Fabric testing

Testing clothing for sun protection

Clothing and hats are some of the most convenient forms of sun protection but not all garments can provide enough protection. UPF testing shows how much sun protection a fabric gives to the wearer.

Overexposure to ultraviolet radiation, or 'UVR', from the sun can cause sunburn, skin damage and an increased risk of developing skin cancers. All fabrics have some ability to block UVR but laboratory testing is needed to tell how useful different fabrics are for sun protection by measuring the Ultraviolet Protection Factor or 'UPF' rating of the fabric.

What is a UPF rating?

A UPF rating shows how effective fabrics are at blocking out the sun’s rays and reducing a person’s UVR exposure. UPF ratings of 15 and 20 are considered to provide 'Good Protection', ratings of 25, 30 and 35 provide 'Very Good Protection' and ratings of 40, 45, 50 and 50+ provide 'Excellent Protection'.

Factors that contribute to the UPF rating of a fabric are:

  • Composition of the yarns (cotton, polyester, nylon, etc.)
  • Tightness of the weave or knit (tighter improves the rating)
  • Colour (darker colours are usually better)
  • Stretch (stretching lowers the protection)
  • Moisture (many fabrics have lower ratings when wet)
  • Condition (worn out and faded garments may have reduced protection)
  • Finishing (some fabrics are treated with UVR absorbing chemicals)

The ARPANSA UPF testing service

ARPANSA tests clothing, fabrics, hats and other materials to determine the UPF rating. UPF testing is done accordance with Australian Standard AS/NZS4399 'Sun protective clothing - Evaluation and classification' which was developed by Standards Australia and contains both the method for UPF testing and the labelling requirements for clothing that claims to offer sun protection. Copies of this standard are available from SAI Global Limited. The testing service is NATA accredited.

For more information see UPF Testing Information

Labelling sun protective clothing

Show consumers how good your products are for sun protection by labelling them with UPF rating tags! UPF tags assist shoppers to make informed purchasing decisions about summer clothing and help to educate people about sun protection strategies. The swing tags have a link back to the ARPANSA web site where customers can find out where to buy more sun protective products. Why not advertise your products there too?

Find out more about the ARPANSA UPF tags

UPF Rating Label

Further information about sun protection by clothing

An article published in the Skin Cancer Foundation Journal in 2012 titled 'Ready to Wear Sun Protection' was co‑authored by Dr Peter Gies and Mr Alan McLennan from ARPANSA. You can view the article directly on the Skin Cancer Foundation's website, or you can download the article as a PDF.

PDF iconReady to wear sun protection - SCF article