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Radiant heat reflective clothing

To insulate homes sometimes glass wool is used with on one side a film with a thin layer of aluminium. The glass wool insulates by still warm air in the glass wool, and the layer of aluminium on the outside reflects the radiant heat back.
This radiant heat is also called thermal radiation or infrared radiation.
I wanted to use this same principle to keep myself warm.

Combination of insulation with air and a heat-reflective layer

The heat-reflective layer does not work well when it is directly on the skin, then there is heat loss by convection. The best way is an insulating layer of still air and then the heat-reflective layer.

The insulating layer does not have to be thick. A T-shirt and shirt is too thin, but 5 mm (0.2 inch) fleece works very well. A distance of 10 cm (4 inches) still works, but then it is less effective.
The stationary air has to be heated by the body. That is why a thin layer is more effective, because it is easier to heat up less air. That layer can consist of normal clothing or something with synthetic cotton wool.

In 2017, the combination of fleece with a heat-reflective layer on the outside appeared work very well. When I have a T-shirt underneath, then the thickness is only 5 mm (0.2 inch). See below for my fleece-lamé vest.
A heat reflective layer under my mattress is still noticeable, even if the distance to the heat-reflecting layer is more than 10 cm (4 inches).

I prefer that the heat-reflective layer is breathable when using it indoors. When used outdoors, it is important that the wind is blocked, otherwise the wind will push the warm insulating stationary air away.
An extra layer of fabric on the outside also protects the reflective fabric.

Heat Reflective clothes work especially well for inactive people.

After using heat reflective clothing for a few years, it proves to do very well for me. When I'm indoors and I sit still, then normal sweaters and jackets are sometimes not enough to keep me warm, while a layer of heat reflecting material does keep me warm.
When I have more mechanical pressure on my neck, it is harder for me to stay warm. I mainly used an electric heating vest to stay warm before, but clothing with a heat reflective layer proved to work very well and is perhaps also healthier because it does not add external heat to my body.
A healthy and active person produces more heat. So for healthy people is enough to put on an extra sweater. It is therefore almost impossible for me to explain to healthy people how big the effect of a heat-reflective layer is.

It already existed in 1984

In 1984, there was a company in the UK, in Wales, called "Flectalon". They made blankets with strokes of plastic with a layer of aluminium. The name as a brand still exists today.


I started with non-breathable materials with a layer of aluminium:
a few radiant heat reflective materials reflective material reflective material reflective material reflective material
The pictures show: A ground cloth, an emergency blanket, bubble wrap and carpet underlayment.
The emergency blanket is so thin that you can see through it. Yet it works very well. If I wrap the emergency blanket around me, then I notice after a quarter to half an hour that I lose less heat.
The underlayment with a layer of aluminium works also well.
I haven't used the others that much, but I assume they work just as good.

Below is a vest.
In 2010 I tried to attach bubble wrap with a heat reflective coating to a vest. But I couldn't do it, because it was not flexible enough.
jacket with bubble wrap

It was my intention to buy a roll of flexible and breathable aluminized fabric. I wanted to sew that in a vest, a jacket and a duvet.
A number of brands of reflective material are: XITANIT™, Temptrol™, MIRoTEC©, Sympatex Reflexion©, Aluminet©.
Beside those, there is also lamé
Lamé is a shiny fabric, sometimes used for Christmas clothing. The fabric is woven or knitted, and it consists mainly of a 'thread' of a small strip of plastic foil with aluminium. It is not intended to reflect radiant heat, but it turned out to have a reasonably good result.

This is the sample of Temtrol I received.
sample Temtrol
This material is very easy to cut and sew. It is less flexible and less breathable than woven fabric. If it is firmly rubbed with the aluminium side against another fabric, then the aluminium comes off.


All these materials consist of plastic with a layer of aluminium.
Most of them are polyester and some are nylon.
Because I want to use them as clothing, I wanted to know how flammable they are. So I tried it out.

This is with 3 different kinds of lamé, lying on sand.
When using these as clothing on the outside, then walking along a burning candle is already a risk.
File: "ap_reflective-movie1.flv".

This is with Temptrol, lying on sand. It melts, but doesn't catch on fire very easy:
File: "ap_reflective-movie2.flv".

These are the pieces lamé, in free air:
File: "ap_reflective-movie3.flv".

This is Temptrol, in free air:
File: "ap_reflective-movie4.flv".

This is a piece of knitted lamé:
File: "ap_reflective-movie5.flv".


I bought a few different kinds of lamé, such as woven, knitted and stretch-lamé:
different kinds of lamé

The material turned out to be difficult to handle, like cutting and sewing. The plastic threads coated with aluminium easily break during sewing.

Below is my duvet cover with lamé:
duvet cover with lamé
For a proper effect, only the topside of the duvet cover has a layer lamé.
The radiant heat reflection appears to work well, and the material is well breathable.
I only lie on my back, and my top (belly side) was warmer than my back. So I added another layer of lamé under my mattress. After that I stayed nicely warm.
In the winter I used two electric heating blankets (one on top, and one underneath me). But now just one electric blanket is sufficient, and sometimes I don't even have to turn it on.
I made this duvet cover in 2010 and I am still using it in 2018. To prevent that the aluminium disappears, I wash it only once or twice a year in a washing machine at a low temperature of 30°C and with a friendly laundry detergent. A cotton top sheet is used to keep the duvet cover clean.

This is my first garment with lamé:
garment with lamé
It was mainly to see if it could be sewn onto a garment, and to see how the lamé would be if it was worn and washed in a washing machine.

