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What is the Best Swimsuit Material?

Swimsuits are made from a variety of materials, from polyester to nylon and blends of elastane. Whether you're choosing swimwear for young kids or infants, it's important to select the right material for your children's needs. Different types of fabric will have a different impact not only on the quality of the swimwear but also on the comfort and overall experience of your children. 

Today, the three most common types of fabric used for swimwear are elastane, polyester, and nylon. It’s essential to understand the benefits of each one and how they affect comfort, breathability, durability, and cost.


Elastane

More popularly known as Spandex, elastane is a synthetic polymer that contains at least 85% polyurethane. The term Spandex is an anagram of the word 'expand,' and that's what the main characteristic of this material is. 

There is technically one type of elastane, although it is called different names. Spandex is one of them. DuPont gave this name as a working title for elastane when it was first developed. The product was eventually branded as Lycra, but the Spandex name remained. DuPont branded its elastane product under the name Lycra once they began to market it to manufacturers. Today, the name remains a registered trademark of the company.

Elastane is made up of a long series of polyurethane and is designed so that it can be stretched to a certain limit and returns to its original shape when released. It's similar to rubber, only that it's lighter, stronger, more versatile, and virtually superior in many aspects. Because of its chemical composition, elastane can expand up to 8 times its original size.

The Advantages and Uses of Elastane

Elastane is the preferred material in most swimwear due to its excellent UV-protective quality. On its own, elastane has a UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) rating of 25-39. Study also shows that wet, relaxed, elasticized fabric has a good UPF rating, in contrast to non-elasticized knits that are considered inappropriate for UV protection. 

Elastane doesn't stand alone but is blended with other types of fabric. Wool, rayon, cotton, or even bamboo are common host fibers for elastane. Blending elastane to these materials helps create a fabric that's versatile, resilient, and has excellent shape retention. However, when it comes to swimwear, the usual pairing fabric for elastane is nylon or polyester.

While not at all breathable, elastane has moisture-wicking properties. It's the perfect fabric for summer wear because it doesn't show sweat. Moreover, it quickly dries after you've gone out of the water. And since it's stretchy and offers a comfortable fit, it is used by many competitive swimmers. It "sticks" well to the skin and is very light, allowing for better aerodynamics. This is going to be the least of your concern when it comes to children's swimwear, but the fact that your kids are wearing something with no loose openings eliminates safety concerns when they're out swimming.

Clothing manufacturers use elastane mainly for form-fitting and streamlined clothes, such as yoga pants, ski pants, and skinny jeans. They blend elastane with other kinds of fabric, considering that using 100% elastane is not very economical. 

Because of its strength and elasticity, elastane usually doubles the lifespan of the garment it is blended with. When well taken care of, elastane swimwear can last years. Swimwear made of elastane must be properly rinsed in cool water after each use.


Characteristics of elastane:

  • Lightweight
  • Supple
  • Smooth
  • Soft
  • Strong and durable
  • Resistant to scratch
  • Good UPF rating
  • Resistant to sagging despite repeated stretching
  • Resistant to deterioration caused by bodily fluids, skin products, or detergents

 

Nylon

The word "nylon" is a generic term referring to a family of synthetic polymers used in making various types of clothing. Unlike traditional materials like cotton and wool, nylon is entirely synthetic and contains no organic components. 

DuPont Corporation, which invented and developed nylon, initially named the material "no-run" based on its potential to resist snags when utilised in fabric. Soon, the name was changed to “nuron” when it was found out that nylon was, as a matter of fact, subject to runs. Eventually, the name was changed to “nilon” and then again to “nylon,” which became the fabric’s official name.

Like elastane, nylon is a polymer, which means it is composed of a long series of small organic molecules called monomers. A good analogy for nylon would be a chain, which is constructed using repeated links. Nylon is actually an entire family of materials derived from polyamide monomers extracted from petroleum. DuPont patented the original form, so competitors had to develop alternatives. 

The Advantages and Uses of Nylon

Nylon has excellent strength and is incredibly resistant to abrasion. This is one reason it is used in many sports. It's not as elastic as elastane, but it does have good elastic recovery, which means you can stretch it to its limits, and it won't quickly lose its shape. Nylon also has good resistance to UV rays, which is why it's also a popular choice for many swimwear. While it doesn't offer the same amount of protection against UV rays as elastane, its chemical structure helps boost its sun-protective properties, making it a better option than natural fibers like cotton.

Nylon is also water-resistant. If you own a windbreaker that says "water-resistant," there's a big chance that it's made from nylon. Unlike silk, cotton, and other similar fabric types, nylon doesn't absorb water or moisture. When you're wearing a nylon shirt, for instance, and you go to the gym or go swimming, water from the pool or sweat will simply rest on its surface and evaporate in a short while.

