Spandex fabric’s elastic and stretch properties make it an ideal material for creating garments of a wide variety, from soft support pantyhose to figure-hugging swimwear. In addition, its stretch properties also make it useful in athletic garments and athleisure fashion – two new trends which combine leisurewear and exercise. However, due to advanced manufacturing processes required to produce it costlier than more basic fabrics.

Although DuPont dominates global production capacity, other fiber makers are making inroads. Within the U.S. alone, Globe Manufacturing of Fall River, Mass. produces Glospan and Cleerspan spandex; Bayer Corp – Germany’s Bayer’s American affiliate – makes Dorlasten brand spandex at their Bushy Park facility in South Carolina.

Spandex may not be made entirely of organic ingredients, but it can still be blended with cotton and polyester fabrics to give them some stretch without overstretching them. When used this way, Spandex imparts elasticity without becoming overly stretchy; alternatively it may be covered by nonelastic materials for use in knit fabrics, or left uncovered to provide its signature stretchiness.

Spandex can also be used as a protective coating on other non-elastic textiles, like leather. This helps to protect it from wear and tear while increasing clothing longevity; polyurethane trimmers or polyester acetate coatings may be applied as layers, with polyester acetate being the most widely recycled after use. Unfortunately, washing clothes containing elastane has an environmental impact; small amounts of non-biodegradable material enter waterways when these garments are washed, harming aquatic life while contributing to trash islands found throughout our oceans.