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How to select right materials for sun-protective outdoorwear and sportswear

July 31,2023

Apparel plays a pivotal role in safeguarding the human body against the harmful effects of ultraviolet radiation.

In fact, everyday clothing fabrics possess inherent ultraviolet protection capabilities. When exposed to ultraviolet rays, these fabrics exhibit phenomena such as reflection, scattering, absorption, and transmission, thereby mitigating the detrimental impact on the skin's surface.


Sun-protective clothing fabrics generally achieve sun protection through two principles:

Shielding Principle: Enhancing the fabric's ability to reflect and scatter ultraviolet (UV) rays. This can be achieved by applying a shielding agent coating to the inner layer of the fabric or by incorporating shielding agents into the fibers of the fabric.

Absorption Principle: Strengthening the fabric's capacity to absorb UV rays and then converting the absorbed energy into heat release or harmless low-energy radiation. This can be accomplished by using dyes with good UV absorption properties during the fabric dyeing process or by applying coatings with anti-UV absorption agents to the fabric.

When selecting yarn for sun-protective clothing, it's essential to consider the same factors as for fabrics. The yarn should be deliverable to the fabric's overall sun protection, comfort, and performance.

Here are some types of yarn that are well-suited for sun-protective clothing:

1. High UPF yarn: Look for yarn that are customized to have a high UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) rating. Yarns with a high UPF provide better UV-blocking capabilities, usually get benefit from functional masterbatch or oil formulation.

2. Synthetic yarn: Yarns made from synthetic fibers like nylon, polyester, or polypropylene for sun-protective clothing. These fibers can be engineered to have excellent UV resistance and can provide reliable sun protection.

3. Blended yarn: Yarns that combine different fibers can offer a balanced combination of properties. For example, blending synthetic nylon fibers with synthetic polyester fibers can provide UV protection and breathability.

4. Cooling and moisture-wicking yarns: Sun-protective clothing should be comfortable in warm weather. Yarns with cooling properties and moisture-wicking capabilities help keep the skin dry and cool by efficiently wicking away sweat.

5. High-twist yarn: Yarns with higher twist levels tend to have better shape retention and more durable, which is important for outdoor wear and sportwear.

6. Elastane or Spandex yarn: These stretchable yarns can enhance the comfort and fit of sun-protective clothing, providing ease of movement during outdoor activities.

7. Tightly plied yarn: Tightly plied or spun yarn can contribute to a fabric's tight weave, improving its ability to block UV radiation.

8. Colorfast yarn: Sun-protective clothing often needs to maintain its color and appearance despite exposure to sunlight. Colorfast yarn help prevent fading and ensure the clothing retains its visual appeal.

9. Anti-odor and antimicrobial yarn: These yarns can help prevent the buildup of odor-causing bacteria, particularly for active outdoor wear dealing with sweating.

Many individuals are opting to purchase sun-protective clothing. However, with prices ranging from tens to hundreds of dollars, how should one make the right choice? Keep in mind that purchasing sun-protective clothing, it's a good idea to check the garment's UPF rating and ensure it meets your sun protection needs. UPF ratings for sun-protective clothing usually range from UPF 15 (good protection) to UPF 50+ (excellent protection).


Taking into consideration the overall cost of fabric, design, and craftsmanship, sun-protective clothing priced above 20 dollars and featuring the mentioned sun protection indicators can be confidently purchased. On the other hand, excessively cheap sun-protective clothing is not recommended. Some sun-protective clothing is sold at high prices, primarily due to factors like branding and design styles. However, in terms of meeting sun protection standards, their effectiveness in protecting the skin from UV rays does not significantly differ.

Currently, the most common fabrics used for sun-protective clothing in the market are polyester (also known as polyethylene terephthalate), followed by nylon, or a blend of polyester and nylon fabrics. Often, a small amount of spandex is added to enhance the fabric's elasticity and improve wearing comfort. Polyester fabric itself has notable UV protection capabilities. Nylon, with its excellent moisture-wicking ability and higher thermal conductivity, can provide a noticeable instant cooling sensation upon contact, which also makes it widely used in sun-protective garments. Fabrics woven from these fibers have high tensile strength and good abrasion resistance, making them suitable for producing outdoor protective clothing.

Nylon/Polyester Air-Covered Yarn (ACY) and Single Covered Yarn (SCY) are widely used in the textile industry to produce UV-protective clothing.

Both yarn types offer specific characteristics that contribute to the UV protection properties of the fabrics they create.

1.Nylon/Polyester Air-Covered Yarn (ACY):

Air-Covered Yarn is a type of textured yarn created by wrapping a continuous filament yarn (typically Nylon or Polyester) with another fiber, such as spandex (elastane) or textured Nylon/Polyester. This process creates a soft and stretchable yarn with a textured surface. ACY is known for its excellent elasticity and recovery, making it suitable for garments requiring stretch and comfort.

When used in UV-protective clothing, Nylon/Polyester ACY fabrics can offer good UV protection, especially when combined with tightly woven structures and UV-resistant treatments. The combination of Nylon or Polyester's inherent UV resistance and the added properties of the ACY structure can enhance the fabric's UV-blocking capabilities.

2.Nylon/Polyester Single Covered Yarn (SCY):

Single Covered Yarn is created by twisting a single yarn (typically a spandex/elastic yarn) around a core yarn (typically a continuous filament yarn like Nylon or Polyester). This process results in a yarn with elasticity and stretch, making it suitable for clothing that requires flexibility.

SCY fabrics, when combined with UV-resistant treatments and tightly woven constructions, can also provide UV protection. However, the level of UV protection may depend on the specific fibers used as the core yarn and the UV-resistant additives applied during fabric processing.

It's important to remember that the UV protection of the final fabric relies not only on the type of yarn used but also on the overall fabric structure, UV-resistant treatments, and the design of the UV-protective clothing. For optimal UV protection, choosing fabrics with higher UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) ratings and following sun safety guidelines is recommended.

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