This water-resistant quality of nylon makes it a superb choice for umbrellas and summer apparel where moisture-wicking is imperative. This particular quality of nylon also protects it from the growth of mold and mildew.

Nylon was first marketed as an alternative to silk, particularly as the main fabric used in stockings. Unlike silk, nylon was cheaper and more durable. To this day, nylon is still used for women’s stockings, with other form-fitting apparel such as yoga pants and tights as its major applications.

Nylon is also used in sportswear, although it’s not considered as superior as synthetic and semi-synthetic fibers like polyester and elastane. While nylon has good moisture-wicking properties, it’s not as good as polyester and elastane in this area and is considered a poor choice for most physical activities.


Characteristics of nylon:

  • Stretchy
  • Soft yet durable
  • Resistant to abrasion
  • Resistant to stain
  • Resistant to wrinkling
  • Resilient
  • Good UPF rating
  • Dries easily

Polyester

Polyester is a synthetic fabric derived from petroleum and was introduced into fashion in the seventies. It's not uncommon for some apparel products to be made solely from polyester, although it's more common for this material to be blended with other natural fibers, such as cotton. The result of such a combination is what's known as a poly-blend. 

One advantage of blending polyester with cotton is that it helps improve shrinkage and durability. It also reduces wrinkling, and since it's highly resistant to extreme conditions, it is ideal for outdoor applications.

The most well-known form of polyester fiber is ethylene polyester, also known as PET. The process of producing this polyester involves ethylene serving as the polymer that interacts with various chemicals to create a stable fibrous compound. Many of the synthetic products we see and use in daily life are made using PET. 

The Advantages and Uses of Polyester

For years, polyester fabric has been a leader in the swimwear industry. Whether blended with elastane or by itself, polyester has been a favorite material when it comes to swimwear. Thanks to new technologies, polyester has come a long way in terms of its texture. Compared to other fabrics, polyester is more comfortable to the skin, is more resistant to chlorine, and can hold its color for a longer period.

Most people prefer swimwear made from polyester for many different reasons. It's a popular choice because of its high UPF rating, which is usually between 25 and 39 depending on the type of apparel. Polyester itself contains a benzene ring, which absorbs UV light. Shiny polyester clothing is also highly protective against UV rays because it reflects radiation.

Polyester is also stain-resistant. It's especially highly resistant to water-based stains.  Since it doesn’t easily absorb liquids, it is easier to clean and maintain. Even the most stubborn of stains can be removed simply by soaking polyester fabric in a mixture of warm water and laundry detergent.

Although polyester is not as elastic as elastane, swimwear made of polyester is highly durable and can retain its shape after repeated use. And as already mentioned, it has a high UPF rating, which makes it an ideal material for any beachwear. The synthetic nature of polyester also gives it a natural resistance to mildew and chemicals, two major factors that reduce the lifespan of most fabrics. Another huge plus with polyester swimwear is that while they may be a bit pricier initially, they are very durable and are the perfect choice if you're looking for a long-term investment.


Characteristics of Polyester:

  • Strong and resilient
  • Soft and comfortable
  • Durable
  • Resistant to shrinkage
  • Resistant to pilling and abrasion
  • Resistant to wrinkling
  • Quick-drying
  • Good UPF rating
  • Holds its shape well
  • Good breathability
  • Very economical compared to other synthetic fiber

How Do Elastane, Nylon, and Polyester Affect Different Types of Swimwear?

It's good to know what your options are when you're looking for swimwear for your kids. Unlike adults, children's skins are a bit more sensitive, and the fabric their swimwear is made of can be the difference between a perfect day and an unpleasant experience at the beach. We've already covered the three major types of fabric used in swimwear. But how do each of them affect the overall quality of different types of swimwear?

Bodysuits

When shopping for bodysuits for kids, your main priority should be on comfort, and not just looks. Nylon is a popular choice of fabric for bodysuits, particularly for adults. It repels water, it's quick-drying, and it's soft to the touch.

Nylon has excellent tensile strength as a type of fabric, so it's a good choice however, unlike polyester and elastane, nylon deteriorates more quickly when exposed to UV rays and pills much more easily. Moreover, nylon bodysuits don't seem to have as good a colour-retention property as polyester or elastane. When constantly exposed to UV light and chlorine, nylon bodysuits tend to bleed and fade.

Polyester is also a popular choice for bodysuits. Like nylon, it's soft yet strong, but its main advantage is that it's more resistant to UV and chlorine. Polyester bodysuits have a high endurance against saltwater, chlorine, and sunlight. They also have a higher resistance to constant stretching, so much so that they surpass nylon bodysuits in terms of durability. And when blended with elastane, polyester provides a figure-fitting stretch. 

