What is Spandex Fabric, Its Properties, and Uses - ICE FABRICS

Have you ever wondered how your favorite pair of leggings or swimsuit fits like a second skin and never loses its shape? Chances are, that garment was made with spandex fabric. Spandex is a synthetic fiber that has revolutionized the world of fashion and activewear with its unique combination of stretch, comfort, and durability.

Today, spandex is used in a wide range of products, from athletic wear and swimwear to jeans and lingerie. It is often blended with other fibers, such as cotton, polyester, or nylon, to add stretch and comfort to these fabrics. A typical spandex blend might contain anywhere from 2% to 20% spandex, depending on the desired level of stretch and support.

Are you wondering what spandex fabric is and how it's used in clothing? Spandex's unique properties allow for a comfortable and form-fitting fit, making it a popular choice for athletic and activewear. In this article, we will explore what spandex fabric is, its properties, and its uses.

What is a Spandex Fabric? 

Is spandex natural or synthetic? Spandex is a synthetic material made from chemical compounds rather than natural fibers such as cotton or wool. It is also gaining popularity because of its elastic properties. Contrary to popular opinion, however, "spandex," as a term "spandex," is not a brand name. The expression is commonly used to describe polyether-polyurea copolymer materials, which have been produced using various production methods. The terms spandex Lycra and Elastane can be the same.

The fabric is able to stretch up to 5-8 times its usual size and is often used to create garments that are form-fitting for consumers. In the majority of cases, it isn't utilized in clothing, but instead, smaller amounts of this fabric are weaved into other semi-synthetic, synthetic organic, or synthetic fibers.

Spandex is made from a combination of polyurethane and polyester, which gives it its unique stretch and recovery properties. Polyurethane is typically present in small amounts, between 2-10% of the total fabric composition, while polyester makes up the majority of the material.

Polyurethane is a material that was first developed by IG Farben in Germany in 1937. After World War II, many textile engineers from IG Farben moved to DuPont, a leading synthetic textile development company in the United States. Using polyurethane research, DuPont scientists sought to create a new polymer fabric that was highly elastic. During the development process, this fabric was referred to as "spandex." Once the fabric was completed, it was sold under the brand name Lycra, but consumers commonly refer to it as spandex.

Spandex is made up of repeating chains of monomers that are held together with acid. It is highly heat-resistant, which makes it useful in improving the quality of notoriously heat-sensitive fabrics like nylon and polyester. Spandex quickly became popular due to its stretchiness and is now present in various types of apparel. Almost every consumer owns at least one article of clothing that contains spandex.

Expand your knowledge on What is Rayon Fabric?

How is Spandex Fabric Made?

Spandex is made from a synthetic polymer called polyurethane. The polymer is first synthesized through a process called polymerization, which involves combining several chemical compounds under controlled conditions to create a long chain of repeating units. The resulting polymer is a white, granular powder that is then melted and spun into fibers.

The fiber-spinning process involves several steps. First, the polyurethane powder is mixed with various chemicals to create a solution that is then filtered and degassed to remove any impurities. The solution is then forced through a spinneret, which is a device with small holes that shape the polymer solution into long, thin strands. These strands are then cooled and wound onto a spool.

The resulting spandex fiber is typically blended with other fibers, such as cotton, polyester, or nylon, to create a fabric with the desired properties. The blending process involves combining the spandex fiber with the other fibers during the weaving or knitting process. The resulting fabric has unique stretch and recovery properties that make it ideal for use in garments that require elasticity and form-fitting qualities.

Once the spandex fabric is woven or knitted, it is typically treated with various finishing agents to enhance its properties. These agents may include softeners to improve the feel of the fabric or coatings to increase its durability and resistance to moisture and chemicals.


Properties of Spandex Fabric:

Some of the key properties of spandex fabric include:

Spandex fabric can stretch up to five times its original length, making it an excellent choice for creating form-fitting clothing that is comfortable and easy to move in.
Spandex fabric is lightweight, soft, and comfortable to wear. It allows for freedom of movement and breathability, which makes it a popular choice for activewear and athleisure.
Spandex can be blended with other fibers, such as cotton, polyester, or nylon, to create a range of different fabrics with unique properties
Spandex fabric is known for its durability, and it can withstand repeated stretching, washing, and wear without losing its elasticity or strength.
Spandex fabric is lightweight and breathable, making it ideal for creating activewear and sportswear that allows for freedom of movement.
Spandex fabric dries quickly, making it a popular choice for swimwear and other water-resistant clothing.

