Choosing Swimsuit Fabric: An Ultimate Guide to Swimsuit Material

Is Swimwear Fabric Important?

Selecting the best swimsuit material for training or competition can be tricky. With all the quality brands on the market today the choices can be somewhat overwhelming: Kiefer, Speedo, TYR, Arena, and Dolfin. The choices vary between what style, color or pattern, and fabric. The selection of swimsuit fabric is very important and should reflect your goals as a swimmer: are you looking for the best fit, durability, stretch – or all of the above? Your choice of swimwear is vital to meeting your expectations.

Types of Swimwear Fabric:


Polyester fabric has dominated the competitive swimwear industry for several years. Whether blended with Lycra® or by itself, polyester is the leading fabric for competitive swimwear. New technologies in polyester have improved the hand and feel of the material, allowing it to surpass other fabrics. Polyester holds its color and is resistant to chlorine. Some polyester swimsuits includes:

Characteristics of polyester fabric are:

  • Strong resilient fibers
  • Soft and comfortable fit
  • Durable, resistant to shrinkage
  • Abrasion/pilling resistant
  • Quick drying
  • Chlorine Resistant
  • UV Protection
  • Holds its shape
  • Exceptional breathability
  • 4 way stretch
  • Launders easily



Polyester PBT

PBT or Polybutylene Terephthalate

Combined with polyester yarns PBT has a natural stretch factor similar to Lycra. An example of this type of swimsuit is the Kiefer Team Accent PBT Flyback.

Characteristics of PBT fabric are:

  • Chlorine resistant
  • Lightweight
  • Matte finish
  • Fast Drying
  • Repels water
  • Snag Resistant


Nylon fabric is an alternative fabric to polyester. Nylon is lightweight and offers a smooth fit. Nylon fabric has its disadvantages as it is not chlorine resistant and not as long lasting as polyester. Some nylon swimsuits include:

Characteristics of Nylon fabric are:

  • Abrasion Resistant
  • Lustrous, soft
  • Low in moisture absorbency
  • Excellent elasticity
  • Launders easily

comfort copyanti-piling copystretch copy






Learn More About Swimwear:


About Emily Milak

Emily Milak is a lifetime competitive swimmer living in Southeastern Wisconsin. Emily is a US National Team champion, NCAA champion, and USMS champion with extensive coaching experience. She is a product development consultant at Kiefer.

140 Comments on “Choosing Swimsuit Fabric: An Ultimate Guide to Swimsuit Material”

  1. I bought men swim brief with 82% polyamide and 18% elasthane is it good for using in chlorine water

  2. Hello Emily,

    I just bought a swimsuit and the material are as follow:
    Shell: 80% nylon / 20% spandex
    Contrast: 82% / 18 Spandex
    Lining: 100% Polyster

    Please advise is the above material a chlorine resistance/chlorine proof. (I just start to swim 2-3 times a week and would like to buy a chlorine proof for last longer.)

    Thank you in advance.

    • Hello Drew! Nylon suits are going to be semi chlorine resistant, but your best bet for a long life is a polyester blend or 100% polyester suit. The nylon/spandex blend isn’t going to fall apart immediately on you, but it isn’t as sturdy as a suit with a polyester shell.

  3. I like what you said about getting a nylon fabric for your swimwear since it’s lightweight and smooth. My sister has been telling me about how she wants to get some new swimwear before the summer rolls around. I’ll share this information with her so that she can look into her options for nylon swimsuits that can help with this.

    • Awesome! It depends what you are looking for. Which fabric is the best for racing, which lasts longest in the chlorine, I realize I’m late in my reply but if you are still researching let me know!

  4. I’m going to be doing a science project for my class about how fabric can effect a players performance in swimming. So is there any fabrics that are bad or average for a swimmer to wear in a race?

    • Great idea Antonio! I’m sorry for the slow reply, technical difficulties! But any fabrics that absorb water will have a negative effect on a race, causing far more drag than a material made for the water. Cotton would be the first example that comes to mind!

  5. I purchased a swim suit which is 90% nylon. It is advertised as chlorine resistant. How can this be if nylon is not resistant to chlorine. I use the pool 3x a week and want it to last. Help!

