What’s the Difference Between Lycra and Spandex and Elastane? Update 06/2022

When you put on tight denim jeans or yoga pants, you expect the clothes to stretch and fit your body form. To achieve this flexibility, blended textiles incorporate spandex or Lycra into your clothing. This may leave you asking what the difference is between Lycra and spandex.

Elastane is the material that goes by the names Spandex and Lycra. Elastane is a synthetic fabric manufactured from stretchable elastomers derived from the polyurethane molecule. Spandex and Lycra make clothing like leggings, underwear, hosiery, and swimwear more stretchy.

You’ll read about the origins of spandex and Lycra in this article. You’ll learn how the apparel business was shaped by breakthrough stretch fabrics. Finally, you’ll learn how to use spandex and Lycra.

Lycra vs Spandex vs Elastane

Lycra vs Spandex vs Elastane: What is the Difference?

Spandex and Elastane are two distinct names for the same stretchy fabric, whereas Lycra is the brand name for the same fabric. Because Lycra is spandex and spandex is elastane, these phrases are often used interchangeably.

In case that sounded like a riddle, here’s the lowdown on each name’s origins.

Polyurethane was invented by a German chemist named Otto Bayer during WWII as a rubber alternative. This substance was intended for use in coating fighter planes and other war-related undertakings by Nazi Germany. They did, however, create the stretchy elastomers that would later become elastane by accident.

After the war, this German research was acquired by DuPont, a well-known American corporation. In the late 1950s, scientist Joseph Shiver invented Lycra based on this. The fabric was originally called spandex, but DuPont adopted the brand name “Lycra” to popularize it.

In the United States, the material is now commonly referred to as spandex. The word “expand” is cleverly hinted at by this term. The trademark for spandex does not belong to any firm.

The elastic quality of this cloth is also described by the word elastane. The term elastane is also not a trademark that belongs to a firm.

DuPont, on the other hand, is the only owner of the Lycra trademark. In the United States, they market spandex under this brand name.

So, what exactly is elastane, spandex, or Lycra, this stretchy fabric? Whatever you choose to call it, it all starts in a lab.

It goes through multiple severe chemical synthesis procedures, just like many synthetic fabrics. Plastic is transformed into a wearable textile as a result of these chemical interactions.

Here’s a quick rundown of the production process, without getting too bogged down in scientific jargon.

When macroglycol and a monomer called diisocyanate come together, a prepolymer is formed.

The prepolymer is then mixed with diamine acid, a reactive agent. This begins the dry spinning process, which is the safest technique to make elastane.

To make elastomers, a liquid plastic solution spins in a container called a fiber production cell. The solution is then squeezed out using a spinneret. This material becomes solid fibers when heated.

The fibers are sucked out by a nozzle and forced into a specific mechanism that twists them into threads using air.

These flexible threads are usually added to another material, such as cotton or polyester, to make it more elastic. You don’t see 100% elastane, Lycra, or Spandex very often!

What is Lycra Material

What is Lycra Material

Dupont’s trademark brand name for spandex, Lycra, is still in use today. If you look at the label on the inside of your leggings or tights, you’ll undoubtedly notice that they include a little amount of Lycra or spandex. You may also come across the term elastane, as well as brand names like Acepora, INVIYA, and Elaspan.

Whatever the name or brand, they all refer to the same elastic elastomer fibers woven into your clothing’s fabric.

These elastic fibers are frequently found in less than 10% of clothing. 100% elastane may stretch five to eight times its original size on its own! It offers just a hint of elasticity or a wonderful form-fitting ability to less-stretchy textiles like polyester, cotton, or wool when blended in.

DuPont utilized a large ad effort to sell Lycra as a modern substitute for rubber in clothes, which is a fun fact about Lycra. Famous actresses such as Audrey Hepburn and Joan Collins were enlisted to help with promotion!

Today, spandex/elastane/Lycra can be found in underwear, sportswear, and swimsuits.

What is Spandex Made Of?

Spandex, elastane, and Lycra are all terms used to describe a polyurethane elastic material.

Polyurethane is so versatile that it can be found in a wide range of applications today. It’s incredible to think that this type of plastic wasn’t invented until WWII!

Polyurethane is now used to fill mattresses and insulate interior walls. It’s also used to produce roller blade wheels and is mixed into paints.

The creation of spandex was inspired by the invention of this adaptable plastic. As you may recall from the last section, creating spandex necessitates the modification of polyurethane. It uses a sophisticated chemical process to convert this material into elastomers.

