Breathe Easy – The Ultimate Guide To The Most Breathable Fabrics Out There

When the weather begins to get warmer, there are no worse feelings than the feeling of your clothes sticking to your body. 

Or if you are a runner or someone who can get easily hot at night under the sheets, you will understand this feeling well.

Luckily, nowadays, you have access to a wide range of different fabrics, which are very breathable. 

If a material is breathable, then they take away any moisture from your skin and release it into the air.

They typically promote airflow, to make the clothing much more comfortable to wear on hotter days. 

In this article, we will discuss which is the most breathable fabric for you. 

Breathe Easy - The Ultimate Guide To The Most Breathable Fabrics Out There

Breathable Fabric: What Is It?

When talking about breathability, we need to know what we mean by that word. The term “breathable” has many meanings.

We can talk about breathable materials, breathable garments, breathable textiles, etc. 

So when we say something is breathable, we really mean that it allows moisture vapor to pass through it. This means that it lets water vapor out of the garment without letting sweat in. 

There are two main ways that a fabric can be breathable. One way is to use a mesh structure, like in a raincoat, where the mesh lets the water vapor out but not the sweat. 

Another way is to use a special type of yarn called microfibers. These fibers are so small that they do not let sweat through, but they allow the moisture to escape.

They are also very light, making them ideal for summer wear. 

Microfibers are made up of tiny filaments.

Each filament is only one-thousandth the width of a human hair. This makes them extremely thin, and therefore lightweight. 

The fibers themselves are usually made of polyester, nylon, acrylic or wool. Some people prefer these because they feel soft against their skin.

Others prefer cotton, because it feels softer than other types of fiber. 

Any piece of clothing that hugs your skin closely will trap your body heat and sweat in.

Compared to a loose fitting piece of clothing, that allows for much more airflow through and around the garment, to let the heat and sweat escape. 

The 12 Most Breathable Types of Fabrics

Each type of breathable fabric has its own purposes. These can include allowing you to have a good and cool night’s sleep or helping you have a sweat free run. 

Every material that we have listed below has its own pros and cons. Yet they all have the ideal breathable qualities that you are looking for. 

Cotton

When you think of a breathable fabric, your first thought should be cotton. This is due to the shape of the all natural and small fibers, which helps to make up each individual cotton thread.

Alongside this, each fiber that makes these threads have a twisted shape, which helps to prevent the fibers from clumping too close together.

However, this also allows for air, moisture and sweat to flow through the fabric, giving its breathable quality.

Cotton is known to be able to naturally absorb any kind of moisture quite easily. However, it isn’t all good news with cotton, it may be able to absorb moisture reality, but it doesn’t try quickly.

The reason for this is that the cotton fibers hold onto the moisture.

Due to this slight fault, you will notice that cotton is often mixed with a synthetic material like polyester.

This is due to the synthetic fibers that don’t absorb the moisture like cotton, so the moisture will evaporate into the air quicker. 

A large variety of fabrics will actually contain cotton within them. Some of these include:

  • Demin
  • Poplin
  • Jersey Knit

However, cotton will always remain one of the most sought after materials for the majority of clothing. It is a staple material in a lot of clothes and in towels and bedding too. 

Polyester

Polyester is a fabric that has been made from petroleum by-products. Each small fiber has been made from solid plastic.

As a result, this doesn’t always equate to good airflow.

However, polyester does have great moisture evaporation characteristics. This is a feature that the majority of synthetic materials have and what makes them so desirable when it comes to breathability. 

This is due to synthetic materials being quite hydrophobic. So they will absorb very little sweat or water.

This allows any moisture to quickly move through the material and be absorbed into the air. 

As a result, your clothing won’t feel damp, as the material does not hold onto the moisture, which is a common issue with cotton. 

Also with polyester, fabric manufacturers have created advanced threaded structures.

Which allows the material to push any moisture to the outer surface as quickly as possible. 

Yet, it is known that polyester isn’t all created equally. When it comes to high performance or tech materials, they usually contain a very special thread structure.

Compared to a summer top or blouse, which won’t contain the same structure. 

When it comes to polyester that is breathable, it all depends on the thread structure and weave of the garment.

Nylon

You will often see nylon used in athletic and sporting clothing. This can include sports bras, sport uniforms, track jackets, and running shirts or leggings.

Also, just like polyester, nylon is a 100% synthetic material. It doesn’t allow very much airflow through the plastic like fibers. 

However, it is superb at moving any moisture from your skin and to the outside of the clothing. 

As a result, it is common for people to argue that synthetic materials such as nylon and polyester aren’t as breathable as material materials. This is only partially true. 

