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J Am Acad Dermatol. 2001 May;44(5):767-74.

Reduction of ultraviolet transmission through cotton T-shirt fabrics with low ultraviolet protection by various laundering methods and dyeing: clinical implications.

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Ronald O. Perelman Department of Dermatology, New York University School of Medicine, New York, NY, USA.



The public has long been instructed to wear protective clothing against ultraviolet (UV) damage.


Our purpose was to determine the UV protection factor (UPF) of two cotton fabrics used in the manufacture of summer T-shirts and to explore methods that could improve the UPF of these fabrics.


Each of the two types of white cotton fabrics (cotton T-shirt and mercerized cotton print cloth) used in this study was divided into 4 treatment groups: (1) water-only (machine washed with water), (2) detergent-only (washed with detergent), (3) detergent-UV absorber (washed with detergent and a UV absorber), and (4) dyes (dyed fabrics). Ultraviolet transmission through the fabrics was measured with a spectrophotometer before and after laundry and dyeing treatments. Based on UV transmission through these fabrics, the UPF values were calculated.


Before any treatments, the mean UPFs were 4.94 for the T-shirt fabric and 3.13 for the print cloth. There was greater UVA (320-400 nm) than UVB (280-320 nm) transmission through these fabrics. After 5 washings with water alone and with detergent alone, UPF increased by 51% and 17%, respectively, for the cotton T-shirt fabric. Washing the T-shirt fabrics with detergent plus the UV-absorbing agent increased the UPF by 407% after 5 treatments. Dyeing the fabric blue or yellow increased the UPF by 544% and 212%, respectively. Similar changes in UPFs were observed for the print cloth fabric.


The two cotton fabrics used in this study offered limited protection against UV radiation as determined by spectrophotometric analysis. Laundering with detergent and water improves UPF slightly by causing fabric shrinkage. Dyeing fabrics or adding a UV-absorbing agent during laundering substantially reduces UV transmission and increases UPF. More UVA is transmitted through the fabrics than UVB.

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