    • Hi Sallie, most swim wear manufacturers will advertise their nylons as chlorine resistant since they are almost all exclusively blends at this point. In this case the other 10 might be polyester. If you want one that is really going to stand up to abuse you want a blend that is primarily polyester or 100% polyester. Your current suit will last you well if you care for it. Rinse it of chlorine after you swim with fresh water and let it dry. Don’t leave it bundled up in a towel, let it air dry!

  6. I never took into account that lycra was a type of nylon. One of my friends was on the swim team in high school, so she really enjoys high quality swimwear. I wonder what type of material she prefers for swimsuits.

    • Hi Edward! I recommend just washing them in cool clean water and letting them hang dry. I haven’t ever used fabric softener on them before but don’t think it necessary as it could do more harm than good.

  7. Emily:

    Is there a rubber or elastic material for around legs and waist that resist chlorine? The polyester and PBT swimsuits are good for resisting chlorine doing pool swimming but then the rubber or elastic around the legs and waist goes bad.
    What do you suggest?

    • Hi Jerry, the best advice I can give is to rinse in cool clean water and make sure to dry your suits thoroughly. The rot that occurs to straps on female suits and waistbands on male suits can be accelerated when we leave them all bunched up in a towel. I am a repeat offender for that particular bad habit.

  8. Have you come across any bathing suits that are more friendly for the feminine parts? Polyester, nylon, Lycra, spandex, etc all cause so many problems for the average woman. I’m curious to know if there are other alternatives out there…

    • Hi there Gaby! I’m sorry you aren’t finding what you are looking for in material. Those you have listed are the most commonly used because of their functionality. I really only see neoprene missing. Other materials, lets use cotton for example, will absorb water and make swimming much harder. This absorbency also affects the life of the suit. So for some time softer materials that absorb water have been eliminated from swim wear lines because they just aren’t practical in the water unfortunately.

      • I wear board shorts in swimming pool do you Recommend going to wear Jammers or briefs under board shorts mode of Polyester fabric because resistant to chlorine

        • If you are comfortable in your board shorts you don’t need to wear anything under them. However if you were to wear jammers or briefs in the place of board shorts they are likely to last longer and drag less in the water.

    • Gaby, I think the only solution is to change out of the wet suit as soon as you can. Applying 1% cltotrmazole to the area once dry can help stave off infections. It is avalailable as athelete’s foot cream for a far lower price that the preparations with specific labels for infections “down there”. Just look for 1% clotrimazole. No need to buy the brand name Lotrimin. Even the dollar store brands are legit. I’ve tried them all. you can get 1 oz. tubes for around $1.88 and up, depending on where you shop. It works for red rashes due to staying wet on any area of the body, but do not apply wholesale to large areas, simpy as a precaution. Have used it safely almost daily for over a decade.

  9. Hi, I would like to know what is the best material for indoor Apartment / Hotel swimming pool. As there is a numbers of resident wearing beachwear attire and boardshort and jump into the pool.

    • Hi Jerica! Beachwear isn’t uncommon for apartment or hotel pools, things like bikinis and board shorts may not last as long in the chlorine and they aren’t too helpful for swimming laps or racing, but for casual they work. Poolside leisure wear is where I would classify them. If you are a casual pool person, lycra is common and pretty standard. If you are looking for a material that is a little sturdier and longer lasting I would look into polyester blends.

  10. With a duafast fabric training suit, do you need to size up one size? I am used to a 80/20 nylon/Lycra fabric and am having a hard time finding that combination in training suits anymore.

    • Hi Barbara! I have not had to size up with them, but if you are worried about it and can’t get to a store for a fitting you could always size up just for peace of mind.

  11. Hi Emily,
    I need a jammer-style swimsuit to wear under a wetsuit, for surfing. I’ll be using it in salt water, so chlorine is not an issue. My two considerations are comfort and slipperiness (I want the wetsuit to be able to easily slide on and off over the swimsuit). I currently have a racer-style suit, 80% nylon/20% lycra, and that material seems like it would work well. Would you recommend sticking with nylon, or going to polyester? Thanks!