It is known that occasionally a synthetic material can cling to your skin. However, what you need to remember is the weave of the material. 

For example, a nylon dress in the middle of summer will get you very hot and sweaty quite quickly. Yet, a nylon running top will push your sweat away and keep you always cool while running. 

Rayon

Now for something a bit different, Rayon is a semisynthetic fabric. Rayon is actually made from chemically processed wood pulp.

This fabric contains very thin fibers. It is often known for its airy and lightweight qualities. Yet it also absorbs moisture and water just as good as cotton. 

When you look at rayon, it has the look and feel of silk, but costs a fraction of the price. This is because of the fibers that have been chemically processed.

The thin and fine threads are what make this fabric so breathable, and it leaves plenty of space for air to pass though the clothing.

However, you will need to keep in mind the kind of rayon clothing you are buying. If you buy something that is cut closely to the body, this will make you feel quite hot.

Compared to a loose fitting piece of rayon clothing that will keep you cool and comfortable. 

Linen

Linen, just like cotton, comes from a natural source known as the flax plant. Also, linen is known for its loose strand structure, and textured surface.

What people find annoying about linen is how easy it can wrinkle. 

You may not think of linen when you think of a fabric which could keep you cool. Yet, as linen as a structure which is very easy for moisture to pass through.

Thus, airflow can pass through the threads and the fabric to keep the wearer cool.

Like a synthetic fabric, linen doesn’t absorb much moisture, but instead pushes it to the surface for evaporation into the air.

However, it is known that linen can be quite expensive and isn’t always the most simple to look after and care for. 

This is why linen has never been as popular as cotton when it comes to fabric choices for clothing. Although, linen is a much more popular choice when it comes to bedding.

As it will help you sleep and keep cool, even if you are living in an area that has a hot climate. 

Silk

Silk contains incredibly tiny threads. This then allows for plenty of airflow to pass though the material and through its weave.

Silk contains thousands of invisible yet small air pockets, which can either keep you warm in the cold or keep you cool in hotter weather.

However, it is important to note that silk isn’t the best material for moisture absorption. It is known for showing sweat stains and can even hold onto any body odor after washing. 

Although, silk is a great choice when it comes to bedding.

That is, if you can afford it, as silk is quite expensive.

However, silk bedding allows for the air to move around and over you as you are asleep. Also, as silk is so thin, it feels really airy on the skin. 

Micromodal

Micromodal is known for being a type of rayon, however it contains much thinner threads.

Sometimes, this fabric will be mixed with spandex to create silk and soft clothing like socks and underwear.

Micromodal is a great material that allows for air and moisture to move through it. 

Also, as it has a knot like structure, compared to other fabrics that have a much more classical weave and structure.

This is a very lightweight and stretchy fabric, this is praised for its comfort that is felt on your skin. It is believed that Mircomodal is actually softer than cotton as well. 

Merino Wool

Wool may be the last kind of fabric that you thought you would see on a list about breathability. However, the majority of wool have fibers that will naturally crimp together. 

This then allows them to store pockets of air in the piece of clothing. Also, as wool is often a very thick material, you would be right to think of it as a material for colder weather. 

However, merino wool has very light and thin strands. This makes this fabric enjoyable and comfortable to wear all year round.

Wool actually has the strange characteristics of being about to regulate the wearer’s body temperature.

It will remove moisture from the skin, and push it to the surface. 

There is no denying that merino wool is a lot heavier than rayon or silk.

As a result, you may feel more comfortable wearing a fabric that is much lighter during the warmer months.

However, you shouldn’t forget this material just because it is wool, as it will keep you cool and dry too.

Chambray

Made from extremely thin cotton threads, while also having the appearance of denim.

Chambray has been slowly growing in popularity in recent years in summer dresses and shirts. 

Due to containing cotton threads, this fabric will allow for easy airflow.

Alongside that, the high thread count also promotes better airflow through the garment. 

Chambray has also taken on the moisture absorbing quality that cotton has as well. However, wearing denim and chambray that sits close to your skin will trap heat in a lot more.

Although, a looser fitting piece of clothing will allow for more airflow. 

Viscose

Viscose is actually another type of rayon. However, this one is used for its delicate appearance. A very airy fabric with a high thread count that produces lots of air pockets.

This then makes this material very breathable due to all of these air pockets that have been created with the ultra fine threads. 

Hence, viscose is a very popular choice for skirts, sundresses and blouses. While wearing this fabric, you will feel cool, as there is a constant airflow through the material. 

However, viscose is known for absorbing moisture very quickly, and doesn’t push it away very quickly either. Alongside this, it can easily get damaged once it is wet.

