Yes, spandex (aka lycra or elastane) is a vegan material. Spandex fabric is not made from animal-derived products, and no animals are hurt during the manufacturing process. It is considered cruelty-free and suitable for a vegan lifestyle.
Spandex is sometimes called Lycra, which is the brand name DuPont (who invented the material) gave it. It is often referred to as elastane on clothing labels.
What is Spandex?
Spandex is a lightweight synthetic fabric that is strong and durable. It is highly elastic and can stretch up to five times its original size. It is heat-resistant and also dries quickly, which is why it is used to make sports clothing and swimsuits. It is sometimes combined with other fabrics, such as polyester or cotton (also vegan), and in rare cases may be blended with a non-vegan fabric (always check the label to make sure if you are not certain).
It is a synthetic fabric that is formed from a long-chain polymer (an organic material), and it can be combined with other fabrics like polyester or cotton (also vegan).
How is Spandex Made?
Spandex is about 85% polyurethane, which is a polymer created by reacting a polyester (a plastic) with a diisocyanate. The solution is loaded into a machine that contains a spinneret and forced out through very small holes, turning it into fibers. The fibers are exposed to nitrogen and a solvent gas solution to form solid strands and then formed into strands with a compressed air device that twists the fibers together.
Finally, the strands are exposed to a finishing solution of magnesium stearate to prevent the fibers from sticking together. As you can see, this process involves plastic and chemicals, but there are no animal products used during the manufacturing process.
Is Spandex Sustainable?
Just because a fabric is vegan does not mean that it is eco-friendly. Synthetic fabrics do not require agricultural land and don’t use much water during the production process, but do affect the environment in other ways. Spandex is created from polymers and raw materials that come from the petrochemical industry, which means that producing spandex/lycra uses large amounts of fossil fuels, releasing toxic materials into natural habitats.
Additionally, Spandex is non-biodegradable and is also a source of plastic microfiber pollution. Every time you wash a piece of lycra it releases microfibers of plastic into the water that are so small that pass through the wastewater filtration system and go into the rivers and oceans. These are then swallowed by fish and passed up the food chain.
Verdict: Should Vegans Buy Spandex?
Spandex is vegan and has many useful properties. However, some vegans choose not to purchase it because it is not eco-friendly.