Some fabrics are designed strictly for aesthetic and fashion purposes. But yet there are other fabrics that serve a larger purpose. One such fabric is compression fabric, and it serves a very important function. But what is compression fabric exactly and what purpose does it serve? I’ll explain everything in this article.
Compression fabric is a technical fabric that is usually made from nylon and spandex. They are typically worn by athletes or people with certain health conditions, although anyone can wear them. Compression fabrics are designed to aid in muscle recovery and improve circulation when worn.
Whether you’re buying ready-made clothing or wanting to make your own, it’s important to know the characteristics and properties of compression fabric if you’re considering using it. Let’s take a closer look at what compression is and how it works. Please continue reading to learn more.
What Is Compression Fabric?
Compression fabric is a tight-fitting but stretchy fabric that is made primarily from knitted nylon and spandex. Nylon improves the functionality of the fabric, while spandex gives it elasticity. Some compression fabrics can be made of up to 25% spandex. That means that they can potentially stretch up to 10% in length and 60% in width.
Together, nylon and spandex fibers help create a fabric that is extremely durable and lightweight while still being affordable. The overall design of clothing made from compression fabric helps to improve muscle function by increasing blood flow back to the heart.
Because of their function, compression fabrics are mainly worn by athletes, those with certain medical conditions where blood circulation is an issue or people who spend a lot of time working on their feet. Although some compression fabrics are designed purely for functional purposes, some are stylish as well.
How Do Compression Fabrics Work?
Clothing made from compression is usually made tighter at one end and looser at the other. The tighter end of the fabric is worn further away from the heart, while the looser end is worn closer to the heart to stimulate blood flow.
For example, compression socks are tighter around the ankles and looser at the opening. The part of the sock worn near the ankle consists of a tighter blend of fibers so that it doesn’t stretch as much. The opening is made of a looser blend of fibers so that it doesn’t stretch as much.
The looser or tighter blend of fibers controls how much pressure is put on the muscles in certain areas. The actual pressure happens when you move and a force is exerted onto your body by the fibers. Pressure increases the amount of oxygen supplied to the muscles that can then enter the bloodstream. This results in improved blood circulation to those muscles in addition to the heart, which helps muscles to recover from exertion faster.
But what exactly does that mean for athletes and other wearers of compression fabric? Here are some of the top benefits that compression shorts provide.
Less Muscle Soreness
Sore muscles can occur after lifting weights, training for a particular sport, or even working long hours in which your job puts strain on certain muscles. Wearing compression fabrics in areas to target certain muscles (e.g. shorts, socks, shirts, etc.) can help reduce muscle soreness in those areas.
Prevent Muscle Strains
Muscles become strained due to overexertion, especially if they weren’t stretched properly before a workout or other strenuous activity. Wearing compression fabrics can help prevent strains because the pressure they put on the muscles helps to keep them stretched out and allows more circulation to get to them.
I’ve already touched on this a little, but compression shorts also help increase oxygenation into the bloodstream. This results in increased blood flow so that your circulation doesn’t get “cut off.” This is extremely important for people with certain health conditions (for example, diabetes) in which poor circulation to certain parts of the body can result in numbness and swelling.
For athletes, wearing compression shorts and other clothing is said to increase your overall performance. You are granted better power and stamina by improving muscle function and lowering muscle fatigue because your muscles don’t tire out as quickly.
You may assume that because compression shorts are so tight-fitting, they may be uncomfortable. This is not the case. They stretch enough to make it easier to move while being tight enough to stay in place while you move. And due to the tightness and texture of the fabric, wearing compression clothing can help lower wind resistance for certain activities and reduce friction and chafing.
Types of Compression Fabric
There are four materials that are primarily used for compression wear. The exact percentages of each material may vary based on the manufacturer of the fabric and the type of clothing and what areas it is designed to target.
NylonThis is the primary material that is used to make compression fabrics.
Nylon is necessary because it gives the fabric its silky and smooth texture. But because it is a synthetic fabric, nylon also makes compression fabric more durable and lightweight.
It is also shrink-resistant, so you don’t have to worry about your compression fabrics shrinking when you wash them. Most compression fabrics will be made of at least 70% nylon.
SpandexSpandex is easily the second most important material used for compression fabric. Without nylon, the fabric won’t stretch.
Considering the purpose of compression fabric, stretching is necessary for the fabric to function properly and have all of its benefits. It’s also the main material that causes the fabric to compress in the first place.
Most compression fabrics will be made up of around 15-20% spandex.
