What does chlorine resistant mean and why should we all own a chlorine resistant swimsuit

What is Chlorine?

Chlorine comes from the Greek word “Khloros” which means green. It was invented in 1774 by a Swedish chemist named Carl Scheele. The salt and other components in sea water are a large source of chlorine. When added to water, a chemical reaction takes place creating hypochlorous acid which instantly kills bacteria and other micro-organisms to act as a water sanitizer.

 

Chlorine is added to our tap water to kill disease causing pathogens such as bacteria and viruses that are commonly found in water supplies and the walls of water mains.

 

Chlorine is used to kill bacteria in pools, spas and recreational water venues making it safe to swim.  Untreated water is unsafe as bacteria and waterborne diseases can cause serious health problems.

 

Over-chlorinated water can also be problematic causing skin and eye irritations. A safe balance is necessary.

 

Does my salt water pool contain chlorine?

A salt water pool is not chemical free.  Salt alone does not provide sanitation for pool water - electrolysis is needed. This process involves forcing salty water across a special metal cell that is charged with an electrical current. This process creates chlorine but at a reduced level, good for those with a chlorine sensitivity.

 

Are there any alternatives to using chlorine?

Some people are allergic to chlorine so alternatives are available.  Peroxide based products are the only chlorine free alternative. Other processes do have some amount of chlorine as an active ingredient. There are also silver and copper ion generators and ozone generators. These options can be costly and must be closely monitored to ensure clean water is the result.

 

The history of swimwear fabric

During the 1800’s modest swimsuits were made from wool or flannel to cover the body as exposure to the sun causing a suntan was a sign of a lower class. 

 

In 1902 three young men from the Portland Knitting Company in Oregan were asked to make wool rib-knit costumes for a rowing club to retain body heat.  The result was not ideal as it was heavy when wet but an idea was born. The company would later be named Jantzen – an iconic swimwear brand. 

 

In the 1930’s sun bathing became more popular so swimsuits evolved to allow for more sun exposure and to be more form fitting and flexible.  A man-made fabric called Lastex was developed by the American Rubber Company using rubber.  This fabric was short lived as it was not colour fast and did not retain its shape when stretched.  The development for an alternative started during WW2 due to lack of rubber, as supplies were being used for building equipment and this affected the price.

 

In 1939 a chemist Joseph Shivers from DuPont Nemours and Company in Virginia developed a fabric made from nylon polymers as an alternative to the use of rubber. These fabrics were stiff and rigid so research continued to find a better blend of fibres.

The first spandex fabric was developed in 1952 by aGermanychemist Farbenfabriken Bayer and further developed by DuPont using the brand name Lycra.  Full scale manufacture began in 1962 and DuPont continues to be the world leader in the production of spandex fibres.

 

The problem with traditional swimwear fabrics

One of the problems with the nylon/elastane blend is its deterioration when exposed to chlorine and prolonged sun exposure. 

Lycra or elastane has nitrogen in its molecular structure and pool chlorine bonds with it.  Chlorine also reacts to nitrogen in human hair and skin proteins causing a chlorine smell on our skin after swimming. When chlorine reacts with lycra it chemically bonds to form “chloramine” or lingering chlorine. 

Over time this eats into the fibres causing fabric degradation even when the swimsuit is not being used.  This first appears as sand like grains in the swimsuit as the elastic fibres break, then the fabric becomes see through and saggy. Sun exposure can also affect the elastic fibres, just like leaving an elastic band out in the sun, causing the fibres to become hard and brittle.

 

When was chlorine resistant fabric invented?

In 1994 the Australian brand Speedo launched Endurance, the world’s first chlorine resistant fabric.  This fabric was comprised from 45% polyester and 55% PBT (a polyester variant) with no elastic fibres therefore preventing the fabric from breaking down when exposed to chlorine.

Today chlorine resistant fabric is used by many swimsuit companies to provide swimsuits that will last longer than traditional nylon/lycra suits when exposed to high levels of chlorine.

Over the years, chlorine resistant fabric has become thinner and finer, having much better stretch and recovery properties.

 

Why Buy Chlorine Resistant Swimwear

Traditionally used by competitive swimmers, chlorine resistant swimsuits are now available in a variety of styles, sizes and colours to suit everyone. 

Even when only used for ocean swimming and occasional use in chlorine pools, a chlorine resistant swimsuit is preferable due to its longevity making it a cost effective investment.

 

Will a Chlorine Resistant Swimsuit last forever?

Chlorine resistant fabric is designed to last 20 times longer than conventional swimwear fabric. Swimsuits still have rubber and elastic around leg, neck and arm openings and these will eventually be affected by chlorine. Rash shirts will last considerably longer as they are made without any elastic. Stitching will also deteriorate over time.

 

How to care for a chlorine resistant swimsuit

The same rules apply to chlorine resistant and nylon/lycra swimsuits to ensure a longer lasting swimsuit.  Incorrect care can result in a damaged swimsuit.

  1. Avoid contact with rough surfaces – snagging and pilling can occur. 
  2. Rinse your swimsuit as soon as possible – rinse in cool clean water as soon as you can.
  3. Do not have a hot shower wearing your swimsuit – unnecessary contact with hot water can affect the rubber in the swimsuit leg and arm opening causing deterioration
  4. Never leave a swimsuit rolled up in a towel – moisture and heat can cause bacteria to breed
  5. Hand wash your swimsuit with a mild cleanser as soon as possible to remove chlorine.  Rinse in cool water
  6. Always dry your swimsuit in a shaded area – the sun will destroy elastic fibres in the leg and arm opening
  7. Never machine wash, bleach, iron or dry clean a swimsuit

 

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