Two years later, and after being in the washing machine six times, the major part of the reflective layer (aluminium) had disappeared.
As shown in the picture below:
heat reflective vest after two years
In some parts the lamé layer was double, and in those parts was still sufficient reflective aluminium present. It also appeared that a higher temperature and a more aggressive detergent in the washing machine were extra disadvantageous for the reflective layer.
The fabric also began to tear.

Until about the year 2008, a heat reflective layer was sometimes used in more expensive jackets. But after 2008 I see this more and more. Beside insulation for building and clothes there are also other applications with heat reflection.

This jacket consists of foil with a layer aluminium:
surviva jak surviva jak
Brand and Type: Surviva Jak
This jacket with heat reflective foil is a very small package when folded. It fits well, it is even for me large enough. A few stickers on the jacket are used to close it.
Using this jacket indoors is not very useful, because of the crackling and creaking sound of the foil.

In 2013, I checked what was available at the moment.
My preference is for a fabric that is good reflective, smooth and breathable.
Below are two fabrics that I bought.

This is stretch lamé:
stretch lame stretch lame
The fabric is very well stretchable in all directions, and it is smooth and strong and the aluminium is firmly attached to the fabric.
It can thus be used on the outside of clothes.
Unfortunately, the fabric is almost not breathable.

The picture below is a plastic foil with a layer of aluminium combined with fleece.
bosal poly-therm fleece bosal poly-therm fleece
Brand and type: Bosal Poly-Therm Fleece
The plastic foil with a layer of aluminium is attached to a cotton-like layer fleece. Also on top is a very thin layer of fleece. This prevents the crackling sound of the foil, and makes it easy to handle like cutting and sewing. The foil is made air-permeable by perforating it with small holes.
This heat reflective foil combined with fleece is a excellent heat-reflective fabric.
Because the fleece is fluffy, it can not be used on the outside of clothes.
The foil is not woven, it is therefore not flexible enough to be used in a vest or jacket


The fleece jacket below from Columbia Sportswear is heat reflective.
For the first picture I put the jacket on snowy tiles.
Columbia Omni-Heat jack Columbia Omni-Heat jack Columbia Omni-Heat jack
Brand and type: Columbia Sportswear, Omni-Heat, Men's Heat 360 II Full Zip
The jacket consists of fleece and stretch fleece and has heat reflective dots on the inside. The dots occupy unfortunately less than 50% of the surface. The heat reflective dots are also in the sleeves.
For a good effect, there should be some clothes between the vest and the body. Compared to my homemade garment with lamé, this fleece jack is slightly less warm. My shoulders stay warmer with this jack because also the sleeves are heat-reflective, so in the end the effect is about the same.
The heat-reflective dots do not come off. Due to wear they get less in some places, for example at the end of the sleeves on the inside.

I bought the Columbia jack in 2012 and in 2023 it is still good. It is pleasant to wear.


In 2017 there are a number of manufacturers who make a fabric similar to the Omni-Heat fleece by Columbia.
However, I was not able to order it.

Fleece-lamé vest

In 2011 I started with a vest that was made from a layer of fleece and a layer of lamé. It was 2017 when I finally succeeded in finishing the vest:
fleece with lame
I attached the two layers of fleece and lamé together with wallpaper paste. That way I was able to cut the shapes and sewing it together. After it was finished, I removed the wallpaper paste by letting it soak in water overnight, and wash it in a washing machine.
The lamé layer is woven fabric and is well air permeable. Also the fleece is well air permeable.
The sleeves are extra long and the vest fits well to avoid cooling by cold air that could get under the vest.
The vest turns out to work very well. The combination of fleece and lamé seems to be the perfect combination, because they work in a different way. The fleece isolates by stationary air and the lamé reflects the radiant heat back.
With other clothes with heat reflection, it takes about 15 minutes to half an hour before there is a obvious noticeable effect. When I put on this vest in a cold environment, I notice it instantly.

After wearing this vest during one winter, the lamé started to tear at the seams.
The fleece fabric is able to stretch a little, but the lamé fabric does not.
fleece lame vest with tearing fleece lame vest with tearing

In 2017 it appeared that a webshop in the Netherlands had a number of different heat-reflective fabrics: (search for the Dutch words 'zilver' and 'goud').

Below is a quilted lamé fabric:
lame with fiberfill lame with fiberfill lame met fiberfill lame with fiberfill lame with fiberfill
Bought at: number RT1170.
It is a a layer of lamé with fiberfill attached to it.
This is nice fabric. It is flexible enough to use it for clothes. There is an extra layer of fiberfill for isolation. The aluminium lamé layer is woven very tight, therefor the fabric is not very breathable. For a jack or a vest this could be a good fabric, but I wonder if it is enough air permeable for a duvet cover.
The lamé layer is stronger than the usual woven lamé.

I had a blanket which was barely warm. It thought it would be a good idea to attach this quilted lamé to it.
blanket with quilted lame
This blanket is now very warm. The quilted lamé appears to work very well.
Because this quilted lamé is stronger than other lamé fabrics and because it is also quilted with fiberfill, this fabric is in my opinion the best heat-reflected fabric at the moment.

Below is is very stretchable lamé fabric:
lame stretch lame stretch lame stretch lame stretch
Lamé stretch.
Bought at: number RT1373.
The fabric is very elastic. The aluminium are tiny dots. The aluminium covers less than 50% of the surface. When the fabric is stretched out a lot, then those tiny dots look a little crumbled afterwards. It is well air permeable.


In 2018 I was able to buy a small piece of fleece with heat reflective dots:
fleece reflective dots fleece reflective dots fleece reflective dots
The fleece fabric is thin. It is meant as cover blanket for a dog.
In 2018 I could find five similar fabrics, but I was not able to buy a large piece to make for example a vest out of it.

Last change to this page: March 2023