Thus, you want to wear viscose in dry heat and not when you think you will sweat a lot. 

Bamboo

Bamboo and rayon both go through a similar manufacturing process. However, bamboo uses much less dangerous chemicals to create this material. 

As a result, bamboo is a much more sustainable choice compared to synthetic fabrics that undergo a long manufacturing process containing lots of chemicals. 

Furthermore, bamboo does a great job at absorbing moisture off your skin. A great material that will regulate your body temperature and keep sweat off your body. 

Bamboo has only recently made a name for itself, as it has become popular in household products and clothing.

There has been a growing demand for bamboo bedding. Although these are quite expensive, they do have an airy weave and silk like texture. 

Gauze

Gauze actually contains a particular weave structure. It uses twists before and after the threads have crossed over each other.

This then allows for a loose but airy structure. Therefore, with these air pockets you will get plenty of airflow in your clothing. 

Due to gauze also being made using cotton threads, it can absorb moisture.

You don’t normally wear gauze clothing, but you have probably worn a piece of clothing of cotton gauze without realizing. 

Layers of gauze create a very lightweight and breathable material. Baby clothes, swimming cover-ups and loose fitting sundresses are all items that could be made with gauze. 

Breathable Fabrics for Every Situation

Breathable Fabrics for Every Situation

To be able to find the most breathable and best material, you need to think about when you plan to wear that item of clothing.

For example, different situations require different items of clothing to be worn, and thus different materials should be considered. 

Typically, cotton will appear in every category.

As cotton has always been the most popular choice of material for any kind of garment that you can think of.

Pants

When it comes to pants, linen, denim and bamboo are all excellent fabric choices. Both bamboo and linen are slightly more expensive.

However, you may come across a couple of blended materials on the market as well. 

These combine the breathability quality of the more expensive fabric, and combine it with the durability and lower cost of the cheaper material.

Also, we all know that demin actually contains cotton. Which we know has great breathability qualities. 

When it comes to wearing pants in hot weather, you need to think about the style that you are wearing.

The last thing you want to do is wear a pair of pants that use a really heavy material or are lined. 

You will feel a lot cooler during summer, by wearing pants that give your legs a bit of room.

You don’t want pants that cling to your legs, because that will just trap the heat in. 

Shirts

For shirts, you want to look for synthetic fabrics or semi-synthetics fabrics. Viscose and rayon are known for creating silky and airy women’s blouses. 

However, if you want a more natural looking shirt than linen may be a great choice. Linen is known for its cooling ability and moisture absorbing characteristics. 

If you need a shirt for more of a sporting purpose, you need to look at performance fabrics. There is a wide range of materials on the market.

Although, these will typically use a 100% synthetic material like a synthetic and cotton blend or polyester. 

For sporting and workout purposes, you want the thread structure to be able to keep you cool as you move. 

T-Shirts

Cotton is undeniably the most common and popular choice of fabric when it comes to T-Shirts. This is due to cotton’s weave that allows for plenty of airflow through its fibers. 

Alongside that, cotton is known for absorbing moisture off your skin, but it struggles to evaporate said moisture and sweat like other materials. 

Although, with that being said, much cheaper synthetic fabrics have slowly been making a name for itself in the T-Shirt world.

There is a lot of disagreement whether polyester T-Shirts are breathable.

The issue is that some are and others are not. This just depends on the thread structure of the fabric. 

Face Masks

When it comes to face masks, the CDC says that you should wear a face mask that contains around 2 layers of breathable fabric at a minimum.

The CDC also notes that you should wear the face mask as closely to your face as possible, for the utmost protection.

Thus, your fabric choices for face masks are mainly cotton.

Cotton will give you a breathable mask which is still comfortable to wear for long periods of time. 

Silk is a great fabric to use as an inner lining for your mask, which makes the makes much more breathable.

Some DIY face mask makers have recommended that you should use a loose woven fabric, or chiffon, as an inner layer of your mask as well. 

Sheets

For the most breathable types of sheets for your bedding, you should steer towards bamboo, silk or Egyptian cotton.

These three choices are seen as much more luxurious choices for bedsheets, but they are the most breathable fabrics to use on your bed.

Especially if you suffer from night sweats.

However, if you want a more affordable option, then you can purchase cotton sheets. Cotton sheets will still give you a cool night’s sleep. 

You can even think about purchasing synthetic sheets, both rayon and polyester have great moisture transferring skills for someone who is known to get sweaty while they sleep.

Hot Weather

When it is hot, you will notice that cotton fabrics will be recommended to you the most. Then linen would be the second most popular choice for hot weather. 