Polyurethane’s origins can be traced back to a requirement for a rubber substitute during World War II. DuPont, on the other hand, designed spandex with tranquility and fashion in mind.

For things like girdles, women’s apparel at the period used rigid, unpleasant rubber. Spandex completely changed the way ladies dressed, especially in their underwear!

DuPont also sought to save money and eliminate relying on rubber trees as a natural resource. Making spandex, like most synthetic materials, is much less expensive than growing and harvesting rubber trees.

Key Characteristics of Lycra, Spandex, and Elastane

This flexible fabric, often known as Lycra, spandex, or elastane, has various unique properties. These qualities include flexibility, heat resistance, and durability.

Stretch

What is elastane 2The unique characteristic of this material is its ability to stretch and return to its original size.

Consider a bungee jumper dropping from a high vantage point. When the jumper reaches the end of the rope, the cable extends. The elastic cord then snaps back to its original, smaller size, putting the jumper back to its original position at the top!

Elasticity, on the other hand, refers to a material’s ability to resist stretching. As the elastic returns to its normal shape, this force pulls the jumper back to the top!

Nonetheless, a variety of factors influence how elastic a piece of fabric is. Woven fabric can stretch diagonally on the bias, but not vertically or horizontally. Knitted fabric, on the other hand, has a lot of intrinsic flexibility due to the way the threads loop together.

As a result, adding spandex to a knitted fabric will result in a material that is extremely stretchable. When you add spandex to a woven fabric, it gives it a little flexibility but not a lot.

The degree of stretch is also determined by the properties of the other fabrics in the blend.

This demonstrates that while elastane, spandex, and Lycra have incredible elasticity in their pure form, the amount of stretch they provide when mixed with other materials varies.

Breathability

Spandex isn’t breathable. Fortunately, manufacturers usually incorporate a small amount of spandex into other textiles.

These textiles, like cotton, have an inherent tendency to breathe. This counteracts spandex’s moisture-trapping and body-heat-sealing characteristics!

You wouldn’t want to go for a jog in a t-shirt made entirely of spandex! Cotton and spandex, polyester and elastane, and nylon and Lycra are all popular sporting fabrics.

When looking for more breathable sportswear, go for looser weaves or knits. The tiny holes between the threads will allow a lot of air to pass through.

Many synthetic materials, such as polyester, are also moisture-wicking. This means your perspiration will be absorbed by the fabric and evaporated into the air!

Sustainability

There are differing viewpoints on whether spandex is a sustainable material. Rubber harvesting was drastically reduced after the introduction of elastane. Rubber plantations are undeniably harmful to the environment, thus this is a plus!

On the other hand, creating spandex necessitates the use of numerous harmful chemicals. The environment may be harmed by the disposal of certain chemicals.

In an ideal world, businesses adhere to rigorous criteria when it comes to waste disposal. Even if the chemicals are safely stored, they are still present.

Then there’s the fact that spandex doesn’t biodegrade, which means it can contribute significantly to plastic pollution.

However, taking a principled stance against spandex would be tough. It’s difficult to locate clothing that doesn’t contain at least a small amount of these vital elastic fibers!

Durability

Elastane vs lycraSpandex has quite an impressive durability. It has greater strength and more stretch than rubber. It can lose its elasticity over time, though proper care will delay this process.

Lycra and spandex outlive everything but another type of plastic in terms of durability. It’s also resistant to body oils and perspiration, making it simple to stay smelling fresh!

Outside influences, such as excessive heat exposure or bad care, can, of course, degrade these materials over time.

Warmth

Spandex does not give much insulation on its own. However, combining spandex fibers with thicker, softer polyester fibers or cotton will result in a warm, stretchy fabric!

Spandex will never be able to match the warmth of cotton or acrylic fabric. Spandex is simply too thin to keep you warm!

Despite this, you can utilize spandex as a foundation layer on cold days by wearing a spandex blend outfit. A decent base layer should be snug against your skin to seal in as much heat as possible, thus you’ll need a stretchy fabric for this!

To complete your layering system, add a middle layer and an outside windproof layer.

Softness

Lycra does not have the same level of softness as down feathers or pima cotton. It does, however, have a silky smoothness to it.

It doesn’t add any weight or coarseness to the mix when mixed with other fibers. Instead, it tends to make these blends feel lighter and more silky.

As an added plus, spandex resists pilling, so your garments will look brand new for much longer!

Cost

Spandex is often more expensive than polyester and nylon, which are also synthetic materials. It has a more complicated manufacturing process.

However, most retail clothing only contains a small proportion of spandex. As a result, the cost of spandex has a minor impact on the cost of garments.