CottonSome compression clothing does have a small percentage of cotton fibers woven into it.
Since cotton is a plant-based fiber, it helps increase the breathability and overall comfort of the fabric.
Cotton can also help to make the fabric feel softer to the touch and against the skin.
One of the reasons that compression clothing is so effective because it stretches while you move, but it doesn’t slip or roll up in certain areas. This non-slip property is due to silicon. Silicon is used to create bands in the fabric around the openings. Although silicon isn’t sticky, it works sort of like an adhesive. These bands help the fabric “stick” to the skin, which keeps the edges in place while you’re moving.
What is Compression Fabric Used For?
Compression fabric is primarily designed and marketed for athletes, where it is used for sportswear, including t-shirts, leggings, shorts, and socks. The reason for this is that athletes use various muscles depending on the athletic activities that they participate in. Since compression fabric provides so many benefits for muscle health, many athletes take advantage of wearing them.
Compression fabric also has uses in the medical field, particularly compression stockings. Compression stockings are beneficial for people with diabetes and those who suffer from varicose veins or blood clotting in their legs. People who have suffered from traumatic burns can also wear compression clothing to prevent scarring and aid in recovery by applying pressure to the skin. It is not unusual for doctors to recommend or even prescribe compression clothing in people with certain medical conditions.
What Are The Properties of Compression Fabric?
Knowing the properties of compression fabric can help you decide if it’s right for you and how to care for it. Other than the functional aspect of compression fabric, what are some of the other properties?
For starters, it is a very flexible and stretchy fabric. I’ve already talked about why this is important for the functionality of the fabric. But being stretchy and flexible also ensures that the fabric doesn’t stretch out of shape with increased wear or when it is washed.
Next, compression fabric is breathable, which is important considering that it is worn while doing heavy activity or exercising. Nylon is somewhat breathable on its own, but adding cotton to the fabric also increases breathability. Being breathable helps to increase airflow through the fabric so that you stay cool.
Compression fabric is also moisture-wicking. This is necessary in case you sweat while exercising. Being moisture-wicking helps to prevent the fabric from becoming damp. Compression fabric allows moisture to sit on the surface of the fabric and evaporate instead of saturating it.
But wicking away sweat isn’t the only benefit of the fabric being moisture-wicking. It also wicks away moisture in other forms, such as rain or snow. This is necessary when participating in sporting activities outside, especially when it is cold as a result. As a result of this moisture-wicking behavior, compression fabrics will also keep you warm.
These properties of compression fabric work together to ensure that the fabric remains comfortable for those who wear it.
How to Care For Compression Fabric
Due to the durability of compression fabric, it is very easy to care for. For smaller compression garments such as compression stockings, it is recommended that you hand-wash them. But it is okay to wash larger garments such as shirts, pants, and shorts in the washing machine as long as you use the right settings.
When washing compression fabric in the washing machine, it is important to first turn the fabric inside out. This will prevent the outside of the fabric from getting snagged on other things while being washed. You should also use the gentle cycle just because it produces lower agitation.
Mild detergent is recommended, as is using the cool or cold water cycle. Hot water could potentially damage the synthetic fibers. Do not use bleach or fabric softener on compression fabrics either, as some of the strong chemicals that are used in them can damage the fibers as well.
Finally, when drying compression fabric, you should not put it in the dryer. Nylon and spandex are synthetic fibers that are essentially made from plastic. The high temperatures from the dryer can burn the fibers or cause them to melt, which could ruin the clothing. It is best to let compression fabrics air-dry.
Compression Fabric by the Yard
Compression fabric can be purchased by the yard either in-store or online from most retailers that sell fabric. But because compression fabric isn’t as widely used and it is a technical fabric, you can expect to pay a little more for it than you would cotton or polyester, for example.
Most compression fabric costs around $15 and up for a yard, depending on the quality and retailer of the fabric. It can be purchased with different percentages of spandex, which will give it different amounts of stretch. Most of it is sold in widths of 59 to 60 inches.
A lot of compression fabric is sold in black just because the purpose it serves is more functional rather than stylish. But retailers that specialize in the fabric may sell it in other solid colors as well, or even patterns. That way, your compression garments can be both functional and fashionable.
Best Compression Fabric
I hope this guide helped you to understand the characteristics and properties of compression fabric. This fabric provides many benefits to the wearer, including improved muscle function and circulation. You don’t have to be an athlete or have a medical reason for wearing it, either. Anyone can wear this highly functional fabric and reap its benefits. If you enjoyed this article, leave a comment and share it with others. Thanks for reading!