    • I should add that my nylon racer is made by Tyr, and I’ll probably be sticking withTyr because the racer fits me well. Further, I’ve heard that the Tyr polyester fabric not quite as comfortable as their nylon so, given I don’t need polyester’s chlorine-resistance, my initial inclination is to stay with nylon.

      • If you prefer nylon stick with it, you will get more life out of the poly suits, but to be honest I haven’t tested either material in salt water at length. In general I notice more of a stiff feeling with poly suits, but it either softens over time or I stop noticing. They don’t stretch as much either. Fabric is a little bit thicker too. Have you considered trying a ‘paper’ suit? This wouldn’t be terrible cost effective, it would be considered a technical suit and those are a whole different price point, but the material is super thin, and compressive. I imagine it would be helpful for sliding your wetsuit on and off. On the plus side you can literally wear it until it disintegrates because you wouldn’t be using it for competition, just an under layer. I hope that helps a little, let me know if there is anything else I can do!

  12. Hi,i dont live in U.S.A, thanks a lot for to share this information…

    I swim about 25 hours a month, in a temperate pool. They use salt and chlorine among other chemicals. The problem is that I have been buying Lycra T-shirts, for 1 year, and always in the third month, It start to cut the Lycra, and I have to throw them. It appears that dust and that smell so characteristic of lycra.

    So I assume after seeing your important information, that what I must buy is a polyester swimming shirt and spandex. O PBT? To have a longer duration?

    What brand or models do you recommend?
    I’m looking for something that I fit, because I swim about 1 to 2 continuous hours. Slipping is important, but hey, I’m not a professional swimmer either. I have seen some t-shirts on the internet but they are very loose, I do not want it for the beach, or outdoor activities, just a tempered pool.

    How long should a polyester polyester-pandex or PBT pulp last?

    Is it advisable to always rinse the polish with cold water after each use? To extend its useful life? Use talc or any element?

    I never put the clothes to the dryer, because that is terrible, just put them with the rest of the clothes on the clotheslinein my backyard, even in cold days or in winter…


    • Hi Carlos!

      Polyester is definitely your friend in chlorinated water. I’ve had suits that I would still be wearing had the straps not disintegrated on me. My poly suits typical last 18 months or longer. If you are looking for a shirt of this material you want to search for a rash guard type shirt. They are tight fitting and made for surfers or kayakers. They come in different thickness, so there are some that are made for beach wear and other for warmth. Perhaps something in the middle would help you with swimming.

      I do recommend rinsing with clean water and nothing more. Line drying is always optimal!

  13. Do you think a swimsuit that is 82% polyester and 18% elastane is good quality and okay to wear in the water?

    • Linzy yes, that is a good blend for chlorine exposure. Polyester will outlast lycra hands down and is becoming the most common material found in swimwear.

  14. I’m going to a public pool later and I don’t have a bathing suit but I do have a black body suit made up of 66% rayon, 29% nylon and 5% spandex is it okay if I wear that ?

  15. HI my 5 years old son is in swimming lessons and failed because he couldnt float on his back because he is shivering so bad do you have any reccomendatons as to what type of suit/material of suit which would be best suited for lessons and rec. Swim ?

  16. Hello, which material or its composition should I look for to achieve an excellent, tight and strong tummy control.

    • If you are looking for a water aerobics suit you want a suit with panels perhaps, if you are lap swimming most suits should fit tightly enough that you are feeling moderate compression wherever the fabric contacts your skin.

    • If you are looking for something more compressive than standard training suits maybe look into an aquatic fitness style suit with front panels or neoprene construction. What type of water activities are you participating in?

  17. Hey! I have a very hard time finding websites that sell polyester, nylon, neoprene and lycra. Do you where I can find it?

  18. Hi, I’m starting a running apparel company so I’m doing a lot of research right now. I want a more “amphibious” short suited for swimming and running with a built in boxer-brief. I need something that dries quick and is light-weight. Any recommendations on what fabric would be best and where to get it??



    • Hi Will, I can’t help you with where to buy your materials, ask for samples is the best advice I’ve got. As far as light weight and quick drying a polyester type blend microfiber would be a good jumping off point.

