Elastane and Polyester are some of the most popular man-made textiles in the world. These two fabrics are produced using a variety of chemicals with each of the resultant substances being used to make fibers and then fabrics that make clothing of these synthetic fibers. But how do they compare? How are they alike? Which one of the two is better or the more reasonable fabric to have? Let’s have a closer look at Elastane vs Polyester.
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The term Elastane is a generic or commonly used term that is used to describe branded fabrics like Lycra. It is also known as Spandex, and is most famously known for its incredible elasticity. It is worth mentioning that Lycra, Spandex and Elastane are all the same stretchy material. However on a continent like Europe the term most commonly used is Elastane, and so it might be assumed that it is a different type of fabric altogether in other countries. The most effective way to produce Elastane is called ‘solution dry spinning’, whereby a prepolymer is first produced and serves as the basis of the Elastane. When dry spinning is instigated or used, the prepolymer is reacted with a substance known as diamine acid. The product is diluted to make it thinner and easier to handle. Which can then be used to produce Elastane fibers by pushing the product through a spinneret device, which has very tiny holes in it that turn the substance into fibers.
These fibers are then heated within a nitrogen and solvent gas solution which will help in forming the liquid polymer (or fibers) into solid strands. These strands are then bundled together as they exit a cylindrical spinning cycle with a compressed air device that twists them as they exit. These can now be made into a variety of thicknesses to make Elastane fabric.
Polyester is a very popular type of fabric because of its low production costs and even cheaper retail costs. It is made from Ethylene glycol (which can be derived from fossil fuels or other inorganic sources.) Polyester is a polymer, or plastic. That is why you find that if an article of clothing is blended with a high percentage of Polyester it is more likely to be waterproof than one with no Polyester at all. Ethylene glycol is melted down to produce PET (or Polyester) and then the molten PET is pushed through a spinneret to form tiny fibers which are treated with chemicals and then weaved together to form Polyester.
Elastane vs Polyester: Comparison
- Both of these two substances (or fabrics) are man-made or synthetic. Which also means they are not as good for the environment as we would hope them to be. But Elastane is far more better for the environment than Polyester is, this is due to the amount of waste that is left at the end of production (which is not a lot for Elastane, but quite a lot for Polyester.)
- Whilst Polyester is made or derived from Ethylene glycol. Elastane is made from Polyether-polyurea copolymer (which is derived from petroleum oil though a complex process known as catalytic cracking whereby the petroleum is heated to a certain level and the PPC is produced.)
- Both Elastane and Polyester are pushed through a spinneret device to get their fibers, although their manufacturering processes are different. Elastane or its main ingredient (Polyurethane) is converted into Elastane fibers using the dry spinning method. Whilst Polyester is a melted down polymer (Ethylene glycol) that is then pushed through a spinneret device to form fibers which rapidly cool down and are then treated with chemicals.
- When compared to Elastane, Polyester is much more affordable. This is because the number of processes used to make Polyester are far more affordable and less time consuming than those used to make Elastane.
Elastane vs Polyester: The Key Differences
- Elastane is the most stretchable fabric in the world. No other fabric can even come close, not even Polyester (which has a stretchability similar to that of wool. It’s there but it isn’t a lot.) That is why Elastane is used in making stretch pants and leggings.
- When it comes to overall strength, Polyester takes the cake. It’s strength is even evident on a microscopic level with its fibers having a decent amount of it. That is why Polyester can be used in the making of ropes and fishing nets. Basically every activity that requires a high strength material.
- It is worth noting (to avoid any confusion) that both Elastane and Polyester are derived from petroleum (or in this case different forms of petroleum oil.)
Elastane vs Polyester: Similarities
- Elastane has quite a number of similar features to rubber. This makes Elastane extremely durable and less likely to wrinkle over time. After washing or having clothing made of Elastane for a couple of years, it would have no lint or bubbles present on the surface. Polyester has equally the same durability as Elastane, that is why it is used in making tires, hiking apparel and many more industrial grade materials.
- Polyester is a great breathable material and so is Elastane. You can be sure that when you’re wearing something made from either of these fabrics, you will not feel uncomfortably hot. Although because Elastane is more lightweight than Polyester, it is a little more breathable.
- Both Elastane and Polyester do not do well in absorbing moisture. Because they’re both petroleum-based (a type of oil), they have poor absorption capabilities to water. That is why Polyester is used as a waterproofing material for clothing.
So which one is better? The answer is none or both because they are each used in different ways to satisfy different needs. Therefore it would be particularly hard to conclude which of the two synthetic fabrics is better since they both have niches they appeal to. However when it comes to stretchability, breathability and strength (amongst other categories) you can rest assured knowing that both Polyester and Elastane perform differently and are each a winner in their own right.