What is Spandex used for?

Spandex is a versatile fabric that is widely used in many different consumer and industrial applications. Some 5 common uses of spandex fabric are:

1. Form-Fitting Garments

One of the most common applications of spandex is in form-fitting garments. This fabric is often used in underwear, swimwear, and sportswear, as it provides a snug and comfortable fit without restricting movement. Spandex can also be woven into other fabrics, such as cotton and wool, to add elasticity and improve the garment's fit.

2. Socks

Spandex is also used in the production of socks. It helps to keep the socks in place, prevents them from slipping down, and makes them easier to put on and take off. The amount of spandex used in socks varies, depending on the desired level of elasticity.

3. Sports Equipment

Spandex is widely used in sports equipment such as bicycling apparel, compression shorts, and team uniforms. This is because it offers flexibility and allows athletes to move freely while playing their sport.

4. Industrial Applications

Spandex is also used in industrial applications such as motion capture suits in the film industry. It is used to make the suits more form-fitting and generate more realistic 3D characters.

5. Fashion

Spandex is often used in fashion, including leggings, tights, and bodysuits. It offers a sleek, form-fitting look that is popular among fashion enthusiasts.

Get a dipper understanding of How to Sew Spandex Fabric.


What Different Types of Spandex Fabric Are There?

Many people may not realize that there are actually several different types of spandex fabric available, each with their own unique features and benefits.

Although it is commonly referred to as "spandex," this fabric can be known by a variety of names depending on the region and the manufacturer.

In North America, spandex is the most commonly used term to describe this fabric. This term was originally an anagram of "expands," and it has since become the default term used by most consumers in the United States and Canada. However, in Europe, the preferred term is elastane, which is a more scientifically accurate way of describing the fabric.

While the term spandex is not a registered trademark, the term Lycra is. Lycra is a registered trademark of the DuPont Corporation, and only spandex made by DuPont can be referred to as Lycra. However, Lycra is chemically identical to other spandex and elastane fabrics, and it possesses the same qualities and characteristics.

There are various types of spandex fabric available in the market, each with its unique properties and applications. Here are some of the most popular ones:

  • Cotton Spandex: Cotton spandex is a blend of cotton and spandex fibers. It is known for its softness, breathability, and stretchability, making it an excellent choice for comfortable, form-fitting clothing.
  • Nylon Spandex: Nylon spandex is a blend of nylon and spandex fibers. It is often used in athletic wear, swimwear, and dancewear due to its excellent stretch and durability.
  • Polyester Spandex: Polyester spandex is a blend of polyester and spandex fibers. It is known for its excellent shape retention, wrinkle resistance, and durability, making it an ideal choice for activewear.
  • Rayon Spandex: Rayon spandex is a blend of rayon and spandex fibers. It is known for its softness, drape, and comfort, making it a popular choice for casual wear and loungewear.

Discover even more about What is 4 Way Stretch Fabric?



Can You Wash Spandex?

Yes, spandex can be washed in a washing machine. However, it is important to take care when washing spandex to avoid damaging the fabric. It is recommended to use cold water and a gentle cycle when washing spandex clothing items. Avoid using harsh detergents or fabric softeners, as these can break down the fibers and cause the fabric to lose its elasticity.

How to Care for and Clean Spandex Fabric?

If you have spandex fabric and are looking for ways How to Care for and Clean Spandex Fabric? Then it is essential to read and follow the care instructions on the garment's label. In general, spandex should be washed in cold water and hung or laid flat to dry. Avoid using high heat when drying spandex, as this can cause the fabric to shrink and lose its stretch.

After washing, it is also important to store spandex garments properly. Avoid hanging spandex clothing items, as this can cause them to stretch out of shape. Instead, fold them neatly and store them in a drawer or on a shelf.

Is Spandex Breathable?

While spandex is not a breathable fabric on its own, it is often blended with other materials, such as cotton or polyester, to improve breathability. The addition of breathable materials can help to wick away moisture and keep the wearer cool and dry.

Does Spandex Contain Latex?

Spandex and latex are two different materials, although they are both known for their stretchiness. Spandex is a synthetic fiber made from polyurethane, while latex is a natural material derived from rubber trees. While some people may be allergic to latex, spandex is generally considered hypoallergenic and safe for most people to wear.