Everything You Need to Know About Elastane Fabric

From its composition and properties to common uses, we cover all the basic information about elastane fabric.
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Last updatedLast updated: August 22, 2021

What comes to your mind when you hear elastane? Your best guess is probably elastic.

Elastane is closely related with unusual elasticity. In other words, fabrics made from elastane can stretch beyond the length of regular fabrics. Interestingly, many fashion stylists who use modern sewing tools have advised against using elastane alone to make fabric; rather, they have recommended that it is combined with other yarns for optimal use.

The beauty of elastane is in its immense recovery after stretch. Some textile researchers have posited that fabrics containing elastane can expand up to seven times its original size before attaining its elastic limit.

While all elastane fabrics have high elasticity, not every elastic material is made from elastane. This is because fabrics that do not contain elastane would ordinarily stretch and never recover, whereas any piece of fabric with an appreciable quantity of elastane – between 5% and 10% – would easily return to normal.

What Is Elastane Fabric?

It is not uncommon to hear people from different parts of the world refer to Elastane as Spandex or Lycra. These names are derived from the synthetic character of the fiber, which by the way, is 100% inorganic, that is man-made.

What elastane is called varies from country to country. For example, it is common to hear spandex in the United States, while the rest of the world call it elastane.

Many sources have attributed the invention of elastane fibers to Farbenfabriken Bayer. However, it was not until 1959 that it began to enjoy prominence in the global clothing industry.

For optimum results, which in many cases is the ability of elastane fabrics to be able to stretch at least seven times its original range, elastane has to be combined with other fabrics like polyester, cotton, and nylon, with the composition of elastane between 6 to 10%.

Elastane is often used in the production of sports wears, inners, swim gears, etc. This is because it provides fit and comfort. We all love to wear stretchy cloths, because they make us comfortable. If we can’t make them by our hand, we are all to glad to buy ready-made ones.

For textile companies to be able to extract fibers from elastane, they have to pass it through melt extrusion, reaction spinning, solution wet spinning or solution dry spinning. After which, it comes out glowing like this Shiny Royal Blue Lycra Milliskin Nylon Spandex Fabric which is made of 80% nylon and 20% spandex.

Like every elastane fabric, buyers may choose to use it to sew costume wear, dance wear, or wear for special occasions.

Composition

Elastane is made of polyurethane, a polymer that results from the chemical reaction of a polyester and a diisocyanate. It is this resulting polymer that is then spun into fibers.

How Is It Made?

Elastane is manufactured from polyurethane and polyethylene glycol.

Polyurethanes are synthetic resins, while Polyethylene glycol is a liquid or solid chemical substance. The urethane provides for the necessary cohesion of the fiber. It is located in stretched, stiff sections resting along each other. These block copolymers can easily be stretched. Due to this stretch ability an overall elongation of more than 700% is achieved.

Types of Elastane Fabric

Everything You Need to Know About Elastane Fabric

There are many varieties of elastane fabrics, often differentiated based on their stretch-abilities. Examples are:

  • Two-dimensional elastane fabrics: The elastane only expands in one direction, the width.
  • Four-dimensional elastane fabrics: This fabric stretches both in width and length; this property allows the fabric to be used in sports equipment.

Physical Properties of Elastane

Among others, some of the physical properties of elastane are:

  • It is a completely synthetic fiber.
  • Elastane is used for making different light clothings.
  • Its tenacity is 0.7 gm/den and density is 1.21 – 1.35 gm/c.c.
  • The possible elastic limit is between 400 – 700%.
  • It has also been noted that elastane has strong preventive power against acidic action.

Stretchability

One of the key reasons for the global acclaim of elastane is its stretchability – elastane can be stretched repetitively over 500% without breaking while still recovering to its original length. This is best seen when it is blended or weaved together with nylon or polyester fibers, the resulting fabric is usually a lot stretchy and ready to adapt to different body shapes.

Today, as a result of its stretchability, elastane is useful in parts of different clothes that require elasticity, such as sleeve cuffs, swimwear or even underwear, where a high degree of elasticity is needed.

Breathability

Breathability is the ability of a fabric to allow sweat, evaporated by the body, to escape to the outside, thereby allowing complete comfort.

To achieve this, breathable fabrics allow air to flow through them easily. Elastane is literally not at all breathable, however it has been noted to be more “moisture-wicking”.

Moisture-wicking

While elastane is not particularly breathable, it is “moisture-wicking,” that is, it does not show sweat.

Moisture-wicking fabric often pulls sweat away from the body to the top of the fabric where it can evaporate, leaving wearer comfortable while they engage in any activity in which they are likely to sweat.

Heat Retention

In the early years of elastane, it was believed to be really highly heat-resistant, which means that notoriously heat-sensitive fabrics like nylon and polyester are improved when combined with elastane fabric.

The melting temperature of elastane is 446°F, and its properties would begin to be affected or be damaged at a temperature above 356°F.

Durability

According to most reviews online, elastane fibers are not exactly durable as they tend to over-stretch over time, in other words, they lose their ability to recoil to the original length. Thus, clothes with a very high concentration of elastane fibers would be replaced faster than others.

Most Common Uses of Elastane

Everything You Need to Know About Elastane Fabric

Elastane is especially used in the fashion industry. It is however also used for hospitality and in the manufacturing industries. If your preferences are fit and comfort, then elastane fabric provides that. This is why it is a key fabric composition in most swimsuits, exercise wear, socks, surgical hose, underwear, gloves, sport shorts, denims, etc.

Garments made from elastane are perfect for athletes and cyclists, as it has very resistance to wind. The health industry are also now using elastane in place of latex in the production of materials like rubber tubing, hosing, and knee or back braces.

In homes, elastane is a key component of fitted sheets and microbead pillows, and many materials are used in interior decoration and event planning like table coverings and latex chair coverings.

Washing Recommendations

Due to the chemical formation of elastane, it is very sensitive to heat and does not absorb liquid. Hence, it would therefore be counterintuitive to wash in hot water, or use iron and machine drying; these could potentially destroy the fabric.

Elastane also has a very smooth and slippery surface which sometimes takes away friction, this might bring about unintended consequences. To avoid this, it is advisable to blend elantane with other fibers.

Key Takeaway: If you want to keep your best elantane garments in the best condition and help maintain their elasticity, wash only with cold water and air-dry whenever possible.

If you have to use lukewarm water, please ensure that the maximum temperature is 30°C for both washing and rinsing, and that only a mild detergent that does not contain chlorine bleach is used.

Impact on the Environment

Elastane requires lots of energy to produce and is not biodegradable. From an environmental perspective, this is the central issue with elastane fabric – development and distribution.

Fabrics made with this substance do not break down in nature, even after a long time. They gradually accumulate in the environment and cause severe climate change effects.

Final Thoughts

As much as elastane fabric can provide flexibility, durability, comfort, fit, and so on, it also has a few demerits. It is not always breathable and might not be able to trap moisture, sweat, bad odor within the garment every time. These issues, however, can be managed by buying only elastane fabrics which have been combined with other breathable materials like 4-Way Stretch Nylon Spandex Matte Tricot.

With 77% five-star ratings, chances are that most people who purchased got good value for the proposed offering which promised durability and suitability for swimwear, sportswear, athletic wear, activewear, yoga pants and leggings, tablecloths, seat cover, fashion design, and apparel design.

From all indications, elastane fabrics are here to stay. From the earlier years of obscurity, it has gained global acceptance and has even dared to become perhaps the most popular fabric in the fashion world today. It may rightfully and like every other thing have some downsides, yet the benefits of owning one and if possible sewing it personally on the best sewing machines possible, outweigh any possible pains.

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