For women, rash guards can save water-sport hassles – Care for them correctly

Whether you are heading out for a day of extreme water sports,  chill paddle boarding or just want sun protection, a rash guard is an excellent addition to the wardrobe of every water lover. Swim shirts for women can meet a lot of the same needs too. 

Since you’ll love the rash prevention, security and sun-protection of a rash guard or a long sleeve swimsuit, it’s time to learn how to take care such rad garments. Learn how to preserve your rash guard and it will take care of you for years to come. 

Background: Where and how to wear a rash guard

Before getting into how to wash and treat your rash guard swim shirts right, let’s review where and how you can wear them. Rash guards and swim leggings can be worn on top of any-piece swimsuit: one or two. Since high-quality rash guards have a quick dry time, you might just keep wearing them beachside or poolside.

women rash guards

Women’s rash guards can prevent the need to put sunscreen on your chest, where blemishes can develop. Sometimes features help if you get too hot. Some have a zip front, or a crew neck collar that zips down for airflow or easy removal. Tight fit long sleeve rash guards mold to you so they feel like a second skin.

For water sports, especially surfing or kiteboarding, tight is the way to go. For less active sports or casual waterside or boating wear, a looser fit works. Might we suggest you also check out swim leggings, for double the fun and practicality? Boaters love them too!

Caring for a rash guard to preserve the sun protection

The substances that can damage rash guard material abound in the outdoors: sunscreen, bug spray, sun, salt and chlorine. Still, the answer to nearly full sun protection or warmth from the neck down can be a UPF 50 long sleeve rash guard and swim leggings.

UPF stands for Ultraviolet Protection Factor. UPF measures how much UVB and UVA radiation can hit your skin through the fabric. Note that there is a difference in whether the fabric has an inherent UPF factor or was treated to achieve its UPF factor. Sometimes, washing can increase the UPF factor.  It seems unlikely. But that happens when the fabric shrinks a bit or when a detergent has a color brightener.  

caring for women rash guards

After reading this guide, you’ll ensure your rash guard gets proper care. Even if the tag on your garment reads “rash guard UPF 50” or “swim shirt UPF 50,” put sunscreen underneath if there is a chance you’ll end up taking it off. Even short sleeve rash guards can protect places that are already burnt because they don’t often see the sun. Nevertheless, long sleeve sun shirts and leggings nearly avoid the need to slop on sunscreen every few hours. Then you only have your face, hands and footsies left.

Washing a rash guard and swim leggings

If you can’t wash your rash guard or swim leggings right away or will use them again soon, be sure to rinse them in cool tap water. Lukewarm water will do if that’s all a hose or outside shower will give you. The higher the salinity (saltiness) of the water you’re in, the more good a freshwater rinsing will do.

When you can wash rash guard material, turn it inside out to do so. Just like with a bathing suit, avoiding the washing machine will preserve the life of a rash guard.  A soap meant for rash guards or wetsuits is best. If you don’t have a particular cleanser, then a biodegradable one is the next best option. Never use harsh chemicals. After having rinsed the salt water out of the rash guard at some point, refill the sink with cool water and a soft detergent.

Place the inside out rash guard in the soapy water. Ensure it gets completely wet, soaking it if need be. Run the rash guard through the water without agitating it too much. Drain the water. Then, refill the sink with water to rinse it. Repeat this several times. Agitating or wringing the rash guard is bad for the fabric. Folding it up tightly or into a ball is also detrimental.

Washing a rash guard for women isn’t that different from washing a swimsuit, although it is different from washing board shorts. Hopefully, now you’ll also take better care of your swimsuits, and let the guys know what’s up with washing rash guards! Guys are starting to wear swim leggings too.


Never dry a rash guard in the dryer. The high heat can be fatal to the material. Speaking of high heat, never leave a rash guard in a hot car. This is a quick way to compromise the material. Instead of putting it in the dryer, hang it in a breezy place out of the sun. The breeze is more important for humid climates. Long sleeve rash guards and swim leggings will, of course, take longer to dry.

drying rash guards

Using a thick, padded hanger will prevent this (and any garment) from damage or losing its shape. If you absolutely must put it in a dryer, like if you need to pack it in a suitcase ASAP, choose a no-heat setting. Tumble dry will work. Whether it’s leggings or a rash guard for women, the fewer machine dries, the better.

It’s worth the care

When you’re tired and just want a shower and some grub after a water-sport sesh or hours in the sun, hand washing your gear can feel taxing. We know well that surfing, kiteboarding or diving all day will get you nodding off. However, if you can commit to at least rinsing it, your gear will last longer. Commit to washing it regularly without agitation and heat that can damage screening and logos, and it might last years. And look good all the while!

Also, with swim leggings that feel great and turn heads at the gym or yoga, you’ll want to keep them fresh to wear any day. For extra grubby leggings and rash guards that you exercised or sweated in, baking soda can refresh them. Soaking them overnight in water with baking soda commensurate to the amount of fabric can pull out odors and grime. If you often exercise in swim leggings or get stuck sweating in your rash guard, soak them early and often. Don’t forget to consult this article as many times as you need to remember the process. Your gear will thank you for it. If you hand wash a few items at once, it doesn’t feel like so much work.

We debated giving this a report-style headline since so many women active in swimsuits know the struggle:  Report: For Women Rash Guard Saves the Day so that more women don’t feel compelled to risk exposure only in their swimsuits and maybe a t-shirt. Alternately, we thought to entitle it: For Women Rash Guard Prevents Lobster Burn and Peeling Like a Crab, which would’ve drawn on personal experience. But there’s no reason to be too negative about the sun when we’ve got you covered.

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