The rise of the fitness trend has seen high demand for stretchy, lightweight and breathable fabrics like Spandex or Elastane. From yoga pants, to leggings, to underwear. The Elastane fabric is also everywhere on forms of clothing. But what is the difference between Elastane and another stretchy fabric called Lycra? How do these two similarly featured fabrics measure up against one another? Well let’s take a look shall we.
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First And Foremost
Elastane is a synthetically produced fabric that does not occur under natural conditions. So to produce it, petroleum oil is put through a couple of industrial processes, first starting with high temperature heating. It is key to know, before any further analysis, that Elastane fabric or fiber is a material that Lycra or Spandex is made from. Lycra is just a brand name for Elastane and it is developed by the DuPont Corporation. The same is true for Spandex. They are essentially just other names of Elastane material (fabric/ fiber.) With that being said however, there may be some slight differences between traditional Elastane and Lycra due to the fact that Lycra belongs to a company and so they may produce it in a slightly (very slightly) different way.
Elastane vs Lycra: Differences?
As mentioned before, Lycra is Elastane. However in other countries, especially in North America, they may widely know Lycra/ Elastane as Spandex. And in Europe the same stretchy material is widely known as Elastane. The differences in the names (even though they’re fundamentally the same fabric) are from or because of different companies that produce them. They personalize their Elastane materials to stand out from amongst other companies that produce the same products. If you do some quick research you will find that Elastane has several other names (excluding Spandex and Lycra), which are namely Creora, Elastam, Elaspan and Dorlastan. Lycra is a patented name for Elastane fabric produced by the DuPont Corporation which manufacturers chemicals, pharmaceuticals and a broad array of petroleum-based fuels, and synthetic fibers (which are also made from petroleum – Like Lycra) and so on. The reason DuPont is the only company mentioned above is because they were the ones to invent Elastane (which was meant to be a substitute for rubber but later became a much more better alternative.) In summary, there are basically little to no differences between Lycra and Elastane.
Detailed Information On Elastane And Lycra
- Elastane is the general term used in reference to Polyether-polyurea copolymer (PPC) fabrics. This term is synonymous with Spandex, and it also refers to the substance or material that the DuPont Corporation has branded as Lycra.
- Spandex is not a brand name (like Lycra), it is in fact the name that the DuPont Corporation gave to Elastane during its developmental phase, and the name has stuck ever since. Spandex is in fact an anagram (a word that is created by rearranging the letters of another word) of the word ‘expands’, which is the main property of Elastane fabric.
- Lycra is the name and registered trademark of Elastane material that is specifically produced or manufactured by DuPont. This means that fabrics made from Lycra branded Elastane will cost unseasonably more than fabrics made from unbranded Elastane. That being said, most companies have the luxury of producing Elastane and it isn’t branded or patented but it is one and the same with Lycra.
- Lycra is simply DuPont’s way of making a lot of money from a product (Elastane/Spandex) that originated from their scientific research laboratories.
So How Is It Made?
Unlike most other synthetic materials, Elastane is not made into plastics (even though the base substance used in making Elastane called Polyurethane has properties used in a number of scientific and industrial plastic applications), it is however present in many of the clothing available in today’s markets. There are four different methods used to produce Elastane but the main one (used almost 95% of the time) is called solution dry spinning. Which begins with the production of a prepolymer (Polyurethane) which as previously stated is the base substance for Elastane (Lycra.) When the solution dry spinning process is at play, the prepolymer is then reacted with an acid known as diamine. It is then diluted in a solvent to make the resulting substance thinner and easier to handle. The product is then placed in a fiber production cell which spins to produce the fibers which will become the Elastane fabric. After spinning, the solution/ product is pushed through a device with tiny holes (which is what ultimately makes the Elastane fibers.) The fibers are then turned into solid strands through a process of heating the fibers with nitrogen and solvent gas compound. These solid strands are bundled together as they exit or make their way out of the spinning cell (all of the stages mentioned above take place in a device known as a spinning cell, thus the name of the process being ‘solution dry spinning’.) They’re then coated with magnesium stearate so as to prevent them from adhering or sticking to each other. Finally the strands are transferred to a large spool or thread holder where they’re ready to be dyed into any color and then woven into a stretchy Elastane fabric.
Almost every stretchy piece of apparel or clothing you have has some amount of Elastane in it. Probably not Lycra though since it is patented (which makes it unnecessarily pricey even though there are no significant differences between Lycra and Elastane.) They are visibly and basically the same thing, so in the case of Elastane vs Lycra, they’re both winners not only because they’re the same thing. But because of the amount of breathable and stretchy clothing that can be made from them. You will find that most athletes who participate in extreme or high activity sports are wearing something made from Elastane (Spandex) to aid with movability, flexibility and overall comfortability. Literally no other fabric can do that and that is a big win for Elastane.