Fabrics suitable for Sun (UV) protective clothing : 7 options to choose from

In my younger days, I never thought of the sun as something from which I needed any protection. It was just there. A constant in my life that I never particularly bothered about. But today my young daughter advises me that Sun is the enemy no.1 in skincare.

She says that I should put on sunscreen by 8 in the morning and then reapply every 3 hours or so and that covering my face with a thin scarf (which I do mostly) in the sun is not enough protection from anything. She is a bit of a beauty info nerd so anything she says about beauty care goes in our house. And I suppose with time I have also become somewhat solar wise and know that my skin needs a little bit more protection from the harmful rays of the sun than I normally give.

Sun’s UVA & UVB can cause premature skin aging. UVA is there throughout the day but UVB is impactful mostly from 10 am to 4 pm. Both are potentially dangerous, but I dread UVA more as it is said to penetrate skin far deeply, causing lasting damage.

There are also health concerns. Damage from daily sun exposure is well documented in most health news articles today. A deadly skin disease like skin cancer and painful rashes on skin due to sun allergy can be prevented to a great extent by being proactive – not getting into the sun too often and by wearing protection. 

Sun protective fabrics are supposed to protect your skin from the harmful UV radiation. You can make tops, pants, jackets, hats and accessories, swim wear as well as window panels, sun shades, umbrellas with these fabrics. Your typical summer fabrics made of regular fabrics usually provide less than 10 SPF of protection where at least 30 SPF is needed for good results. Go for 50 SPF and higher for better results.

So What are the options in full-on UV protective fabric for clothing?

sun protective fabrics

Pre-treated Sun-protective Branded fabrics

UV absorbing chemicals are added to these fabrics to give constant protection against the sun’s rays. 

These fabrics should have UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) ratings and agency-wise / country-wise approvals to be authentic.

Solumbra is a patented fabric in this category with FDA approval regarding its sun protection capabilities. It is owned by Sun Precautions, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of sun-protective clothing. It is supposed to block 97% of the sun’s harmful UVA and UVB rays. Read more about Solumbra on the Wikipedia page here.

Textililene is a branded fabric of Twitchell Corporation made of polyester fibers coated with poly-vinyl chloride (PVC). Textililene90 is claimed to block 90% of sun’s rays.

Other brands include Phifer SheerWeave fabrics, Omni-Shade by Columbia, UPF sun protection clothing from Patagonia, and Coolibar with UPF 50+ fabrics and UPF clothing designed to block 98% of UV rays, SolarWeave® UPF Supplex Nylon Fabrics, a lightweight woven nylon fabric, Sun protection fabrics from Sattler, USA.

So What are the other options for sun protecting fabrics?

Fabrics applied with Sun Protection Sprays.

Sun protective coatings (water based /solvent based) can be applied on the fabric.

Tightly woven/knitted fabrics

When the fabric is tightly woven or knitted they do not have holes between their fibers for the sun’s rays to pass through. Synthetic fabrics like nylon and polyester are very tightly woven and hence they are favorites as sun-blocking fabrics. Good quality tightly structured Nylon fabric is used to make UV resistant umbrella fabric.

Cotton denim fabric has a twill weave which is strong and very tightly woven which makes it a good barrier against sun rays.But usually synthetic fabrics have more UV protection than natural fibers.

Dark colored fabrics

Dark colors can block sun rays. This is why most of the umbrelllas are black. Dark colors include colors like black, navy blue, Indigo, dark green, dark maroon etc.

Garment construction suitable to give sun protection

This refers to garment construction details to make sure that the sun’s rays are not in contact with skin by including long sleeves, full length trousers, skirts, high neck collars, wide brims on head coverings etc. 

Use additives in laundry

There are laundry additives that can add an extra UV coating on the surface of fabrics. Eg. products like Sun Guard. The effect of these additives is not permanent and can wear off after a specified number of washes.

Buy Fabrics with Nano technology.

At the production stage Nanoparticles of titanium dioxide or zinc oxide are added to textiles to give them superior sun protective qualities. Read this article for details.

Related posts : Fabric Glossary ; Water proof and water resistant fabrics; Thin and lightweight fabrics.; Best Bag making fabrics

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12 thoughts on “Fabrics suitable for Sun (UV) protective clothing : 7 options to choose from”

  1. This is an amazing clothing fabric that can protect us from sunlight. Kindly visit our site at uvraylights.com so we can offer our products and services thank you.

  2. Saranga weerasinghe

    Hi , I’m looking for out day coushion cover material for long time business. Should b sun protected and water proof.if you can supply that kind of material please contact me. My phone number is +94773071743. Thank you

  3. Can you buy fabric w/SPF or UVF 50 in it that is suitable for sewing my own clothes? I see Sunbrella, etc clothing, but I’d like to make my own. If so, where?

    1. Hi Carol, I am looking to sewing my own UPF 50+ clothing too. Were you able to find a company? Or did you get a reply to your question? Thanks Bron

  4. I am looking for a stretch fabric with SPF or UVF 50. We manufacture sun visors and I would really like to make them in a stretch sun protective fabric, any suggestions please.

  5. Hi, what fabric would you recommend for a face mask that also properly protects from UV rays? I feel like I’m just wasting my sunscreen lately from wearing a mask, so I want to make a mask that also doubles as “sunscreen”.

    1. Hi Anet
      To tell you the truth I would not wear these sun protective fabric (coated) over my nose, for a long time. A very tightly woven natural fabric like 100% cotton denim can block sun’s rays to an extent (and tightly woven polyester fabrics though it is not breathable at all). Your idea is good, though. I do not like to wear sunscreen creams and what better than masks and a sunglass to protect the whole face.

  6. I am trying to create foot brace for my clients who have either pronated or supinated feet which cause the plantar fascitis. It should be flexible, stretchy, breathable fabric. I don’t know what fabric would be the best, Lycra or spandex or other different types. I have already had the idea to sew it but confused about which fabric I should use. can you help me ?
    Thank in advance.

    1. Hi Sam
      I am no expert in this, so I can only suggest. You can look for neoprene fabric or cotton lycra jersey in a good weight or Rib Stretch Jersey knit fabric in cotton-acrylic combination. Have you looked for Wide Knit Heavy Stretch High Elasticity Elastic Band on amazon – but this has latex content so if you have a problem with latex allergy this is not a good solution.

  7. ” Skin diseases like lupus and skin cancer can be prevented to a great extent by being proactive – not getting into the sun too often and by wearing protection”.

    Being a person who has lupus… I have never heard that if I stayed out of the sun I never would have gotten it…good to know.!!! PS ….and it is more than a skin disease….

    1. Hi Cheryl,
      I am sorry for that – obvious misinformation. Lupus creates sun sensivity. It is not caused by sun exposure. Corrected. Thanks for pointing it out.

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