      • Thank you for the response. All feedback is appreciated. I’m in the design and pattern process now. Have a variety of fabrics coming soon, but I like the poly/spandex blend the most. Hard part is finding the right texture or microfiber qualities. Bamboo/spandex for my shirts. Please let me know if you think of anything cool for triathlete apparel. My company is Hyper Sportswear out of Austin. Maybe you can check us out. Should be up and running in a few months.

        Thanks again!


    • Swimsuit fabrics kind of top out at polyester and blends, but neoprene is thick and used for tri suits and wet suits. What kind of water activity are you participating in? I may be better able to assist you.

  19. No fabric will dry in an airless car trunk. Sunshine is very helpful, as Emily points out, but what all fabrics need in order to dry is AIR. When you get home, take your suit out of the trunk and hang it up – preferably somewhere dry, but even if the bathroom is the only area you have for hanging things, a polyester suit hung up in the evening should be dry by morning.

  20. I am using a Nike PBT suit but it retains too much water and does not dry fast enough for me. I leave my suit in the car after spinning them at the gym. Car trunk smells of chlorine and suit is still damp the next day. Anything retain less water and dry faster? The article says “Quick drying” for polyester vs “Fast drying” for PBT. Any difference? I tried a suit made of mesh like material that is almost dry by end of spinning but it is not appropriate for the gym. Thanks.

    • Dan if you live in a humid area leaving any suit in the trunk of your car will likely still be wet 24 hours or more later. If you’ve got sunshine, maybe leaving it where it can get some, near a window. I personally have lived all over and the climate has much to do with it. In Arizona for example your suit will dry in a matter of hours even if its sopping wet. Houston, not so much, they never dry out unless you hang them in the house, locker, or from the hanger hook in a car. Now Wisconsin I often end up with frozen suits in the winter! I don’t think the material is going to make a huge difference when battling specific climates. Hang is up from your car hanger hook if you can.

      • Hello I was looking for a swimsuit and I found one that is 65% cotton and 35% nylon on the shell and the lining is a hundred percent polyester. Is that a good choice or should I go with one that’s 100% polyester?

  21. Hello Emily

    I have become allergic to my swimsuit, a basic Speedo 100% polyester suit. I don’t know whether the allergy is to Polyester, or to the elastic around the arms and thighs (presumably latex?) which is where the red itchy bumps come up.

    Can you recommend a hypoallergenic swimsuit material – and a manufacturer? Would polymide (which I think is nylon) be any better?

    Thanks very much,


  22. Hi Emily. I am looking for a technical suit for my high school freshman daughter, reasonably priced. This will be her first kneeskin and we are really clueless as to what to look for. She is a freestyle swimmer, competing in sectionals this weekend. Any recommendations would be greatly appreciated. Thanks

    • As a first time shopper I highly recommend going to a swim shop and trying a few on if at all possible. Sometimes sizing kits are available to make finding the perfect fit easier, it is less of a guessing game and you get to feel all the different materials. Personally I am a fan of TYR Fusion as a starter suit, its the best bargain and the least compressive easiest to fit. However, that being said, the technology of it is older, still a good suit, but less bells and whistles. The next step up provides a large variety of options, TYR again with the Tracer Light which I have had good experiences with, Arena Powerskin and Speedo LZR Racer Pro neither of which I have worn. Kiefer also carries a tech suit that combines value with up to date tech. All four use the compressive water repelling fabric and flat seam stitching.

  23. Hi Emily,

    I’m outsourcing fabric for a fashion swimwear line and I was wondering if you could help with this question. I have ordered 82% Nylon 18% Spandex samples and I love the lightweight and feeling of it. Could I achieve the same lightweight/feeling result with a Poly-blend to maximise durability?

    Thanks! Great information in this forum.

    • You can get close! Poly blends will almost always have a starchier feel than nylon/spandex blends. The good news is manufacturers are getting better at ‘softening’ these poly blends. If you can find a brick and mortar store that carries competitive swim wear go in and compare how different all the blends can feel.

