Spandex vs Polyester: Differences and Comparison (With Table)

Spandex and polyester are two types of common fabric widely used in garments and industries. When you buy leggings or underwear, you may often see them on the mark. But when it comes to spandex vs polyester fabric, what are the differences?

The main difference between spandex and polyester lies in the ability to stretch. The 100% spandex fabric can stretch up to 8 times its normal size, and its blends also have great stretch. Polyester does not have such great stretch.

Due to the different properties of spandex and polyester, they are used for different applications. This article will walk you through the key differences between spandex and polyesters in detail.

Spandex vs Polyester: Comparison Chart

The following chart shows the basic properties and uses of spandex and polyester fabrics.

Fiber TypeSyntheticSynthetic
NicknameLycra, ElastanePET, microfiber
CompositionPolyether-polyurea copolymer, derived from petroleum productIt’s a polymer made from the ethylene glycol derived from fossil fuels or organic sources
ManufactureThe main composition called polyurethane is converted into fiber by using a dry spinning technique.The polymer is melted down to produce PET and the molten PET is pushed through a spinneret to form fibers which are treated with chemicals and weaved to form the polyester fabric.
PropertiesExtreme high stretchy, high breathability, high moisture-wicking, high durability, smooth and supple, very soft, lightweightMedium moisture-wicking, medium stretchy, medium breathability, high durability, high water-repellent, typically non-biodegradable, lightweight
Common UsesAthletic wear, stretch pants, yoga pants, skinny jeans, underwear, bras, leggings, etc.Outdoor apparel like hiking coats, pants, hoodies, dresses, jackets, underwear, socks, blankets, hats, sheets, etc.
PriceRelatively highCheap

What Is Spandex Fabric

Spandex, also called elastane or lycra, is a synthetic fiber widely used in clothing. Spandex has great elasticity. It is able to stretch 6 to 7 times its regular size and can return to its original state quickly with the disappearance of tension.

Spandex fabric is smooth, supple, and durable. It also has great resistance to various things, such as acid, alkali, sweat, and seawater, as well as dry cleaning and abrasion.

Due to its unique elasticity, spandex fabric is widely used in garments that need good stretch for comfort. For example, professional sportswear, fitness wear, and exercise clothing are such types of clothes.

Generally, the ratio of spandex used in clothes is small. When used, other fibers like cotton, nylon, and polyester blends are added in large quantities to reduce the gloss to a minimum.

What Is Polyester Fabric

Similar to spandex fabric, polyester is also a type of synthetic fiber made of polymer derived from petroleum. Invented in 1941, polyester is currently the largest variety of synthetic fibers. The biggest advantage of polyester fiber is that it has good wrinkle resistance and shape retention, as well as high strength and elastic recovery. It is durable, wrinkle-resistant, compression resistance, and heat-resistant. But the polyester fabric has poor hygroscopicity.

As polyester is a man-made fiber, it can be blended with cotton, hemp, and wool to make various fabrics. Because of its high resistance to compression and sunlight, it can be made into fishing nets, ropes, tire cords, etc. industrially, and can also be used as insulation material.

Spandex vs Polyester: 6 Key Differences

As two commonly used fabrics, spandex and polyester also have several key differences varied in structure and performance.

1. Elasticity/Stretchy

As mentioned above, spandex fabric has prized elasticity than other normal fabrics, polyester included. The elasticity of polyester is close to that of wool and can be fully recovered when stretched close to 5% to 6%. Spandex has better elasticity than polyester. Spandex can be stretched 5 to 7 times its original length. With its great elasticity, it is widely used in stretch pants and leggings.

2. Strength

Polyester fabric has much better strength than spandex fabric. The strength of polyester staple fiber is 2.6~5.7cN/dtex, and the high strength fiber is 5.6~8.0cN/dtex. Due to its high strength. polyester is widely used in ropes, fishing nets and other tools that require high strength. In contrast, the strength of spandex fabric is very poor.

3. Durability

Spandex fabric has similar features to rubber, which ensures it is extremely durable and does not wrinkle. Spandex fabric also has no lint and has no unsightly nodules after a long time of use. Polyester fabric has the same durability as spandex fabric. It can be used for many outdoor and industrial use such as hiking apparel, tires, boats, tarps, etc.

4. Breathability

Both spandex and polyester fabric are breathable. Spandex is popular not only because of its great stretch, but also lightweight and breathable features. And polyester is known for its durability, waterproofness, and breathability. Compare to this point of breathability, spandex slightly performs better than polyester.

5. Moisture-wicking

When it comes to moisture absorption, both spandex and polyester fabric are performing not well. Since they are synthetic fiber made of peotrum-derived polymer that has poor hydrophilic, the spandex and polyester nearly do not absorb water. Due to their bad water absorption, spandex and polyester also have poor moisture-wicking. In simple words, you may feel hot and stuffy in summer if you wear clothes made of thick polyester or spandex fabric. For the particular treated lightweight polyester or spandex fabric, the moisture on your skin will not absorb by the fabric but evaporate, which will give you a feel of cool.

6. Common Uses

Both spandex and polyester are the ultimate ingredients in clothes and are prevalent in the garments industry. Usually, there are no clothes made of 100% spandex fabric. Spandex is widely used as an ingredient for blends with cotton and nylon to improve the stretch. The added proportion of spandex is usually less than 30 percent. Yoga leggings are one of the most common spandex blends.

Compared with spandex, the use of polyester fabric is much wider. For example, in the garments industry, there are lots of types of clothes made of polyesters, such as hiking suits, dresses, blouses, slacks, etc.

Spandex vs Polyester: Which Is Better?

There is no absolute good or bad in one thing, and so do the spandex and polyester. The following part compares the common topics about spandex and polyester, which may give you some advice when choosing one of them.

Spandex vs Polyester Leggings

Spandex leggings and polyester leggings are common to see in our daily life.

Polyester fabric is very popular for activewear leggings due to its being hydrophobic and water-resistant. But it’s easy to get smells. Spandex is exist in almost every pair of skin-tight clothes, especially in leggings, but the percentage of spandex in them is different. Too much spandex will be very uncomfortable, and it would feel sticky and not very breathable. Like being hugged by an extremely affectionate rubber band.

Therefore, the ultimately suitable leggings are the blends of spandex and polyester, such as nylon-spandex fabric and polyester-spandex fabric. Those blends are more moisture-wicking and are great for you to keep dry when sweating.

Spandex vs Polyester Swimsuits

For swimming lovers, comfortable and durable swimsuits are essential. Spandex and polyester are two popular swimsuits fabric, and they have their own advantages and drawbacks.
Spandex fabric is ideal for competition suits because of its durable elasticity and form-fitting fit. And it has a relatively low cost than that of polyester fabric. But spandex fabric does not hold up well in chlorine and should be rinsed with cool and fresh water after use.

Polyester swimsuits have better chlorine-resistant and colorfast compared to spandex swimsuits, and they are also very durable. But polyester fabric does not stretch as much as Spandex, leading it harder to put on at first.

Nylon Spandex vs Polyester Spandex Fabric

As mentioned above, spandex and polyester are man-made fibers, and there are lots of blends on the market. Nylon-spandex and polyester-spandex are two common types of blends. And there are different proportions of spandex blended with nylon and polyester, which makes their properties varied. Here are some common nylon spandex and polyester spandex and their properties.


The key differences between spandex and polyester lie in the stretch, durability, breathability, and typical uses. Knowing their differences can help you choose the suitable clothes and make the right choice to buy your preferred apparel.

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