How to care for spandex, lycra or elastane

How to care for your sportswear, swimsuit, and other spandex, lycra or elastane clothing.

How to wash spandex

It is important to wash spandex properly so that it retains its elastic qualities. Always refer to the care label on your garment before washing.

Hand washing spandex

  • It is best to hand wash spandex to prevent excessive stretching. Never use washing detergent that contains chlorine bleach or fabric conditioner as it will destroy the structure of your spandex.
  • Always use lukewarm water (max 30°C) for both washing and rinsing. Use a mild detergent that contains no chlorine bleach.
  • Add the garment and gently agitate it, lightly rubbing any stains.
  • Rinse the item in changes of lukewarm water until all soap residue has been removed.
  • Gently squeeze the excess washing water out – do not wring.

Machine washing spandex

  • Place spandex garments in a mesh washing bag.
  • Use a mild detergent that contains no chlorine bleach.
  • Wash on a ‘delicates’ cycle (a cool and gentle wash cycle) and ensure that you set the machine for a slow spin at the end of the cycle.

Removing stains from spandex

If possible, remove the stain straight away. Soak the stain in cold water (do not use hot water as this can set the stain). Apply a small amount of a mild liquid detergent to the stain and gently rub it in (do not scrub it). Then wash as normal.

Removing strong odours from spandex

Fill a large bowl or bucket with lukewarm (max 30°C) water and add a small cup of bicarbonate of soda. Allow the garment to soak overnight. Rinse with cool water and air dry.

Drying spandex

  • Roll the wet garment in a clean towel to remove excess water.
  • Air-dry your spandex garment away from direct heat and sun.
  • Never dry your spandex garment in a tumble dryer.

Ironing spandex

Most garments containing spandex do not wrinkle when washed/dried properly. The general rule is to never iron garments that contain spandex. However, if ironing is absolutely necessary, iron on the lowest possible heat setting using smooth even pressure.

Mending garments containing spandex

The stretch properties of spandex can make it difficult to mend.

If you use a sewing machine to mend your garment, ensure you use a ball point needle (to avoid snagging the fabric) and polyester thread (which gives a degree of stretch to the stitching). If you need to pin your garment, place the pins inside the seam allowance to avoid making holes in the areas of the garment that you can see. Use a stretch stitch or a narrow zig-zag stitch. While sewing the fabric, stretch it slightly, to ensure that the seams stretch with the garment.

It is also possible to hand stitch your garment using a diagonal stretch stitch (keep the stitches a little loose to allow stretch). May Wright explains how to do this in her YouTube video.

Find out how to keep your spandex swimsuits in good shape