This post might contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase using one of these links, we might earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Learn More

Lycra vs. Polyester: Which Is Better?

Lycra and polyester are two of the most popular fabrics that are used nowadays and they are often featured in most of the clothing that is produced. There are differences between these two materials which result in people choosing which one of them they prefer based on their needs. They differ in the way they are produced, used, and maintained.

Key Takeaways

  • Lycra and polyester are produced using synthetic properties and chemical processes.
  • Lycra is made out of elastane fiber, whereas polyester is made out of polyethylene fiber. Lycra is often blended with other materials, while polyester can be used on its own.
  • The most significant feature of lycra is its better stretch in comparison to polyester.
  • Regardless of which material you choose to buy and use, both lycra and polyester are easy to maintain by using techniques that are suitable and practical to preserve the quality of the particular items.

Lycra vs. Polyester – How Do They Differ?

The most commonly used materials to produce activewear, swimwear, and even underwear are lycra and polyester. These two materials are synthetically made, which makes them durable, stretchy, and resistant to shrinking. In addition, both of these materials are known to retain their shape, allowing the body to move freely and comfortably.

Lycra and polyester are lightweight, resistant to wrinkles, and suitable for producing clothing for people who are physically active on a daily basis. Most sportswear and swimwear are made of either polyester or lycra fabrics. Even though synthetic fabrics are known to be less breathable than natural fabrics, lycra and polyester are also characterized by containing good properties that make them durable.

Polyester is proven to be slightly more durable than lycra, being more resistant to chlorine and exposure to the sun. In comparison, lycra is more stretchy than polyester, dries quickly, and also feels softer on the skin. Athletes and swimmers often prefer one or the other, depending on their preferences.

Production Process 

Lycra is a synthetic material made out of fiber elastane. This fiber is characterized by its stretchiness and elasticity. Lycra is produced using a chemical process in a laboratory. Elastane is often combined with polyester in order to give the material the ability to stretch even more than it normally does.

Manufacturers often add only a small amount of lycra to fabric because they are aware that this process will increase its ability to stretch. By containing fragments of other materials, lycra is known for its durability, stretchiness, and elasticity. It is moisture absorbent which makes it suitable for users of sportswear because it is resistant to perspiration and at the same time, it is comfortable to wear on the skin.

Lycra is also resistant to salty water which makes it convenient for producing different types of swimwear. Polyester is also produced through a chemical process using acid and alcohol to form a chemical reaction and similar to the production process of lycra, polyester is also produced in a laboratory. The fiber from which polyester is produced is called polyethylene. To produce clothing made out of polyester, its threads are spun together or blended with fragments of another material.

When a material such as polyester is blended with other materials, it acquires more forms of manufacturing. People often opt for this fabric because it is known to be very long-lasting which would also allow them to avoid the need of buying new pieces all the time. For this reason, buying polyester pieces results in saving more money as opposed to having the need to constantly buy and replace your items made out of lycra. Polyester is easy to take care of and it will not lose its shape easily. Lycra and polyester are synthetic materials made in a laboratory, only using different fibers.


Stretchy materials are most commonly used for the production of sportswear, swimwear, and underwear. Lycra is often blended with other materials, such as polyester, to increase its stretchiness and durability. Clothing pieces made out of lycra are produced in order to fit the body nicely while at the same time being comfortable when they come in close contact with the skin. Many types of underwear usually contain lycra which helps the material get more elasticity. Its tightness and durability also make it suitable for the production of sportswear and swimwear.

Lycra is characterized as being more stretchable than polyester and physically active people often find it to be more comfortable on the skin in comparison to polyester. However, its stretchiness may result in the items made out of lycra losing their shape after they are constantly worn. Polyester can be manufactured in many different forms and it can be used in various ways.

In comparison to lycra which is almost always used in a blend, polyester can be used on its own to produce stretchy clothing such as bathing suits, underwear, and workout clothes. Apart from the production of clothing, polyester can also be used to create curtains, carpets, and bags. Manufacturers use polyester to make various pieces that are affordable for any budget. Lycra and polyester are used to produce different products that are available on the market characterized by their durability and variability.


Both lycra and polyester are materials that are usually easy to take care of if it is done correctly. It is often recommended that lycra should be washed by hand to avoid damage to the item. Using a mild detergent and lukewarm water is the best option for gently rubbing the areas that need the most attention. After washing the item made out of lycra, it should be rinsed with cold water to remove any detergent residue.

Lycra is a very stretchy material but it can easily lose its shape if not maintained properly. In comparison, items produced from polyester are more durable than those made out of lycra, they do not lose their shape easily and there is no possibility of polyester clothing getting baggy or slouchy after wearing. Polyester items can be safely washed in the machine or they can even endure dry cleaning. However, it is important to wash your items made out of polyester by turning them inside out to avoid any possible damage or color fading.

Using warm water to wash polyester clothing is safe but reading the care label before washing is very important. To ensure that your pieces made out of polyester are 100% safe to be washed, the instructions on the label should be strictly followed. Also, it is not recommended to dry polyester with high heat because it may result in the appearance of stubborn wrinkles. The maintenance of both lycra and polyester can be easy and safe if appropriate methods are used in the process.

Final Verdict

The majority of people prefer wearing and using pieces made out of lycra or polyester when they are working out, running, swimming, or even trying to stay comfortable at home. Both of these materials are produced to leave a comfortable feel on the skin while at the same time offering stretchiness and elasticity allowing the body to move easily.

Oftentimes, lycra is preferred over polyester because it offers a smoother texture and stretchiness. However, polyester is proven to be more long-lasting than lycra and less likely to lose its shape. The durability of the materials used to make clothing is extremely significant for most people whose goal is to own pieces that will last them a long time.

Further Reading

Given that you seemed to enjoy what you read, why not do some further reading?

There is an excellent list of small sewing machines that you should not miss. Moreover, you will also find the answer if fabric glue is washable.

There is also an article that covers all the essential accessories every tailor should have.