Spandex Fabric: History, Manufacturing Process, Types, Advantages

Comparatively to natural strands, man-made filaments are becoming more commonplace recently. One of them is spandex, which has captured the attention of the apparel sector. Spandex is a synthetic fabric that is prized for its adaptability. Contrary to popular belief, “spandex” isn’t a brand name; instead, it refers mostly to polyether-polyurea copolymer textures that have been produced using a variety of fabrication techniques. Elastane, Lycra, and spandex are all identical terms.

Spandex is a manufactured material that is smooth, lightweight, and unusually versatile. It is used to create flexible dresses due to its adaptability. In Europe and many other parts of the world, it is also known as “elastane.” Polyurethane, a synthetic polymer with extraordinary stretch capacity, is the main component of spandex. By reacting polyester with diisocyanate a long chain of polymer is produced, which comprises roughly 85% polyurethane. Spandex is sturdy and durable.

Fabric NameSpandex
Also Known AsElastane, Lycra
SourcePolyether-polyurea copolymer
NatureSynthetic fiber
Moisture RegainHigh
Heat ResistanceLow
Stretch propertiesVery High
Washing TemperatureLow or high
Biggest Exporting CountryChina
Spandex Fabric

What Is Spandex?

The lightweight synthetic fabric called spandex is well-known for its extreme adaptability. It fundamentally alludes to textures produced by numerous cycles of the polyether-polyurea copolymer. In some countries, this substance is also known as elastane.

This material, which is frequently used in consumer clothes, can stretch up to 5-8 times its usual size. Given that little portions of this texture are woven into other produced, partially engineered, or natural filaments, pure spandex isn’t often used in that context.

Polyurethane, developed in 1937 by IG Farben in Germany, is the primary component of spandex. As World War II came to an end, many top German scientists began new careers in the United States. Many material scientists from IG Farben relocated to the DuPont Corporation, which at the time was the undisputed leader in engineered material development.

DuPont attempted to create another polymer texture with high adaptability using research on polyurethane. When this texture was being developed, DuPont researchers referred to it as “spandex.” When it was finished, this texture was sold under the brand name Lycra, but consumers seemed to prefer calling this material spandex, and it was this term that entered the common lexicon to refer to this manufactured texture.

Like other polymers, spandex is made by repeating monomer chains that are maintained intact by a corrosive. It was discovered early on in the development of spandex that this material is extremely heat-safe, meaning that renowned heat-sensitive textures like nylon and polyester benefit when combined with spandex texture.

Elastane’s ability to stretch quickly made it useful all around the world and its popularity has persisted to this day. It is unlikely that this fabric’s predominance will soon decline because it is present in so many different types of clothes that almost every buyer has at least one item that contains spandex. Unfortunately, once it enters the consumer sector, elastane has a fundamentally negative ecological impact.

History Of Spandex

The story of spandex is quite intriguing. When material experts first developed manufactured alternatives to elastic during World War II, everything got started. Obviously, this might seem strange to a modern man. How could anyone require designed alternatives to replace elastic?

Yes, the designers had good intentions. First of all, the fighting was consuming a big percentage of the available elastic, leaving a dearth of money for contemporary organizations to fight over. The price of elastic thereafter became extremely unstable and began to fluctuate. As a result, they were actively seeking suitable trades for elastic.

An American material scientist named Joseph Shivers initially developed this astonishingly elastic and limitless fiber in 1959 while working at DuPont on a project to develop a synthetic alternative to elastic. It is entirely engineered; a byproduct of oil. It is perfect for snug clothes and athletic equipment because of its remarkable capacity to stretch and recover. Regular elastic was used in flexibly and applied to textiles to make them stretch before the invention of spandex, but in general, elastic is damaged by sunlight, oils, and sweat. It also gradually loses flexibility and strength over time.

Manufacturing Process

Since spandex is entirely a synthetic fiber, no natural components are used in its production. All things considered, the individual components of this fiber are all created in a lab setting, and they are subsequently combined under clear improvements to create spandex texture.

Since the invention of elastane, numerous methods for producing this texture have been developed. Some of these methods work better than others, and over time, procedures like response turning, liquefy expulsion, and arrangement wet turning have mostly been abandoned. We shall examine this manufacturing process in great detail because it is now used to produce around 95 percent of the spandex in the world.

