Golf Refugees investigate what’s behind the palatable descriptions of sports apparel.
As you may expect we often read apparel reviews by numerous golf magazines and independent reviewers. Though they do all seem to say pretty much the same thing with performance abilities in ‘moisture-wicking’ a common theme. But that is where their curiosity ends. There appears to be little or no desire to ask, research or write about who makes these moisture-wicking textile finishers and what are they made from?

With millions of sports apparel garments using these agents, Golf Refugees believe it is of considerable consumer interest.

You may believe that it is the sportswear brands that develop these moisture-wicking products. But you would be mistaken, as Nike, Adidas and Puma simply apply these finishing products to their sports apparel and leave the development work to major chemical companies.

Golf Refugees intrepid designers approached a leading chemical conglomerate and asked to see details of their moisture-wicking product. They are usually given a trademark name incorporating the word ‘DRY’.

It only took a few e-mails to find the right person, a global product manager who kindly forwarded relevant MSDS ‘Material Data Safety Sheets’.
Here is a list of the ingredients for their highly successful ‘moisture-wicking’ product;

Diethylene glycol
Propylene glycol
Isotridecanol ethoxylate
Naphtha petroleum hydro-treated heavy

Some of these chemicals we had heard of and some we hadn’t. So we tried to associate the chemical ingredient with their primary purpose and descriptive phrase.

Where you read “crease resistant and easy care” you can replace it with
‘diethylene glycol’ (DEG). Here DEG is used as a textile lubricant and coupling agent. Other uses for DEG are brake fluid and wallpaper strippers.

As part of the “easy care” performance, it is stressed in their MSDS that they only use extremely low levels of releasable formaldehyde.

When you read “stain repellent” and it sounds perfectly reasonable for sportswear apparel to have such properties, you can replace it with ‘propylene glycol’.
This is the very same chemical that was used during the deepwater Horizon oil spill.

It makes astute business sense for chemical companies to find as many uses and applications for their substances. But how many of us knew when we were watching the spraying to disperse the Horizon oil spill we were wearing the exact same chemical, albeit in much smaller quantities?

When you read “moisture control” you can replace it with ‘isotridecanol ethoxylated’, here used to increase water solubility of textiles.

I have deliberately avoided mentioning any of the specific toxicity concerns and safety issues regarding these chemicals and many of them are potentially harmful to humans, aquatic organisms and the environment, as clearly stated in the MSDS.
Expensive treatment plants should be used before discarding some of these chemicals into the environment. Each individual chemical has been tested which is why you can find the appropriate data. However my research for this article failed to discover any testing of the combination of chemicals used in these finishing agents. How the various chemicals interact with each other.

Let’s not forget these moisture-wicking finishing agents are predominantly applied and developed for synthetic fibres; polyester, polyamide. Which are themselves derived from petrochemicals. So the whole process is simply adding further chemical finishes to a chemical based fabric.

If you can imagine a plastic sheet left out in the rain, the rain will simply bounce of it. These plastics; untreated polyester, polyamide are hydrophobic – repel water. You would have the unpleasant situation where your sweat is trapped between your skin and a plastic barrier, a synthetic shirt. Hence there was a ‘real’ need to develop a viable product and induce water absorption and transportation into synthetic textiles by the chemical industries. Inducing and moving moisture from inner to outer layers away from your skin where it can evaporate.

I hope some of you will find the above information of interest and spur you into your own research.

I would also like your views on whether you would support a campaign for all sportswear brands to include a list ‘ingredients’ used in their products? This could be either on their web sites or part of their apparel labels.

Please let me know your thoughts.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Agree or disagree?

    I don’t mind kids wearing sports apparel containing formaldehyde, ammonia and that chemical used to disperse the Horizon oil spill disaster.