Why Do Bathing Suits Lose Elasticity?

why do bathing suits lose elasticity

When you first bought your bathing suit, it clung to your body flatteringly and perhaps may have been a little too tight. Now, months or even years later, it no longer has the same form-fitting appearance. Instead of a snug fit, you are left with saggy bottoms or some other warped monstrosity. Why do bathing suits lose their elasticity? Are there ways to make your swimsuit last longer?

Nothing lasts forever; everything eventually wears down with time. For swimsuits, the result is that they can no longer retain their original shape and may be tighter or looser than before. This can happen naturally just by wearing it often into the water, but this process can be accelerated through improper care. Some additional causes are: poor material quality, putting it into the washing machine and dryer, scrubbing or wringing too hard, or exposing it to sunlight.

By knowing what causes your swimsuit to lose its elasticity, you’re also learning what NOT to do if you want your swimsuits to last as long as they can. Rather than replacing a swimsuit every few months, you can expect your current one to last years, saving you money and helping you avoid the hassle of buying ill-fitting swimwear that is difficult to return.

In this article, we will be going over the most common reasons why your bathing suits lose elasticity and how you can avoid them to ensure your swimsuit has a long lifespan.

Top reasons why bathing suits lose elasticity


You can expect any decent quality swimsuit to last over a year or even multiple years assuming you are properly maintaining them. So, if your swimsuits are losing their elasticity within a few months of getting them, something isn’t adding up.

Typically, when we give a time range to estimate a product’s lifespan, we are making a lot of assumptions, one of which is that you are using it an “average” amount of times. Most people will only wear their swimsuit on the weekends and during the summer, so there is actually a limited amount of time for them to wear it in a year.

On the other hand, if you are a competitive swimmer and wear it nearly every day for hours at a time, you can expect your swimsuit to get worn out much faster than the average person, to the point that they can literally start disintegrating. That said, even assuming “normal” use, swimsuits naturally stretch out over time regardless so the factor may simply be due to time.

Materials used

If your swimsuit is losing its elasticity in a short period of time despite your best efforts, then the culprit may be low quality materials. First of all, if your swimsuit absorbs lots of water and starts to sag right away, then that is a sign that your swimsuit isn’t designed for swimming (or it’s much too large for you).

Second, what you may be experiencing is a degradation of the fabrics from overexposure to chlorine or sunlight. Swimsuits are often made with a blend of materials like Lycra/spandex, nylon, neoprene, and so on. These materials are durable, but they aren’t invincible. Constant exposure to UV light and chemicals will degrade them quickly unless they are quickly rinsed.

Guess what’s present in all pools? That’s right, tons of chemicals, and UV light too if it’s an outdoor pool or you’re at the beach. This also ties in with the section above, where frequent beach and pool-goers will wear down their bathing suits much faster than the average person.

Lastly, there is also a concept called “perished elastic”, or you may have heard of it as “planned obsolescence”, where the manufacturers purposely make their products with lower quality materials so that they will fail in the near future, forcing you to fork out cash for another pair.


Another way for your bathing suit to lose elasticity is to expose it to heat. The most common ways of doing this are by putting your bathing suit in the washing machine with a hot wash cycle, putting it in the dryer, ironing it, or washing it with hot water by hand. In some extreme cases, even leaving the bathing suit in a hot environment, such as a hot car or hot room, can also cause it to lose elasticity.

We highly recommend you wash your bathing suit by hand after each use. Make sure to use cold water, as hot water can cause the materials to shrink. Do not put the bathing suit into the washing machine even with a cold wash cycle because the spinning is very rough on the bathing suit.

Similarly, to dry the bathing suit, do not rely on the dryer. Instead, line dry it or just lay it flat on a rack in a ventilated room somewhere out of direct sunlight. In addition to the heat which is obviously unavoidable, the tumbling action is also quite tough on the bathing suit.

As for ironing a bathing suit, well, I think you are starting to understand that heat is bad for a bathing suit, so let’s move on.

Being too rough

We touched on this topic in the section above, but it deserves special mention. Rough handling of a bathing suit will wear down the material faster and stretch it out. Part of the reason you should hand wash your swimsuit is because you can be much more gentle than a washing machine.

That said, some people can end up scrubbing their swimsuit in a rough manner. Another common mistake is to wring the bathing suit to squeeze the water out. Do NOT wring it or twist it in any way. The most gentle way is to sandwich the swimsuit between two towels (one on the ground below the swimsuit, one over the swimsuit) and to squeeze the water out by stepping on it.

Even when drying your swimsuit, you may be concerned with your wire hangers being too sharp. If you have a drying rack, we recommend laying your swimsuit flat on a rack so that the hangers don’t dig into the material.

UV rays

Finally, the sun’s UV rays have ruined many a swimsuit, and it could ruin yours too if you hang it in the sunlight hoping it will dry faster. UV rays are extremely damaging and will wear down your swimsuit quickly.

I know it’s ironic that your bathing suit is marketed as being UV resistant and able to protect your skin when it cannot protect itself, but that’s exactly the case. Only expose it to UV rays when you’re at the beach and no more, otherwise you are reducing your swimsuit’s lifespan.

Otherwise, expect your swimsuit to shrink, get warped out of shape, become discolored, and otherwise become brittle and weak. Seeing what UV rays can do to a swimsuit, I hope you are lathering yourself in sunscreen, because it can do far worse on your skin.