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Lycra VS Spandex – What Exactly Is The Difference?


Summary: Are you having trouble distinguishing between Lycra and spandex products? Know that they are essentially the same product, with different names. When deciding between Lycra and spandex, it is important to understand the small variations in properties that can make one product more suitable for your needs. Spandex is a general term used to refer to the stretchy fabric, while Lycra is a specific brand name for spandex, owned by DuPont. Hence, here in this article, we have pointed out all the key differences you need to know that could help you choose either one without giving much thought to it.

What is Lycra Fabric?

Lycra is a brand name for a type of stretchy synthetic fabric made from a material called spandex. It was first developed by DuPont in the late 1950s and was first used commercially in clothing in the 1960s. It is made from a polymer called polyurethane, which is a synthetic polymer made from petroleum-based products.

One of the most notable properties of Lycra fabric is its high stretchability. It can stretch up to 500% of its original length without breaking or becoming deformed, and it can return to its original shape after stretching. This makes it a popular choice for clothing that needs to fit closely to the body, such as leggings, tights, and bodycon dresses.

Lycra is often blended with other fabrics such as cotton or polyester to add stretch and improve the fit and comfort of the garment. This blend is called spandex blend or stretch fabrics, which are used in a wide range of garments such as sportswear, swimwear, and shape-fitting clothing.

It is also used in many other types of garments such as hosiery, undergarments, and foundation garments, because it provides support and shape-enhancement. It is also used in making gloves, socks, and other clothing accessories, because of its properties to stretch and retain its shape.

Uses of Lycra Fabric

  1. Activewear and workout clothing: Lycra fabric is commonly used in the production of activewear such as yoga pants, leggings, sports bras, and compression garments.

  2. Swimwear: Lycra fabric is also commonly used in the production of swimwear, such as swimsuits, swim trunks, and rash guards, due to its stretchability, durability and resistance to chlorine, saltwater and UV rays.

  3. Undergarments and hosiery: Lycra fabric is often used in the production of undergarments such as bras, underwear, and hosiery due to its stretchability, shape retention, and durability.

  4. Form-fitting clothing: Lycra fabric is often used in the production of form-fitting clothing such as leggings, tights, and bodycon dresses due to its stretchability and shape retention properties.

  5. Sportswear and Outdoor gear: Lycra fabric is also used in sportswear, such as cycling and running clothing, as well as outdoor gear, such as backpacks and protective cases, due to its durability, moisture-wicking properties, and UV protection.

  6. Loungewear and sleepwear: Lycra fabric is also used in loungewear and sleepwear due to its stretchability, shape retention, and durability.

  7. Workwear: Lycra fabric is also used in workwear such as uniform pants and skirts, due to its wrinkle-free properties, stretchability and shape retention.

Where can you find Lycra fabric?

DuPont, the American multinational conglomerate, is the original creator and producer of the Lycra brand of spandex fiber. As a trademark product of the company, DuPont handles the production and distribution of Lycra fabric globally. The company’s technology and expertise in producing spandex fiber have made it one of the most widely used textile products in the world. The brand is available in more than 90 countries worldwide, and it is used in a wide range of clothing and textile applications.

The majority of Lycra’s production takes place in China, which is a dominant force in the manufacturing industry. DuPont’s production facilities in China are equipped with state-of-the-art technology, ensuring the production of high-quality Lycra fabric. The company’s supply chain is also well established in China, making it easier for the company to distribute the product globally.

With the increasing demand for Lycra fabric in the global market, DuPont is constantly expanding its production capacity and distribution network. The company is predicted to increase the availability of the Lycra brand in more countries worldwide. The brand’s popularity and reputation for providing high-quality spandex fiber make it a leading choice among textile manufacturers and clothing brands, making it a reliable choice for a wide range of clothing and textile applications.

Types of Lycra fabric

  • Cotton Lycra fabric: When creating or producing clothing, cotton Lycra fabric is an ideal choice due to its wrinkle-free properties. It is a blend of cotton and Lycra, which provides the breathability and comfort of cotton with the stretchability of Lycra. This combination makes it suitable for a wide range of clothing, such as t-shirts, leggings, and dresses.
  • Nylon Lycra fabric: This blend of nylon and Lycra is an excellent choice for the manufacturing of yoga clothing. The combination of nylon and Lycra provides added durability and strength, making it perfect for activewear. It is also water-resistant, making it suitable for yoga practice in any weather condition. The stretchability of Lycra makes it perfect for yoga movements, and the properties of nylon give it durability and strength.
  • Wool Lycra fabric: Wool Lycra fabric is ideal for manufacturing winter clothing. This blend provides the warmth and insulating properties of wool with the stretchability of Lycra, making it comfortable and functional. It is suitable for clothing such as sweaters, jackets and pants.

Costs of Lycra fabric

In comparison to other synthetic fabrics available in the market, the cost of Lycra fabric tends to be higher due to its unique properties and versatility. However, prices can vary greatly depending on the market conditions and supplier. It is possible to find lower prices for the fabric if you look around.

Generally, for plain (un-blended) Lycra fabric, prices can range from around $5 to $15 per yard for standard weight Lycra, and $7 to $20 per yard for heavier weights.

When blended with other fabrics such as cotton or polyester, the cost may increase slightly. For example, a cotton-Lycra blend may cost around $8 to $12 per yard, while a polyester-Lycra blend may cost around $7 to $15 per yard.

It is important to note that while the cost of Lycra fabric may be relatively high for manufacturers and textile companies, the cost for consumers is generally low as it is typically used in small amounts in clothing.

Pros of Lycra fabric

  1. High stretchability: Lycra fabric is known for its ability to stretch up to 500% of its original length without breaking or becoming deformed, making it perfect for clothing that needs to fit closely to the body.

