How to Wash Spandex

A length of red, textured spandex fabric.
  • 1 hours
  • Beginner
  • 10
What You'll Need
Fabric softener or dryer sheets
Drying rack
Cool water
Hand-washing detergent or mild dish detergent

Spandex, also known as Lycra or elastane, is a greater part of your wardrobe than you likely realize. All kinds of garments actually contain at least a small amount of spandex in the fiber content to allow them to stretch and retain their shape. Therefore, it is important that you know how to properly wash and care for it so your clothing stays in excellent condition. The following steps will outline how to wash, dry, and iron spandex garments to retain their best qualities.

Step 1 - Check the Percentage of Spandex in the Fiber

The proper method for washing spandex depends entirely on how much is in the garment. Read the fabric composition label, usually located on the back of the waistband or neck, to find out the approximate percentage before you proceed to washing.

Step 2 - Wash and Dry According to Spandex Content

If your garment contains five percent spandex or less, then you can wash and dry it according to the methods for the most dominant fiber type. For example, cotton-spandex garments commonly contain very little spandex in the fiber, so you can just machine-wash them in warm water with a cold rinse, as preset by your washing machine. Machine-dry them afterward on your dryer's medium temperature setting.

Polyester-spandex clothes generally contain up to 20 percent spandex. Wash these pieces in warm water with a cold rinse, as above, but dry them on a lower setting if you're using a machine. Also, always use fabric softener or a dryer sheet to prevent the build up of static electricity in the dryer. Polyester-spandex garments will actually dry more evenly and with less wrinkles when hung up on a hanger, so this is also a very viable option as well. Hang pants and skirts full-length from their waistband using a clip hanger.

Most bras and support undergarments, such as shapewear, can contain up to 70 percent spandex, with nylon, polyester, or other synthetic fibers making up the rest. While these can be machine-washed in lukewarm water on a gentle cycle, never put them in the dryer. Hang all spandex shapewear from bras to spandex pants on a drying rack.

To maintain the shape, color, and life of spandex lingerie trim, it is best to hand wash these garments. Use cool water (cold but not icy to your hands) and a specialized hand washing detergent such as Woolite. You can substitute a mild dishwashing detergent to help remove salt and oils from perspiration as well. Scrub gently with your hands along all the seams, and rinse thoroughly with cool water. Wring the garment to get most of the water out before rolling it up in a large towel to gently press out the rest. Afterward, hang your washing the rails of a drying rack to dry. Do not stretch out spandex garments on a flat surface. They will return to their original shape when fully air-dried. Also, never use chlorine bleach when washing any spandex garment.

Step 3 - Iron

When ironing fabric with as little as two percent spandex, use the lowest steam setting, usually the one for wool. Tiny ripples and blisters will form in the material if the steam setting is too high and it will never flatten out again.

Polyester-spandex garments will require touch-up ironing if dried in the dryer. Use a dry iron on the recommended setting for nylon. Then, move the iron smoothly so it does not stick to the fabric or sit in any one place too long. Never iron any garment made up of more than 30 percent spandex.

If you follow this procedure correctly, you should never have any problems with the lifespan of your spandex fabrics.