  24. Do you know if viscose could be used as swimwear? I have a bodysuit that is made out of 95% viscose and 5% spandex and I wanted to wear it to the pool. I can’t really find the answer anywhere. Any idea?

    • Kay, I’m really not 100% sure, but viscose is another name for Rayon. Seeing how it is most like cotton (absorbent) and silk (not water safe) I would say probably not.

  25. I’m looking for a really tough and supportive fabric to make a plus size tankini, something i can bandage under bust to provide mega support and potentially install a zip up the front. Something that nips and tucks. modern swimwear is appalling, it doesn’t support – everything is stupid halternecks or teeny thin straps. I want it fashionable but sturdy.

    Any recommendations?

    • Hi there, I’m no fabric expert but I know neoprene is the stiffest and most resistant fabric made for water. They are used for wetsuits and can handle zippers. The problem is patterns, I can’t say I’ve seen too many prints on neoprene. But I am sure for the right price manufacturers will attempt anything. The next best thing is 100% polyester, it doesn’t stretch much at all and holds up well. Best of luck in your endeavors, and I hope you find what you are looking for.

  26. Hi,
    Can someone please tell me whih material would be the warmest, for a 3-4 year child taking swimming lessons in an unheated pool??


  27. Michelle I can’t recommend anything that will keep moisture away from your skin under the suit. But if the main issue is Nylon then you want to avoid any blended suits and go straight for 100 % polyester without liners.

    • Thank you.. yes my problem is with moisture and nylon,, weather we are talking bathing suits or nylons in my winter boots… So thank you I’ll look for a polyester one….

  28. I’m allergic to nylon in swimsuits,, moisture under bathing suit gives me a rash… what would be the best bet for me in a bathing suit???

  29. You aren’t missing a beat. I don’t have the answers for you about why, but hopefully manufacturers across many spreads will continue taking steps towards the ideal.

  30. Morgan, I haven’t tested one of the eco friendly suits to tell you about their longevity. Though the companies producing them will tell you they are comparable to lycra blends, so they fall between poly and lycra. It appears some of the manufacturers have a rough breakdown of what is post-consumer percentages within material descriptions .

    • Thanks Emily. Since polyester suits are the longest and most durable for swimwear with regards to holding silouette form, color and elasticity, how come there aren’t more recycled polyesters suits out there. If an Eco suit is using recyclable fibers, but you wear it out faster than a polyester suit, that is only part of the solution. The waste is still high. It seems ideal to have a recycled polyester swimsuit that would last years and be made from recycled plastics and/or suits. Am I missing something? Thanks for your time.

  31. I see more environmentally conscious swimsuits in your selection from a few different brands. Are there any specifics of how much that saves the environment- from waste, water, or energy reduction, per suit? Do any of these eco friendly suits last just as long as a polyester suit?

  32. Would you know how polyamide-elastane blends work? I’ve seen 80% polyamide and 20% spandex blends on the internet

  33. for comfort and more durability of swimsuit, which type material to be selected.

    I swim daily in the pool..Need your inputs…

  34. Hello, I ordered samples of 80% pooy and 20% spandex but they all feel more like gym shorts than typical swim trunks. What other factors should I look for to get that more traditional swimsuit feel with a little bit of stretch

  35. Rich I am sorry to hear that. If you are in the pool daily may I recommend something stronger than Lycra? Polyester is your best bet for a hardy suit that will take daily chlorine beatings.

  36. very informative article. Though my experience doesn’t support the claims for Xtra Life Lycra. I bought a pair of Speedo Men’s Xtra Life Lycra and after just a few months they have stretched and deteriorated to the point of not being usable.

  37. Neoprene is a thicker material that is generally used for wetsuits but you can certainly train in it if that is what you are comfortable in. The added weight is for warmth and/or buoyancy depending on the suit.

  38. Hi Emily,
    What is neoprene then? I have seen it being used for wet suits I guess. Wanted to know whether I can wear a neoprene suit from Tribod(shorty) with double sided lining for general swimming purposes.. Thanks!

  39. Hi Amanda, a nylon/spandex blend will offer you a variety of prints and colors, soft comfortable material, and a moderate lifespan. If you are looking for a longer lasting suit look into a polyester blend.