However, when looking for the most breathable clothing for hot weather, it depends on the type of clothing you decide to wear on each day.

For example, if you are planning a BBQ you may want to wear an airy summer dress, or a cool shirt. 

However, if you are going to be moving around a lot in the heat, like during a workout, then you need a performance level posture absorbing and reflecting fabric, like nylon or polyester.

Underwear

Cotton and micromodal both are the ideal choices for breathable and comfortable underwear. Alongside that, synthetic fabrics, such as a poly-cotton blend or just polyester, make up the majority of the underwear market. 

However, cotton is known for creating the lightest and comfiest feeling underwear possible. While polyester will keep your private areas sweat free. 

Breathable fabrics for underwear is a must. A lot of underwear brands will add in a blend of spandex. The spandex will create much more fitted underwear.

However, spandex isn’t known for its breathability. This is why a blend of other fabrics are needed.

Running

When you are choosing the best fabric that doesn’t show your sweat while you are running, you have a couple of choices.

You could either go with nylon, or polyester. Synthetic fabrics are typically the most common choices as well. However, some people have been known to wear bamboo or merino wool instead.

Nylon and polyester are known for having a specialized thread structure. This can easily and quickly move the moisture and sweat from inside to the outside.

Thus, these fabrics can rapidly move the moisture, so that you don’t feel your sweat while you are running or even working out. 

Now, you may be surprised to hear  that some people have thought about wearing merino wool for running.

However, merino wool is a really lightweight fabric that can help you to regulate your body temperature, while also moving sweat away from your skin. 

Although, if wool isn’t for you, then you may like bamboo material instead.

However, bamboo is a much more expensive option compared to some of the other materials we have mentioned so far. 

Fabrics That are Breathable and Soft

You want to wear something that is comfortable, so you want it to be soft. Some materials are much more comfortable to wear than others. 

Cotton is seen as not only the most breathable fabrics you could choose, but it is incredibly soft as well.

However, some studies have shown that bamboo fabrics could be seen on a par with cotton, due to its unbelievable breathability qualities, yet it may feel even softer as well.

However, it is much more expensive than cotton. 

The reason why cotton is so popular is that there are several types of cotton. Each different type of cotton varies in price, but they are all quite soft in touch. 

However, those with a higher thread count, means in a much softer fabric and cotton.  However, the quality of cotton can sometimes differ, so it may be a breathable and airy fabric.

Yet the quality means that sometimes they aren’t always the most durable. 

Also, another reason why people may be tempted with bamboo fabric is that it uses a much more sustainable production process.

It uses much less water and its fibers can absorb very large quantities of sweat and moisture very easily. 

However, it may be more absorbent yet isn’t as soft to touch than the highest quality cotton fabric.

Micromodal is known as the delicate and softest version of rayon. It often feels a lot softer to the touch than cotton.

This is due to the high thread count and the thin thread that are used to create this fabric. 

However, as micromodal uses a semisynthetic structure, the airflow of this material isn’t as strong as with cotton. 

Out of all the fabrics we have mentioned, they all give you great breathable qualities. Whilst most of them will be soft to the touch.

However, if you want an extra soft fabric then you should choose either cotton, bamboo or micro modal fabrics. 

Takeaway

We have given you 12 fabrics, all that are known for their breathable characteristics. Natural materials such as linen, silk and cotton are much better at providing you with an airflow while wearing these fabrics. 

While synthetic fabrics are much better at deflecting moisture from your body and away from your clothing, which will help you stay cool in the heat.

As a result, this is why a lot of sporting wear is made using nylon or polyester materials. 

However, the quality of these fabrics is really important. The better the quality, the more breathable the material will be. 

For example, high quality cotton will be much softer and more breathable than low quality cotton. Hopefully, now you know which fabrics are the most breathable, and which fabrics you should be wearing on these hot days.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does the Material Your Underwear is Made of Affect Your Health?

You should be mindful of what your underwear is made of.

As if they are made from the wrong kind of materials, this can lead to vaginal health issues like infections or irritation in women.

Breathability is really critical.

Synthetic materials like lycra and nylon can cause irritation, rashes and infections. As a result, you should opt for a cotton blend when it comes to your underwear. 

What is the Most Breathable Natural Fabric?

There are a couple of natural fabrics that are very breathable and will keep you cool on those hot summer days.

These include cotton, gauze, rayson, linen, bamboo, jersey and bamboo. 

Is Cotton Good for Winter?

Cotton not only absorbs moisture but will keep it close to your skin, which in the winter could make you feel colder.

As a result, cotton is much better for the warmer months, and due to its breathability, cotton won’t help keep you warm.

Amanda Brown

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