  1. A chemical known as macro-glycol is mixed in with a diisocyanate monomer to begin the development of the spandex texture under clear-cut intensity and strain. The macro-glycol and diisocyanate monomer should also be in a ratio of around 1:2, and the temperature and strain conditions should be carefully controlled to provide the best results.
  2. If the proper conditions are met, a material known as a prepolymer is formed, and this substance is then used in the remaining stages of the formation cycle. When the prepolymer has finished framing, it is exposed to diamine corrosive, which initiates a chemical reaction known as chain expulsion response.
  3. The next substance is incredibly sticky and needs to be softened with a dissolvable before moving on to the next phase. The prepolymer is stacked into a device known as a fiber formation cell or a round and hollow turning cell when it is thin enough to work with.
  4. A device with numerous tiny apertures inside of this machine is called a spinneret. The prepolymer arrangement is confined through these apertures when the fiber manufacturing cell rotates, and it takes on the form of strands of texture. In any case, as these strands emerge from the spinneret, they are still in a fluid state. To transform them into a solid-state, they are next exposed to heated dissolvable gas and nitrogen.
  5. After being forced out of the barrel-shaped turning cell, these sturdy filaments form bent strands when exposed to compressed air. Various sized strands can be framed by this compressed air.
  6. Finally, a finishing agent made of magnesium stearate or a material similar is applied to the spandex fiber. It is suitable to be woven into texture whenever it is placed onto a spool.

Types of Spandex

In any case, the final product is artificially something that is fairly comparable when diverse construction procedures are used to manufacture spandex. Nevertheless, confusion may result due to the many words used to describe this texture:

Spandex: It is actually just a word that has been “extended” rearranged. It is not a brand name. Spandex was never intended to be the primary term used to refer to the elastane texture, but it stuck in the minds of consumers and is now the phrase most commonly used in North America to refer to this material.

Elastane: To refer to this kind of texture, the majority of Europeans use versions of the word “elastane.” The most artificially accurate way to reference this texture is with elastane.

Lycra: The DuPont Corporation has registered the name “Lycra” as a trademark. Only DuPont’s spandex can be referred to as Lycra, however, it has characteristics with spandex and elastane textures and cannot be artificially distinguished from them.

Neoprene Rubber: While reducing the limitations of the natural material, this synthetic polymer mimics some of the stretch and water obstruction properties of elastic. This material is readily available in a variety of thicknesses and is increasingly used in bodysuits and fashion items.

Knits: Though widely used for sewing clothing, weaves typically have two-way stretch. In common apparel items like socks and hats, weave textures can be found

Spandex Applications

It is noteworthy that spandex is heavily used in the clothing industry. However, this is also a useful texture for friendly and contemporary associations. The majority of the time, spandex textures are used in clothing items like hosiery, bathing suits, practice wear, socks, careful hose, underpants, gloves, cycling shorts, wrestling suits, paddling suits, specific clothing like zentai suits, movement catch suits, denim, and so forth where both comfort and fit are required

  1. Spandex is used in the production of many items, particularly in the fashion industry and sports apparel. Spandex apparel is perfect for athletes and bikers since it helps to reduce any wind protection. This makes it the ideal outfit for competitive cyclists and sprinters. Sports bras are frequently made with the spandex texture because it is also known to provide support.
  2. Spandex is used to assemble sports equipment like volleyballs and soccer balls in addition to being used in athletic apparel. As useful as spandex is for the apparel business, it is also, in comparison, excellent for current uses. Currently, spandex is used to create elastic-producing items. Many things, like elastic tubing, hosing, and knee or back supports, are made by the clinical industry using spandex rather than plastic.
  3. Additionally, it is used to make household products like microbead pillows and fitted sheets. Inside decoration and event planning are two less well-known uses of spandex. For instance, plastic seat covers and tablecloths both have a spandex feel.
  4. A well-fitted spandex tablecloth will put emphasis on the eating area rather than the traditional decorative spread. Today, seat covers and seat groups made of spandex are more often used as material therapists after extended usage since the texture of the material fits perfectly and may be worn for a long time.
  5. A few disposable diapers, blankets, car interiors, shoes, and household items like drapes, pads, tosses, and covers.

