Does Wearing a Wet Shirt Help to Keep You Cooler?

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In summary, the conversation discusses ways to stay cool during a heatwave. The main question is whether wearing a wet shirt would help or make the person warmer. It is suggested that combining a wet shirt with a fan blowing air on the person would help to cool them down through the process of evaporation. The conversation also touches on the potential risk of getting sick from being cold and wet for a sustained period, but it is concluded that this is not a significant concern. The use of evaporative coolers in hot climates is also mentioned as an effective way to stay cool.
  • #1

Yolk

Hey, Its the middle of a heatwave I was wondering if I wet my shirt and put it on would it help me keep cool or would it make me warmer because I'm dying of heat rn.
 
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  • #2
Do you have a fan that you can aim at you? If so, the extra evaporation of the wet T-shirt should help to cool you. Without a fan, it may not help much, but you could try it.
 
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  • #3
To the OP:

Do you not have air conditioning at your home (assuming that you are at home at the moment)? Or access to an air-conditioned building you could escape to? Or is the problem that you are working or walking outside?

It also helps to know where you are located (I suspect not where I'm located, since temperatures are considerably cooler since we had our heat wave last weekend).
 
  • #4
If you put a wet shirt on and then have a fan blow at you, you might catch a cold.
 
  • #5
nuuskur said:
If you put a wet shirt on and then have a fan blow at you, you might catch a cold.
Really? If this is a joke, then you need to work on your delivery. If not you might want to investigate the germ theory of disease. Cold doesn't cause colds, viruses cause colds.
 
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  • #6
Before air conditioning much thought and effort went into these ideas, still applicable when outdoors. The consensus as I understand it involves wearing loose light-weight light-colored fabrics in dry heat that protect the body from direct sun and wind exposure similar to traditional Pakistani and Saudi garb.

High heat coupled with high humidity dictates tighter but very thin fabrics such as silks and synthetics common in Thai, Viet-Namese and Hong Kong fashions. The modern consensus in the high desert involves wearing open sandals, short pants, and loose light tops. Las Vegas meets South Pacific style.

Air movement remains critical indoors in high heat. Although acclimated to desert climate and with good indoor a/c, I run a tower fan near my workstation that circulates room air simulating actual breezes.

I swim outdoors ~6 days a week wearing swim trunks and thin shirt (to protect against UV and keep from getting chilled). I usually change from wet to dry clothes out of the pool to finish my exercises. The wet shirt sticks uncomfortably and restricts motion.

Simple answer: wet a shirt and see if wearing it helps you. Fans help wet or dry. :cool:
 
  • #7
Yolk said:
Hey, Its the middle of a heatwave I was wondering if I wet my shirt and put it on would it help me keep cool or would it make me warmer because I'm dying of heat rn.
According to PF records, I used to use spritz bottles to keep cool.
So my answer to your question would be: Yes
 
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  • #8
DaveE said:
Really? If this is a joke, then you need to work on your delivery. If not you might want to investigate the germ theory of disease. Cold doesn't cause colds, viruses cause colds.
Arghh, English and its ambiguities. What I mean is you can get sick if for instance you're sweaty and you turn your AC too cold in the car. Similar thing with wet shirts and fans blowing on you.
 
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  • #9
nuuskur said:
Arghh, English and its ambiguities. What I mean is you can get sick if for instance you're sweaty and you turn your AC too cold in the car. Similar thing with wet shirts and fans blowing on you.
Your english is good. I think I understood you both times. The point is you were wrong both times. You could get cold, even hypothermia perhaps, but you won't get sick in the infectious disease sense.
 
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  • #10
This worked for me. Thin T-shirt with a thin shirt over the top with a hat. Your skin is protected from the sun and the inner shirt acts as reservoir of fluid that is constantly being topped up with sweat.
 
  • #11
nuuskur said:
Arghh, English and its ambiguities. What I mean is you can get sick if for instance you're sweaty and you turn your AC too cold in the car. Similar thing with wet shirts and fans blowing on you.
The problem wasn't comprehension, the problem was your statement. Being physically cold doesn't cause disease (unless you count hypothermia/frostbite as a disease, but those are entirely different things).
 
