Swimsuits are typically made from a blend of materials, such as polyester, nylon, and elastane. These fabrics work together to provide colorfastness, chlorine resistance, and that iconic stretch you expect from quality swimwear.
Additionally, the silky feel and glossy sheen of nylon make your swimsuit comfortable and fashionable. Keep reading on to learn how these materials come together to create the perfect swimwear for your aquatic adventures.
Common Materials Used in Swimsuits
When it comes to swimsuits, a variety of materials are used to create the perfect fit and function for your needs. In this section, we’ll explore the common materials used in swimsuits, along with some of their advantages and disadvantages.
Polyester is the most popular choice for swimwear due to its durability and resistance to chlorine and the sun’s UV rays.
This means that it can endure long hours of use and maintain its vibrant color and shape for an extended period of time. However, it is not as stretchy as other fabrics and may not feel as comfortable to wear for long periods of time.
Some of its weaknesses can be mitigated if it is blended with elastane to create a stretchier, form-fitting swimsuit while still providing excellent comfort and support.
Nylon is another common material in swimsuits, known for its soft, silky feel and glossy sheen. It’s lightweight, dries quickly, and offers excellent stretch. However, it is less durable than polyester and may lose its color after prolonged exposure to sun or chlorine.
Also known as Lycra or elastane, this material provides the stretch and elasticity needed for swimwear. This material can stretch up to 600% of its original length and still return to its original shape, allowing for a close, comfortable fit and freedom of movement in the water.
Spandex is often blended with other fibers, such as polyester or nylon, to create swimsuits that are both stretchy and durable. The downside is that spandex can degrade quickly when exposed to chlorine and may lose its shape over time.
Neoprene is used in swimsuits because of its excellent insulation properties. Neoprene forms a barrier between the skin and the water, which helps keep the body warm in cold water. This makes it an ideal material for wetsuits, which are designed to keep surfers and divers warm in cold water.
Additionally, neoprene is resistant to water and moisture, which makes it a durable and long-lasting material for swimwear.
With regards to swimming, it is also used in triathlon wetsuits for open water swimming. Neoprene is also used in swimsuits because of its stretchiness, which allows for a comfortable and snug fit.
Polybutylene Terephthalate (PBT)
PBT is known for its high strength, stiffness, and resistance to chemicals and UV radiation. In swimwear, PBT is often blended with other materials, such as spandex or elastane, to create a stretchy and form-fitting swimsuit that provides excellent support and comfort.
PBT is also resistant to chlorine and fading, which means that it can withstand prolonged exposure to sunlight and chlorinated water.
As repeatedly mentioned, many swimsuits blend multiple materials to achieve the balance of stretch, durability, and comfort. For example, a polyester-nylon blend could offer the durability of polyester and the comfort of nylon, while an elastane blend would add the necessary stretch for a perfect fit.
Cotton and Natural Fibers
While less common, some swimsuits are made from cotton or other natural fibers such as hemp or bamboo. These materials can be more comfortable and breathable, but they typically don’t provide the same level of stretch and support as synthetic materials. Additionally, they may take longer to dry and may not be ideal for chlorinated pools.
Factors that Influence Swimsuit Material Choices
When selecting a swimsuit, you want a material that can withstand extended use, exposure to sunlight, and contact with pool chemicals. Polyester meets all of those criteria thanks to its durability and resistance to chlorine, which helps maintain the swimsuit’s color and shape. This makes it especially popular for competitive swimming.
Your swimsuit should provide both comfort and ease of movement. Since nylon has a silky feel to it and is lightweight, it has become a popular choice for swimsuit material.
Combining nylon with elastane creates a stretchy material that adapts to your body’s shape, allowing for unrestricted movement in water. Also, consider the lining fabric as it plays a part in comfort, such as a 4-way stretch lining for a better fit.
Choosing eco-friendly materials can minimize harm to the environment. Some swimwear companies have started using recycled materials such as Econyl, which is regenerated nylon from discarded fishing nets, to create sustainable swimsuits.
Exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can be harmful, so it’s essential to have swimwear that offers UV protection. A suit’s material can play a part in this regard; polyester fabrics, for example, come with built-in UV protection.
Most swimsuits have a 50+ UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) rating which means it blocks 98% of UV rays on areas that it covers your skin. They will protect your skin from harmful sun rays while you’re out in the water, but you still need sunscreen for those other areas that aren’t covered up.
Swimsuit Styles and Material Combinations
In this section, we will look at the material combinations for popular swimsuit styles such as one-piece swimsuits, two-piece swimsuits, men’s swimwear, and performance and competitive swimwear.
One-piece swimsuits are a popular choice for competitive swimmers, offering coverage, support, and speed. These swimsuits are often made of a blend of polyester, nylon, and elastane. Polyester provides colorfastness and chlorine resistance, elastane lends the much-needed stretch, and nylon offers a comfortable, silky feel with a glossy sheen.
Two-piece swimsuits come in various styles and cuts. Like one-piece swimsuits, most bikinis are made from a combination of polyester, nylon, and elastane for the same reasons mentioned above.
Men’s swimwear includes styles like swim trunks, board shorts, and briefs. The material composition for men’s swimwear also revolves around polyester, nylon, and elastane due to their durability, quick-drying properties, and comfortable fit.
Performance and Competitive Swimwear
Performance and competitive swimwear must meet strict criteria for durability and performance. These swimsuits are usually made from materials such as polyester, PBT, or a blend of these with other materials like spandex.
PBT is commonly used in competitive swimwear because it is chlorine-resistant and holds its shape, preventing sagging or stretching. Meanwhile, polyester provides excellent color retention and has strong, resilient fibers for prolonged use.
Caring for Your Swimsuit
Proper Washing Techniques
To ensure your swimsuit stays in great condition, the first step is to wash it correctly. Most swimsuits are made from a blend of polyester, nylon, and elastane, which require special care.
Hand-washing is the preferred method, using cold water and a gentle detergent. To treat sunscreen stains, turn the suit inside-out and dab the affected areas with a bit of detergent before washing.
You can machine-wash your swimsuit on a gentle cycle with cold water and a delicate detergent. Putting it in a mesh laundry bag can help prevent snags and stretching. Know that machine washing will cause greater wear and tear on your swimsuit and will decrease its lifespan.
Drying and Storage Tips
When drying your swimsuit, avoid wringing it out as this can cause the material to lose its shape. Instead, lay it flat on an elevated rack to air dry. You can also gently squeeze the water out by laying it on a dry towel and then rolling the towel along with the swimsuit up.
Make sure your swimsuit is completely dry before storing it. Store your swimsuit in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight to prevent fading and damage from heat. Make sure not to place anything on top of your swimsuit which could damage it.
Extending the Life of Your Swimsuit
Rotate between different swimsuits to give each one a break between wearings—this helps minimize the strain on the fabric and allows it to recover its shape.
When swimming in chlorinated water, rinse your swimsuit immediately after use to prevent chlorine damage. Also, avoid sitting on rough surfaces or using your swimsuit for activities that could cause friction or stretching of the material.
Keep in mind that there is no such thing as “chlorine-resistant” swimsuit materials. It’s just a marketing tactic. If you do not rinse off the chlorine after swimming, it will damage your swimsuit. Even the most durable materials will have their lifespans shortened without proper care.