike absorptive products, evaporative gear requires some preparation – the wearer must fill the evaporative items with water prior to use.

The most common evaporative cooling products include cooling hats, vests, and towels.

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Written by Jessica Barrett

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Jessica is a freelance writer and editor from Toronto, Canada. She specializes in creating content for nonprofits and has written for organizations working in human rights, conservation, education, and health care. She loves traveling and food, speaks Spanish, and has two dogs, one of whom she rescued while living in Mexico.

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