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Lycra vs. Spandex: Comparison

Oftentimes, there is confusion regarding the differences between lycra and spandex. Some people believe that these two materials are the same and they refer to them using only one term. Lycra and spandex are made out of a synthetic fabric called elastane. This material is known for its stretchiness and elasticity. However, there are differences between lycra and spandex.

Key Takeaways

  • Lycra and spandex are made out of the same stretchy material called elastane.
  • The term “lycra” was invented by a chemist in Virginia and it is used to describe a product.
  • The term “spandex” is a universal name for any fabric made out of elastane and it is used to describe the fiber thread.
  • Both lycra and spandex are characterized by their stretchiness and elasticity. However, pieces of clothing that are stretchy can lose their elasticity if they are not maintained properly.

Lycra vs. Spandex Clothing – How do they differ?

A common topic for discussion among experts is to determine whether there is a difference between lycra and spandex. They are both made out of the stretchy synthetic fabric called elastane. The terms lycra and spandex are used differently in different countries, manufacturers and brands. Companies tend to personalize the names of their brands using these terms and that is why people are left confused and led to believe that they are basically the same thing.

The term ‘’lycra’’ was invented in Virginia by a chemist called Joseph Shivers at DuPont’s Benger Laboratory and it was adopted as a name used for a fiber thread made out of spandex. Lycra served as a term to make their unique brand stand out. The name ‘’lycra’’ is known to describe a product, whereas the name ‘’spandex’’ is used to refer to fiber. If a company uses lycra to produce its clothing pieces, naming it “Lycra product” would not be a problem. However, if the company is using a spandex fiber produced by other companies, it is better to be labeled it as “spandex”.

The difference between lycra and spandex is mainly in how people and manufacturers choose to call them. In addition, certain pieces of clothing may be produced using more elastane than others, thus making them more stretchy and flexible. Apart from that, lycra and spandex are basically the same materials made out of elastane.

Production process

Many brands today produce clothing made out of lycra and spandex to create sportswear, bathing suits, and occasionally jeans. Lycra, being a product name made out of spandex, can be blended with other materials such as cotton or polyester. However, spandex is not comprised of additional materials.

This difference can be determined as the most distinguishing one between them, apart from the difference in their names. By containing fragments of other materials as well as spandex, lycra is known to be very durable, stretchy, and elastic. It is moisture absorbent which is suitable for the 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 appropriate for the production of swimwear.

The spandex fiber is very similar to rubber. It was actually invented to serve as a replacement for rubber. If you take a closer look at the term “spandex” and alter the letters, you get an anagram – “expands”. Clothing produced from spandex fiber is known to retain its original form even after it is stretched or expanded, making it very practical and durable for everyday use. Lycra and spandex may slightly differ in their names and their ability to blend with other materials, but they are ultimately similar in their appearance.


The invention of both lycra and spandex has introduced and also produced clothing that is used by people who are physically active and in need of stretchy active wear. The durability and stretchiness of lycra come as a result of its blend with spandex and other fibers as well as being produced from elastane. For example, with lycra fabric you will have a super stretchy waistband, moreover, there are also stretchy socks from lycra.

A lot of times lycra and spandex are blended to give us different materials, like thick hiking socks which have some cotton or even polyester to them.

This synthetic material has elastic fibers properties which make it wearable and comfortable. Spandex fibers are constructed from elastane, it is most commonly associated with flexibility and a rubbery appearance. The spandex fiber is characterized as being resistant to tearing, scratches and perspiration.

Clothing made out of spandex hugs your body and sits tightly on your skin while at the same time maintaining its original shape even if it is stretched from wearing often. Both lycra and spandex are known for their stretchiness because they are made from the same material.


Lycra and spandex fibers are often treated in the same way when it comes to cleaning them. Usually, both lycra and spandex are recommended to be washed in the washing machine using cool water. Also, clothing pieces that are very stretchy should be tossed in the washing machine inside out to prevent any damage to the particular items. A gentle wash cycle should be used when it comes to washing lycra and spandex to ensure the best possible care for your garments. In addition, certain pieces characterized by their stretchiness require the use of a special detergent that is suitable for their proper maintenance.

It is always important to read the label on the piece of clothing before washing it at home. Clothing that is made from elastane is not recommended to be put into a dryer because high heat can negatively affect the material. In order to avoid any possibility of ruining the item, air drying is recommended as the best option. Also, an excessive amount of chlorine can lead to damaging the elasticity of lycra and spandex. To ensure that you are using the best possible methods when it comes to maintaining the shape and quality of your stretchy clothing, always read the care label and strictly follow the instructions.

Final Verdict

The fabric called lycra is a type of spandex. All clothing pieces made out of lycra are spandex. However, not all that is associated with spandex is necessarily lycra. These two terms have been used for a long time to refer to the same thing and idea. Because of this, it is important to mention that the term “lycra” is used to refer to a particular product, whereas the term “spandex” is used to refer to the fiber. All in all, both lycra and spandex are characterized by their elasticity and stretchiness and there are no major differences between the two.

Further Reading

Carry on and read some other articles of ours, like can you dry clean silk fabrics. There’s also an answer to whether linen stretches.

Moreover, you will find out if you can dry clean jeans as well.