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does elastane shrink?

Does Elastane Shrink? Complete Guide on Elastane/Spandex

The direct answer to the question does elastane shrink is that it can definitely shrink. Of course, it remains to see under which conditions elastane can shrink.

It also remains to be seen just how much it can shrink.

We should also understand exactly what this fabric is so that we know how to properly take care of clothes or other things made of elastane.

Does Elastane Shrink? It Can Shrink

When I wrote an interesting article answering the question whether nylon is stretchy or not, I mentioned that spandex/lycra is the most stretchy fabric we can work with. And then comes nylon.

Well, elastane is also known as spandex or lycra. Thus, elastane/lycra/spandex is known around the world for being stretchy. You’ll also see what garments are made from it and what other uses it has.

To better understand how much stretch it possesses, you should know that elastane/lycra/spandex can stretch 5-8 times its normal size, which is totally impressive.

Can a fabric that stretches so much its normal size also be capable of shrinkage?

The question does elastane shrink becomes: does a stretchy, synthetic fabric shrink?

My final answer is that elastane can shrink. But let’s see how much it can shrink so that we know what to expect.

How much does elastane shrink?

We all know that natural fabrics or natural fibers are the most likely to shrink an outstanding amount. If we have clothes made from natural fabrics, we all know that washing by hand and air drying is most of the time preferable.

Do we have to take the same precaution for garments and objects made from elastane/spandex/lycra?

Not really.

Of course, we should always follow the instructions that come with each piece of clothing or object that we buy. Tags carry info about washing temperature and drying.

While the answer to the question does elastane shrink is that it can shrink, we should also outline that it doesn’t usually shrink all that much.

We could say that most polyesters can shrink a bit but that percentage is very tiny, maybe up to 3%-5%. It’s nothing to be very scared about.

If we wash elastane fabrics in high temperature water and we tumble or tunnel dried high, it is very likely that the fabrics will shrink a bit.

However, since elastane is a synthetic fabric made of plastic, it’s a petroleum based fabric, there’s actually the risk that washing and/or drying the fabric at high temperatures can melt the fibers. So, we must always keep that in mind when we’re handling synthetic fabrics.

How to care for elastane clothing

Following the labels is the first thing we should do when we buy our clothing.

Moreover, more labels will recommend washing in lukewarm water and air drying. This will allow you to avoid shrinking them, prolonging their lifespan, and not damaging the fibers under high heat.

Can we shrink elastane/spandex clothing?

As I’ve mentioned, elastane/spandex can shrink when it comes in contact with high temperatures, when it’s washed or dried.

However, I also mentioned that we can also risk melting the fibers in synthetic fabrics when they come in contact with very high temperatures.

There are a bunch of guides online that teach us how to shrink clothing made from spandex.

Still, when we apply a heat treatment to shrink polyester and spandex, we must keep in mind that there’s a temperature at which these synthetic fabrics can reach a breaking point.

You also have a higher chance of succeeding to shrink your spandex garment if it’s made from a blend of elastane and cotton.

The instructions are:

  • Turn the garment inside out to preserve its color
  • Wash it on the hottest setting in the washing machine
  • Detergent is only needed if you also want to wash the piece of clothing
  • Place the garment in a pillowcase before placing it in the dryer
  • Select the highest heat and the longest cycle

This is basically the kind of guide we find online for shrinking elastane.

My personal recommendation is to skip all that and to use a sewing machine to modify your garment the way you like it. Or take it to a tailor if you’re not into sewing at home.

What is elastane?

Let’s dig deeper into what elastane is, besides the fact that it’s also known as spandex or lycra and that it’s pretty much the stretchiest fabric we can work with.

Elastane is a generic name for stretch yarn. Lycra is the best known of global elastane yarns.

The fibers are elastic or rubber-like and the main feature that differentiate it from other fibers is its high stretch and recovery.

Basically, elastane is a generic term that is used to describe a yarn or fabric with exceptional elasticity.

The generic name spandex is used in North America, which is actually an anagram of the word expands.

Elastane/spandex is used for:

  • athletic wear, including competitive athletic wear
  • cycling wear
  • yoga pants
  • underwear
  • socks
  • bras
  • leggings
  • shorts
  • swimsuits
  • motion capture suits

It has also been the fabric for comic-strip superheroes, heroines, and arch-villains.

Elastane blend fabrics

When we talk about fabrics, we actually talk about fabric blends, like 91% polyester and 9% elastane blend fabric, to give you an example.

Elastane/spandex are fibers used in fabric blends because only a small amount enables a garment to return to its original shape after stretching it for any amount of time.

Thus, the main role of elastane in a blend fabric is to make clothes easily return to their original shape even after being stretched.

Elastane fibers provide the recovery for the fabrics made from a blend that contains elastane in a quite rather small percentage.

We can’t make garments solely from elastane because it’s not actually a fabric, although I tend to call it that because it’s easier to talk about it.

Elastane is actually a yarn and that’s why it must be incorporated into blends. Otherwise, we can’t make garments with it.

Thus, elastane is used in the production of knitted fabrics or woven fabrics.

Polyester Elastane Fabric

A polyester spandex is used for sportswear, for making T-shirts, skirts, head scarves, leggings, dance outfits and costumes, etc.

You’ll find a fabric with a content like 90% polyester 10% spandex.

The garments made from this blend will feel soft to touch and they can bring warmth. Their main feature is that they contour beautifully to our body shape.

But it’s also a blend that is comfortable to wear, a breathable knitted fabric.

Cotton Elastane Fabric

A fabric with a content like 95% cotton 5% spandex is very popular.

The fabric will stretch and recover both width and lengthwise.

It is a soft, breathable, and lightweight fabric.

Moreover, it has low heat retention abilities so it can be perfect for sewing some summer apparel.

We can use it for tops, skirts, leggings, T-shirts, etc.

However, I recommend washing this kind of cotton elastane fabric by hand with cold water and letting it drip-dry.

Nylon Elastane Fabric

We can find fabrics that contain 90% nylon 10% spandex. Or 80% nylon 20% spandex.

It’s another fabric that can be used for sportswear, activewear, dancewear, swimwear, etc.

All in all, even if the answer to the question does elastane shrink is that it can shrink, as long as you wash it in lukewarm water and air dry your garments, they will have a long lifespan and, if you need to shrink spandex, then use a sewing machine or take your garments to a tailor.