Unraveling Key Differences For Fabric Needs Of Spandex Vs. Polyester

Key Takeaway

  • Material Composition: Spandex is elastic, while polyester is a synthetic fiber.
  • Stretch and Flexibility: Spandex offers superior stretch and flexibility, making it ideal for activewear.
  • Durability: Polyester is known for durability and resistance to wrinkles and shrinking.
  • Moisture-Wicking: Polyester wicks away moisture, keeping the body dry during physical activities.
  • Breathability: Spandex is more breathable, enhancing comfort during workouts.
  • Maintenance: Polyester is low-maintenance and retains color well.
  • Cost Consideration: Spandex tends to be more expensive due to its unique properties.
  • Versatility: Polyester is versatile, used in various clothing applications.

Understanding the differences between Spandex and Polyester is essential when shopping for clothing or participating in the textile industry. Both fabrics are synthetically made and widely used in various applications.

This article will explore their unique properties, how they’re produced, and the significance of their usage in clothing and accessories.

Spandex is renowned for its exceptional stretchiness and ability to return to its original shape, making it a popular choice for activewear and form-fitting garments.

On the other hand, Polyester is a durable material known for its resistance to various conditions, such as wrinkles and moisture, making it an ideal option for outdoor wear and clothing that requires longevity.

Though Spandex and Polyester have significant differences, they are often combined to complement each other in creating high-performance, durable clothing suitable for diverse activities.

As you read through this article, you will gain insights into the advantages and drawbacks of each fabric and how to evaluate them based on your individual needs.

spandex vs polyester

What Are Fabrics?

Fabrics are flexible materials made from weaving, knitting, or felting fibers, either natural or synthetic. This section will discuss two popular synthetic fabrics: Polyester and Spandex. You’ll also discover their applications in yoga leggings and fishing nets.


Polyester is a synthetic fabric made from polymer fibers. The fibers are created from a chemical reaction between petrochemicals, specifically polyethylene terephthalate (PET).

Polyester is famous for its durability, easy maintenance, and versatile application. It can be found in various clothing, from casual to athletic wear. The history of Polyester goes back to the 1940s when it was first introduced as a more affordable alternative to natural fibers like cotton and silk.

  • Advantages: Durable, wrinkle-resistant, quick-drying, and affordable
  • Disadvantages: It can be less breathable, may pill over time, and is not eco-friendly due to being made from petrochemicals.


Spandex, elastane, or Lycra, is another synthetic fabric from polymer fibers. It is known for its ability to stretch and recover, making it an ideal choice for athletic wear and garments requiring a tight fit. Compared to Polyester, which offers a more relaxed fit, Spandex clings tightly to the body but provides exceptional freedom of movement.

  • Advantages: Highly stretchable, provides comfort and support, retains shape.
  • Disadvantages: Less durable than Polyester, can be less breathable, and deterioration may occur with exposure to chlorine or high heat

Yoga Leggings

Yoga leggings made from Polyester and Spandex both have their advantages and disadvantages. Polyester yoga leggings offer a more relaxed fit and are less likely to pill. However, they may be less breathable than spandex leggings.

On the other hand, spandex leggings provide a tight, secure fit and enhanced flexibility for yoga and other physical activities. They may, however, be less durable in the long run and could lose their elasticity over time.

Fishing Nets

Fishing nets can be made from various materials, including synthetic fabrics like Polyester and Spandex. Polyester is a popular choice for fishing nets due to its high strength, low cost, and resistance to UV degradation, chemicals, and abrasion.

On the other hand, spandex nets may have superior elasticity but are less durable and more easily damaged by exposure to the elements.

RELATED: Does Polyester Shrink In The Washer Or Dryer?

Comparison Of Properties

Spandex and polyester are two different types of synthetic fibers with distinct properties. Here’s a comparison of their key characteristics:


When comparing Spandex and Polyester, you’ll notice differences in their durability. Polyester is generally more durable than Spandex since it is resistant to abrasion, tears, and everyday wear.
On the other hand, Spandex is often more delicate and prone to damage, especially when subjected to harsh chemical treatments or high heat.


Both Spandex and Polyester are lightweight materials. However, Polyester is often the lighter of the two, making it an ideal choice for activewear or garments where you want minimal weight. Despite this, Spandex’s density gives it an advantage regarding fit and comfort, as discussed below.


Breathability is crucial for clothes, especially during physical activity. Polyester is a breathable material and is excellent at wicking moisture. Spandex’s breathability is less impressive compared to Polyester. Therefore, regarding breathability, Polyester stands out as the better option.

Fit And Comfort

Regarding fit and comfort, Spandex outshines Polyester due to its superior stretch and shape retention properties. Spandex clings to your body, providing a snug fit, whereas Polyester drapes more comfortably without clinging too tightly.

