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What Is Polypropylene Underwear?

Dan Cavallari
By
Updated May 21, 2024
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Polypropylene underwear is a type of base layer of clothing. It is the closest layer of clothing to the skin, and it is intended to wick moisture away from the skin to keep the body dry and comfortable, especially during athletic activities. Polypropylene underwear is commonly used by athletes who participate in cold weather sports; this is because the athlete needs moisture wicked away from the skin to keep it warm and dry during inclement weather. It can be used during warm weather activities as well, and polypropylene — or polypro — is usually lightweight enough for a variety of athletic activities.

One of the biggest advantages of polypropylene underwear is its ability to transfer moisture easily and quickly. When sweat sits on the surface of the skin, the body's temperature can become more difficult to regulate, and chafing may occur when skin comes in contact with other skin or with fabrics such as shirts and pants. Polypropylene underwear prevents the sweat from staying on the surface of the skin, thereby keeping the skin dry and cool in the summer and warm in the winter. The less sweat present on the skin means less potential for chafing or other types of discomfort. Polypro is also quick-drying, so athletes using the polypro for long periods of time will remain comfortable longer.

Another distinct advantage of polypropylene underwear is its light weight and easy packability. Athletes prefer the light weight because it means the underwear will not interfere in any way with the normal functions of the limbs or the rest of the body, and it will be more comfortable. Backpackers and other recreational users will appreciate the light weight of the polypro should they have a need to pack or store it while carrying a backpack. During cold weather trips, several sets of polypro underwear can be packed with a minimal weight penalty.

One major disadvantage of polypropylene underwear is its ability to retain odors. As sweat seeps into the material, the body odors can become trapped there, even after frequent washing. Polypropylene underwear is especially prone to such odors, since some of the sweatiest parts of the body will come in contact with the underwear. For athletes, this is not too significant of a problem, but for people wearing the polypro underwear underneath work or casual clothing, the odor can be problematic. More recent versions of polyester clothing wick moisture almost as effectively as polypro without the odor issues coming into play.

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Dan Cavallari
By Dan Cavallari
Dan Cavallari, a talented writer, editor, and project manager, crafts high-quality, engaging, and informative content for various outlets and brands. With a degree in English and certifications in project management, he brings his passion for storytelling and project management expertise to his work, launching and growing successful media projects. His ability to understand and communicate complex topics effectively makes him a valuable asset to any content creation team.
Discussion Comments
By sunshined — On Nov 23, 2011

Is there any way to get the smell of sweat out of polypropylene long underwear that has been washed and dried several times?

I love wearing long underwear in the winter when I cross country ski, but don't like the smell of it after awhile.

No matter how cold it is outside, I really work up a sweat when I ski, and the long underwear does a good job of keeping the moisture off my skin, but really ends up stinking after some time.

It is too expensive to throw away and buy new every year. Other than that, there is nothing else wrong with it, but no matter what I have tried, I can't seem to get rid of the smell of sweat.

By myharley — On Nov 22, 2011

@julies - You might want to try some silk long underwear that isn't so bulky. Once I tried this, I never again went back to the traditional polypropylene style of underwear.

Not only do I love the feel of the silk material, but they also come in pretty colors so you aren't stuck with black, gray and white all the time.

I feel so much more feminine when I put on a pair of silk underwear, and have found that they keep me just as warm.

You can find these at most any outdoor company that sells long underwear.

By julies — On Nov 22, 2011

We have a lot of thermal and polypropylene underwear around our house.

My husband works outside all winter long and uses this everyday. He also likes to wear this when he goes hunting to help stay warm.

Our whole family loves to ski and snowmobile in the winter, and I have all shapes and sizes of long johns for my kids to wear.

They do a great job of keeping you warm, but I always feel so bulky when I wear long underwear. Sometimes it is hard to get around in because there is so much bulk.

I have found what works best for me is to just wear long underwear under my snow pants and not put any jeans over them. This cuts down on the bulk, but still keeps me warm and dry.

Dan Cavallari
Dan Cavallari
Dan Cavallari, a talented writer, editor, and project manager, crafts high-quality, engaging, and informative content for various outlets and brands. With a degree in English and certifications in project management, he brings his passion for storytelling and project management expertise to his work, launching and growing successful media projects. His ability to understand and communicate complex topics effectively makes him a valuable asset to any content creation team.
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