  • #12
cjl said:
The problem wasn't comprehension, the problem was your statement. Being physically cold doesn't cause disease (unless you count hypothermia/frostbite as a disease, but those are entirely different things).
Being cold and wet for a sustained period may affect the immune system indirectly.
This has cropped up a lot recently.
It does not have to be as severe as hypothermia or frost bite.
 
  • #13
pinball1970 said:
Being cold and wet for a sustained period may affect the immune system indirectly.
This has cropped up a lot recently.
It does not have to be as severe as hypothermia or frost bite.
Yes, just about everything you do affects your immune system. However, that's not a great argument for either causality or significant risk.
 
  • #14
Yolk said:
Hey, Its the middle of a heatwave I was wondering if I wet my shirt and put it on would it help me keep cool or would it make me warmer because I'm dying of heat rn.
As @berkeman said, combine the wet shirt with a fan blowing air on you, and the water evaporating will cool you. And you're not very likely to catch a cold doing this.

Cooling by the evaporation of water has a long history. When I was about 10, my family moved to Yuma, AZ, one of the hottest cities in the U.S. Back then, in the 50s, almost no homes had air conditioning, but everyone above the most abject level of poverty had an evaporative cooler (AKA swamp cooler) outside their home blowing cool air in. These coolers work best when the humidity is low. We also had the same kind of cooler in our car when we did a road trip from Arizona to visit relatives back east.
 
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  • #15
DaveE said:
Yes, just about everything you do affects your immune system. However, that's not a great argument for either causality or significant risk.
I'm not sure about 'everything' but stress can. Getting wet through and remaining that way for a while can do that, especially if it is a young person.
 
  • #16
Yolk said:
Hey, Its the middle of a heatwave I was wondering if I wet my shirt and put it on would it help me keep cool or would it make me warmer because I'm dying of heat rn.
I learned this trick in Idaho when I was just a boy with no access to systemic cooling methods for the home I was in. Of course it works, and works VERY well, IF you are in an environment which will have a low enough humidity to maintain evaporative qualities in the shirt vs the environment. The desert regions of the southwest tend to work best for this method of cooling and I recommend the use of a dark (I use black) polo style shirt, as its thickness and weave seems ideal for the function (A happy coincidence, I'm sure). High humidity days require additional open air movement for a slightly lesser effect (read: higher fan speed with more ventilation).

The physics are precisely the same as you would use for evaporative cooling and the biophysics remain the same as perspiration, albeit with a bit less requirement of the body to supply that water (and stink).
 
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  • #17
Yolk said:
Hey, Its the middle of a heatwave I was wondering if I wet my shirt and put it on would it help me keep cool or would it make me warmer because I'm dying of heat rn.
Note that the OP is from Jul 24, 2019, but it is relevant to parts of the Northern Hemisphere most summers where high temperatures are breaking local records.

I worked some summers outdoors doing iron work and one summer at an oil refinery loading and unloading 40 ft (12 m) to 50 ft (15 m) trailers and 50 to 60 ft (15 to 18.3 m) boxcars (wagons). The air temperature in July and Aug was often above 90°F (32°C) up to nearly 40°C, and inside trailers and boxcars (wagons), it was more like 120 to 130°F (49 to 54°C).

I would soak my shirt in cold (iced) water whenever I could, and I'd wear a bandana around my neck, which was soaked in water, and I'd soak my hair. It helped tremendously to carry away heat while exerting myself with those temperatures. My weight would fluctuate 5 lbs (2.3 kgs) in a day and perspiration would drip constantly from my arms and body under those conditions.

So yes, wet T-shirt, wet bandana and/or wet hair would help with the heat, and so would a fan as others have suggested.
 
  • #18
Astronuc said:
So yes, wet T-shirt, wet bandana and/or wet hair would help with the heat, [...]
And heh, it might also help to get a date for next Saturday night.

[Hmm, on second thoughts, that could fall either way... :oldfrown: ]
 
  • #19
When I was a kid, nobody had a/c's and the nights were torture during humid summers.

Took ages to figure out why it seemed to get hotter during the technically cooler nights.
 

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