To get the best of both worlds, manufacturers often blend Polyester with Spandex to balance snug fit and flexibility.


One of the most significant differences between Spandex and Polyester is their elasticity, directly impacting their usage in various garments. Spandex can be stretched 5 to 7 times its original length and still recover its shape.
Polyester is less elastic, with a stretch limit of around 5% to 6% before losing shape retention capabilities.


From a cost perspective, Polyester is generally less expensive than Spandex. However, the final cost of a garment depends on other factors like quality, production process, and brand.
It is essential to consider the long-term value of the clothing in terms of durability, comfort, and fit when budgeting your wardrobe expenses.


The quality of both Spandex and polyester fabrics can vary, especially considering environmental factors during production. Higher-quality polyester is designed to be more durable, wrinkle-resistant, and stain-resistant.

Spandex quality varies, too, but mainly in terms of elasticity, stretchability, and longevity. A blend of Spandex and Polyester can often balance cost, quality, and product lifetime.


Both Polyester and Spandex are available in a wide variety of colors to suit your preferences. Polyester tends to hold color well and is less prone to fading with use or washing, making it a popular choice for bright, vibrant garments.
Spandex can also maintain rich colors but may be more sensitive to fading or damage due to sunlight exposure.

spandex vs polyester

Usage In Clothing And Accessories

Both spandex and polyester find extensive usage in clothing and accessories, often in combination or as standalone materials. Their distinct properties make them suitable for various applications. Here’s how they are commonly used:


When it comes to activewear, both Spandex and Polyester are commonly used. Spandex, also known as elastane or Lycra, is known for its excellent stretchability, allowing for greater freedom of movement.

This makes it popular for items like yoga pants and workout leggings. On the other hand, Polyester is a versatile fabric that can be lightweight and durable, wicking away sweat and maintaining its shape over time. It is commonly found in sportswear, such as running shorts and athletic tops.


In swimwear, you will often find a combination of these two fabrics. Polyester provides durability and resistance to chlorine, while Spandex contributes to stretch and a secure fit. Together, they create swimwear that is both comfortable and long-lasting.


When it comes to underwear, comfort and breathability are essential. Spandex is often used in the waistbands and leg openings due to its elasticity, ensuring a snug and comfortable fit. Polyester, a synthetic fabric, is less breathable than natural alternatives such as cotton, but it can still be found in moisture-wicking underwear designed for athletic use.

Bras And Pants

Bras and pants also benefit from the properties of both Spandex and Polyester. The elasticity of Spandex allows for a comfortable, supportive fit in bras, while Polyester can offer breathability and moisture-wicking properties in both bras and pants. Some designs may blend these fabrics with nylon or rayon for added comfort and function.

Dresses And Jackets

Polyester is commonly used for dresses and jackets due to its durability and wrinkle resistance. Polyester can be woven or knit into various textures, making it suitable for various styles.

While Spandex is not typically the primary fabric in these garments, it can be blended with Polyester to provide added stretch, ensuring a better fit and increased comfort.

RELATED: Does Cotton Stretch? The Best Ways Of How To Stretch Your Cotton Clothes

Production Methods

The production methods for spandex and polyester involve different processes, reflecting the unique properties of each material. Here’s an overview of the production methods for spandex and polyester:

Stretch Fibres

When it comes to stretch fibers, Spandex and Polyester have different properties. Spandex (elastane or Lycra) is a synthetic fiber known for its exceptional elasticity.

It is made from polyurethane, a type of rubber, and is typically combined with other fibers to create stretchable fabrics. Polyester is another synthetic fiber made from petroleum, specifically polyethylene terephthalate (PET).

Although Polyester is less elastic than Spandex, it can still provide a good level of stretch. Some properties of each fiber:


  • Highly elastic
  • It can stretch up to 7 times its original length.
  • Combined with other fibers in a blend for flexibility


  • More relaxed fit compared to Spandex
  • Similar stretch properties to wool
  • It can be used in a variety of apparel, including moisture-wicking

Blended Fabrics

Blended fabrics combine the properties of both Spandex and Polyester to create particular fabric characteristics. Often used for moisture management, this blend is quick-drying and moisture-wicking, which makes it suitable for activewear.

For instance, the hydrophilic nature of Polyester enables moisture absorption. The specific blend ratio depends on the desired attributes and end-user requirements.

66% Polyester, 34% Spandex

  • Good for activewear
  • Optimal moisture-wicking

50% Polyester, 50% Spandex

  • Better for apparel that prioritizes flexibility
  • Increased stretch properties

Manufacturing Process

The production process of Spandex and Polyester is quite different. Polyester fibers are produced using a heat and cooling process that involves chemically reacting PET with a catalyst.

