5 Fabrics Commonly Used in Swimwear Construction

Key swimwear fabrics: Polyester for durability, Nylon for stretch, Spandex for flexibility, Neoprene for buoyancy, PBT for chlorine resistance. Blend choices enhance comfort and longevity. UPF ratings important for sun protection. Proper care extends swimwear life. Eco-friendly options cater to sustainability.

what fabric is swimwear made of

When it comes to making a splash, the fabric of your swimwear matters as much as the style. Understanding the different materials used in swimwear construction can enhance your swimming experience, whether you’re lounging by the pool or slicing through waves.

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1. Dive into Polyester

A collection men's swim briefs in yellow, red and blue, and a pair of swim goggles, all on a blue background.

Polyester is a powerhouse in the swimwear world, prized for its durability and quick-drying properties. Unlike other fabrics, polyester stands up to chlorine and sun exposure, making it a long-lasting option for frequent swimmers. Its resilience means it retains its shape and color, swim after swim, which is why you’ll often find it in competitive swimwear.

Additionally, advanced polyester fabrics offer UV protection, an essential feature for outdoor swimmers. However, while polyester is strong, it’s not the most flexible option, which brings us to other materials that offer greater stretch.

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2. Nylon: The Stretch Factor

Top view of two attractive young women in swimwear smiling while lying down outdoors

Nylon is another popular choice for swimwear, loved for its softness and exceptional stretchiness. This fabric hugs the body, providing a snug fit that moves with you, making it ideal for a variety of water activities. Nylon is also lightweight and dries rapidly, ensuring comfort both in and out of the water.

It’s not as chlorine-resistant as polyester, so it may not have the same lifespan, but its superior comfort makes it a favorite for casual beachgoers and sunbathers. For the best of both worlds, nylon is often blended with other fabrics to enhance durability while maintaining its stretch factor.

3. Spandex: Flexibility First


Spandex, also known as Lycra or elastane, is the stretch star of the swimwear fabric universe. It’s what gives swimwear that second-skin fit, allowing for a full range of motion during every stroke and dive. Spandex is usually blended with other materials, enhancing the garment’s elasticity without compromising its structure.

While spandex itself is not very durable, when mixed with fabrics like polyester or nylon, it contributes to a durable, stretchy suit that can withstand rigorous swimming activities. Remember, though, spandex is sensitive to heat and oils, so caring for it properly is crucial to maintaining its elastic qualities.

4. Neoprene: Buoyancy Boost


Neoprene is the go-to fabric for wetsuits, thanks to its unique ability to provide insulation and buoyancy. This material traps a thin layer of water between the fabric and the skin, which your body heats, creating a warm barrier in cold water conditions.

Neoprene’s thickness offers a natural buoyancy, making it easier to float and swim. It’s also durable and resistant to abrasions, which is why surfers and divers favor it. Although less flexible than other fabrics, the support and protection it offers in harsher water environments are unmatched.

5. PBT: Chlorine Resistant

Womens clothing, accessories

Polybutylene Terephthalate (PBT) is a textile with a strong resistance to chlorine, making it an excellent choice for swimwear used in pools. Its fibers are not easily broken down by chemicals, which helps swimwear maintain its color and shape over time.

PBT is also quick-drying and offers a good deal of stretch, ensuring comfort and fit. While it may not be as widely known as polyester or nylon, PBT’s unique qualities make it a secret weapon for competitive swimmers who spend a lot of time in chlorinated water.

Fabric Blends for Durability

Fabric blends are a strategic choice in swimwear design, combining the best attributes of different materials. A common blend you might see is polyester with spandex, which offers durability and flexibility. These blends aim to provide comfort, fit, and longevity, ensuring that your swimwear can endure the rigors of frequent use.

By mixing fibers, manufacturers can also fine-tune the fabric’s weight, texture, and resistance to fading. When selecting swimwear, consider which blend might best suit your needs, whether it’s for casual swimming or high-performance activities.

