A Guide to UPF Apparel

(What is UPF and why is it important to know what protection level to choose)

Sun protection is imperative for anyone who spends time outdoors. An estimated 90% of non-melanoma skin cancers are directly associated with exposure to UV radiation from the sun. The most common form of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma, is diagnosed in approximately 4.3 million Americans each year. Sunscreen lotions work well to block cancer-causing radiation, but they require frequent re-application and can stain clothing. For many people, especially those who frequent the beach or engage in watersports, a garment with a UPF rating is a more practical choice.
One of the greatest benefits of UPF clothing is the consistent coverage it offers to those who need maximum protection from the sun. Many of us have very fair skin and can burn quite easily. The strongest sunscreens can prevent burning, but they only do so when re-applied at regular intervals. Even when a person is fastidious about re-applying sunscreen, it can be rubbed off when playing in the sand, lounging on floatation devices, or paddling a surfboard. Surfers popularized rash guards, which are shirts worn to limit chest and arm abrasion from paddling a surfboard. A long-sleeved, UPF-rated rash guard also provides excellent protection against UV radiation for the entire upper body, and they have become very popular with snorkelers, open-water swimmers, and non-surfing beach aficionados of all kinds.
Strange as it may sound, UPF clothing also provides ecological benefits by limiting the need for sunscreen. When a person swims in the ocean with sunscreen on, chemicals like oxybenzone are released into the water. Oxybenzone is highly toxic for marine life, and it is so powerful that a single drop in more than 4 million gallons of water* can endanger marine organisms. It is particularly dangerous for coral reefs as it disrupts their reproduction and growth cycles and ultimately leads to bleaching. Mineral particles in sunscreen also contribute to coral bleaching as they catalyze the production of hydrogen peroxide in ocean waters.
Even when sunscreen users don’t go swimming, their sunscreen is eventually washed down a drain when they shower. And when beach-goers use aerosol sunscreens, much of it gets sprayed onto the sand and eventually gets washed into the ocean. A 2016 article** in the scientific journal Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology estimates that as much as 14,000 tons of sunscreen ends up in our oceans each year.
While UPF clothing can limit the use of sunscreens, it is also important to pay attention to the contents of any sunscreen that is applied to the face, hands, and any other exposed areas. Many companies now manufacture “reefsafe” sunscreens that don’t contain harmful chemicals, and these should be used at all times.

What Is UPF?

UPF is an abbreviation for Ultraviolet Protection Factor, and it’s a standard used to measure the amount of sun protection afforded by fabrics. It is a relatively new standard; sun-protective clothing had originally been rated with the familiar SPF (Sun Protection Factor) that is still used within the context of sunscreen products. Because the use of UPF is voluntary according to Federal Trade Commission rules, there are some clothing manufacturers who still use SPF to rate their products. However, universal application of the standard can be expected in the future.

A fabric’s UPF rating is an indication of the percentage of ultraviolet (UV) light that is blocked by a fabric. The rating system uses a range of numbers from 15 to 50 to denote the percentages. For example, a fabric with a rating of 50 blocks approximately 98% of UV, and a fabric with a rating of 15 blocks approximately 93% of UV.
UPF ratings make it easy for a consumer to decide on a particular rating that suits them. A person with a lower risk factor may opt for a garment with a rating of 15, whereas someone who is concerned with maximum protection would choose a rating of 50. It is important to note that in either case, the consumer is getting significant sun protection. For the average person, it is not necessary to fret too much over the differences between, for example, 25 and 40. Garments with either rating will provide significant UV protection.

Caring for UPF Fabrics

Clothing with UPF-rated sun protection does require a bit of care to retain its effectiveness. Here are a few simple guidelines to extend the life of sun-protective clothing:

  • Wash or thoroughly rinse UPF garments after use in saltwater or chlorinated pools.
  • When machine washing UPF garments, always use cold water and a gentle cycle.
  • Use only mild detergents.
  • Dry garments flat or hang them to dry but avoid placing them in direct sunlight when drying.
  • Never tumble dry UPF garments, and never dry clean or iron them.
  • Do not wring out UPF garments. If they are soaking wet, wrap them in a towel to absorb the excess water.

A Guide for Neoprene Products (How to extend the longevity of the neoprene products)

Neoprene is the perfect material for those who love living life on or in the water. It is probably best known as the material from which wetsuits are made. Offering built-in sun protection and welcome water-resistance so that you stay drier and warmer, it helps you stay comfortable while surfing, boating, kitesurfing or engaging in other water sports so that you can spend more time enjoying the activities that you love. Neoprene ranges in thickness from 0.5 mm for relatively warm weather and water to 6 mm, which is reserved for the coldest of conditions. Because even the thinnest neoprene is actually thick relative to most other fabrics, it is highly effective at blocking UV rays without the need for added chemicals or dyes.
Top-quality neoprene gear is an excellent investment, and like any investment, you’ll want to take care of it properly to ensure that its lifespan is as long as possible. What care does neoprene need to provide you with many years of reliable service?

What Is Neoprene?

Neoprene is a durable, flexible synthetic rubber that is used for a variety of garments for watersports. Formed via a chemical process, neoprene is a type of closed cell foam rubber. The cells are actually tiny bubbles of gas, typically nitrogen, that are scattered throughout the material. These closed cells help deliver neoprene’s signature benefits. They slow the transfer of heat, providing the insulating properties that help those wearing garments made from the material stay warmer. Because they are closed, the cells help prevent saturation, delivering both buoyancy and water-resistance.
While the material offers many advantages, neoprene does have its weaknesses. Heat, chlorine and salt water can all degrade neoprene. Fortunately, proper care can help you safeguard items made from neoprene so that they’ll last longer.