If you want to buy stretch fabric by the yard, this type of sportswear fabric will cost between ten and twenty dollars per yard.

Care

The majority of stretch clothing may be washed safely. To get the best results, turn the item inside out and place it in a mesh laundry bag to avoid snagging threads during the wash cycle. Cool water and a light wash cycle are recommended.

Some spandex and Lycra fabrics may require special detergents, so check the label inside the garment before washing.

Heat can degrade the elasticity of this material, as it can with other stretchy materials. Elastane-containing clothing should not be dried. For the greatest results, air dry them instead.

Spandex is used in so many different types of clothing that it’s almost easier to list the items that don’t use it!

Elastane is virtually always present in form-fitting garments. Underwear, hosiery, swimwear, and even motion-capture suits fall into this category.

To keep their stockings up a century ago, people had to tie ribbons around them. Your socks’ spandex keeps them from tumbling down around your ankles today!

For ease of mobility, a lot of athletic apparel contains a spandex blend. Elastic fibers are virtually always used in bicycle shorts and running tanks to make them more comfortable.

Even if your garments don’t have that much Lycra or spandex in them, any stretch waistband will!

Advantages and Disadvantages of Spandex, Lycra, Elastane

Difference between lycra and spandex

Spandex/Lycra/elastane, like any synthetic materials, has advantages and downsides.

The main benefit is, of course, its stretchiness! It’s also abrasion-resistant, doesn’t pill, and feels soft and silky. It is more durable than rubber and does not retain body odor or oil-based odors.

On the other hand, it is more expensive than most other synthetic fabrics. During the production process, hazardous substances are used. In rare cases, the lack of breathability might induce skin allergies.

Finally, both heat and chlorine can readily degrade the fabric’s flexibility.

Why is Lycra or Spandex Blended in Fabric?

Elastane vs spandex in jeansBlending spandex into another fabric such as cotton or polyester makes it possible to create form-fitting clothing that allows easy movement. Because of this, the invention of elastane completely reshaped the world of fashion. (No pun intended, wink-wink!).

Without spandex, yoga pants and pretty much the entire athleisure market would not exist. Without elastic fibers sewn into them, bicycle shorts and sports bras would be unable to provide adequate support. Spandex is also responsible for the far more comfortable fit of changing underwear styles!

Elastane is also used in form-fitting clothing like gymnastics leotards and bikinis.

When a London fashion designer redesigned the world of jeans in 1978, stretch denim was born. Stretch jeans had a sensual advertising campaign in the 1980s, thanks to manufacturers like Calvin Klein and Jordache. Stretch jeans become a staple of many modern outfits as a result of this.

The majority of stretch jeans have only 1% to 3% elastane in the blend. However, even this small amount allows the denim to hug your curves!

Remember that even if a pair of pants says it contains Lycra, spandex, or elastane, it’s all the same thing!

Spandex vs. Elastane vs. Polyester vs. Nylon

Polyester, nylon, and elastane are all chemically synthesized materials. Regardless, each cloth has its own peculiarities.

Polyester and nylon do not stretch, which is the most evident distinction. Polyester and nylon fibers, at the very least, lack flexibility. Stretch may be seen in knits composed of polyester or nylon.

Spandex, on the other hand, has fantastic stretch and rebound properties!

When it comes down to the nitty gritty, each of the three types of material has its own set of building pieces. Before becoming fibers, they start with various monomers and go through slightly different chemical processes.

Polyester and nylon are both more durable and adaptable than spandex. Despite the fact that elastane is used in a variety of garments, it is a one-trick pony. It is nearly entirely used in the apparel sector because of its elasticity.

Polyester and nylon, on the other hand, offer a wide range of applications. These can be used for a variety of purposes, including making you appear nice, protecting you from the elements, and keeping you warm.

Elastane vs spandex

Leggings, stretch denim, swimwear, underwear, tights, and socks are some of the most common uses for Lycra, spandex, and elastane.

Elastane fibers are found in roughly 80% of all retail clothes. Regardless, you may narrow down this widespread use to a few of the most common styles of clothes that rely on that beautiful elastic stretch!

Remember that current manufacturers allow for extra stretch in these types of garments, so go with your regular size! You don’t need to buy a size up or down because you think the stretchiness will make the garments fit you better.

Leggings

Dragon Fit High Waist Yoga Leggings with 3 Pockets,Tummy Control Workout Running 4 Way Stretch Yoga Pants (Medium, Capri-Black)

Leggings are skin-tight, silky pants that hug the legs but don’t cover the feet like tights do. Leggings can be worn alone on occasion, but some types have a sheer aspect that makes them better suitable for wearing with a long shirt or tunic.

