Do “normal” clothes block UV rays? I’m talking like the ones I have on that I have had for a while. Haven’t you wondered? According to Skin Cancer.org, the non-UPF-rated clothes I wear will protect me better than no clothes.
But, do normal clothes block UV rays? Yes, they can block the sun.
As well as UPF clothing will? My brand-new jeans will probably work giving me almost complete protection on the lower part of my body
Now, if these jeans are washed until you can almost see through them, then it will be a different story.
Your favorite tee shirt that has survived a while, that may not protect very much, again better than nothing at all. The lesson here is when your kids go outside, make sure they have some kind of shirt on.
A worn white tee shirt usually tests out at about a 3 on the UPF protection scale. A new white one will be about a 5. A newer darker-colored tee shirt that fits properly, and is a cotton-poly blend could be at a UPF of 15 or more.
Obviously, you are getting some skin protection.
The Skin Cancer.org site tells us that anything under 30 is risky. Most UPF clothing offers protection that starts at 30 and goes up to 50+.
Rating Levels of Sun Blocking Clothing
- Ratings for UPF clothing of less than 15 will do little to protect your skin from the sun. Depending on this low rating is discouraged, because of the small amounts of sun protection it gives. However, something is better than nothing.
- UPF Ratings of 25, 30, and 35 provide very good levels of sun protection and should keep your skin from sunburn unless you are out in the direct sun for several days and many hours each day.
- The higher UPF ratings of 40, 45, 50, and 50+ provide excellent levels of sun protection. If you are extra sensitive and quick to sunburn, this level of sun protection should help.
However, please note that even with good UPF, it may be hard to catch all the sun coming your way, and keep it off your skin. Reflections are often the culprit and will cause your face to sunburn.
A healthy lifestyle that has you limiting your hours in the direct sun is recommended for long-term skin protection. To prevent early aging staying out of the sun mid-day is important. As well as make sure to apply a wide-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or more before going out. Reapplying is also important.
Protection from the sun is not a one-step effort. Of course, any step is better than none, but layering your sun protection will give better results.
Wear your UPF clothing, long sleeve loose fitting shirt of a tightly woven fabric in a darker deeper color that will protect you better.
Adding your sun hat and sunglasses are important steps as well. Then there is sunscreen where your skin isn’t covered, and on your face to prevent early aging of your skin.
This is for Those Who Prefer Charts
So for those who like charts, and they are sometimes easier to read, I think.
The UPF rating system and the corresponding percentile of protection in a neat chart:
|UPF Rating||Percentile of Protection|
The UPF or the Ultraviolet Protection Factor rating system is used to measure the effectiveness of sun-protective fabrics in blocking ultraviolet (UV) radiation.
The higher the UPF rating, the greater the level of protection provided.
The percentile of protection indicates the fraction of UV radiation that is blocked by the fabric at a specific UPF rating.
UPF 50+ signifies that the fabric provides excellent protection, blocking over 98% of UV radiation. Remember that the + after 50 is sometimes a marketing tool.
Keep in mind that these values may not be 100% accurate. This means that protection also may depend on factors such as fabric type, construction, and wear conditions.
The garment was rated when it was brand new, and never worn.
What Materials Can Block UV Rays?
Again, Skin cancer.org tells us that:
To get the sun protection you need to stay safe from sunburn the fabric is an important part of the formula.
When the cloth that the garment is made of is tightly woven, the sun will not shine through the shirt. So tightly woven fabric like denim or canvas blocks the sun better.
Wool and synthetic fabric also do a good job of protecting your skin. Using these fabrics protects better than loosely woven cloth you can see through.
When the fabric is see-through, the sun can surely see through it too. UV radiation can easily penetrate thin, loosely woven garments. Easily reach your skin.
However, these fabrics are not as comfy for wear in hotter seasons when we are sweating. Real people tend to shed clothing when they get hot and sweaty.
This opens the market for sun blocking clothing. Clothing made to be comfortable and cooler, but still protective.
The Composition Of Your Fabric Really Matters
If your sun blocking shirt is made of unbleached cotton, you have some built-in protection. “Unbleached cotton” has natural lignins that protect your skin by absorbing UV rays.
However, to get the favored colors that people usually prefer, the manufacturers have to bleach the fibers. That is how you get a brilliant white.
Natural unbleached fibers are off-white and creamy colored. They can even be more of a nude color.
This fiber often also contains some of the “trash” from the production process. I have curtains from “unbleached domestic” fabric many years ago when our rented home had many windows on the sun porch.
There were bits of cotton stalk and the leaves, as well as the boll where the cotton actually matures, woven into the cloth. As these bits stick to the fiber, they would have to be scrubbed and bleached to remove them all and the stains.
This would not leave you with sun-blocking fabric.
