Shade fabric testing

Shade fabric, also known as shadecloth, is a popular way of providing shade for people outdoors

Image of Shadeloth in use over a public swimming pool Shade fabrics were originally designed to provide climate control in greenhouses and plant nurseries. Nowadays it's widely used for personal protection from the sun and is available in a variety of materials, colours and shade ratings so you can choose an appropriate product for your shade situation.

Shade is one of the most comfortable forms of personal protection from ultraviolet radiation (UVR) in sunlight. When used effectively most forms of shade can reduce UVR exposure by up to 75%, especially if used with other sun protection measures.

Important factors relating to UVR exposure when using shade structures are:

  • the ability of the shade material to block UVR
  • the positioning of the shade structure in relation to the sun and the people it is protecting
  • the angle of the sun in the sky.

There is an Ultraviolet Effectiveness (UVE) rating that shows how effective a shade fabric is at providing shade for sun protection. When designing shade structures for people consider using shade fabrics that have highest UVE ratings available.

UVE (%) Protection category
80.0 to 90.9 Effective
91.0 to 94.9 Very effective
95.0+ Most effective

There are many resources available online to assist with designing comfortable and effective shade structures for private and public use such as these examples from SunSmart and Sun Safety Queensland.

Important considerations about shade protection

As well as ultraviolet radiation that reaches us directly from the sun, we can receive UVR exposure from what is known as indirect UV radiation (also known as diffuse or scattered radiation). Indirect UVR occurs when solar radiation is reflected to the ground from particles in the atmosphere, or reflected off nearby surfaces such as buildings, snow or water. This means that we can still receive some UVR exposure even when we are shaded and can't see the sun directly.

Indirect radiation can reach the ground from low angles so when designing shade structures we need to consider that radiation may be able to enter the shade structure from the sides. In the laboratory, shade fabric is tested in close proximity to the detector of the measuring equipment and these measurements will show how effective the material is against direct UVR but cannot account for the additional effects of indirect radiation which will vary depending on the factors listed above.

Shade fabric and shade fabric testing at ARPANSA

ARPANSA operates a service for measuring the UVR and visible transmission of shade fabric. The testing is performed in accordance with the UV-visible transmission requirements of Australian standard AS4174:2018 - Knitted and woven shade fabrics. Copies of this standard are available from Standards Australia.

Note that samples sent to ARPANSA for shade fabric testing must be at least 1 metre by 1 metre in size. The samples cannot be returned after testing as they are cut into smaller pieces. Allow up to ten working days for the testing of the materials.

A shade fabric testing request form and a charge schedule are available from the ARPANSA UPF Testing Service on +61 3 9433 2309 or can be downloaded below:

Shade fabric testing request

Shade fabric testing request form

Terms and conditions - UPF

PDF icon Terms and conditions - UPF
File Terms and conditions - UPF

Schedule of charges for shadecloth testing

PDF icon Schedule of charges for shadecloth testing
Microsoft Office document icon Schedule of charges for shadecloth testing

Sample shade fabric test report

PDF icon Shade fabric test report
Plain text icon Text description - sample shade fabric test report

Payment methods