I read the following in an aircraft magazine where it describes a product:

XXX Product is Aircraft Quality Wicking!!

The product is a polishing product that one can use to polish something smooth and shiny. How does the meaning of wicking fit in this context? Having liquid moving from inside of an aircraft to outside doesn't sound like it.

  • More context is needed to sort out the right one from among the possible meanings. – mgkrebbs Jun 17 '11 at 3:37
  • @mgkrebbs I updated by question. – KMC Jun 17 '11 at 3:40
  • I think it needs yet more context: specifically, what is the product? Or can you give us a link to the publication? – MT_Head Jun 17 '11 at 3:43
  • @MT_Head, I don't have the magazine with me. But the product is a polishing product. I polish surface and make it smooth and shinny. So I have no idea how "wicking" fits in this context – KMC Jun 17 '11 at 3:48
  • 1
    I'm grasping at straws here, but... could it be that the polishing product in question leaves the surface electrically conductive (rather than electrically insulated, as a wax/acrylic/etc. preparation might be) and therefore helps to dissipate static? It's a stretch, I know... – MT_Head Jun 17 '11 at 3:57

I found an article, Wicking and Water Displacement by Corrosion Prevention Compounds in Simulated Aircraft Aluminum Alloy Lap Joints with the quote:

The protection of occluded regions such as aircraft lap joints by corrosion prevention compounds (CPC) requires the CPC to wick into such regions, wet the surface, and displace water that may be present. This work considers both thermodynamic (wettability) and kinetic (wicking rate) aspects of CPC behavior when applied to simulated lap joints assembled by pin-and-collar type fasteners and rivets.

So clearly wicking is in fact the wicking of liquids on aircraft surfaces via the particular surface materials or surface shapes.

Reinforcing this is ASTM International Standard Test Method for Determining Wicking of Glass Fiber Blanket Insulation (Aircraft Type):

The tendency of the insulation toward wicking can result in an increase in weight and a resultant potential degradation in the properties of the insulation.

  1. Scope

1.1 This test method covers a laboratory procedure for evaluating the tendency of, aircraft type, fibrous glass blanket insulation to wick water.

One more related reference is Wicking and Water Displacement by Corrosion Prevention Compounds in Simulated Aircraft Aluminum Alloy Lap Joints (although this has the same title as above, it appears to have a different abstract):

Corrosion prevention compounds (CPC) are relatively inexpensive, temporary corrosion control products commonly used on commercial and military aircraft. The effectiveness of CPC in suppressing attack of occluded regions within typical aircraft structures such as lap joints is uncertain, in part because their ability to wick into and displace water from occluded sites has not been quantified. This work demonstrates experimental methods that enable quantification of the wicking and water displacement capability of CPC in occluded regions, using simulated aircraft lap joints instrumented with small profile fiber optic sensors.


The most likely modern context for this is the process whereby a material absorbs water and moves it away from the surface that just absorbed it. For example, a shirt with "quality wicking" would absorb the sweat from your body and move it from the inside of the shirt to the outside of the shirt, where it could then be evaporated quickly by sunlight/heat--while you continue to feel relatively dry despite your profuse perspiration.

See Dictionary.com's 2nd definition ("wick" as a verb):

to draw off (liquid) by capillary action.

Edit: the only hit I can find on Google for "Aircraft Quality Wicking" is on a page with a heading of "Fluid Transfer and Wicking applications", so, while I personally have no idea how or where an aircraft requires the drawing-off of liquids, I'm pretty sure this is still the intended meaning. (Could be something like drawing oil out of a reservoir to keep a part lubricated, without having to use a mechanical pump, for example.)

  • thanks for suggested answer. I updated my question with full context and it seems your description may not fit. Possible that there're other interpretation? – KMC Jun 17 '11 at 3:42
  • does that mean "wicking" in this context means "water won't sticks on aircraft?" – KMC Jun 17 '11 at 3:52
  • @KMC, I don't think so... wicking is very definitely related to actively moving liquid via capillary action, not to passively creating conditions where liquid is more likely to move due to something like lessened friction. There are so many parts and processes going on inside the aircraft, there's really no telling (for me, anyway, as someone uneducated in aircraft innards) what the application might be. – Hellion Jun 17 '11 at 4:00

I think what's going on here is that: wicking is one of those very confusing words that is used in two different - pretty much exactly opposite - ways.

Obviously a wick (as in a candle) is something that "sucks" liquid "through" it.

The whole point of say GoreText is that it wicks sweat through the GoreTex. Exactly as in Hellion's shirt example.

So, "wicking" in that context is a soft, 'absorbant'-like material that sucks up liquid and moves it away to the "other side."

However !!

I have also frequently heard wicking used to describe a surface -- particularly with "away" -- it "wicks away" water. Thus, a car windscreen with that "anti-water" or "anti-spotting" treatment on it will "wick away" the water. Meaning the water will slide off the windscreen really quickly and cleanly, it won't pool around or film.

Again this is, in a way, absolutely the opposite of the first meaning of wicking -- you'd think it would mean the windscreen wicks the water through the windscreen into the driver's area!

I suggest that "wicks away" or "wicks off" tends to mean a basically hard (perhaps shiny) surface that has microscopic properties that which causes the fluid to "quickly run off" the surface. (Thus for instance think of your kitchen counter - paper or wood is typically very bad at this, but with stainless steel, the water "wicks away" quickly.)

In contrast just "wick," in context, means "wick" as you would expect ("sucks the liquid through" like a candle wick or GoreTex).

(Incidentally, the "wicks away" property is hugely important in modern aircraft research, huge engineering efforts are made regarding surface micro-mechanics, for this effect, etc.)

To repeat, I believe that

wicks can mean what you would think, sucking-through a material, but also!

wicks, particularly 'wicks away' or 'wicks off' can mean that quality when the water quickly 'runs' off a (totally non-absorbant) surface.

I think that's the basic tension here!

Perhaps the second meaning is a bit of a corruption/confusion from "whisks away" "whips away" or the like -- weird. Or maybe it's just another way to look at "moving the fluid effectively."

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