What is Elastane Fabric?

Thanks to elastane fabric, athletes can stretch, run, jump, and more without worry. It’s also present in our everyday clothes, even if we aren’t that active in reality!

How much do you know about elastane, the wonder fabric that’s all about movement? In this article, we will go through everything you need to know about this popular textile!

What is Elastane Fabric?

Elastane is popularly known as the spandex fabric, and even the registered brand name Lycra. You have probably seen it used in many athletics and activewear brands.

Elastane is a synthetic fiber that traces its origins during the World War II era. The chemical laboratory DuPont, who’s had its fair share of world-changing textile discoveries like polyester and nylon, had scientists researching on synthetic fabrics. One Joseph Shiver discovered stretchy elastane in their experiments for flexible fibers.

Today, a variety of brands use elastane or spandex in their casual and athletic clothing lines.

How is Elastane Fabric Made?

Elastane fabric is a polymer, like polyester and nylon. Its building blocks are prepolymers which are the foundation of elastane, stabilizers that increase the stability and integrity of the fibers, and additional chemicals and dyes that customize the fabric.

The synthetic mixture goes through extrusion and spinning processes to form the elastane threads. Its thickness is determined by how many of these fibers and bundled together.

From there, the elastane threads are woven into different fabrics. There aren’t really any garments that are 100% elastane – that would be too stiff!

How is Elastane Fabric Used?

Elastane fabric is mainly used in a variety of different garments.

First off, it’s popularly used in sportswear. Professional athletes and performers are usually outfitted in sturdy clothes that are specifically engineered for their sport or routine.

Everyday casual clothing and activewear also use it in commercial tops, sports bras, yoga leggings, biking shorts, swimsuits, hiking shirts and bottoms, and more.

Elastane is also blended into a lot of underwear and socks to accommodate freedom of movement and comfort. You can find it in brassieres, underpants, boxers, and more. They are usually blended with cotton or silk for durability, comfort, and breathability.

Lastly, elastane is used in industrial settings, like motion capture suits in the film and entertainment industry. Elastane fibers are also used in the medical industry as a replacement for latex. It could also be found in compression stockings, certain types of body braces, bandages, diapers, and more.

What are Elastane Characteristics?

Elastane’s characteristics make it great for activewear and other strenuous activities.


Elastane can stretch up to 500% and return to its original form.


It is very light on the body and the skin.


Elastane is very strong, akin to rubber, and can resist tears and friction.


It has a smooth surface that is soft to the skin.

Moisture Resistant

Elastane is a breathable fabric that allows sweat and moisture to dry quickly.

The Main Advantages of Elastane

Elastane’s durability and elasticity have changed a lot of livelihoods for the better. The performance of the fabric is excellent in tough conditions and allows feats of the human body due to the freedom of movement.

The Main Disadvantages of Elastane

Elastane garments cannot keep you warm because it provides no insulation. You need to wear other things like wool over your elastane to keep warm.

There have been some reports of allergic reactions to elastane, however these are quite rare and more likely to be a reaction towards the finishing chemicals used in the processing of the fabric.

Where is Elastane Fabric Produced?

The original elastane fabric of the US company DuPont retains the trademark and marketing brand Lycra. Despite this, the largest producer of elastane is in China, and exports this fabric all over the world.

The Production Process of Elastane

As you may have guessed from its name and nature, Elastane is a synthetic fabric. This means that it is synthetically produced and not found in nature, like cotton, silk, or wool.

Elastane is produced in a number of steps:

Production of the Prepolymer

Macroglycol is mixed with a diisocyanate monomer in a 1:2 ratio. This allows the correct characteristics of the polymer to manifest. Then a chain extension reaction follows, produced from exposing the prepolymer to diamine.

Extrusion of the Fibers

The resulting spinning solution is spun into fibers and cured into the final elastane fibers. The desired fiber thickness is dependent on how many of these strands are bundled and processed together.

Finishing Touches

A finishing agent like magnesium stearate produces individual fibers that no longer stick to each other and can be spooled like regular fabric, ready to be woven and dyed.

Why Exactly is Elastane so Important in the Clothing Industry?

This synthetic fabric is such a force in the clothing industry because it brought the possibilities of stretchability and durability to so many different fabric blends.

It also brought the clothing industry closer to the sports and athletic industry. Athletes have been enabled to take their art forms further because of the fabric that allows their bodies more freedom of movement and is capable of doing more.

Today, activewear and athleisure make up a significant portion of clothing sales and are a trend growing with the health and wellness industry.

What Different Types of Elastane Fabric are There?

