What Is Elastane Fabric? Where & How Is Made

What Is Elastane Fabric

What Is Elastane Fabric?

Elastane also known as spandex or Lycra, is a synthetic fiber renowned for its exceptional stretch and recovery properties. It is a type of polyurethane-based material that was first developed in the 1950s. Elastane is known for its incredible elasticity, allowing it to stretch up to several times its original length and then return to its original shape without losing its elasticity. This unique characteristic makes it an essential component in various types of clothing and textiles.

Elastane is often blended with other fibers, such as cotton or polyester, to enhance the comfort, fit, and flexibility of the fabric. The addition of elastane in clothing provides a snug and form-fitting quality, making it ideal for activewear, swimwear, lingerie, and garments that require a close fit or freedom of movement. It is commonly used in waistbands, cuffs, and areas where elasticity and stretch are desired.

This fabric offers excellent durability, resistance to body oils and perspiration, and ease of care. However, it can lose its elasticity over time when exposed to excessive heat, chlorine, or prolonged exposure to sunlight. Therefore, proper care and washing techniques are essential to maintain the longevity of garments made with elastane fabric.

History Of Elastane Fabric:

Elastane, also known as spandex or Lycra, is a synthetic fiber renowned for its exceptional stretch and elasticity. The history of elastane fabric dates back to the late 1950s when chemist Joseph Shivers developed the material at DuPont Laboratories in the United States.

Initially used as a replacement for rubber in garments, elastane revolutionized the textile industry by providing unparalleled stretchability and recovery.

Its commercial production began in the early 1960s, and since then, the elastane has become an integral component in various clothing items, including swimwear, athletic wear, underwear, and form-fitting apparel.

Its ability to maintain shape and offer comfort has made elastane a popular choice in modern fashion and sportswear.

What Is Elastane Made Of?

Elastane, also known as spandex or Lycra, is a synthetic fiber known for its exceptional elasticity and stretchability. It is made from a polymer called polyurethane. The polyurethane polymer is created through a chemical process that involves the reaction of a diisocyanate compound with a diol compound. This reaction forms a long-chain polymer with repeating units of urethane. The resulting polymer is then spun into fibers to create elastane.

Elastane fibers can be woven or blended with other fibers, such as cotton or polyester, to impart stretch and elasticity to fabrics. It is commonly used in a wide range of applications, including sportswear, swimwear, lingerie, socks, and other apparel that requires stretch and recovery properties. Elastane’s ability to stretch up to 600% and return to its original shape makes it a popular choice for form-fitting and flexible garments.

How Is Elastane Fabric Made?

Elastane, also known as spandex or Lycra, is a synthetic fiber known for its exceptional stretch and recovery properties. It is commonly used in the textile industry to add elasticity to various types of fabrics. The process of making elastane fabric involves several steps:

  1. Polymerization: The first step is the creation of the elastane polymer. Elastane is made from a long-chain synthetic polymer called polyurethane. The polymerization process involves the combination of two main components: a diisocyanate and a diol. These components react chemically to form a pre-polymer.
  2. Spinning: The pre-polymer is then dissolved in a solvent to create a viscous liquid. This liquid is then forced through a spinneret, which is a metal plate or nozzle with tiny holes. As the liquid passes through the spinneret, it forms long continuous filaments.
  3. Solidification: The filaments are exposed to a coagulating bath, which contains a chemical solution that causes the liquid polymer to solidify and form solid fibers. The coagulating bath typically consists of water or a mixture of water and a coagulating agent.
  4. Washing and drying: After solidification, the fibers are washed to remove any residual chemicals or impurities. Then, they are dried to remove excess moisture.
  5. Drawing: The dried fibers are then stretched to increase their length and align the polymer chains, which improves the strength and elasticity of the final fabric. This stretching process is called drawing.
  6. Heat setting: The drawn fibers are subjected to heat treatment to permanently set their stretched state. This heat-setting process helps the fibers retain their stretched form even after subsequent washing or stretching.
  7. Textile manufacturing: The elastane fibers are then typically blended with other fibers, such as cotton, polyester, or nylon, to create elastane fabrics with desired characteristics. These fibers are combined during the spinning or weaving process to create fabrics that exhibit both stretch and recovery.

It’s worth noting that the specific details of the elastane production process can vary among manufacturers, but the general steps outlined above provide an overview of how elastane fabric is typically made.

Where Is Elastane Fabric Produced?

Elastane fabric, also known as spandex or Lycra, is produced in several countries around the world. The largest producers of elastane fabric include:

  1. China: China is the largest producer of elastane fabric globally. Many textile manufacturers in China produce elastane fabric for both domestic consumption and export.
  2. United States: The United States has a significant production of elastane fabric, with several manufacturers producing it within the country.
  3. Taiwan: Taiwan is a major producer of elastane fabric, known for its high-quality manufacturing processes.
  4. South Korea: South Korea is another country that produces a substantial amount of elastane fabric. Korean textile manufacturers are known for their technological advancements and innovative fabric production.
  5. Japan: Japan has a long history of textile manufacturing and produces elastane fabric through various manufacturers.
  6. India: India has a growing textile industry and is becoming a significant producer of elastane fabric, meeting both domestic and international demands.
  7. Germany: Germany is known for its advanced textile manufacturing industry, and several German companies produce elastane fabric.

