Can a Rash Guard Be Used for Swimming?

Rash guards are an excellent addition to any swimmer’s wardrobe, especially those who enjoy spending time in the ocean or open water. These garments offer several benefits, such as protecting against sunburn and chafing, but can they actually be used for swimming?

Yes, rash guards can be worn while swimming, and they provide a comfortable balance between swimming with bare skin and wearing a more restrictive wetsuit. Designed with materials like polyester, nylon, and spandex, rash guards are suitable for various water activities, from surfing to casual swimming.

In this article, we’ll explore the advantages of using rash guards for swimming, including their ability to regulate body temperature and provide sun protection. We’ll also discuss the best fabrics to look for when selecting a rash guard. So dive in with us as we uncover why rash guards are more than just a tool for surfers!

What is a Rash Guard?

A rash guard is a type of athletic shirt made from a blend of synthetic fibers such as nylon, polyester or spandex. Together they make for a lightweight, stretchy, and quick-drying fabric, specifically designed to provide protection from the sun, skin irritation, and abrasions.

Rash guards are commonly used in water sports such as swimming, surfing, and paddleboarding, as well as during beach and outdoor activities.

Rash guards come in various styles, including short sleeve, long sleeve, and even sleeveless options. They are designed to fit snugly on the body and offer UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) protection, which helps shield your skin from harmful UV rays. This is especially important for prolonged periods spent in the sun or water.

Another key feature of rash guards is the flatlock stitching, which minimizes chafing and skin irritation, making it comfortable to wear for extended periods. Some rash guards also have specific features such as thermal properties or added compression, depending on the intended use and personal preference.

While originally designed for surfers to prevent rashes caused by friction between their body and surfboards or for swimmers to avoid chafing from wet suits, rash guards have since become popular among various water and outdoor enthusiasts for their protective properties and versatility.

Can You Wear a Rash Guard in the Pool?

Rash guards are primarily designed for outdoor water activities like surfing and snorkeling. However, you may be wondering if a rash guard can be used for swimming, and the answer is yes.

Unlike cotton T-shirts, which can harbor bacteria and require more chemicals to keep the pool hygienic, rash guards are perfectly fine for swimming pools.

Cotton can also break down in chlorinated water, leading to loose fibers that may clog a pool’s filtration system. Let’s also not forget how much water cotton absorbs, making it a huge drowning risk.

In contrast, rash guards are made from specially designed materials that resist these issues. They typically fit snug to the body, absorb little water, and do not restrict your movement much.

As such, many pool regulations do not allow the wearing of T-shirts, but they are typically more lenient when it comes to rash guards. Both indoor and outdoor pools will likely accept you wearing a rash guard*, as they serve a practical purpose and do not compromise the cleanliness or functioning of the pool.

*If your rash guard is too baggy, you may be asked to take it off because the floating material poses a drowning risk.

While some of the benefits of wearing a rash guard, such as UV protection, are more relevant for outdoor use, they can still provide certain advantages during indoor swimming sessions. For example, they can offer added comfort, modesty, prevent skin irritation from rubbing against the pool edge or other swimmers, and even provide a little extra buoyancy.

Let’s discuss each of these benefits in more detail below.

Benefits of Using a Rash Guard for Swimming

Sun Protection

One major benefit of using a rash guard while swimming is its ability to protect your skin from prolonged UV exposure. Rash guards provide excellent sun protection, decreasing the chances of sunburns, and reducing the need for sunscreen, which is the more environmentally friendly option.

For swimming at outdoor pools, rather than spending so much time applying waterproof sunscreen every 30 minutes or so, you can just wear a long sleeve rash guard and not need to worry about sunscreen for most of your torso.

The great part is, unlike sunscreen, you never need to worry about reapplying it to already covered up areas. It’s super convenient and helps you save sunscreen.


Rash guards come in a variety of shapes and styles that can increase or decrease coverage according to your preference.

I know many people are self-conscious about their body. During one particularly tough period of my life, I gained a lot of weight and found myself embarrassed to take my shirt off, so I have a lot of empathy for those who struggle with self image issues.

Sure, I can write all about how it’s all in your mind and that nobody cares what you look like, but the truth is it matters a lot to you. So in that case, covering up your body with a rash guard for privacy or modesty reasons can be a godsend in an otherwise vulnerable time in your life.

Comfort and Flexibility

Wearing a rash guard provides a comfortable and streamlined alternative to swimming in a regular shirt. They are designed to be soft on the skin, which helps prevent rashes, irritation, and chafing. Additionally, rash guards are made from lightweight, stretchy materials that allow for maximum flexibility and freedom of movement in the water.

Quick Drying

Rash guards are made from quick-drying materials, which is ideal for swimming enthusiasts. When you step out of the water, the rash guard will dry quickly, allowing you to feel comfortable and ready for your next swim.

How to Choose the Right Rash Guard


Choosing the right material for your rash guard is essential for comfort and durability. Common materials include polyester, spandex, and bamboo fabric. While bamboo fabric offers better air exchange, it may be less durable. Spandex provides better stretch, but may develop “puffs,” while polyester offers more compression but can have worse ventilation.

Fit and Style

Rash guards come in a variety of fits and styles, including loose fit, tight fit, sleeveless, short sleeve, and long sleeve. Consider the specific activities you’ll be engaging in when selecting the appropriate fit and style. Long sleeve rash guards are suitable for cold conditions or high sun exposure, while sleeveless and short sleeve options are ideal for warmer conditions or sports with less friction.

UPF Rating

Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) rating is an important factor in choosing a rash guard for swimming. UPF indicates the amount of UV radiation a fabric allows to reach your skin. Look for a rash guard with at least a UPF 30 rating, which blocks 97% of the sun’s harmful rays. Higher ratings, like UPF 50, will block 98% of UV rays for even better protection.

It’s a negligible difference, but for those who are more sensitive to burning, it might be the difference maker. Most UPF clothing have a UPF 50 rating, which is so effective that you basically don’t need to wear sunscreen on areas that are covered up by it.

Caring for Your Rash Guard

After you’ve enjoyed swimming or other water activities wearing your rash guard, proper care is essential to maintain its quality and effectiveness. Just like a swimsuit, it’s important to rinse your rash guard in cool water immediately after use, especially if you’ve been in saltwater or chlorinated water. This helps remove any residue that may damage the fabric over time.

When it comes to cleaning your rash guard, hand washing is the best method. Use cool water and a gentle soap to wash it by hand. Swish the solution gently to loosen any soil and let it soak for about five minutes.

Gently squeeze the solution through the fabric, then drain the sink and refill it with clean, cool water to rinse the guard. Repeat until no more soapy residue remains.

Once cleaned and rinsed, hang your rash guard to dry, but be sure to keep it out of direct sunlight. The sun’s rays can cause colors to fade and can potentially damage your rash guard’s protective qualities.

By properly caring for your rash guard, you can extend its lifespan and continue to enjoy its benefits while swimming or participating in other water activities. Happy swimming!