The resulting material is melted, extruded, and spun into fibers. In contrast, spandex fibers are produced by reacting polyurethane with specific chemicals to create a liquid state. This liquid is then extruded through a spinneret, solidifying into fibers as it cools.

Both fibers can be made using recycled materials, which some manufacturers increasingly incorporate into their production processes. These eco-friendly initiatives often come from consumer demand and brand recognition that prioritizes sustainable practices.

spandex vs polyester

Considerations And Evaluations

Considerations and evaluations in the context of spandex and polyester refer to factors that are important when choosing, using, or assessing these materials. Here are key considerations and evaluations for both spandex and polyester:

Purpose And Specific Needs

When choosing between Polyester and Spandex for your clothing, it’s essential to consider the purpose and specific needs of the garment. Polyester is a versatile and durable material well-suited for various applications.

It is known for being wrinkle-resistant and holding dye well. On the other hand, Spandex is prized for its flexibility and stretchability, making it ideal for athletic or form-fitting apparel.


  • Polyester: versatile, durable, wrinkle-resistant, excellent dye retention
  • Spandex: highly flexible, form-fitting, breathable


Regarding environmental impact, it’s essential to consider the sustainability of these fabrics. Both Polyester and Spandex are synthetic materials derived from petroleum-based products.

However, Polyester has a higher level of recyclability due to its durability and resistance to wear. Spandex presents some challenges in recycling and biodegradation. Therefore, if sustainability is a priority, you may want to lean more towards choosing Polyester.


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Industry Standards And Brands

Brand Name Products And Innovation

In synthetic fabrics, brands like DuPont are known for developing innovative materials like spandex and polyether-polyurea copolymer. Spandex is valued for its exceptional flexibility, durability, and ability to snap back to its original shape.

Its excellent elasticity makes it popular in athletic clothing, swimwear, and form-fitting garments. Furthermore, Spandex is often combined with other fibers such as Polyester to enhance specific properties like wrinkle-free and stain resistance.

Polyester, a widely used synthetic fabric, also boasts well-known brands that set industry standards. Known for its longevity and colorfast properties, Polyester offers excellent resistance to abrasion, chemicals, and UV radiation. It is commonly used in outdoor fabrics, workwear, and various industrial applications.

Industrial Application

In addition to clothing and textiles, Spandex and Polyester have made their mark in numerous industrial applications. Here are a few examples:

  • Ropes: Polyester is a popular material for heavy-duty ropes due to its strength, durability, and UV resistance. It provides the best balance of traits necessary for marine, industrial rigging, and outdoor climbing applications.
  • Events: Staging and event environments often use polyester fabrics for their flame-retardant properties and ability to maintain crisp, clean lines. On the other hand, Spandex is favored for its stretchable fabric that is easily adaptable for draping, stage skirting, and custom set designs.

This brief look at industry standards and brands demonstrates Spandex and polyester fabrics’ versatility and wide-ranging applications.

Whether wearable items or industrial applications, these materials have proven their utility and value in various sectors. With continuous advancements and innovations, expect these fabrics to continue reshaping the textile industry’s landscape.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Are The Key Differences Between Spandex And Polyester?

Spandex is known for its exceptional elasticity, allowing it to stretch without losing its original shape. Polyester, on the other hand, has limited stretchability. The primary difference between Spandex and Polyester lies in their ability to stretch.

Which Material Is More Breathable: Spandex Or Polyester?

Polyester is generally more breathable than Spandex. Spandex’s stretchiness can cause it to cling tightly to the body, reducing breathability. However, many garments combine Polyester and Spandex to balance stretchability and breathability.

How Do Spandex And Polyester Compare In Sportswear?

Spandex is often chosen in sportswear for its elasticity, making it suitable for garments that require a tight fit and freedom of movement. Polyester is valued for its durability and moisture-wicking properties, making it suitable for activewear that must withstand regular use and washing and keep you dry during physical activities.

Spandex Or Polyester: Which Is Better For Swimsuits?

Both Spandex and Polyester have their advantages when it comes to swimsuits. Spandex offers a better fit due to its elasticity, while Polyester provides durability and resistance to chlorine and UV degradation. A combination of Spandex and Polyester is often found in swimsuits to achieve the best of both materials.

Are There Any Disadvantages To Using Spandex Fabric?

Spandex fabric has some disadvantages, including its susceptibility to damage from heat, such as during ironing or exposure to direct sunlight for extended periods. Additionally, it can lose its elasticity over time, especially with frequent washing and wear.

How Does The Feel Of Polyester And Spandex Differ?

Polyester fabric provides a more relaxed fit compared to Spandex. It drapes comfortably on the body without clinging tightly, allowing for ease of movement. In contrast, Spandex offers a tight fit, hugging the body and providing more support for activities that require flexibility and freedom of movement.

Jenny Williams