Spandex is an elastic fiber produced from along chain polymer consisting of polyurethane. Elastic materials support and shape the body. This property is called “holding power”. It means that the fabric stretches over the body, drawing in or firming the body as the fabric contracts. This characteristic gives spandex an advantage over other stretch fabrics, such as knits and stretch yarns, which allow ease of wear to stretch out but does not have the ability to snap back as does spandex. Spandex yarns may be similar to rubber yarns in resistance to sunlight, weather, abrasion, solvent and flexing. The fibers can be produced with different degrees of stretch. The fiber may be a monofilament or multi-filament ranging form fine to coarse. Spandex can be used uncovered or covered with other textile yarns in both woven and knitted garments for men, women and children. Denims, jeans and khakis using spandex yarns are gaining popularity. Spandex is commonly used for waistbands of men’s trousers, women’s slacks and the bodice and waistline area of dresses and gowns. The most common trade name for spandex is Lycra produced by Dupont.


Although spandex is the minority portion of a garment, the manufacturing processing sets up the potential for shrinkage. During manufacture, the fabric or yarn is stretched. The weave or knitting construction may temporarily lock in or create a stabilized fabric. The consumer and cleaner are not aware that the fabric has the potential for a great deal of shrinkage when subjected to heat and mechanical action of wear, drycleaning or wetcleaning. This shrinkage potential is more prevalent on cotton, linen, rayon and tencel blended with spandex. The yarn can be manufactured in various ways, and can be made with fine or heavier yarn. After repeated wearing and contact with body oils, perspiration, flexing and cleaning, the yarn can weaken causing loss of elasticity and stretching. Oftentimes the yarn snaps and causes fibers to protrude from the weave of the fabric, giving the appearance of lint.


The potential for shrinkage should be explained to customers at the counter when accepting Spandex blended garments. Shrinkage cannot be ascertained prior to cleaning nor can it be prevented if the fabric is over stretched during manufacture. Most reputable retail stores will accept returns on garments for stretching or shrinkage. Checking waistband areas for bagginess and broken spandex yarns. Examine garments for stretching and shrinkage. Distortion can be observed by examining uneven hemline area of dresses. Even if the garment has been previously cleaned, there is still the risk of shrinkage or spandex yarns, and this risk should be explained to the customer.


Spandex is usually the minority component in a given fabric and drycleaning should be done according to the majority fiber. Loosely knitted and constructed garment should be placed in a net bag, cleaned with cool solvent (75-80 F) and dried at the minimum reclamation for the type of solvent used.


Oily type paint remover and amyl acetate may swell or weaken Spandex. When spandex yarn is stretched over a spotting board, snapping of the yarns is more likely to occur. Chlorine bleach should never be used on spandex, as it will weaken and deteriorate the yarn. Spandex may be damaged at temperature achieved when heating chemicals with a light feather of steam from the steam gun. Limit the use of tamping and brushing especially when using dryside solvents and lubricates. Never heat dryside lubricants with the steam gun.


Wetclean Spandex blended fibers according to care instructions. Use a gentle cycle or wetclean by hand. Use mild lubricants and rinse thoroughly. Dry in a dryer on permanent press cycle or 110ºF. Never use chlorine bleach during wetcleaning.


Avoid steaming spandex garments on a steam air finisher. Make sure all solvent odors are gone before finishing or pressing Spandex blended fabric. Avoid high temperature or hot head presses and micro switch hand irons heated by an element. Expel steam out of iron before using to avoid a burst of super heated steam that can damage a fabric. Avoid stretching Spandex waistbands over the press. Use puffers instead.


Spandex is popular for fabrics because of it elastic properties that provide garments with stretch a comfort. Spandex fiber is both drycleanable and washable, but shrinkage frequently occurs because the fabric is overstretched in manufacturing. Fine spandex yarns with limited elasticity will snap easily when subjected to perspiration, heat and mechanical action or normal wear. Subsequent drycleaning and the mechanical action necessary will accentuate the condition. Check labels for spandex when accepting garments at the counter. These problems should be explained to the customer. Customers should return spandex-related problems to the place of purchase.

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