What Is The Most Absorbent Moisture-Wicking Fabric?

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Moisture-wicking fabrics have become increasingly popular in recent years as people have become more active and interested in outdoor pursuits. These materials keep you cool and comfortable by wicking away sweat and moisture from your skin, helping to prevent chafing and skin irritation. But with so many different types of moisture-wicking fabric available, it can be difficult to determine which one is the most absorbent and effective. In this article, we’ll examine the most absorbent moisture-wicking fabrics on the market and help you find the perfect fabric for your needs.

What makes a fabric absorbent?

Before we dive into the different types of moisture-wicking fabric, it’s important to understand what makes a fabric absorbent. Absorbency refers to a material’s ability to absorb moisture, and it is influenced by several factors. The first is the fabric’s composition. Natural fibers like cotton and wool are more absorbent than synthetic fibers like polyester or nylon. This is because natural fibers have more microscopic spaces between the fibers, allowing them to hold more moisture.

The weave of the fabric also plays a role in absorbency. Loosely woven fabrics tend to be more absorbent than tightly woven ones, as the open spaces between the fibers allow for more moisture to be held. Finally, the finish of the fabric can affect its absorbency. Some fabrics are treated with finishes that repel moisture, while others are treated to be more absorbent.

Factors to consider when choosing moisture-wicking fabric

When choosing moisture-wicking fabric, there are several factors to consider beyond absorbency. One is breathability – the ability of the fabric to allow air to circulate and prevent overheating. Another is durability – will the fabric hold up to repeated washings and wearings? Comfort is also important, as you want a fabric that feels good against your skin and doesn’t cause irritation. Finally, consider the activity you’ll be doing – different fabrics are better suited for different activities.

Comparison of moisture-wicking fabrics

Now that we understand what makes a fabric absorbent and what factors to consider when choosing moisture-wicking fabric, let’s take a closer look at some of the most popular types of moisture-wicking fabric and compare their absorbency.


Cotton is a natural fiber that is known for its softness and breathability. It is also highly absorbent, making it a popular choice for sweat-wicking clothing. Cotton is able to hold up to 27 times its own weight in water, meaning it can absorb a lot of sweat before feeling heavy or uncomfortable.

However, cotton does have some downsides when it comes to moisture-wicking. It doesn’t dry as quickly as synthetic fabrics, so if you’re doing a high-intensity workout or sweating heavily, you may find that cotton clothing feels damp or heavy. Additionally, cotton can become easily saturated, causing it to lose its absorbency over time.


Polyester is a synthetic fiber that is commonly used in moisture-wicking clothing. It is lightweight, durable, and quick-drying, making it a popular choice for athletes and outdoor enthusiasts. Polyester can hold up to 0.4% of its weight in water, making it less absorbent than cotton but still effective at wicking away sweat.

One downside of polyester is that it can be less breathable than natural fibers, which may cause some people to feel overheated or uncomfortable during intense exercise. Additionally, some people may find that polyester clothing feels scratchy or uncomfortable against their skin.


Bamboo is a natural fiber that has gained popularity in recent years due to its eco-friendliness and softness. It is also highly absorbent, able to hold up to three times its weight in water. Bamboo is naturally moisture-wicking and breathable, making it a great choice for workout clothing.

One downside of bamboo is that it can be more expensive than other types of moisture-wicking fabric. Additionally, some people may be allergic to bamboo, which can cause skin irritation or other allergic reactions.

Merino Wool

Merino wool is a natural fiber that is known for its softness and warmth. It is also highly absorbent, able to hold up to 30% of its weight in water. Merino wool is naturally moisture-wicking and breathable, making it a great choice for outdoor activities in cold weather.

One downside of merino wool is that it can be more expensive than other types of moisture-wicking fabric. Additionally, some people may find that it feels itchy or uncomfortable against their skin.

Pros and cons of each fabric

Each of the four fabrics we’ve discussed – cotton, polyester, bamboo, and merino wool – has its own set of pros and cons when it comes to moisture-wicking. Here’s a quick summary:


Pros: – Soft and comfortable – Highly absorbent

Cons: – Takes longer to dry – Can become easily saturated


Pros: – Quick-drying – Durable – Lightweight

Cons: – Less breathable – May feel scratchy or uncomfortable


Pros: – Eco-friendly – Soft and comfortable – Highly absorbent

Cons: – More expensive – Some people may be allergic

Merino Wool

Pros: – Warm and soft – Highly absorbent – Naturally moisture-wicking and breathable

Cons: – More expensive – May feel itchy or uncomfortable

Best uses for each fabric

So, which fabric should you choose for your moisture-wicking needs? The answer depends on several factors, including the activity you’ll be doing, your personal preferences, and your budget. Here are some guidelines to help you choose the best fabric for your needs:


Best for: – Low-intensity activities – Everyday wear – People who prefer natural fibers


Best for: – High-intensity activities – Outdoor activities in hot weather – People who prioritize quick-drying and durability


Best for: – Any activity where comfort is a top priority – People who prioritize eco-friendliness – People who are allergic to other types of moisture-wicking fabric

Merino Wool

Best for: – Outdoor activities in cold weather – People who prioritize warmth and softness – People who don’t mind spending more for high-quality clothing

How to care for moisture-wicking fabric

To ensure your moisture-wicking clothing lasts as long as possible, it’s important to take proper care of it. Here are some tips:

  • Wash your clothing in cold water to prevent shrinkage and damage to the fabric.
  • Avoid using fabric softeners or dryer sheets, as they can clog the fabric’s pores and reduce its moisture-wicking ability.
  • Hang your clothing to air dry whenever possible, as high heat can damage the fabric.

How to test the absorbency of moisture-wicking fabric

If you’re curious about the absorbency of your moisture-wicking clothing, you can perform a simple test at home. First, dampen a small area of the fabric with water. Then, press a paper towel firmly against the damp area and hold it there for 15 seconds. If the paper towel comes away damp, the fabric is not very absorbent. If it comes away dry, the fabric is highly absorbent.

Recommended brands and products for each fabric

There are many brands and products available for each type of moisture-wicking fabric. Here are a few recommendations to get you started:


  • Hanes Men’s ComfortSoft T-Shirt
  • Fruit of the Loom Women’s Cotton Sport Bra


  • Nike Dri-FIT T-Shirt
  • Under Armour HeatGear Leggings


  • Boody EcoWear Women’s Tank Top
  • Cariloha Bamboo Athletic Shorts

Merino Wool

  • Icebreaker Men’s 200 Oasis Long Sleeve Crewe
  • Smartwool Women’s PhD Outdoor Light Micro Socks


Choosing the right moisture-wicking fabric is important for staying comfortable and dry during physical activities. While absorbency is an important factor to consider, it’s not the only one. When choosing moisture-wicking clothing, also consider breathability, durability, and comfort. By keeping these factors in mind and trying out different fabrics, you can find the perfect moisture-wicking clothing for your needs.

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