Spandex Fabric (Lycra): A guide to this knit elastane fabric, material, Properties

Do you know what is spandex fabric (or lycra fabric)? Actually, spandex fabric is a elastic and stretch fabric that is suitable for swimwear fabric.

Content Properties
Fabric name
Spandex Fabric
Similar Fabrics
Lycra Fabric, Elastane Fabric
Polyether-polyurea copolymer
Fabric breathabilityn
High breathability
Moisture-wicking abilities
Heat retention abilities
Fabric wrinkle resistance
Biggest exporting/producing country
Recommended washing methods and temperatures
By hand or washing machine, warm or cold

1. What is spandex fabric

Spandex is a polyurethane fiber(PU fiber), because of its excellent elasticity, it is also known as elastane fiber(EL). Spandex fabric, also called polyurethane fiber fabric, is a synthetic fabric made of spandex with high elasticity, which has been widely used in consumer apparel.
Spandex fabric is famous for its good elasticity, which can be stretched 5-8 times its normal size, so this fabric is commonly used for restrictive clothing. However, spandex cannot be used in garments separately, generally, it is woven with other synthetic or natural fibers.

On some websites, they may tell you that Spandex equals to Lycra, but it is wrong. In fact, spandex is one of the elastic fibers, Lycra is just the name of the spandex product produced by the United States DuPont Corporation. DuPont registered a brand name Lycra for their spandex, which means that the spandex only produced by DuPont can be called Lycra. Because the company occupies the market of spandex, so Lycra has become the byword for spandex in popular belief.

Spandex woven with cotton
Spandex woven with cotton

1.1 Advantages and disadvantages of spandex fabric

High heat retention abilities.
Good wrinkle resistance with high stretchability.
Soft and smooth, comfortable to wear, and form-fitting.
Good acid and alkali resistance, good aging resistance, and durable.
Good dyeability and is not easy to fade.

Low moisture-wicking abilities.
Spandex isn’t used alone in the textile but woven with other fabrics.

2. History of spandex fabric?

Germany began to develop spandex in 1930. In 1937, Bayer developed it successfully but did not put it into industrial production. The product Bayer produced was called Parlon and its performance was similar to nylon.

The inventer of Polyamide Fabric - DuPont Corporation
The inventer of Polyamide Fabric - DuPont Corporation

In 1958, the United States DuPont corporation also developed it successfully and they registered a brand name for their spandex which called Lycra. Lycra had gone into mass production in 1959.
By the early 1960s, many countries in the world had built spandex plants one after another. However, from the late 1960s to the late 1980s, due to problems in production and excessive demand forecast at that time, there was an arrested development of the spandex fabric.

In the 1990s, with the economic resurgence of the world and the expansion of the use of spandex, a new round of development and production of spandex stretch fabrics began. Especially in recent years, many large international companies have developed their unique spandex production technology, and the quality of their product has been greatly improved, which has made spandex popular all over the world.

3. How is spandex fabric made?

So far, methods of producing spandex fabric in the world include melt extrusion spinning, chemical reaction spinning, solution wet spinning and solution dry spinning. Among which solution dry spinning is the most popular method currently for producing spandex fabric. Statistically, there are 95 percent of the world’s spandex fabric produced by this method. Melt spinning is gradually popularizing with the improvement of related technologies. However, it is limited by various factors such as raw materials, technology, performance, demand, and equipment, so the market share of fabric produced by this method is also decreasing. Wet spinning and chemical reaction methods are gradually being phased out.

3.1 Solution dry spinning

Production process:

Solution -> Spinning pump (for filtration) -> Drying oven (100 ℃ hot air makes the solution volatilize) -> Spinning -> Filling building

Spinning speed: 200-800M/M

Spinning temperature: 200-230℃

Fibre number: 22.2-1244dtex

Representative companies: DuPont, Bayer, Toyobo

Features: Serious pollution, complicated process and expensive to produce.

