Spandex fabric is one of the most popular fabrics in the fashion world. This stretchy material is versatile and used in various industries, including medical, sports, and fashion.
Contrary to popular belief, spandex isn’t a brand name but a general name for a copolymer type of fabric.
What is Spandex Fabric?
Spandex fabric is a synthetic fabric known for its high degree of stretchability and lightweight. This fabric is made up of a polymer known as Polyurethane.
Spandex fabric is also known as elastane, its chemically correct name, and lycra, a trademarked term for spandex made by DuPont.
Spandex is the most common stretchy material with an impressive stretching degree, and it can stretch up to about five to eight times its original size. The comfortability and body fittedness that spandex provides is unrivaled, which explains why it’s used in making sportswear for athletes.
Spandex fabric is commonly used in the fashion industry because, apart from all its incredible characteristics, it’s also resistant to any wear and tear caused by detergent, sweat, body oils, and lotions.
The properties of spandex, especially its stretchability and quick recovery, have made the material suitable for blending with both natural and other synthetic fibers to give exceptional spandex blends.
Spandex is produced in different countries, and most of the world’s spandex manufacturing plants are in China.
How is Spandex Fabric Produced?
Spandex fabric is a synthetic fabric, and its production process involves a series of steps, which starts with the production of prepolymers. This step involves the mixture of a substance known as macroglycol with another substance called diisocyanate monomer under a specific temperature and pressure at a 1:2 ratio to give a substance called a prepolymer.
The reaction can only give a prepolymer if the appropriate conditions are applied.
Next is the chain extension reaction, where the prepolymer formed is exposed to diamine acid.
Dilution occurs, and the substance formed in the previous step is highly viscous, and has to be diluted to be ready for use in the next step. After diluting the substance until it’s thin enough, the prepolymer is loaded into a fiber production cell or cylindrical spinning cell machine. The prepolymer is then pushed through the spinneret in this cell machine to produce liquid strands of fibers.
The liquid strands of fibers produced are then heated within a nitrogen and solvent gas solution to solidify them, forming solid fibers.
The now solid fibers forced out of the cylindrical spinning cell machine now form twisted strands when they come in contact with pressurized air. These twisted strands are of varying sizes and are formed by bundling the solid strands of fibers together with a compressed air device.
The next step after the twisting step is the finishing step. At this stage, the spandex fibers are treated with a finishing agent consisting of magnesium stearate or similar treating agents.
Afterward, the spandex fibers are loaded onto a spool, and it’s now ready to be woven into fabric.
A Brief History of Spandex Fabrics
The story of spandex started in 1958 when it was first invented by a chemist, Joseph C. Shivers, in the DuPont Benger laboratory located in Waynesboro, Virginia.
Spandex was manufactured to replace rubber material during World war II when the price of rubber became unstable as most of the rubber was being used to make war equipment at that time.
Seeing that there was a need for the material, scientists decided to work on manufacturing a synthetic replacement for this rubber material. DuPont was at the front line of this scientific synthetic replacement for rubber research, and the first breakthrough was by their scientist, Dr. Shivers.
In the 1960s, spandex fabric began to boom, and over the years, there has been a significant increase in its use ranging from sportswear, intimate wear, clothing, and many other items.
Types of Spandex Fabric
There are different types of spandex fabric. While some are pure spandex, others are blended. Some types of Spandex fabrics include:
- Pure Spandex Fabric
This type is 100% spandex fabric. The fabric is often never used alone, as it is co-produced with other types of textiles ranging from polyester to nylon yarn.
Pure spandex fabric is used to produce swimwear, sportswear, and pantyhose waistbands, because of its comfortability and tight fit.
- Polyester-Spandex Fabric Blend
This spandex fabric blend is a form-fitting fabric outlining body structure and optimizes your motion range. It is made from blending polyester and spandex.
It is very comfortable and breathable, and you can expect it to last a long while. It is also very versatile and suitable for a wide range of purposes. It’s used in making underwear, activewear, tops, and socks.
