When you put on fitting denim jeans or yoga pants, you usually expect them to fit your body’s shape or stretch with your body. This is because most of these clothing use spandex or elastance to create this form of elasticity. This elasticity leaves you wondering what the difference between elastance and spandex is. Elastane is a fiber that doesn’t grow naturally. Instead, manufacturers synthetically produce it through varying industrial routes. In this spandex vs elastane comparison, you’ll learn where spandex and elastane come from and how they differ in uses and other factors. Knowing what to expect, let’s begin.
What is Elastane Material?
This is a generic name used to refer to products created from spandex. It is used in the textile industry for its elasticity, especially in the European region. Elastane is a polyether-polyurea copolymer material invented in 1958 by Joseph Shivers at the Dupont laboratory. There are various ways of producing the elastane fiber like solution dry spinning, melt extrusion, reaction spinning, and solution wet spinning. These methods cover the initial steps of reacting monomers to create the prepolymer fabric. This prepolymer reacts in different ways to create the elastane fiber material. However, research shows that 90% of elastane material’s production is through the dry spinning method.
Elastane features an exceptional elasticity that helps increase the pressure comfort of the fabric. This improves the body movement of the material. Pressure comfort refers to the response towards the clothing by the pressure receptors of the body. Some of the top features of elastane are its stretchiness, looseness, softness, and snug feature. In addition, it can be lightweight or heavy, depending on the production process of the material.
What is Spandex Material?
Now that you’re aware of what elastane material is, you’re probably wondering what spandex material is. Understanding the fabric is crucial in this spandex vs elastane material. It is pretty similar to elastane in many ways. Spandex is a synthetic fabric, and it doesn’t grow naturally because there are no organic resources to manufacture it. Elastane and spandex come from the same chemicals, and the history dates back to the 50s when Joseph Shivers discovered elastane. Although Dupont started considering the synthetic elastic fiber in the 30s, it wasn’t till the 50s that they materialized the idea.
Are Spandex and Elastane Referring to the Same Thing?
Elastane is more than just a word and refers to a material that’s quite stretchy. Most people believe that elastane bears another name: spandex. These two concepts refer to the same material, which is super-flexible. Before we conduct eco-research on these fabrics, let’s clarify the spandex vs elastane confusion to learn the difference between them.
The main difference between elastane and spandex depends on the quality of the material and the name. The quality of each material usually depends on the production process. However, the two materials are similar and serve the same purpose most time. The theory behind the name change is that it might be because a Nazi German scientist invented elastane. However, Dupont, who inherited the formula, didn’t want an association with the Nazis and then changed the name to spandex, marketing under the new name.
In recent times, the two names got used interchangeably. However, elastane is used in the European region, while spandex is popular in North America.
What are the Features of Spandex and Elastane?
Spandex and elastane are stretchy materials and refer to the same fabric. Elastane is a name derived from the elasticity of the fabric. Like other synthetic materials, these two fabrics begin in a lab. This section explores the features of the two fabrics.
Spandex vs Elastane – Stretch
The unique features of spandex and elastane are due to the material’s ability to stretch and return to its original form. Elastane is a name derived from the material’s elastic properties, which allow it to resist stretch. Many factors make a piece of fabric, like elastane and spandex, stretchy. For example, woven clothes stretch diagonally but not horizontally or vertically. On the other hand, most knitted clothes feature an inherent stretch due to the way the threads loop.
When you add spandex or elastane to knitted fabric, it causes it to become a super-stretchy material. When adding spandex to woven material, it simply provides a slight stretch but not as much as a knitted material. The amount of stretch usually depends on the inherent feature of the other fabric included in the blend. Although elastane and spandex have unique elasticity in their pure form, the stretch varies based on the material you add them to.
Spandex vs Elastane – Breathability
Spandex and elastane are not breathable. Therefore, most manufacturers tend to blend just a bit of the material into other materials. Fabrics like cotton have natural breathability, which offsets the elastane and spandex’s body-heat sealing or moisture-trapping properties. Spandex is popular in athletic wear. The popular blend for these wears is cotton and spandex or polyester and elastane.
