Fabrics are frequently described as being
“breathable". Does this mean that the fabric is alive?
Sorry, but that is not the appropriate answer.
In summary, breathable fabric allows moisture to
Breathability is an easy way of saying “moisture
vapor transmission rate". MVTR is the measure of how quickly (or how
slowly) moisture passes through a fabric or other substance. It is
usually measured in g/m²/day, or the mass of moisture that passes
through a square meter of fabric in 24 hours. Moisture vapor
transmission rate (MVTR), is also referred to as water vapor
transmission rate (WVTR).
There are many industries where moisture control is
critical. The apparel industry would be one of them. In regard
to clothing, MVTR as a measure of breathability has contributed to
greater comfort for wearers of clothing for outdoor activity.
For those of you that would like to learn about
breathable fabrics, we recommend that you read what
Andrew Skurka wrote about breathability. Here is a brief
example of portion of what he wrote on the subject, “breathability is an
oversimplification of MVTR: whereas MVTR measures a degree,
breathability is used as an absolute. Specifically, if the MVTR of a
fabric is greater than zero, the fabric can be described as
“breathable," even if realistically it is not. (There is no industry
standard for breathability.) So, for example, even a body suit made of
painter’s plastic could be described as “breathable" if the suit had a
few needle-sized vents in it, because in theory moisture could pass
through these vents."
Natural fibers, man-made fibers, or blended fibers can be breathable
(some more than others).
Linen absorbs and releases perspiration quickly, thus allowing the
fabric to "breathe". Linen is one of higher performing of the natural
breathable fabrics, making it especially cool and comfortable to wear in
the heat. As stated,
man-made fibers can
produce breathable fabric as well. For example, Polyester has good
You may want to read other
fabric definitions in our textile glossary.