Spandex is rarely used alone and can be combined with other natural and synthetic fibers, which probably contributed to its incorporation into so many of the items we use and wear today.

What Is The Price Of Spandex Fabric?

Spandex texture orders typically have a premium market price due to their peculiarity and the somewhat challenging manufacturing technique needed to create them. For instance, it is more expensive than polyester and nylon. It is also typically more expensive than natural textures like fleece and cotton.

The use of the fabric in garments is being pushed more than ever by changes in lifestyle and a significant decline in the price of spandex over the past ten years. About 200,000 tons of spandex were produced worldwide in 2000. That quantity has significantly grown. Several years ago, a pound of spandex cost $12; today, it costs around $5.

However, because elastane is typically only used in small amounts in garments, this increased expense rarely becomes apparent to the end-user. In any event, an item of apparel becomes more expensive the more spandex texture that is recalled for it. For instance, certain types of bicycle gear and professional dancing attire with high levels of spandex are highly expensive.

Doesn’t wrinkle, can be extended or lengthened, and has a decent shape.

Feels better on the skin, is flexible, agreeable to wear, and throws a tantrum.

resistant to synthetics that are soluble or acidic.

Seawater, sweat, cleansers, body oils, cleaning supplies, and sunscreen cream are all impervious.

Market Trends At The Moment

By 2017, it is anticipated that interest in spandex will rise at a rate of 6% per year. According to the most recent figures, which were released in March 2013, Asia (apart from Japan) used spandex to its fullest extent of 70% in 2012. Asia is the major producer of spandex and will account for nearly three-fourths of the total global usage continuously by 2017.

Furthermore, it states that China accounts for 50% of global spandex consumption and 30% of global spandex production. In China, there are upcoming new initiatives that will address the country’s rapidly growing spandex desire. The largest spandex manufacturer on the earth as of right now is a Korean company. Customers right now are educated and making requests. As more consumers enter the market, fiber is developing in several areas to provide complete customer satisfaction.

With the aid of research and innovation, the quality of spandex filaments has increased since its inception and will continue to develop. By combining regular filaments with spandex filaments, more common textures can be produced as a result of the improvement in the spandex strands. Likewise, new, improved methods for producing spandex assembly are required.

As it sticks to the entryway properly, it has proactively entered the vehicle area and is used to create entryway boards. In the future, spandex will also dominate the market for upscale furniture and could even be dubbed the “Gen-next material.”

Advantages of Spandex

  1. Doesn’t blur well and works with many different hues.
  2. does not easily decompose.
  3. Works with different textures like engineered, natural, and normal filaments.
  4. Lightweight and easily cleanable (either hand wash or machine wash).
  5. unaffected by grating synthetics.
  6. When worn, the garment is graceful, smooth, and doesn’t disturb the skin.
  7. has notable elasticity that elastic does not.

How To Wash Spandex Most Efficiently

Spandex must be properly washed in order to maintain its flexibility. Always refer to the name of the consideration written on your item of clothing before washing.

Washing spandex by hand

  1. To avoid needless stretching, it is best to hand wash spandex. Never wash your spandex with a detergent that contains chlorine dye or a texture conditioner since it will ruin the fabric’s composition.
  2. Use lukewarm water (max 30°C) continuously for flushing and washing. Use a mild cleaner without dyes made with chlorine.
  3. Add the item of clothing, gently disturb it, and gently clean up any messes.
  4. Until all cleanser buildup is gone, repeatedly flush the item in lukewarm water.
  5. Don’t wring it out; gently squeeze the excess cleaning water out.

Washing machine for spandex

  1. Clothing made of spandex should be placed in a lattice washing pack.
  2. Use a mild cleaner that doesn’t contain chlorine blanch.
  3. Make sure to set the machine for a slow spin toward the end of the cycle when washing on the “delicates” cycle (a cool and delicate wash cycle).

Cleaning spandex of stains

If at all possible, remove the discoloration right away. Cold water should be used to soak up the stain; never use boiling water as this can set the stain. Apply a small amount of a mild liquid cleanser to the stain, paying careful attention to it (don’t scrub it). then wash as usual at that stage.

Removing the solid odors from spandex

A large basin or container should be filled with lukewarm (max 30°C) water and a little amount of bicarbonate of soda. For the time being, let the piece of clothes splash. After washing, let the clothes air dry.

