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Research project to improve working clothes
Sep '10
Sunscreen was yesterday's solution, today it's UV protection clothing - doctors believe that the right clothing gives better protection from the dangers of the sun than creams. Nevertheless, many people who spend a long time outdoors because of their work, such as builders, gardeners, farmers, law enforcement officers, industrial cleaners or waiters, are reluctant to use special UV protection clothing.

"Working clothing that provides UV protection has to be able to be washed lots of times - and that's why until now it was always made of thick fabrics that soon made you feel uncomfortable if you had to exert yourself physically", says Dr. Boris Bauer. As a project leader at the Hohenstein Institute in Bönnigheim, he is currently trying to develop working clothes which provide adequate UV protection for a full (working) day and at the same time are optimised physiologically. That is to say, they should be really breathable and feel like light casual clothes.

"It is a widely held misconception that any clothing provides adequate sun protection", says Dr. Bauer: "Depending on the type and density of the fibre, the surface finish, the structure and colour of the textile, the UV protection factor can be very different. Our aim is to develop working clothes which, visually and functionally, are more like normal working or leisure clothes, but have additional functionality such as good UV protection and are comfortable to wear. Only when all these aspects come together will more people begin to include this type of clothing in their working wardrobe and so protect themselves from the negative effects of UV radiation."

The researchers have already gone a long way towards achieving this aim with their first functional samples: their long-sleeved shirts have a UV protection factor (UPF) of 80 in particularly exposed areas like the shoulders. The fabric that is used there not only offers high UV protection but is also extremely hard-wearing.

The knitted fabric used for the back and sleeves is stretchy, making the shirt easy to pull on and off, and at the same time it also has a UV protection factor (UPF) of 80. Because of their cut and the textiles that are used, these functional samples are also very comfortable to wear. For example, there are special textile zones under the armpits and around the stomach where the thermo-physiological and skin sensory characteristics have been optimised in view of the increased sweat production there.

Dr. Bauer says that making this improved working clothing easy to look after poses a particular challenge: "When we are choosing the combination of materials and treating them, we have to make sure that they can be washed not only in a domestic washing machine but also under the mechanical and thermal stresses of commercial laundries. We are currently working intensively on this issue with our functional samples."

Hohenstein Institute

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