Leggings are often confused with yoga trousers, which often flare out more at the ankle while fitting snugly in the seat and hips.

Elastane is used in almost all leggings and yoga trousers to make them supple and form-fitting.

Check out these warm leggings with a spandex blend of 12%!

Tights

MANZI Women's 2 Pairs Super Opaque Tights for Women 120 Denier Control Top(Black,Small)

Tights may resemble leggings, but they usually have skin-hugging, frequently sheer fabric that covers both your legs and feet. They’re perfect for wearing with a long sweater, dress, or skirt.

For hundreds of years, it was fashionable for females (and occasionally men!) to wear silk stockings held up by garters. The discovery of elastane rendered those uncomfortable, tight stockings and garters obsolete!

Obscure tights and sheer nylon stockings now incorporate elastic elastane, which keeps the fabric snug against your legs.

There are many various types of tights available, but have a look at this fashionable pair with 13% elastane!

Stretch Denim

MetHera Women's Le Mel Classic Mid Rise Stretch Skinny Shaping Jegging Denim Jeans (8, Blue Rose)

Anyone’s legs will look beautiful in stretch jeans! Stretch denim has a thinner and gentler texture than standard stiff and clunky denim. These jeans hug the line of your legs and highlight all of your curves beautifully!

Stretch jeans come in a variety of designs, from boot cut to slim-fit. These jeans are also versatile enough to be worn with a variety of outfits. You can dress it down with a silky blouse, heels, and your killer jeans, or dress it up with a silky top, heels, and your killer jeans!

You may also get stretch denim with different amounts of spandex for different levels of stretchiness. The percentage of elastane in the whole fabric should be stated on the manufacturer’s label or product description.

Take, for example, this stylish pair of stretch jeans with 2% spandex!

Swimwear

Hilor Women's 50's Retro Ruched Tankini Swimsuit Top with Ruffle Hem Black&Teal&Purple 8

You rely on the elastic of your swimwear to keep everything in place, whether you prefer bikinis or wetsuits!

The creation of modern swimwear was also influenced by the invention of nylon and polyester. Wool was the only water-resistant fabric available before these synthetic materials were introduced to the market. This meant that individuals would dress in wool from head to toe to go to the beach!

Today, you can have water-resistant, form-fitting swimwear that looks fantastic and keeps you cool by combining nylon or polyester with some wonderful, stretchy spandex.

Though your personal style will undoubtedly influence the type of swimsuit you choose, take a look at this bathing suit to get an idea of how much spandex is commonly used in swimsuits!

Underwear

wirarpa Women's Cotton Underwear High Waisted Full Briefs Ladies Comfortable No Muffin Top Panties 4 Pack Medium

While 100% spandex underwear is available, most modern styles incorporate just enough spandex to provide a comfortable fit. After a while, pure spandex or nylon doesn’t provide enough breathability to be very comfortable.

Nonetheless, elastane is found in practically all modern underwear styles for both men and women. The stretchy waistband, at the very least, will!

Underwear styles have altered more than any other type of apparel as a result of the invention of elastic fabric. Instead of baggy bloomers, there are now dozens of styles to pick from, ranging from boxers to bikini cuts!

Check out this 5 percent spandex-based casual style!

Socks

No Show Socks Women Low Socks Non Slip Flat Boat Line 4/8 Pairs

Spandex ensures a secure fit for your socks. Light, airy, stretchy socks are usually made from a blend of spandex and cotton or spandex and polyester.

Keep in mind that there are several different designs of socks available for certain hobbies. You can acquire those little footsies to go inside your ballerina flats or thick hiking socks to brave the outdoors, for example.

Different types of material work well for different styles of sock. Wool or acrylic combined with spandex are good choices for hiking socks. Nylon or cotton combined with spandex may be suitable for formal socks.

Take a look at these pair of functional socks made of cotton, polyester, and 3% spandex!

Conclusion

Spandex, elastane, and Lycra are all terms for the same polyurethane substance. The suppleness of this synthetic cloth is incredible. In your comfy, form-fitting clothing, you’ll typically discover a blend of spandex and another non-stretchy fabric.

Leggings, undergarments, and swimwear are just a few examples of what Spandex and Lycra are used for.

With the addition of elastane, tights, stockings, and stretch jeans fit more pleasantly!

What type of stretchable apparel do you prefer? You might have a great pair of leggings or a fantastic swimwear! Please let us know in the comments section below!

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