Archived — Consumer guidance on UV protective clothing

Backgrounder

August 1, 2007


Information to look for on the tags of ultraviolet (UV) protective clothing:

All clothing provides some protection from UV light. However, clothing specially made to block out UV light is available on the market. When purchasing UV protective clothing, consumers should look for the UPF rating on the tags and question any exaggerated claims such as: "all day protection", "no sun screen required", and "blocks all UV light or rays". These claims have little meaning, since no fabric offers 100 per cent protection from UV light.

Currently, the United States and Australia/New Zealand industry standards are among the most commonly referred to on UV protective promotional material. These standards refer to the Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) which is the classification used by industry to determine the level of UV protection afforded by the garment. Generally speaking, the higher the UPF rating, the higher the level of protection that will be afforded to you and your family. The tags on UV protective garments will usually display the level of protection in the following manner:

  • Garments offering UV protection will have a single UPF rating displayed on the tag. UV Protective garments may be rated UPF 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50 or 50+;
  • UV protection garments may have protection categories relating to the UPF ratings as outlined below:
UV Protection Categories
UPF Rating Protection Category UV Light Blocked 3
1 A value of UPF 15 is the lowest level of protection to be labelled on UV protective clothing.
2 A value of UPF 50+ is only to be labelled on UV protective clothing that has a protection value greater than UPF 50.
3 These percentage values are not to be used for making UV protection claims on garments or on any other promotional material.
151 Good 93.3
20 Good 95.0
25 Very Good 96.0
30 Very Good 96.7
35 Very Good 97.1
40 Excellent 97.5
45 Excellent 97.8
50 Excellent 98.0
50+2 Excellent >98.0 

Helpful tips when purchasing UV protective clothing:

Wearing UV protective clothing is one way for Canadians to protect their skin from the potentially harmful effects of the sun. The higher the UPF rating of a garment, the greater the amount of UV light absorbed by it. For example, wearing a garment with a UPF rating of 40 allows 1/40th of the sun's UV radiation to pass through it. This means that when wearing this garment, it will take 40 times longer for your skin to become visibly red than if it were uncovered.

What affects the UPF rating of clothing?

Fabric Mass:

Generally the heavier the garment?s fabric, the higher the UPF.

Fabric Weave:

Tightly woven or knitted fabrics will allow less UV light to pass through than those with a looser weave or knit.

Fabric Content:

Different materials (e.g. cotton, nylon, polyester) have different natural UV-absorbing properties.

Treatments:

Some garments are treated with a UV-absorbing finish or an optical brightener to increase the UPF rating.

Colour:

Darker colours usually block a higher proportion of UV light.

Condition:

Fabrics which are worn thin, wet or stretched may have reduced protection from UV light.

The design of the garment also needs to be considered. Shirts with long sleeves and high collars, and hats that shade the face and protect the back of the neck and ears are most effective. Loose fitting clothing generally offers more protection than tight fitting clothing.

For more detailed information, please contact the Information Centre of the Competition Bureau at 1-800-348-5358 or 819-997-4282.

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