Do UPF Shirts Work When Wet?

Shirts to protect from the sun

Do UPF Shirts Work When Wet?  To answer this reader’s question I almost rattled out what I thought to be an accurate answer.  Glad that the response was delayed so I could check out the major players in the UPF shirt-making and selling world. 

UPF shirts protect you from Ultra Violet rays, when dry, not always when wet. You will have some protection, just might not have as much block when wet as when dry.

First, let’s check the Coolibar Website to see what information was listed with their products.  Here is the information for a cute top for child-sized girls top:

The top Has UPF of 50 plus. This means that sun protection in this shirt will block out all sunlight that it is possible to block. (as long as the long sleeves stay down around the writs, the bottom of the shirt also stays in place and does not expose the wearer’s middle body.)

The fabric is described as ZnO fabric, a trademarked fabric that Coolibar makes for its clothing. The fabric is super soft to your skin while being lightweight and comfortable. This particular fabric is also enhanced with zinc oxide protection. So Coolibar has beefed up the protection.

Next, I notice that you can machine wash and tumble dry. For sure what you would want in children’s wear.

Uh-oh, this garment is recommended for kids’ everyday wear and chilling out in the sun. The description warns that swimming is not advised. That the fabric is not chlorine, or salt waterproof.

This shirt will not be protecting your child’s body while it is wet.

We hope the boys in the image above have a shirt that is waterproof or dries extremely quickly. Being on the water makes wet shirts happen

This is one reason some people are not happy in their UPF clothing. They did not read or paid no attention to the information on the label.

UPF clothing is the most complete coverage you can find for your skin, the skin of your family. However, as good as this fabric is, it can’t think and act for you. You need to know how to use these new garments, and how to safely protect your skin. Read the label and be aware.

Reading And Understanding UPF Clothing Labels

I am learning to read labels. This is a relative new skill for me. But, in my defense, I didn’t know how important this step is for getting the most out of the tools for sun protecting. I expected something that was not happening.

Now that I understand the importance of reading labels, I can make better selections.

So I know that the higher the UPF number, the more sun it blocks. However, how much difference is there in the rating for protection?

Here is what I found on the site:

A UPF rating of 30, for example, means the material allows 1/25 (4 percent) of UV radiation in, and a UPF 50 garment lets in 1/50 (2 percent).

So, a UPF of 30 blocks 96% (100% – 4% = 96%)

Then a UPF of 50 blocks 98% (100% – 2% = 98%)

So higher numbers does mean more coverage, but not much more.

Also searching for the assurance of sun-protection when wet, on another garment in the Coolibar catalogue, I found:

There are some fabrics that can when worn in chlorine or salt water. Instead of sun proof when wet, the tags said that the fabric dried quickly. Again, getting wet does away with the UPF protection until dry.

This is important so that you can dry in the shade, or slip on a coverup for a short while to dry. You can do these things, when you know that you need to. We do have to educate ourselves to know how to stay safe.

Do UPF shirts work when wet

Why Does UPF Clothing Loose Some Ability To Block The Sun When Wet

Each garment will have it’s on directions on safe use. Read hang tags and labels from any sun protection clothing, regardless of the brand or what the advertizing says. Often descriptions and directions can get mixed up by the time they are ready for retail. Check the sewn in labels for directions.

Yes. The protection is there even when the fabric is wet. Do note, however, that UV rays transmit more readily through water than they do through air. That means dry garments still offer better protection than wet ones.

With the assurance that the UPF of 50 is there, I would be comfortable with my grandkids in their UPF clothing, even when playing around the swimming pool.

Some fabrics state on the label that the garment is not recommended for active exercise. This helps me know that the active play that the kids like to engage in may make them a bit warm and uncomfortable.  When they get warm, off comes the UPF shirt, and makes them more apt to sunburn.  

It is true that most of the time they will be in the water, even when kids are rowdy.  However, there is also lots of ball tossing and chasing and being in and out of the water. 

Activity changes according to the personality of the kids as well as :

  • Who they are playing with.
  • Where they are playing, the beach or pool also plays a part as well. 

When a particular garment is for me, I now realize by the fabric description if it will dry fast if it gets wet.  I would be hot in the bright sun after a bit.  Maybe one that breathes would be better for me.  

However, does your family board a sailboat to have a fun day?  You may need a faster drying feature for your shirt.  With our landlocked lifestyle here in central Texas, we are more concerned with being able to stay cool and protected from the sun. 


Think about the features that are important for your family.  Then work through the list to see if they work for you and your family.  This is an area when reading the labels and descriptions will be important.   

How To Launder Your UPF Clothing

After spending some time shopping for your shirt you expect the skin protection promised.

This time deciding which items are important for your family in their efforts to protect their skin from the sun should pay dividends of healthy skin. 

So, don’t overlook the part in the description or on the label that tells you how to care for that item.  

Some fabrics go in the dryer, some do not.  If the label says hang to dry, then don’t tumble dry.  This is important for the UPF to last for the life of the garment.  

At our house, I have a small plastic zip lock with special laundry instructions.  You know what works for you in your situation, just don’t ignore this part of protecting your family from sun dangers and possible skin cancer.

Protect Your Investment In UPF Clothing.

As UPF clothing was not an option for me when my kids were young, I have felt like a fish out of water with the information overload.  We now have several shirts, and I need to make sure I do what I can to keep then on the job, blocking the sun off our skin.

It is important to help SPF purchases able to do what they are able to do for you and your family’s skin..  UPF is what I want for my family moving forward.

Better protection and less time at the dermatologist office is what we all should aim for.

When buying for a family, know that there are shirts, suim suits, cover ups that have UPF at Walmart, Target, and many outlet stores.  Some may not offer the lifetime guarentee, but your kids are growing fast.  Their clothes will need replacing every year anyhow.

Get your sun blocking tool box together.  A hat, sunglasses, sunscreen and a sun blocking shirt are the basics.  An umbrella, a pop-up-sun-shade tent are good have have as well.  Awareness that you can schedule your outdoor time better and avoid the dangerous times between 10 AM and 4 PM in the summertime. 

Protect your families skin from the sun.  Teach them early that they can do it.  Lead by example.

Do UPF Shirts work when wet
Sami’s Take On Do UPF Shirts Work When Wet?

We are getting more familiar with sun blocking clothing and how to use it to keep our skin safe from too much sun.

As with all new tools, and these shirts are tool in our sun blocking tool chest, we have to pay attention. Just like a new drill in your workshop can slip and injure you, your new UPF shirt may stay too stay too wet in the direct sun and injure you with a sunburn.

Pay attention to how your new sun protection tools work and get the most for your money. We are all learning more about sun protection for our skin with the ability we now have for accessing information. Use this information and protect yourself and your family.

You will appreciate the healthier skin years. This doesn’t seem to important when you are not experiencing the skin cancer issues. Sun damage is accumulative, and will show up in time. Aging skin is never what we want, regardless of our age. Especially sun aged skin.

Skin cancer is dangerous, and can be deadly. Take care of your skin. Wear your sun blocking hat, your sunglasses and your long sleeve loose-fitting sun blocking shirt.

Thank You,


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