Since elastane is blended into so many different kinds of fabrics, there are a lot of textiles that share characteristics with synthetic fiber.

Let’s delve into the different names of elastane. First off, there’s spandex. It sounds like a terrific marketing term because it is. It is simply the anagram of the word “expands”! This is the name that the North American industry and market uses to refer to the fabric.

Another term we hear is Lycra, which is the name of the fabric from its original manufacturers. DuPont holds this trademark to this day and uses it in its marketing of the product.

What to Consider When Buying Elastane Fabric

If you’re working on an elastane project consider the following factors before purchase:

  • Cost. Sewing elastane can actually be hard, as you are effectively removing the stretchability of the fabric in the parts you sew. Make sure the make a helpful pattern or practice your sewing on cheaper elastane first.
  • Stretchability. Consider how much stretch you need the fabric to have. Remember that the more elastane you add to a fabric blend, the stronger and stiffer it becomes.
  • Recovery. Elastane is like rubber – once stretched it recovers back to its original form. This is affected by the type and quality of elastane is in the blend. Test out the fabric to see if it stretches and recovers the way that you want it to.

Elastane Washing Instructions

Make sure to read the labels and care instructions of elastane garments, because they are usually blended with fabrics that could be more delicate.

If there are any stains on your elastane garment, you can use a spot treatment solution to break it up. Since elastane garments are mostly used for workouts and sports, treat the sweaty areas like underarms, straps, and necklines with care.

You should handwash smaller and delicate elastane garments with gentle detergent. Use cool water to rinse the fabric.

You can use the washing machine, provided you use warm water settings with a delicate detergent. Remember to turn the garment inside out so that the area that contacts the body will be properly cleansed.

Which is Better Elastane or Polyester?

It depends on your purpose for the garment. If you are prioritizing stretch, go for elastane. If you are prioritizing strength and durability, go for polyester.

Elastane provides a great stretch, but it deteriorates over time and does not retain its original shape. Polyester is a durable fabric, but moving in the restrictive fabric is harder.

Is Elastane Breathable?

Elastane is a highly breathable, thin fabric. It is ideal for use in activewear because of its sweat and moisture-wicking capabilities. As you move and sweat,  the fabric quickly dries to make sure you are comfortable and safe from bacteria that grow in moisture.

Is Elastane Safe to Wear?

Yes, it is safe to wear. Genuine elastane allergies are very rare. If there has been a reaction to elastane, it is usually due to the processing and finishing chemicals involved in its construction.

However, if an elastane garment is mixed with latex, this could be a cause of concern for those with latex allergies.

Does Elastane Keep You Warm?

No, elastane cannot keep you warm. Elastane does not have the insulation properties that keep your body heat close to yourself. This is because the fabric is too thin and allows your body heat to escape.

Can Elastane Go in the Dryer?

It’s best not to put elastane garments in the dryer because the heat has a damaging effect on its fibers. It’s best to use air drying methods, but take care not to leave the garment under direct sunlight because it has the same heat-damaging effect.

Is Elastane Stretchy?

Yes, elastane is a stretchy fabric that is popularly used in activewear. It not only adds stretch, but it adds strength to the fabric it is woven into.

Contrary to what you may think, adding more elastane to a fabric does not make it stretchier – just stiffer! The strength of elastane is what makes it possible to stretch beyond other fabrics can.

Is Elastane Sustainable?

Because Elastane is a chemically-produced synthetic fabric, it is not considered sustainable.

It is also no-recyclable. In fact, in order to get the same stretchy quality of Elastane, it is sometimes blended with other fibers, making those garments even harder to recycle.

It is also difficult to mend as it loses its stretchability when sewn, making it likely to be thrown away once used.

Main Care Rules for Elastane

While Elastane is a hardy fabric, there are some things you can do to make them last longer.

You can hand wash or machine wash Elastane, provided that you use lukewarm water and a gentle non-bleach detergent.

When drying Elastane, never use the machine tumble dryer. Air-dry instead without putting it directly underneath the sun. If you have to iron the garment, use the lowest setting possible.

How Does Elastane Fabric Impact the Environment?

Since elastane is a synthetic fabric that is similar to polyester. They are made from fossil fuels, which release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. These are gases responsible for climate change.

Elastane is also non-recyclable and requires a number of water-polluting chemicals in its production. Elastane is not very good for the environment unless people use and make their elastane garments last longer.


Elastane is a flexible fabric in more ways than one: it is used in athletics and activewear, and a whole range of industries, and it is flexible on the human body. Many things can be accomplished thanks to the invention and innovation of elastane.

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