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Periodic Graphics

Periodic Graphics: The materials science of swimwear

Chemical educator and Compound Interest blogger Andy Brunning dives into the materials science of swimwear.

by Andy Brunning, special to C&EN
July 30, 2023 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 101, Issue 25


Infographic on swimwear fabrics and the effect that ultraviolet light and chlorine have on them. Swimwear is commonly made from synthetic polymers, particularly nylon and polyesters. Elastane (spandex) can also be blended with these fibers to add elasticity. Ultraviolet light from the sun can damage swimwear fibers; UV absorbers can prevent this. Chlorine can also damage swimwear materials. Rinsing swimwear in cold water and allowing it to dry in the shade can minimize the damage.
Credit: Andy Brunning

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References used to create this graphic:

Epps, Helen H. “Degradation of Swimwear Fabrics: Effects of Light, Sea Water and Chlorine.” Clothing Text. Res. J. (1987). DOI: 10.1177/0887302X8700500205.

Khatua, Sandeep, and You-Lo Hsieh. “Chlorine Degradation of Polyether-Based Polyurethane.” J. Polym. Sci., Part A: Polym. Chem. (1997). DOI: 10.1002/(SICI)1099-0518(19971115)35:15<3263::AID-POLA20>3.0.CO;2-8.

Kursun, Senem, and Gulay Ozcan. “An Investigation of UV Protection of Swimwear Fabrics.” Text. Res. J. (2010). DOI: 10.1177/0040517510369401.

Salopek Čubrić, Ivana, Goran Čubrić, and Vesna Marija Potočić Matković. “Behavior of Polymer Materials Exposed to Aging in the Swimming Pool: Focus on Properties That Assure Comfort and Durability.” Polymers (2021). DOI: 10.3390/polym13152414.

A collaboration between C&EN and Andy Brunning, author of the popular graphics blog Compound Interest

To see more of Brunning’s work, go to To see all of C&EN’s Periodic Graphics, visit



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