Understanding UPF Ratings

Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) ratings are crucial for swimmers who spend time in the sun. UPF indicates how much UV radiation a fabric allows to reach your skin; the higher the number, the better the protection. Many swimwear fabrics now come with built-in UPF ratings, with some reaching as high as 50+, which means they block out over 98% of harmful rays.

When choosing swimwear, especially for children or for long days outdoors, UPF-rated fabrics can provide an extra layer of sun safety.

In the video, Enwild explains.

  1. Definition of UPF: UPF stands for Ultraviolet Protection Factor, and it is a rating commonly found on various types of clothing, including shirts, shorts, pants, and hats.
  2. Sun Protection Similar to SPF: UPF is a sun protection rating similar to SPF (Sun Protection Factor). The higher the UPF rating, the better protection the clothing provides against ultraviolet rays from the sun.
  3. Variety of Clothing Items: UPF ratings can be found on a variety of clothing items, making it a versatile measure for sun protection across different types of garments.
  4. EPA Regulation: UPF ratings are currently regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Any company producing a garment with a UPF rating must have it tested and certified by the EPA.
  5. Tag Indicates Testing: If a garment has a tag stating it has a UPF rating, it means that the company went through the EPA testing process, ensuring the accuracy of the claimed sun protection level.
  6. Consumer Confidence: Buyers can be certain about the UPF rating’s accuracy when purchasing clothing with a tag indicating the UPF rating, as it implies adherence to EPA testing standards.
  7. Protection from Ultraviolet Rays: The primary purpose of UPF-rated clothing is to provide protection against ultraviolet rays from the sun, contributing to skin safety during outdoor activities.
  8. Numerical Representation: UPF ratings are expressed as numbers, and generally, the higher the numerical value, the more effective the garment is in blocking ultraviolet radiation.
  9. Comparable to SPF for Sunscreen: The concept of UPF is akin to SPF in sunscreen products, providing a standardized way to measure and communicate the sun protection capabilities of clothing.
  10. Wide Availability: UPF-rated clothing is widely available, allowing consumers to make informed choices about sun protection when selecting their wardrobe for outdoor activities.

Swimwear Lining Materials

Female mannequins in colorful swimsuits

Swimwear lining serves multiple purposes: it provides modesty, improves durability, and enhances comfort. Linings are often made from the same fabrics as the outer layer, like polyester or nylon, but are usually thinner and softer. Some linings may include spandex for added stretch, ensuring the lining moves with the outer fabric.

A well-constructed lining can prevent transparency when wet and reduce the likelihood of suit ‘ride-up’ during activity. When trying on swimwear, pay attention to the feel and fit of the lining, as it can significantly impact your overall comfort.

Caring for Your Swim Fabric

Proper care extends the life of your swimwear, keeping it looking and performing its best. After each use, rinse your swimwear in cold water to remove chlorine, salt, or oils. Avoid wringing out the fabric, which can damage the fibers; gently squeeze out the excess water.

Lay the suit flat to dry away from direct sunlight, as UV rays can fade colors and degrade the elasticity. Steer clear of washing machines and dryers – hand washing with a mild detergent is the way to preserve the fabric’s integrity.

Eco-Friendly Swimwear Options

Eco-friendly swimwear options are on the rise, catering to environmentally-conscious swimmers. These sustainable fabrics are made from recycled materials, such as reclaimed fishing nets or plastic bottles, reducing waste and the use of new resources. They offer the same performance and comfort as traditional swimwear fabrics, with the added benefit of being kinder to the planet.

When shopping for eco-friendly swimwear, look for certifications like the Global Recycle Standard (GRS) to ensure the materials meet environmental and social criteria.

Whether you’re a competitive swimmer or a beach enthusiast, the right swimwear fabric can make all the difference in your aquatic adventures. By choosing the appropriate material for your needs and taking good care of it, you can ensure your swimwear stays in peak condition, ready for your next dive into the deep blue.

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