UCSB Science Line
Sponge Spicules Nerve Cells Galaxy Abalone Shell Nickel Succinate X-ray Lens Lupine
UCSB Science Line
How it Works
Ask a Question
Search Topics
Our Scientists
Science Links
Contact Information
Does the color of a shirt affect the amount of heat it absorbs?
Question Date: 2016-09-30
Answer 1:

The answer is yes, it does! The light that we get from sun rays is what we call "white light". This white light is actually composed of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet lights (the colors of the rainbow).

If you shine white light through a glass prism, you can see that the white light comes out as a rainbow! These different lights have different energies associated with them. A white shirt would reflect all the light which would mean that it absorbs the least amount of energy. This is why people wear light-colored clothing in the summer to stay cool!

On the other hand, a black shirt would absorb all the colors (and their energies) making you feel hotter. You can test this by laying a white and black shirt out on a sunny day and comparing the temperatures in both shirts after a couple of hours.

Answer 2:

Great question, the shade of the color is the most important when it comes to controlling its heat absorption. Colors that are darker and closer to black absorb more heat than lighter colors closer to white absorb less.

The easiest way for me to explain this is using sunlight. The sun provides heat to earth with electromagnetic radiation (light). If a cloth is dark, it absorbs a lot of the light and becomes warm. It reflects the light and the heat absorption goes down. Although the color affects the heat absorption, the material is more important when it comes to staying warm. Thicker materials retain heat more efficiently. For example, wool a thick fiber retains heat well. Thinner fibers are better at dissipating the heat and staying cool. For example, cotton is a thin fiber that stays cool more easily. The color is important if the heat is coming in the form of light. The material type dominates heat absorption coming from radiators and air conditioning, for example.

Answer 3:

The color of a shirt affect the amount of heat it absorbs and you can feel this in your daily life. Different shirts with different colors will absorb light of different wavelength. Black shirt will absorb all colors of light while white shirt will reflect all colors of light. Different colors of shirt are different in the amount of heat absorbed. So when you are in a black shirt in a hot day, you will feel hotter.

Best wishes,

Answer 4:

The darker the shirt, the more light it absorbs and so the hotter it becomes.

Click Here to return to the search form.

University of California, Santa Barbara Materials Research Laboratory National Science Foundation
This program is co-sponsored by the National Science Foundation and UCSB School-University Partnerships
Copyright © 2020 The Regents of the University of California,
All Rights Reserved.
UCSB Terms of Use