These bits are small and pulverized, but they are there if the process of bleaching and scrubbing is eliminated. These processes can weaken the fiber, and make them less durable.
Having unbleached domestic fabric provides years of wash and wear. A shirt in this fabric will offer sun protection. Also important, it will wear thinner with use, making the use of laundry additives important.
Man Made Fabrics Are Important
When searching for sun blocking fabrics, consider man-made fabrics. Shiny polyesters as well as lightweight satiny silks can be very protective too.
High-tech fabrics that are treated with different dyes and finishes will be able to protect your skin from the sun, protecting you from sunburn.
If you are shopping from your closet, be sure and consider the fabric tag and the information there to make your decision to use this garment as a sun blocking shirt.
If purchasing in the UPF section, get the highest-rated garments for skin protection.
Newer cotton-poly shirts offer great sun protection as long as they are not too worn. Wearing and laundry do wear the fabric and eventually cause broken spots that can allow the sun through.
Pay attention to the back of your favorite camo shirt, if you carry a backpack on hikes, even a smaller one. This can cause you to sunburn when wearing the shirt without the pack on your back.
Materials That Block UV Rays
Tightly woven: Denim, Canvas Cloth, Unbleached Cotton.
Other lables these fabrics go by can be Blackout Fabrics, Tweeds, and Jacquard (which is actually a kind of weave that is very tight). Silk and Bleached or Dyed Cotton can also be extremely tightly woven.
To hold the dye, Cotton is usually bleached first. The dye process can produce a stronger fabric than just cotton alone, especially when the dye is a darker color.
Also, Cotton Poly, in knits and woven fabric is good for sun blocking as long as the fabric has not been worn too much.
Cotton, silk, wool, jute, hemp, and linen are natural fabrics. These can be sun blocking but definitely would depend on the weave. Then there are the blends of all these fabrics, putting synthetic with a natural fabric usually results in a better blocking of the sun result.
Marino wool has a great reputation for being sun blocking and wicking as well. I am sorry to say that I have no real experience with this fabric. However, my granddaughter assured me last July that merino wool was her fabric of choice while pointing to the top she had on.
Flannel is another kind of cloth we hear about, and it too is sunproof according to the weave of the fabric. This is a favorite of those who are outdoors in the cooler times of the year here in Central Texas.
Bamboo is a fiber that is making a name for itself as soft and comfy as well as taking the colors introduced well, making it a popular sun blocking knit.
I am sure there are others that I have forgotten, but these are what we see more of in our closets or on sites where we look for UPF clothing.
Most companies do have specialty fabrics that they have created and manufactured to be made into clothing to protect our skin.
Shopping In Your Closet With Awareness
When using clothing already in your closet, use the information in this post to make a better choice for what to protect your skin. Keep sunburn away, and keep your skin free of skin cancer.
A quick way to judge if your fabric is tightly woven is to hold it up to a light or the sun.
How much light gets through the fabric? A lot of light means the fabric is not woven tightly enough or is just too thin to block any sun.
What Color Blocks UV Rays
Darker, deeper colors will block UV rays if the fabric is tightly woven. Color can improve the performance of any fabric.
Any of the colors on this color wheel will block some rays. Darker colors, dark blue and purple. The neutrals of black, dark grey and dark brown are the best at sunblocking.
The deep reds and greens will also do a decent job blocking the sun. Deep orange, gold, and deep yellow work well too.
White also will block and reflect the rays. When rays reflect, the problems start. The reflected rays may sunburn your face if you don’t remember sunscreen.
Clothes and colors are important, but your sun hat and sunglasses tie for the most important items in your sun protection plans. Then the long sleeve loose-fitting tightly woven shirt.
Next, add sunscreen to apply where you aren’t covered. Don’t forget your face.
Covering your skin is the simplest way to protect yourself from the sun, and sunburn. No reapplying all over your body. Just reapply to your face.
Just ignore protecting your skin from the sun, and you will be looking old before you should.
Sami’s Take On Do Normal Clothes Block UV Rays
While we are trying to stay comfortable and still block the sun from our skin, our normal clothes may not do a great job in the warmer months of the year.
At least not here in Central Texas where it is often hot and humid, with limited breezes.
However, in the fall and winter and the outdoor activities I do, my clothes from my closet will work well for me.
Just remember, I am a grandmother.
If you are really into outdoor adventures in the cooler times of the year, you may be happier with some of the UPF clothing that will wick away sweat, and allow you to stay more comfortable.
Finding clothing that protects you from the sun and is comfortable is the key. UPF clothing lasts a pretty good while and can be a better investment if it helps you get out and enjoy the outdoors more often.
Finding the right and safe fit and style for you is easy enough with so many choices available, some even through Walmart!
Do you have some skin protection tips that work for you that you could share?
Please use the comment area below to make us aware of what you are doing to protect yourself and your family from the sun,