3.2 Solution wet spinning

Production process:

Solution -> Spinning pump (for filtration) -> Entering warm water (below 90 ℃) from spinneret -> Coagulation bath in regeneration tank -> Solvent removal -> Washing -> Drying -> Filling building

Spinning speed: 50-150M/M

Spinning temperature: Warm water below 90℃

Fibre number: 44-440dtex

Representative companies: Fuji spinning

Features: Expensive to produce, low speed of spinning, serious pollution.

3.3 Melt extrusion spinning

Production process:

Polymerization of polymer without solvent -> Prill -> Cut into slices at constant temperature -> Edulcoration -> Drying -> Dehydration -> Made into solution by helical-lobe compressor -> Spinneret -> Cooling through a cooler bin -> Filling building

Spinning speed: 600-1600M/M

Spinning temperature: 160-220℃

Fibre number: 9-1100dtex

Representative companies: Kanebo, Bayer, Nisshinbo

Features: Simple process, low cost, low pollution.

3.4 Chemical reaction spinning

Production process:

Solution -> Through the spinneret to the coagulation solution -> Adding a chain extender (chemical reaction) -> Filling building -> Hardening -> Processing into fibers

Spinning speed: 50-150M/M

Fibre number: 44-80dtex

Representative companies: US Universal

Features: Expensive to produce, serious pollution.

4. Where is spandex fabric produced?

China: As the founder of the Silk Road, China’s achievements in the textile industry have attracted worldwide attention. Although spandex fabric was first invented in Germany and produced on a large scale in the United States, the advantages of industrial agglomeration, complete industrial chains and low labor costs have made China the largest producer of spandex fabrics in the world today.

China textile industry city - Puning
China textile industry city - Puning

United States: The home of Spandex fabric, which used to be the biggest producer of Spandex fabric in the 20th century.




5. How is spandex fabric used?

Since the invention of spandex, it has been widely used in consumer or industrial applications due to its excellent elasticity. Today, it has been made into thousands of different types of clothing and used by consumers around the world, and this type of fabric is becoming increasingly popular. And we have mentioned that spandex fabrics are rarely used alone but woven with other fabrics. You may ask why? Well, one of the reasons is that pure spandex fabrics are relatively expensive. Another reason is that pure spandex fabrics are too elastic and are not suitable for making clothing for ordinary consumers. Therefore, weaving spandex fabric into other types of textiles is more common. For example, when spandex elastic fiber fabric is added to cotton, the fabric becomes more elastic. Since spandex elastic fiber can be stretched to 5-8 times its original size, the elasticity of clothing can be given by controlling the currency of spandex in the fabric.

Spandex fabric is elastic and soft with stable size, which can reflect the graceful and elegant curve of the human body. Therefore, it is suitable for making elastic clothing such as men’s and women’s suits, overalls, shirts, and underwear garments. Even if it is not in the main fabric of underwear but always present in the waistband.

Spandex is also used to make cotton socks and wool socks, especially for women’s stocking and pantyhose, as well as ultra-thin transparent socks that are loved by beautiful women. These socks have good sales volume today.


Polyester spandex covered yarn
Polyester spandex covered yarn

This fabric is very popular in sportswear with its excellent elasticity, abrasion resistance and bright color. It is an ideal fabric for making swimwear, racing suit, training clothing, bicycling clothing, and types of clothing for sports. Now, whether it is a world-renowned brand, it is producing sports apparel from spandex fabric all over the world.

Finally, spandex fabrics are also used in industrial textile applications. For example, the motion capture suits, which designed for motion capture in the film industry, are made from spandex fabric.

6. How to take care of spandex fabric

1. Spandex fabric can be washed by hand or washing machine in warm or cold water with a variety of detergents, but avoid bleaching with chlorine.

2. White clothing can be washed in hot water with strong alkaline detergent for bleaching. Underwear garment cannot be soaked in hot water to prevent the protein in sweat stains from solidifying and sticking to the clothing.

3. It should be dried in the shade avoid fading. When drying in the sun, turn the spandex fabric inside out.

4. Wash separately from other clothes.

5. Soaking time should not be too long to avoid discoloration, wash in time.

6. Do not wring.

7. Spandex fabric should be stored in a constant temperature and humidity environment. It should not be placed in sunlight directly. It should not be stored together with chemical products such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, which will result in their decomposition.

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