  40. I’m looking for a material that doesn’t drip much after getting out. It’s for out door hot tubing in very cold weather (below freezing) and the walk from the tub to the house is miserable with the water dripping down my legs. Any suggestions on material?

  41. Hi Robin, I have Four (4) sons they are Pro trainers that swim everyday we need Jammers just for training, whats the easiest/best way to order the GRAB BAG??

  42. …and a last question: If Nylon is not good on holding color on it, and my line has lots of colorful graphic printings with different motifs, wouldn`t it be a problem? Is the printing going to last for a whole summer vacation or two?

    oh, and I guess there`s no 100% Lycra, right? As I was reading more about it, Lycra seems to be just the elastic fiber that is blended with other synthetic fiver, correct?

    • 80/20 will be fine for holding color, as long as you have a quality fabric. true- Lycra is part of the mix; there are no 100% Lycra suits. let me know how your suit launch goes!

  43. Wow! Thanks for sharing such a good info!
    I’m starting my bikini line and it’s not for swimming performance or competition, but totally for a leisure beach time, focusing on aesthetics and being resistant to salted water (and chlorine). I’m sticking with a blend of 80%Nylon and 20%Lycra. Does that sound like a reasonable choice? Or would it be better to have a 100% Lycra?
    And concerning the weight, what weight would be good enough to last for a summer lifetime or two?

    I`m also having problems to find a supplier that has the label Lycra on it. They refer to it as Lycra but it ends up being just Spandex, which is the same, but without the Du Pont quality label, right? So, how do I get the Lycra label from my suppliers? Is it something only Du Pont will be able to tell me once I have the fabric and get it checked out by them?

    Thank you Robin!

    • I’d recommend sticking with 80/20, that should give a few summers of weekly wear, for sure. Getting the Lycra label? Let your supplier know that you want DuPont Lycra.

      However, i wonder how much of that will matter for the bikini market. But it never hurts to differentiate on quality. best of luck!

  44. Which suit provides the most warmth for children aged 2-6. They are very thin and will be swimming and playing along the coast of Oregon and Washington. Thanks for your help.

  45. So informative. I have found Speedo Endurance to be fantastic. My lycra had a life of 6 months.. and now switching to Endurance, the suits last over a year of intense use, almost daily, no fading or deterioration of fabric.

  46. Robin, very informative. Thanks. I competed against Dale and Jack when they were at Yale and I was at West Point. I also swam against Jack in age group AAU a few times (we are the same age). Please give them my best wishes. How are they related to you?

    Kerry O’Hara

    • For a traditional swimsuit, I prefer polyester. I feel like it has a denser, less permeable weave. The density and compression provide me a warmer feel in the water. Depending on their size and needs, you might consider a thermal suit. Thanks for asking and best of luck!

  47. That really helped. I’m much less confused on which swimwear materials are best. As a competitive swimmer who swims five days a week, I think I’ll stick to polyester.

      • I hope you will read this in time. excellent background and gave me a lot more knowledge now about swimwear material. I am starting my own swimwear line and I am in a very hard spot decided what material to use for production. I had swatches sent from suppliers that was a 85% polyester material and 15% spandex . It feels like an expensive italian swimwear fabric, which is great and i really love the soft feel. however I am concerned that this is not swimwear fabric and rather for yoga wear only. Or can it also be used for swimwear? You mention the best fabric would be a blend of polyester and PBT.. how about Polyester and spandex? is this a good blend too ? please please help.. no one seems to know the answer that i am quite looking for.

      • This is very helpful. Thanks! I do have a question though. I have had many nylon swim suits from Speedo and other brands and it seems like i can’t get even an year out of it. It seems like The fabric looses its layer and looks thinner in certain areas and is quite visible. I only go 4-5 times a year for 3-4 hrs each time in the pool. I think it’s not that much! I do a regular wash in the laundry. Please let me know what you think. Thanks for your time and the wealth of info.

        • Hi Minoo, nylon material is the least resistant to chlorine of all the different material types. I would not recommend washing it with laundry detergent in the washing machine. A rinse after each use with clean cold water will do more to prolong its life.

Leave a Comment