These are some of the primary countries known for producing elastane fabric, but it is worth noting that it is a globally traded material, and production can also be found in other countries as well.

What Is Elastane Fabric Used For?

It is primarily used in the textile industry for its stretchable properties. Here are some common applications of elastane fabric:

  1. Clothing: Elastane is extensively used in various types of clothing, including sportswear, activewear, swimwear, leggings, tights, underwear, and body-hugging garments. Its stretch and recovery properties help provide a snug fit and freedom of movement.
  2. Compression Garments: Elastane is often incorporated into compression garments like socks, stockings, and sleeves. These garments apply gentle pressure to improve blood circulation and reduce muscle fatigue during activities or for medical purposes.
  3. Medical Applications: Elastane is used in medical textiles, such as bandages, surgical stockings, support braces, and orthopedic garments. Its stretchability and ability to retain shape make it suitable for providing support and compression in various medical conditions.
  4. Home Furnishings: Elastane can be found in home furnishing textiles, such as stretchable slipcovers, sofa covers, and bed sheets. It helps ensure a snug fit and prevents the fabric from slipping or wrinkling.
  5. Industrial Uses: Elastane is used in the industrial sector for applications like belts, straps, and harnesses. Its elastic properties make it ideal for providing flexibility and secure fastening.

Overall, elastane fabric is widely used in the fashion, sports, medical, and industrial sectors, wherever stretchability, comfort, and shape retention are desired.

How Much Does Elastane Fabric Cost?

The cost of elastane fabric can vary depending on various factors such as quality, brand, supplier, quantity purchased, and location. Elastane, also known as spandex or Lycra, is a synthetic fiber commonly used in the textile industry for its stretch and recovery properties.

As of my knowledge cutoff in September 2021, the price of elastane fabric ranged from approximately $4 to $20 per yard (or meter), depending on the factors mentioned above. However, please note that these prices are just estimates, and actual prices may have changed since then due to factors such as market fluctuations, inflation, and supply and demand dynamics.

To get the most accurate and up-to-date information on the cost of elastane fabric, I recommend contacting fabric suppliers, wholesalers, or retailers directly. They will be able to provide you with the current pricing based on your specific requirements.

What Different Types of Elastane Fabric Are There?

There are several different types of elastane fabric available, each with its own characteristics and applications. Here are some of the common types:

  1. Single-covered elastane: In this type, the elastane filament is wrapped with a single covering thread, typically made of nylon or polyester. The covering thread provides protection to the elastane core and helps enhance its durability. Single-covered elastane is commonly used in hosiery, swimwear, and athletic apparel.
  2. Double-covered elastane: Similar to single-covered elastane, the double-covered elastane has an additional layer of covering thread. This type offers increased durability and better recovery properties. It is often used in high-performance sportswear, lingerie, and medical garments.
  3. Bare elastane: Bare elastane does not have a covering thread, and the elastane filament is directly exposed. This type is usually used in lightweight fabrics where a minimal amount of stretch is required. It is commonly found in lightweight knits, linings, and elastic bands.
  4. Core-spun elastane: Core-spun elastane consists of an elastane core wrapped with a covering of staple fibers. The staple fibers provide the main structure of the fabric, while the elastane core contributes to its stretch. Core-spun elastane is commonly blended with cotton or other natural fibers to create stretchy and comfortable denim, knitwear, and casual apparel.
  5. Elastane blends: Elastane is often blended with various other fibers to create fabrics with specific properties. For example, elastane can be combined with cotton, polyester, nylon, or wool to create stretchy, comfortable, and durable fabrics for various applications. These blends offer a wide range of options in terms of stretch, breathability, and texture.

It’s important to note that different manufacturers may have their own proprietary names for elastane fabrics, but the general types mentioned above are commonly found in the market.

How Does Elastane Fabric Impact the Environment?

