The Chemistry of Spandex


The chemistry of spandex wasn’t something that had always intrigued me; that is, not until

the day I started wearing leggings on a nearly daily basis and realized it was a main

component. When you hear spandex, your first thought might be the Under Armour you’re wearing under your football jersey, or the shorts volleyball players run around in. But it’s a lot more prominent in our world than you’d expect, and I chose to investigate how and why it became such a prevalent part of our culture.

Composition of ...

    • Flexible macroglycol
    • Stiff diisocyanate
    • Mono- and polymeric hindered phenols
    • Hydroxybenzotriazoles
    • Atmospheric inhabitants
  • Dyes

Main Chemicals, Compounds, Components


Chemistry's Role

Every factor of spandex is engineered in a lab. The complex components of it took years to pull together into the ideal flexible material you see today! The combination of a flexible macroglycol and a stiff diisocyanate create a structured.

Background Research

The name spandex is actually an anagram of “expands”, coined by Joseph Shivers in

1958. It’s found in nearly 80% of clothes sold in the United States today, but was first

introduced as an alternative for swimwear and athletic wear. It has an elasticity of about 500% its original size, and is almost always mixed with cotton or polyester, so as to avoid it being too tight.

The majority of spandex is made via a method called dry spinning, though other methods can be used. It begins as a liquid, with a lot of work done to ensure chain extension, before being funneled through a very tiny hole and heated to turn it into a thin set of strands, which are even further combined to create the individual fibers you would see used in a clothing factory. It’s then treated with magnesium stearate or other polymers to avoid it sticking together, and shipped off to other factories where it’s further dyed, treated, or altered to be put in your everyday clothing.


History, major products, methods of production

FTC definition, uses, characteristics, care

History, chemical makeup

History, uses, material, chemical makeup, methods of production,

Physical properties, chemical properties

Molecular structure