Elastane is also often blended with nylon, producing a bodysuit with better stretch and durability. You won't find a bodysuit that's 100% elastane since that wouldn't be a good idea. Elastane has a slippery texture, which is a big no in the pool. It's also not as breathable as other fabrics and is more sensitive to heat. 

Boardshorts

Boardshorts have always been manufactured using either nylon or polyester. Throughout the years, the idea was to design them using fabric that dries quickly. The design may have remained the same, but many features have been added to improve their function and overall quality further.

Nylon is a popular fabric for boardshorts. They dry more quickly and are perfect if you wish to spend a longer time in the water. Polyester boardshorts are more comfortable to wear, though. That's because they are more elastic and fit the body better. Not to mention that they are less expensive than boardshorts made of nylon and nylon blends. 

Boardshorts made of elastane blends are also becoming more popular, particularly among casual wearers. They are more durable and stretchy and are very comfortable for swimming. Poly-elastane blends are especially a common preference for boardshorts. These shorts contain a four-way stretch fabric that provides more freedom of movement but they don't have as much durability as Polyester boardshorts. 


Kids are very active, especially when they're having fun at the beach or in the swimming pool. Boardshorts made of Polyester allow kids more dynamic movements, such as running and jumping. And since it is naturally stretchy, they fit more comfortably.

All Cheeky Chickadee boardshorts for boys are made of 100% polyester. This makes them lightweight and comfortable to wear. This also means they are quicker to dry than most types of boardshorts. Polyester is an excellent choice as the main fabric for boardshorts for boys because it doesn’t wrinkle easily. 

Bikinis

Children's bikinis have come a long way in the last several decades. The '50s paved the way for one-piece bathing suits, which eventually evolved into modest versions of adult bikinis. Around this time, bikinis were mostly made from latex and nylon. This was an improvement from earlier versions made from rayon fabric, which, while durable, proved to be problematic when wet.

Today, if you pick up a set of bikinis, there's a high chance that it contains nylon or polyester. Bikinis made using nylon are lightweight and offer moisture-wicking capability, which contributes to faster drying times. They also stretch and hug the body well, making them comfortable to wear. Nylon bikinis are very versatile. They are thin and flexible but are tough and durable, nonetheless. 

As for polyester bikinis, these suits often earn high marks for their durability. Modern technology has also helped reduce the absorbency of this material, which means bikinis containing polyester are quick-drying. Finally, compared to bikinis made from elastane and nylon, polyester bikinis are also more resistant to chlorine, which helps increase their lifespan.
 These properties of polyester bikinis make them the first choice over other options, such as wool and cotton. One disadvantage of nylon bikinis is that they easily fray or fade when exposed to the sun for too long.


Meanwhile, bikinis made of elastane also make an excellent choice. Although elastane isn't typically the sole fabric in bikinis, it can significantly enhance a bikini's stretchiness as part of a fabric blend. The more elastane the swimsuit contains, the more it becomes shape-hugging. This is a huge advantage for bikinis, as the more the fabric sticks tightly to the body, the more comfortable it is to wear for swimming.  This is why we use a polyester elastane fabric for our bikini swim fabric at Cheeky Chickadee. 


The Verdict

When it comes to swimwear fabric, no single fabric type wins it all. You've probably guessed it already since elastane, nylon, and polyester are typically blended with other materials when used for creating different kinds of clothing, including swimwear.

However, among the three types of fabric primarily used in swimwear, polyester tops the choice of suitable swimsuit materials. With its excellent resistance to UV light and chlorine, it is more durable and easier to care for. It doesn't easily bleed when washed and doesn't fade even when constantly exposed to chlorine and sunlight. And when blended with the qualities of elastane, the intrinsic qualities of polyester make it the best option for any type of swimwear.

Here at Cheeky Chickadee, almost all of our swimwear products use a blend of 85% Polyester (for lightweight strength and quick-drying) and 15% Elastane (for stretch and durability). This combination gives our swimwear products a UPF rating of 50+, ensuring complete protection for your children's skin against harmful UV rays. It also means our swimwear products have excellent texture. They are soft and comfortable to the skin and yet are not slippery.

All our products, whether rash tops, zip swimmers, or shorts, are soft to the touch and breathable. They are all highly resistant to chlorine and are made with four-way stretch materials that ensure durability and comfort. Finally, since our swimwear products are made using a blend of polyester and elastane, both of which have excellent color-sealing properties, you can rest assured that their colours won't fade over time.

Cheeky Chickadee swimwear are designed to make your kids stand out in the crowd. They are well-made and have been crafted using high-quality fabric to ensure 100% comfort for your little ones. Visit our shop today and enjoy exciting deals on a wide range of zip swimmers and swim shorts for girls and rash tips and boardshorts for boys!

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