While elastane fabric has various benefits in terms of comfort and performance, its production and disposal can have environmental impacts. Here are some ways in which elastane fabric can impact the environment:

  1. Resource Intensive: Elastane is derived from petrochemicals, primarily crude oil. The extraction and processing of crude oil contribute to air and water pollution, habitat destruction, and the emission of greenhouse gases, which are linked to climate change.
  2. Energy Consumption: The production of elastane involves energy-intensive processes such as polymerization and spinning. The energy required for these processes often comes from non-renewable sources, leading to increased carbon emissions and environmental degradation.
  3. Chemical Usage: The production of elastane involves the use of various chemicals, including solvents and additives. These chemicals can be toxic and pose risks to human health and the environment if not properly managed. Improper disposal of these chemicals can contaminate soil and water sources.
  4. Water Usage: The production of elastane fabric requires significant amounts of water, particularly during the dyeing and finishing stages. Water-intensive processes can contribute to water scarcity, especially in regions already facing water stress or in areas where water treatment and management systems are inadequate.
  5. Microfiber Pollution: Elastane fabrics, like many other synthetic textiles, shed microfibers during washing. These microfibers are tiny plastic particles that are released into waterways and can end up in oceans and aquatic ecosystems. They can be ingested by marine organisms, potentially entering the food chain and causing harm.
  6. Waste Generation: Elastane fabric is not biodegradable and can persist in the environment for a long time. When discarded, it contributes to the growing problem of textile waste in landfills. Additionally, as the fabric contains both synthetic and natural fibers, it can be challenging to separate and recycle properly.

To mitigate the environmental impact of elastane fabric, several measures can be taken, such as:

  • Developing more sustainable production processes that reduce energy and water consumption, and minimize the use of hazardous chemicals.
  • Encouraging the recycling and upcycling of elastane-containing textiles to reduce waste.
  • Promoting the use of natural and biodegradable alternatives, such as organic cotton, hemp, or bamboo, which have lower environmental impacts.
  • Raising awareness among consumers about proper washing practices to minimize microfiber pollution, such as using washing bags or filters designed to capture microfibers.

By implementing these measures, it is possible to reduce the environmental footprint associated with elastane fabric and move towards a more sustainable and circular textile industry.

How To Clean Elastane Fabric?

To clean elastane, you can follow these general guidelines:

  1. Check the care label: Start by checking the care label on the garment for any specific instructions or recommendations provided by the manufacturer. This will help you determine if there are any special considerations for cleaning the particular item.
  2. Handwashing method: In most cases, handwashing is the safest method for cleaning elastane fabric. Fill a basin or sink with lukewarm water and add a mild detergent specifically formulated for delicate fabrics. Avoid using bleach or harsh chemicals, as they can damage the elasticity of the fabric.
  3. Soak and agitate: Submerge the elastane garment in soapy water and gently agitate it to loosen any dirt or grime. Allow the garment to soak for about 15-30 minutes.
  4. Rinse thoroughly: After soaking, drain the soapy water and rinse the garment under cool running water until all the detergent is removed. Gently squeeze the fabric, but avoid wringing or twisting, as this can damage the elastane fibers.
  5. Drying: Lay a clean, dry towel on a flat surface and place the washed garment on top. Gently roll the towel with the garment inside to absorb excess water. Do not rub or wring the fabric. Afterward, reshape the garment to its original form and lay it flat on a drying rack or clean, dry towel. Avoid hanging elastane garments, as their weight can stretch out the fabric.
  6. Ironing and steaming: Elastane fabric is prone to heat damage, so it’s generally best to avoid ironing or using high-temperature settings. If necessary, use a low-heat setting or steam the fabric lightly to remove wrinkles.
  7. Avoiding machine washing and drying: Unless the care label specifically allows it, avoid machine washing and drying elastane garments. The agitation and heat in washing machines and dryers can damage the fabric’s elasticity over time.

Remember, it’s always important to refer to the care label and any specific instructions provided by the manufacturer. If in doubt, consider consulting a professional dry cleaner who has experience with elastane fabrics.


Is elastane Stretchy?

Yes, elastane is known for its stretchiness. It is a synthetic fiber commonly used in clothing to provide elasticity and stretch, allowing for a comfortable and flexible fit.

Is Elastane Toxic?

No, elastane itself is not considered toxic. It is a safe and widely used synthetic fiber in the textile industry. However, like any material, it is important to handle and use elastane products according to the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure proper safety and minimize any potential risks.

Is Elastane Good for Summer?

Elastane can be suitable for summer depending on the specific garment and its composition. Elastane is often blended with other fibers like cotton or polyester to enhance stretch and comfort.

Such blends can provide breathability and moisture-wicking properties, making them suitable for summer wear that requires flexibility and comfort.

Final Words

Elastane fabric, also known as spandex or Lycra, is a synthetic textile material renowned for its exceptional stretch and recovery properties. It is composed of a polymer called polyurethane, which is combined with other fibers like cotton or polyester to create a stretchable and elastic fabric.

Elastane fibers can stretch significantly and return to their original shape without losing their elasticity. This unique characteristic makes elastane fabric popular in the production of clothing, particularly for items like leggings, swimwear, athletic wear, and form-fitting garments. Elastane fabric provides comfort, flexibility, and a close fit, making it widely used in various applications.

Hi, I'm Robert Jameson. I'm a textile engineer. As a textile engineer, I design & create fabric. When I'm not busy with my family members, I research, write, and edit content for Fabric Fits.

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