Neoprene Washing Instructions

Natural bodies of water are filled with a variety of microbes and contaminants. Swimming pools trade these menaces for chlorine’s sting. Neither of these substances are things that you want lingering on your gear. As a result, it is best to hone the habit of rinsing out your neoprene gear with cool, fresh water as soon as possible after every use. This helps to wash away damaging residues and aids in the prevention of odor issues.
While you may be able to get by with rinsing for a little while, there will come a time when you’ll want to thoroughly clean your items. Never throw neoprene in the washing machine and hope for the best. Instead, check the care instructions that came with the gear. If in doubt, hand wash the items in cool or lukewarm water using detergents that are specifically designed for neoprene.

Drying Neoprene Products

Drying neoprene items thoroughly before storing them is vital if you want to avoid unpleasant consequences like mildew and foul odors. Neoprene doesn’t fare well when exposed to heat, so it’s no surprise that you can’t use a clothes dryer to remove any dampness lingering after it’s been washed. What should you do? Carefully hang the item in a place where it is not exposed to direct sunlight. Then, allow it to air dry. Use a sturdy hanger, and try to avoid creases or folds whenever possible.

What If Neoprene Wrinkles?

When folded and subjected to pressure, neoprene is prone to wrinkles and creases. That’s why gear made from this material should be stored hanging flat rather than crammed into a drawer. What if it wrinkles? Since avoiding heat is vital to safeguarding your neoprene, using an iron to combat wrinkles is definitely out. Fortunately, there are other methods. With minor wrinkling, you may find that the wearing the item and getting it wet is all that is necessary to smooth the fabric. For stubborn creases, stretch the neoprene out on a flat surface like a table or floor, smooth the material with your hands, and wait 24 hours. If that doesn’t work, gently stretch the material. Keep it pulled taut for at least 24 hours to allow the material to breathe and release the creases.

What If Odors Develop?

If you really worked up a sweat by playing hard, forgot to rinse off after a long day or failed to completely dry your neoprene before storing it, you may discover that your gear has developed an unpleasant odor. Oils from human skin can damage neoprene over the long term, and without regular rinsing, neoprene can develop bad odors. When even a good, thorough cleaning doesn’t eliminate the smell, it’s time to take things a step farther. Use a deodorizer designed for neoprene. These products utilize odor-eating microbes and enzymes to eradicate bad smells at their source.

What If It Rips?

Designed for active people, neoprene gear is the perfect companion for your adventures. The tough, protective material is fairly durable, but if things get especially rough, you may discover small rips or cuts in it. Don’t panic. There are various adhesive kits designed for repairing neoprene, so it is easy to fix minor tears. Some repair kits can even be used in the field for quick, on-the-go repairs.

Tips for Extending the Longevity of Neoprene

Neoprene can make a day spent on or near the water more fun and comfortable, so it’s no wonder that it is favored by boaters, fans of water sports, and people who want to protect their skin from the sun and other hazards while enjoying the water. Neoprene is a reasonably durable material, but it does require considerable care in order to ensure a long life. If you want to get the most from your gear, following a few simple tips for extending the longevity of neoprene can help:

  • Chose well-designed products made from top-quality materials.
  • To enhance your comfort and avoid unnecessary strain, be mindful of fit.
  • Never leave neoprene in a hot vehicle.
  • Avoid aerosols, chemical solvents, oil and gasoline; they can stain and weaken the material.
  • Always rinse neoprene gear promptly after using it. Never use hot water to rinse or clean neoprene. Always use cool or tepid water.
  • Never machine wash a neoprene garment. Neoprene can tear if it is stretched by an agitator.
  • Use only cleaning products that are designed for neoprene.
  • Keep neoprene away from potential heat sources.
  • Never put neoprene gear away while it is still wet. To dry a neoprene garment, turn it inside out and hang it from a thick, padded hanger. Wire hangers can damage the fabric.
  • Avoid folding or compressing neoprene gear.
  • Full wetsuits are very tight fitting, and they can sometimes be a struggle to put on and take off. Because neoprene can sometimes tear more easily than other materials, there are a few tricks for safely putting on and removing wetsuits:
    • Place a plastic bag over your foot before sliding it into the leg of a wetsuit. Then remove it and repeat the process with the other foot. Plastic bags slide easily over neoprene.
    • Turn your wetsuit inside out and roll it onto your body.
    • If the water isn’t too cold, put your wetsuit on while in the water.
    • Use a water-based lubricant to help the wetsuit slide over your body.
    • Remove a wetsuit by rolling it down your body. If another person is available to help, have them gently pull the suit down your legs and past your feet.
    • The most important consideration is that pulling too hard on a tight-fitting wetsuit can tear the neoprene. When pulling a wetsuit on, pull only in short segments and avoid digging into the material with your fingernails. If you do tear a wetsuit, neoprene offers a distinct advantage over other types of material: Special adhesives are available that allow you to repair small tears with relative ease. For larger tears, there are a number of companies that specialize in neoprene repair. 

Platinum Sun’s commitment to quality and creative design is guided by a focus on you: our customers. Inspired by our love of sun, water, the beach, and extreme sports, our products are designed to keep you stylishly comfortable while you make the most of your fun, healthy, active lifestyle. Share with us any other tips that we might have missed or any useful info about your neoprene products!