- Nylon-Spandex Fabric Blend
Nylon-spandex fabrics are stretchable and comfortable. This fabric blend can easily expand up to about 500% without breaking and return to its original shape.
The strength and versatility this spandex fabric type possesses makes it a material that serves numerous purposes.
Another thing you’ll love about this material is its moisture-wicking property, abrasion resistance, and resistance to body oils. It’s mostly worn by gymnasts, figure skaters, swimmers, and other athletes.
- Cotton-Spandex Fabric Blend
The Cotton-spandex fabric is known for its smoothness as it is manufactured using cotton and spandex.
It offers a 4-way stretch with a good stretch recovery, and its cotton content gives the fabric good breathability. That’s why it is commonly used in making yoga pants, costumes, loungewear, headbands, and t-shirts.
- Rayon Knit Spandex Fabric
This type of spandex fabric is made by blending rayon with spandex. It is wrinkle-resistant, smooth to feel, and provides unrivaled soft texture and premium wearability.
The fabric can be stretched horizontally or vertically while maintaining its shape and wrinkle-free characteristics. Spandex fabric is also used for making summer and spring clothing.
What’s The Average Cost of Spandex Fabric Per Yard?
Spandex fabric is relatively more expensive than other synthetic fabrics such as nylon, polyester, and even some natural fibers like wool and cotton.
The average spandex fabric per yard cost is about $25, while the nylon-spandex blend is about $19. You can get a yard of a polyester-spandex fabric blend for about $12 to $15.
If your choice is a cotton-spandex fabric, you can purchase a yard for up to $20 to $25. You should also know that more spandex fabric added to a garment adds to the cost of the garment.
Spandex Fabric Usage And Applications
Spandex is a very versatile fabric and has numerous uses and applications. It is used in consumer and industrial applications where fabrics with a high degree of elasticity are required. Some of which are:
Sportswear apparel and accessories industries heavily feature spandex fabric because it offers the comfort and fit required for athletes to perform at their best.
Cyclists and runners wear spandex fabric as it helps minimize any wind resistance. This fabric is also used for sports bras to provide the needed support.
Apart from sportswear, this fabric is also used in making sports accessories like volleyballs and soccer balls.
- Fashion Industry
Spandex fibers are blended with textile materials to create form-fitting wear. Pure spandex fabric is also used in making form-fitting and extremely stretchy garments.
Clothing pieces made from spandex are appreciated because they tend to be abrasion-resistant.
Needle cutting doesn’t cause significant damage to them and is also used in making underwear.
- Household Products
Manufacturers use spandex fabric to produce household items like microbead pillows, bed linens, and fitted sheets.
The fabric is also used for interior decorations and events such as table and chair coverings as it fits perfectly, is shrink-resistant, and lasts a long time.
- Medical Industry
The usage and application of spandex fabric extend into the Medical Industry. Spandex fabric is used in place of latex to manufacture rubber tubes and hoses.
Due to its stretchability and firmness in offering necessary support, spandex is also used in making knee and back braces.
- Film Industry Application
Spandex fabric is also used in the film industry to make motion capture suits to make the body suit stick very well to the actors’ bodies, making it easier to form genuine 3D characters.
Spandex Fabric Care And Maintenance Tips
Spandex is a very stretchy and versatile material that needs to be adequately cared for to maintain its fine properties and last long. Outlined below are care and maintenance tips for your spandex fabric.
- Care should be taken while washing spandex to retain its stretchability property. It would be best if you always referred to the care label on your spandex material before washing.
- The structure of your spandex fabric can be damaged by chlorine bleach, so avoid using a detergent containing chlorine bleach or fabric conditioner to wash the material.
- To get rid of stains on your spandex fabrics, soak in cold water with mild detergent, and avoid scrubbing the material.
- Spandex fabric should be air-dried away from direct exposure to sun and heat. Don’t dry your spandex using a tumble dryer, as high heat affects its elasticity.
- Finally, store spandex items in a clean, breathable space, and avoid mixing your dirty spandex clothing with clean ones.