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Is spandex the same as neoprene?

Feb 10, 2021

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Spandex and neoprene have a link from historical times. The invention of spandex (Lycra) dates back to 1959 in Virginia. Neoprene is a form of synthetic rubber. We primarily use spandex for its stretchability. Before the invention of spandex,  industries used rubber to provide elasticity to the products. However, rubber was heavy and less adaptable. So, the origination of spandex took place through a project to find a synthetic alternative to rubber.

Here, the terms of comparison are spandex and neoprene. Neoprene is the synthetic form of rubber, invented in 1930. The fabric made from neoprene is called neoprene fabric, and it has uses in apparel, sporting, military, and other industrial products. Although neoprene also shows good elasticity and some other properties similar to spandex, the applications of both are quite different. Let’s take a look at a comparative study of spandex and neoprene over several parameters.

Elasticity and recovery

-Spandex: Spandex has exceptional elasticity. It can stretch to over 500% of its original size. It also regains its original shape speedily and does not lose its original state even after multiple uses.

-Neoprene: Neoprene also shows high elasticity. However, because it is a form of rubber, its recovering property starts fading after several uses. If stretched beyond a certain point, it does not pull back at all.

Production

-Spandex: There are four production processes of spandex- melt extrusion, reaction spinning, solution dry spinning, and solution wet spinning. Solution dry spinning is the most popular amongst the four. It is a copolymer.

-Neoprene: Free radical polymerization of chloroprene produces spandex. It is a homopolymer.

Moisture-wicking

-Spandex: Moisture-wicking ability of spandex is high. It takes up water particles and sweat and wicks the moisture throughout the garment.

-Neoprene: Neoprene has no moisture-wicking ability. It is a waterproof material.

Breathability

-Spandex: Spandex is a highly breathable material. It allows the passage of air and moisture through it.

-Neoprene: Neoprene fabric is non-breathable. No air or water particles can pass through it.

Heat Retention

-Spandex: Spandex is incapable of heat-retention.

-Neoprene: It has high heat-retention properties.

These points of difference indicate that neoprene and spandex are not the same. Apart from some similarities, both exhibit unique properties. That is why their application range differs.

For instance, spandex has a moisture-wicking ability, and it does not retain heat. Neoprene does not wick moisture but is insulative. This property allows the use of spandex in swimwear. Neoprene, for the same reason, has applications in waterproof products such as wetsuits.

Spandex has uses in the medical industry like gloves and bandages. Neoprene has applications in military equipment like gaskets.

Overall, spandex has applications in form-fitting garments like shapewear, stretch pants, skinny jeans, swimwear, and motion capture suits. Neoprene has applications in scuba gear, sportswear, electronic and industrial equipment. So, some of the products like sportswear fall under both neoprene and spandex. However, spandex is primarily known for its elasticity and neoprene for its waterproof and heat-retention properties.

 

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