  2. Shape retention: Lycra fabric has the ability to return to its original shape after stretching, which means that it maintains its shape and fit even after multiple wearings and washings.

  3. Durability: Lycra fabric is a very durable material and can withstand the stresses of regular use, making it perfect for activewear and other types of clothing that are subject to wear and tear.

  4. Easy care: Lycra fabric is generally easy to care for and can be machine washed and dried on a low setting, making it a convenient choice for clothing.

  5. Resistant to shrinking and fading: Lycra fabric is resistant to shrinking and fading, which makes it a durable choice for clothing.

  6. Completely wrinkle-free: Lycra fabric is completely resistant to wrinkles, which makes it a great choice for clothing that needs to look polished and presentable. This feature is particularly useful for travel clothing, workwear, and formal wear, as it eliminates the need for ironing or steaming.

  7. Versatility: Lycra fabric can be blended with a wide range of other fabrics, such as cotton, polyester, and wool, to create stretchy, comfortable, and durable fabrics that are perfect for a wide range of clothing.

  8. Moisture-wicking properties: Lycra fabric has moisture-wicking properties, which means that it can absorb and move sweat away from the body, helping to keep the wearer cool and dry. This feature is particularly useful for activewear, sportswear and workout clothes.

  9. UV protection: Some Lycra fabrics are treated with UV protection, which means that they can help to protect the wearer’s skin from harmful UV rays, making it a good choice for outdoor wear and swimwear.

  10. Support and compression: Lycra fabric can provide support and compression, which can be beneficial for people who need extra support for certain parts of the body, such as the abdominal area, thighs, or legs. This feature is particularly useful for compression garments, such as compression leggings, and post-surgery garments.

Cons of Lycra fabric

  1. Cost: Lycra fabric can be more expensive than other types of fabrics, which can make it less accessible for some consumers.
  2. Not suitable for all climates: Lycra fabric may not be suitable for all climates as it may not provide enough warmth in cold weather.

What is Spandex?

Unlike Lycra, which is a brand name owned by DuPont, Spandex is a generic term for a synthetic elastic fiber. Both Lycra and Spandex have similar properties, such as high stretchability and durability, but Spandex is known for its ability to stretch up to 5 times its original length.

While Lycra is commonly used in the production of undergarments, such as bras and shapewear, Spandex is more commonly used in the production of activewear, swimwear, and form-fitting clothing. It is often blended with other fabrics, such as cotton and polyester, to enhance their stretchability and durability.

Spandex is a versatile fiber that can be used in a wide range of applications, from clothing to industrial uses. Spandex is now considered as an eco-friendly alternative to traditional fibers, as it can be recycled and made into new fibers.

Uses of Spandex

  1. Spandex fiber is most commonly used in the sports industry to manufacture various sportswear like sports jerseys, swimwear, etc.
  2. Spandex is also used to construct conveyor belts, waterproof products, and various footwear.
  3. Regarding manufacturing different types of apparel, Spandex takes the top spot due to its durability and stretching abilities.
  4. It is also used in chemical plants to create cable sheathing and gaskets.
  5. Lastly, it produces tights, socks, gloves, and even belts.

Where can you find Spandex?

Lots of different countries around the world produce the fabric of Spandex. Such as Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan. These countries have advanced technology and machinery, which allows them to produce high-quality spandex fibers at a competitive price.

As spandex is a synthetic fiber, it requires a high level of expertise and technology to produce. China has been able to keep its labor costs low while still producing high-quality spandex fibers, making it a leader in the global spandex market.

However, the United States is also a significant player in the spandex market, with companies investing in research and development to improve the quality and production of spandex fibers. They are also emphasizing on producing more eco-friendly spandex fibers with low carbon footprint.

Types of Spandex

  • Two-way Spandex: The two-way Spandex can only be stretched in one way.
  • Four-way Spandex: On the other hand, four-way Spandex can be stretched in both ways.

Cost of Spandex

The original cost of the spandex fiber is relatively high due to the plethora of features it offers while being a synthetic fiber. Spandex fiber is quite expensive to own compared to all the other types. However, most of it depends upon the concentration of spandex fiber in your clothing.

If it is found that the spandex fiber content in your clothing is high, then it would surely be expensive. But if the cloth has a limited amount of Spandex, it wouldn’t be pricey.

Pros of Spandex

  1. Maintains its original shape even after stretching and flexing.
  2. Lightweight and easy to handle.
  3. Highly resistant to oil and other liquids, making it suitable for use in a wide range of applications.
  4. Significantly stronger than rubber and other similar materials, making it more durable and long-lasting.

Cons of Spandex

  1. Not as soft as other fabrics: Spandex is a synthetic fabric and may not be as soft to the touch as natural fibers.

  2. Can be difficult to dye: Spandex fibers can be difficult to dye due to their chemical composition, which can limit color options for manufacturers.

Conclusion – Which is better, Lycra vs. Spandex, and why?

Now, after coming to the end of the article and knowing all the differences, you need to know which piece of fabric will be better for you.

Both Lycra and Spandex have their own unique properties and uses. While Lycra is a brand name owned by DuPont and is commonly used in the production of undergarments, Spandex is a generic term for a synthetic elastic fiber and is more commonly used in activewear, swimwear, and form-fitting clothing.

If you are looking for a fabric that is stretchy, durable and can maintain its shape, then Lycra or Spandex could be a good choice. However, if you are looking for a fabric that is eco-friendly and can be recycled, then Spandex may be a better choice. Ultimately, the choice between Lycra and Spandex will depend on the specific application and your personal preferences.

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