Spanx drying

  1. To remove excess water, roll the damp item of clothing in a spotless towel.
  2. Your spandex apparel should air dry out of the sun and direct sunlight.
  3. Never use a tumble dryer to dry spandex-containing garments.

Spanx being pressed

When properly cleaned and dried, the majority of spandex-containing clothing items don’t wrinkle. Never press spandex-containing clothing is the general rule to follow. However, if pushing is absolutely necessary, use the lowest intensity level possible while applying even, smooth pressure.

Repair Your Spandex Apparel

If you use a sewing machine to repair your item of clothing, be sure to use polyester thread and a ballpoint needle (to avoid catching the texture) (which gives a level of stretch to the sewing). If you truly want to stick your item of clothing, try not to make any openings in the fabric that you can see by placing the pins inside the crease. Use a restricted crisscross fasten or a stretch join. Stretch the fabric just a little bit while stitching it to ensure that the creases stretch together with the garment. 

As was previously said, the flexibility, strength, comfort, and fit of spandex texture are just a few of its numerous advantages. Despite this, there aren’t many obstacles in their way. Spandex fabric is not breathable and traps moisture, sweat, and foul odors inside the item of clothing, which could lead to skin contamination. By fusing cotton or other breathable textiles with spandex, these problems can be resolved.

Spandex’s Negative Effects

Due to its synthetic construction and lack of fluid retention, spandex is very sensitive to heat. Therefore, using an iron, machine drying, or washing spandex in scalding hot water can permanently damage the texture. Additionally, the absence of contact caused by the smooth and elusive surface of spandex might occasionally provide a risk to the wearer. The majority of its drawbacks will result from mixing spandex with other fibers. As a result, a variety of clothing items mixed with spandex may be found in the stores.

Spandex has come a long way since its early days and is now the most well-known material in the fashion world. This fiber has dominated every industry and is incredibly well-liked all around the world, whether it be for men’s suits or athletic clothing, bed linens or shoes, women’s clothing, or medical supplies. According to a survey, spandex is present in over 80% of the dresses marketed in America.

Impact of Spandex Fabric on the Environment

Typically, spandex has a negative impact on the environment. Although this effect is positively existent, it is not as well articulated as the negative effects of other types of produced textures, and as of yet, no workable solutions have been suggested to stop the ecological damage caused by spandex texture.

This texture doesn’t appear to have a substantial impact on the climate if, by some lucky coincidence, the manufacturing processes used to create spandex are considered. While certain engineered materials, such as nylon, are directly derived from non-renewable resources like coal and oil, elastane is entirely manufactured from synthetic molecules that are synthesized in laboratories

Elastane production is therefore extremely energy-intensive. However, if sustainable power sources are used to transport the prepolymers that make up this texture, this problem can be solved. Although no research has been done on the subject, it is conceivable that workers creating spandex endure medical issues similar to those faced by those making polyurethane. Additionally, there may be isocyanates in spandex, which are potentially dangerous synthetic substances that are frequently found in polyurethane, but there are no overt indications that this is the case.

Only after it is made available to customers does elastane’s exceptional natural impact become a crucial element. It has been determined that non-biodegradable material filaments account for 60% of the trash in U.S. streams, and spandex clothes and strands make up a significant portion of this garbage.

Whether or not spandex is properly disposed of in landfills or other designated waste removal areas, tiny strands of this substance are introduced into streams whenever elastane clothing is washed. This harms marine life, lowers the quality of drinking water, and eventually contributes to the massive garbage islands that are constantly accumulating in the world’s oceans.

There are currently no known methods for converting spandex textures and comparable materials into biodegradable compounds, therefore elastane and other non-biodegradable materials will be around long after human progress has left the globe. The major methods for reducing the environmental impact of this texture are safe removal and a few items of washing.

Final Words

Most of the dresses you can find on the market contain spandex. It gives apparel flexibility and helps to regain its shape. Maybe there are some drawbacks of this special kind of man-made fabric, hence it is becoming more adaptable and effective.

In this article, we discussed various uses and details of spandex. If you were not sure about using this fabric you must have learned a lot about spandex now and you can happily use it. Let us know your experience with spandex fabric.

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