Elastane vs Spandex vs Lycra vs Polyester: Which Is Better?

What is in a name? For fabrics, a name can mean status, class, or just a common everyday clothing item. Names tell a person exactly what they are getting when they are shopping for the right fabric for their sewing project.

Each of these fabrics has a special purpose. They are all human-made materials so they do not hold an edge over each other in that category. Polyester may be the best as it has more uses than elastane and spandex and lycra are just elastane by another name.

To learn more about these fabrics, just continue to read our article. It will let you in on spandex’s little secret as well as clear up its history. Polyester is a top fabric because it is tough, durable, and has many uses that the others do not have.

What is Elastane Fabric?


Elastine fabric was invented to be a replacement for rubber. The trees that grow rubber are not found everywhere in the world. That scarcity meant that the price of rubber could get very expensive if the company using it was not careful.

This fabric was designed to snap back into its original position just like rubber can but it does not have the durability of rubber. It is a good replacement but after some use, you may find elastane clothing stretching out of shape and needing replacing.

Despite what you have heard, Dupont did not invent elastane or spandex. That company somehow inherited the formula to make elastane from a Nazi Germany factory and the person who actually invented the polymer that created this fabric.

The Dupont engineer working on the project called it spandex as the material expanded and Dupont marketed it as Lycra. They were the first company to use elastane in clothing.

Are Spandex And Elastane The Same Thing?

Yes, they are although the quality of the materials and the names may be different, the two materials are the exact same thing. One theory behind the name change may due to the fact that in 1937 a Nazi German scientist invented elastane and used that term as the label for the material he started to produce.

Of course, with the war still in recent memory, Dupont, who as you know inherited the formula, did not want to be associated with anything Nazi. So they changed the name to Lycra and marketed the material under that label.

This was done despite their own scientist, Joseph shiver, calling it spandex. Supposedly, the term spandex is a play on words and was used to describe what the material actually did-- expand.

The spandex or elastane fibers were blended with other fabrics allowing them to stretchable and more attractive to the consumer.

Elastane vs Spandex


It is really hard to compare the two products. It is like comparing one big juicy red apple with another juicy red apple. There is no real difference between the two apples except maybe one got picked off the tree a few moments sooner than the other.

These two fabrics are the same fabrics but go buy a different name. It is not unreasonable to see a different name on the same item as some people may have a harder time pronouncing elastane than they would spandex. Plus, in the marketing sense, spandex is easier to remember and easier to identify with its characteristics.

The only real difference between the two fabrics is in who made them and to what quality level they were measured against. Different manufacturers make different levels of quality thus the elastane from one company holds up better than the spandex from another company and it is all due to the level of quality.

Spandex vs Elastane in Jeans

The most spandex or elastane you will get in jeans is between 1 and 5% and usually, the content is on the lower end of the scale. The stretch you get in blue jeans has labeled those clothing items as stretch denim because the material stretches more than it would without the blend.

Elastine is the European term for spandex and lycra is a synonym of both. No matter which name is used the stretch fibers used to create stretch denim are the same. They come from the same chemical formula, the same [processing and the same factories.

What that means is that your stretch denim jeans are not inferior if made from spandex than those made from elastane or lycra. They are still good quality jeans unless the materials were made to less strict standards than normal. Just make sure you are buying top quality products and you should be fine.

Which is Better Spandex or Lycra?


Neither unless one or the other was made according to substandard criteria. Spandex is the preferred fabric name for North America. Outside of that continent, you will find that Lycra is used in Australia, New Zealand, UK, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Brazil, Argentina, and Israel.

For Europe the preferred name is elastane. There is a brand name called Lycra but it has little to do with the quality of the fabric. Supposedly, this material is stronger than rubber but that remains to be seen as there are so many products that fail when used improperly.

Made from the polyether-polyurea copolymer, the polymer is supposed to mimic rubber and be able to snap back into position quite quickly. This enabled clothing manufacturers to revolutionize the clothing industry and expanded the products they could make and market.

This was a great invention for the athletic industry as now athletes could wear stretchable clothing that didn’t lose their shape very quickly. The clothing helped improve training by being resistant to many athletic factors that harmed other clothing material.

Elastane vs Lycra

What can be said that hasn’t already been said about this comparison. You are not going to find any manufacturer that has a lycra fiber that is different from the elastane fiber. The name is used in different parts of the world as it markets better under that term over another.

