What Is Tech Fabric And How Can It Benefit Your Next Sweat Session?

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If you hit the gym a lot, take yoga, deal with hot flashes from perimenopause/menopause, or really got into athleisure clothing during the lockdown, you likely own something made of tech fabric. It's that slightly slick-looking, smooth fabric that is often advertised as "sweat-wicking" or "cooling." It's often used for sports bras, hoodies, tank tops, leggings, and a ton of other clothing items that you regularly sweat in. 


Tech fabric — which you may see listed as "high-performance fabric" or under a brand name like Coolmax — is made of synthetic fibers, and while "tech" and "synthetic" can often be used interchangeably, Active explains that it's called "tech" when it's a material designed for function rather than fashion. They can be made out of materials like polyester, nylon, spandex, and even bamboo (which is natural, but the extraction process, according to Active, is what makes it fall under the synthetic category.) That doesn't mean it's not stylish, of course. 

If you do own some tech items, it's possible that you don't even know it because you've been taking care of them in the wrong way, making them lose their beneficial properties. Let's take a look at why we wear it, what the drawbacks are, and how to care for it so it does what it's supposed to. 


How can it benefit your workout?

When you're working out, clothing made of fibers like cotton can get wet very easily and start to hang on you or stretch out from the weight of the moisture. A piece of clothing made of tech fabric, however, will retain its shape. Tech fabric has other benefits as well, including breathability, which keeps your skin healthier under your clothing. 


In addition to moisture-wicking, tech fabric wears really well and rarely changes shape, which is especially great when it's used for something like compression socks. It also dries really quickly, so if you're out for a run and you have a long ride home, you're not going to be sitting in heavy wet clothing the entire trip. It also looks really good. If you take care of it correctly, it's going to look exactly the way it did when you bought it, even a few years later. 

Look, human-made fabrics aren't the best thing in the world for the environment, but that can be balanced by the fact that it lasts far longer than workout clothing made of natural fibers. You don't have to use it for a single season and throw it away. Our very scientific research (by which we mean we have owned some of these pieces for years) has shown that they can take a lot of washing before you notice a single bit of wear. 


How do you care for tech fabric?

According to Runner's World, you should wash tech fabric in cold water, or at the very least, cool. Heat will break down the sweat-wicking properties and weaken the fabric's fibers. 

Second, it's probably worth getting a specific wash for your tech fabric. There is a good reason for this. One drawback of tech fabric is that it tends to trap bacteria in the fibers, meaning it can retain smell longer than natural fabrics. Does this suck for workout clothing? Yes, but this is rarely from a single workout. It generally happens when you leave it in the laundry for too long. Sports detergents like Granger's Active Wash are designed to eliminate any leftover funk. However, if you follow the other instructions, this is helpful but not mandatory. 


The big one here, and the reason you might want to wash workout clothing separately, is that you can't use fabric softener. It seems like the right thing to use for workout clothing with its often strong scent, but it can destroy the fabric's ability to wick moisture away from your skin. Honestly, letting them air dry is your best bet because of the heat issues. A few other tips: Try to let your clothing dry completely before throwing it in the laundry to keep the bacteria growth down. If you must wash sports bras in the machine (which will make them deteriorate faster), use a laundry bag to keep them in the best shape possible.