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Chlorine Effects on Swim Clothes

No swimsuit will last forever but taking good care and choosing the right type of fabric will help preserve your swim clothes for several seasons.

Chlorine Damage

One of the main causes of swimwear damage is chlorine which is used in swimming pools to protect us from germs and bacteria, but this has its own disadvantages. Chlorine can damage some of our body cells but also is very hard on swimsuit fabrics. Some fabrics can withstand swimming pools better than others.

Chlorine Resistance

Better swimsuits are made from chlorine resistant two way stretch fabric, with UPF50+ UVA and UVB protection. It is durable, breathable, soft on the skin, and retains colors and elasticity in chlorinated and sea waters longer than traditional stretch fabric.

No treatment or chemicals should be added to fabric. It is the way fabric is tightly knitted that provides protection against the sun UVA and UVB radiation all day long.

Many people wonder how their swimwear holds up to chlorine in the pool. Modest swimmers are reluctant to wear clothing in a pool to avoid any damage from the pool chlorine. Others take great pains to rinse their clothing out immediately.

Chlorine is highly oxidizing, meaning it damages everything it comes in contact with. Chlorine will stiffen your fabrics and overtime, it will wear out the elasticity and fade the color of your swim clothes.

No swim clothes will hold up forever under the conditions of chlorinated water but there are certain things you can do to make sure your swimsuit lasts as long as possible.

Chlorine Resistant Suits

Because bathing suits take a lot of abuse in swimming pools, the better ones are made of a sturdy fabric that is made to resist some of the wear that bathers put it through.

A growing number of swimsuits on the market are specifically made to resist the effects of chlorine. These chlorine-resistant suits are made to keep their color and thickness longer than regular swimsuits.

Over time these suits may also see the effects of chlorine eventually, but that damage can be slowed down with good care. This can result in a suit that looks better for more than one or two seasons.

Body Fats and Oils

Swimsuits fade and disintegrate as a result of repeated low level chlorine exposures, but more damage is actually caused by unbalanced (aggressive) water conditions, and the effects of body fats and oils on fabric.

Surprisingly, clothes worn by lifeguards working in warm water pools that are sanitized and oxidized with brominated compounds (non bleach halogens) actually disintegrate faster than the same suits worn in chlorinated pools, indicating more of the suit damage is actually caused by body fats and oils released as a result of warm water exposure than from sanitizer and oxidizer exposure.

Pool Chlorine

Chlorine is added at low levels to pool water to keep bacteria from growing in the water. It is also added to drinking water for the same reason. In many counrties, any water that comes into contact with the clothing, with the exception of ocean and lake water, may have some chlorine in it.

While chlorine does bleach and damage clothing over time, it is used in small enough amounts in a swimming pool that the effects won’t be seen for some time.

Chlorine Levels

The standard amount of chlorine that is added to a pool is calculated in parts per million. The level of chlorine in drinking water is generally less than one part per million. The measurement for a pool will generally be around 1 to 10 parts of chlorine for every million parts of water.

When something is bleached in the washing machine with a clothing bleach, the general guideline is a bleach level in the washer of about 80 parts per million.

This is a much faster way to bleach and damage clothing than exposing it to chlorine bleach in a pool, making the water in the washing machine a main contributor to damage to clothing. Wearing your clothes in the pool damages them more slowly because of the lower chlorine content.

Clothing in Pools

Because a pool has higher levels of chlorine than household water, but less than a washing machine, repeated exposure of clothing to pool water will result in some damage and lighter clothing colors eventually. Rinsing out items of clothing after they have been in a pool will not remove the chlorine, but it will result in less chlorine in the clothing.

However, once the clothing has been in the pool water, the bleaching action of the chlorine on the clothing has already taken place. Rinsing it under the shower will not reverse any effects the chlorine already had on the clothing, but removes body oils from your clothing that could do as much or more damage than chlorine.

Clothing for Swimming Lessons

Smart swimming lessons also teach survival swimming skills that require you to swim fully clothed most of the time. The best swimming lesson are always done in clothes. This is great fun and may save your life one day.

Clean older clothes that no longer fade any colour dye into the water are best for swimming lessons. Make sure they are undamaged, fit well and don't chafe.

After the lesson wear the clothes for a while under the shower. This rinses the chlorine out much better than in a hand wash basin. Hang them out to dry in a well ventilated space so they will soon be ready for the next swimming lesson.