Marketing terms are important in different parts of the world as words have different meanings and associations. Take for example the Chevrolet car the Nova. The word means a bright star or light but in Spanish, it means, it doesn’t go.

While the sales were not affected, so they say, it is hard to gauge the number of people who didn’t buy the car. In some western countries, the word elastane would turn a lot of people off because of the Nazi Germany connection to that term.

Marketing plays a large role in how the same product is labeled in different countries.

Elastane vs Polyester


Each fabric has its own purpose. For elastane, it is the ability to snap back quickly to its original position when you return from a stretch. Your clothing stays secure and you avoid any embarrassment.

Polyester, on the other hand, was developed to fight wrinkles and other fabric issues. It was not made to be stretchable like rubber. Polyester is a durable fabric making it ideal for many different physical activities.

One thing polyester can’t do, and this is a rarity, is stretch. It needs elastane to make it even more valuable as a fabric when stretching is part of your everyday life. Then polyester is water-resistant as well as mold resistant.

This is one advantage that polyester has over natural fibers. Mold doesn’t seem to be able to live in or on polyester products. Polyester is quite breathable makes it an ideal fabric to wear.

Elastine cannot compare as it comes with different characteristics like being lightweight, resistant to cuts, and so on. Polyester is better because it has so many uses over elastane.

Is Polyester Better Than Spandex?

The same argument would apply here as it does in the previous section. Spandex has its purpose and its main use is for stretching and snapping back. Polyester cannot compete on this level. Score one for spandex.

But that is about the only category that spandex beats out polyester. The characteristics that come with polyester either tie spandex or trumps it handily. Spandex cannot compete in the durability department and that may be due to the heavier physical activity that material endures.

Nor can it compete in the anti-wrinkle category or the breathability factor. Polyester wins this competition for the same reason it wins with the elastane comparison, it is just a fabric that was designed for different uses and those purposes do not conflict with spandex, etc., but complement them.

In other words, polyester is better than spandex when it is used for the purpose=s it was designed for and spandex will be better for the same reason.

Elastane And Cotton Difference


There are a lot of differences between these two fabrics. For one difference, cotton is a natural fiber that is renewable and can be grown around the world in large quantities. Elastane is man-made and made in large vats using chemical equations.

Elastine acts like rubber something cotton cannot do but cotton may be softer and more comfortable to wear than elastane as it does not have that recoil that hugs your body when you move.

Also, elastane doesn't hold onto body odor which may be an important factor for some people. Then elastane is usually used as a blend only. It is doubtful that you will find 100% elastane shirts, pants, and blouses in your neighbor department stores.

Cotton is also very breathable and may be more durable over time than elastane fibers. 100% cotton is great but if you do a lot of movement you may want to get a 95% cotton and 5% elastane shirt to help you move like you need to.

Is Polyurethane The Same as Elastane?

The best answer that can be given is sort of. Elastine is a generic term in many parts of the world for spandex, which, like lycra, is a brand name. Polyurethane is a polymer used in a variety of man-made products.

One of those products is elastane. So technically, they are not the same as one is the result of a manufacturing process while the other is part of the chemical formula to create the products needed.

While the polyurethane polymer can go into different chemical compounds to help form different products, elastane, lycra, and spandex are mainly used in clothing fabrics to help them stretch a lot better.

The one, like polyester, has many uses, while the other is limited to its purpose. Let’s just say that without the polyurethane elastane would not exist.

Elastane vs Rayon


The first difference is that elastane is 100% man-made fibers while rayon is a combination of natural made fibers and man-made ones or processes. Another difference between the two is that rayon doe snot stretch like elastane does.

Plus, elastane is harder to make which raises the cost of the fibers and the clothing it is blended into. The two fibers have some similarities in that they are both lightweight and that they both do not react to heat very well.

Then rayon is not the sweat friendly fabric it is often made out to be. It does not absorb moisture and lets the moisture pool up in all the wrong places.

Some Final Words

Elastine, spandex, and lycra are all fish of the same color and species. There is no difference between the fibers placed under each of those labels. They are made from the same polymer and have a specific purpose.

Polyester on the other hand is more versatile and has many more uses making it the more valuable fiber you can get in this comparison. But when you need stretch, you go to elastane, etc., over polyester to stretch comfortably.

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