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UV Protection Arm Sleeves Test: Over Half of Samples Unsatisfactory in Sweat Wicking & Quick Drying Performance – Substantial Variations in Air Permeability

  • 2018.08.15

For outdoor work or exercise under the blazing sun of summer, one needs to be protected from sunburn.  That’s when UV protection arm sleeves come in handy.  A Consumer Council test on 20 models of UV protection arm sleeves found all models were performing well in UV protection.  However, more than half (12 models) scored unsatisfactorily, with only 2 points or below, in sweat wicking and quick drying performance.  Vast variations also existed in air permeability performance, with a substantial difference between the best and the least performers of over 50 times. Nonetheless, the test found rather good cooling and comfort performance in the general UV protection arm sleeves, some even better than most of the models that claimed to possess cooling function. 

The 20 models, priced from $12 to $480, were tested mainly for UV protection, cooling and comfort, durability and accuracy of fabric composition.  On a scale of 5, the samples were rated overall from 3 to 5 points.  The most expensive sample ($480) was found to score the high 5 points while the cheapest ($12) a marginally lower 4.5 points, indicating that price and overall rating are not necessarily correlated. 

UV protection is clearly the most fundamental requirement of these arm sleeves.  The test showed that 19 models had a UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) value of over 50, which means they are capable of blocking more than 98% of UV sunlight to protect the arms from UV harm.  Only 1 model was tested to have a UPF of 30 capable of blocking about 97% of UV.  However, after wash of 10 times, the UPF of that model was found to increase to 50; the improvement was probably due to repeated washing resulting in its fabric tissues to dense up.

Arm sleeves that possess high thermal conductivity could obviously dissipate heat giving the wearer a cooling feeling.  Among the 20 models, 15 claimed to give the skin a nice cooling feeling.  Referenced from “Specified Requirements for Cool Feeling Textiles” of Taiwan, to provide an obvious instant cooling feeling to the wearer, the instant cooling value must reach 0.13W/cm2 or above.  However, test results revealed that in measuring their instant cooling values the models showed varying performances ranging from 0.104 to 0.2W/cm2.  2 models with cooling function claim were rated with only 2.5 points or below. On the other hand, 2 models without any cooling function claim, turned out to perform remarkably well with 4.5 points. In the 1-minute cooling measure, all samples were found to be more effective, after perspiration than before, in heat removal.  9 samples were found to be particularly effective.

For UV protection arm sleeves, effective sweat wicking and quick drying performance (wicking and moisture evaporation rate) can help release perspiration and body heat, keeping the skin dry and comfy. In wicking test, 3 models were awarded the top marks of 5 points in that the fabric could quickly absorb and transfer perspiration from skin to the surface of the fabric for evaporation.  12 models, however, were rated unsatisfactorily with only 1.5 points or below.  On moisture evaporation rate, the samples varied considerably, from 0.49 to 2.91 mL per hour, a difference of nearly 5 times.  Among them, 4 models scored only a low 2 points, indicating slow moisture evaporation that could result in discomfort to the wearer with dampness and heat when heavy sweating.

Further, air permeability of arm sleeves can adversely affect heat dissipation.  The air permeability of samples varied substantially, ranging from 35mm to 1839mm of air per second, a whopping difference of over 50 times.  Water vapour permeability is another important indicator of cooling and comfort performance; the higher the water vapour permeability the quicker the expulsion of water vapour and body heat.  All of the samples fared well with good performance, scoring a high 4 to 5 points.

On durability, 4 models were found with slight to serious discoloration after a long period of simulated sunlight exposure; 3 others after being washed 10 times discoloration or loss of gloss in some of their print patterns was detected while 2 others may probably stain clothing on sweating.

Some tips for choice and care of UV protection arm sleeves:

- For UV protection or motorists with prolonged exposure to sunlight, choose arm sleeves with higher UV protection level;
- For such outdoor exercise or sports as taking a walk, fishing, apart from choosing one with higher level of UV protection, air and water vapour permeability are also important;
- For those who are heat sensitive, sweaty frequently countryside hiking, running, bicycling or golfing, choose arm sleeves with good cooling function, air and water vapour         permeability, sweat wicking and quick drying performance;
- Read carefully the care labelling to avoid adversely impacts on the product appearance and functions after washing.

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