If you want more breathable sportswear, you should opt for looser knits or weaves. The tiny gaps in these threads allow for airflow through the wear. Additionally, synthetic fabrics like polyester provide moisture-wicking properties when combined with elastane. This means that it will suck away the sweat and allow it to evaporate into the air.
Spandex vs Elastane – Sustainability
There are different opinions when it comes to the sustainability of both materials. Elastane’s production significantly cut back on the harvesting of rubber. However, rubber plantations tend to cause significant harm to the environment, so this is a positive effect. On the other hand, the production process of spandex and elastane requires several toxic chemicals. Disposing of this chemical can cause undue harm to the environment.
Most companies follow strict guidelines for the disposal of these chemicals. However, they exist even after being stored away. Additionally, elastane cannot biodegrade, which contributes significantly to plastic pollution.
Spandex vs Elastane – Durability
When it comes to durability, spandex and elastane are pretty impressive. It offers more strength and stretch than rubber. It tends to lose elasticity over time, but you can delay this process with proper care and maintenance. When it comes to elasticity, spandex outlasts many things. It is resistant to sweat and body oils, making it easy to keep smelling fresh. Of course, when exposed to heat or other outdoor forces, it can affect its longevity. Improper care could also damage these materials in the long run.
Spandex vs Elastane – Warmth
Spandex doesn’t offer much insulation on its own. However, combining it with cotton or soft polyester fiber can result in a stretchy and warm fabric. Spandex cannot compete with cotton for warmth because it is too thin to offer optimum insulation. Despite this, you can use spandex and elastane blends to seal in heat on cold days. Look for a mix of elastane with a fabric that offers you excellent stretch for this purpose. Then, you can combine it with a middle or outer layer to complete your warming outfit.
Spandex vs Elastane – Softness
Spandex isn’t as soft as feathers or Pima cotton. However, it offers wearers a smooth and light silkiness. When you add elastane or spandex to other materials, it doesn’t make it coarse or add any weight to the mix. Instead, it makes the blends silkier and much more lightweight. Additionally, elastane and spandex resist piling. It will keep your clothes looking new for many years.
Spandex vs Elastane – Costs
Spandex usually costs much more than other synthetic fabrics like nylon and polyester. This is because the production process of spandex and elastane is more processed and requires more chemicals. However, manufacturers only utilize a small percentage of spandex when manufacturing different garments. This ensures that the price of spandex rarely impacts the cost of clothing that uses these elastane and spandex materials. Therefore, if you want to purchase stretch fabric, you might have to pay about twenty dollars for this type of sportswear fabric.
Spandex vs Elastane – Care
Most stretch wears are easy to maintain because they can quickly go into the washer. However, when washing your elastane fabric, you should turn the garment inside out for the best result. You can place it in a mesh laundry bag to successfully prevent any snagging thread while washing. You should only utilize cool water and a gentle wash cycle to care for your material with spandex. There are also special detergents for spandex and elastane, so you can read the detergent label before utilizing it for your elastane garments.
Like most stretchy products, heat breaks down the material’s elasticity. Therefore, don’t place elastane in the dryer. Instead, the best way to get them dry is by air-drying them. This provides you with the best results for your elastane and spandex clothing.
Spandex vs Elastane – Usage
Spandex and elastane are pretty popular in the fashion industry as manufacturers utilize them for various clothing. Most form-fitting clothing usually contains elastane. This includes motion-capture suits, underwear, swimwear, hosiery, etc. In the past, people needed to utilize ribbons when wearing stockings to hold them up. However, in modern times, manufacturers simply add spandex to these socks to keep them from sliding down when worn.
Most athletic wear utilizes a blend of fabrics containing spandex for easy movement. Therefore, you can find spandex in yoga pants, bicycle shorts, running tanks, etc. This is to make the wearer more comfortable and improve performance. Although not all types of clothing contain spandex and elastane, stretchy waistbands usually do.
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Spandex and elastane refer to the same fabric that was developed from polyurethane. It is a synthetic fabric with impressive elasticity properties. You’ll often find a blend of spandex and another stretchy fabric in your comfortable clothing. Spandex and elastane are used in underwear, leggings, swimwear, socks, tights, etc. The idea of adding elastane is to ensure your clothes fit more comfortably. We hope this spandex vs elastane comparison helps you determine which is your favorite amongst the options.