If you’re purchasing a quality swimsuit for training, you naturally expect it to last longer than a cheap item picked up from a beachfront shop. But don’t assume that all serious swimsuits are the same. Just as different swimsuit styles are appropriate for different body types and swimming styles, different fabrics are appropriate for different patterns of use.
The lifespan of a swimsuit depends on three main factors: frequency of use, the chlorine concentration in the pool water, and care and maintenance.
Frequency of use
Obviously, the more you wear any piece of clothing, the sooner it will wear out, but swimsuits face the added challenge of dealing with chlorine, which can break down certain fibres, most notably elastane (also known as spandex or Lycra).
For this reason, swimmers who train more than three times a week or even daily are best off choosing swimwear in Max Life, an innovative polyester-based fabric made of 54 per cent polyester and 46 per cent polyester PBT (polybutylene terephthalate). Max Life is popular among frequent swimmers because it’s extremely resistant to chlorine (it contains no elastane), and it also resists abrasions and pilling. At the same time, a Max Life suit is highly elastic and will mould to the body, providing a comfortable fit and freedom of movement. Excellent UV protection makes this a good suit for athletes training in outdoor pools as well.
Those who swim a few times a week can opt for a suit in Waterfeel X-Life, a fabric that provides ultimate sensitivity in the water thanks to its softness and high elasticity. Waterfeel X-Life is made of 78 per cent nylon and 22 per cent elastane. The elastane used by Arena is of extremely high quality, and Waterfeel X-Life is 10 times more resistant to chlorine degradation than standard fabrics of the same composition. Water sport lovers appreciate the comfort, fit and complete freedom of movement if offers. The Eco version is made from environmentally friendly recycled polyamide (Malaga Rec by Carvico). The high-tech two-way-stretch fabric ensures a perfect fit, while resistance to sunlight and sunscreen add versatility.
Chlorine concentration in the pool water
Chlorine is one of the most common chemicals used to kill bacteria and other microorganisms in pool water. Everyone wants to swim in clean water, but chlorine (or, more accurately, the hypochlorite ion, one of the substances formed when chlorine is dissolved in water) also has the unfortunate side effect of causing fabrics to fade if they are not rinsed off immediately after use.
Maintaining the proper chlorine concentration can be a complex balancing act, especially if the pool does not have a particularly sophisticated water purification and ventilation system. The amount of chlorine needed depends on how heavily used the pool is. A swimming pool with a lot of traffic will need higher levels of chlorine to counteract the microorganisms introduced by the many swimmers. Numerous other factors, including water temperature, sunlight, pool size and water pH level, also affect the chlorine levels needed to keep the water sanitary and pathogen-free. Unless you have your own pool, you probably don’t have much control over the chlorine concentration in the water. If you have a choice of local swimming pools, though, it might be worth asking about their target chlorination levels.
Care and maintenance
Proper care and maintenance can significantly lengthen the life of your swimsuit. As soon as you exit the pool, rinse your suit in tap water. Do not leave the wet swimsuit in a bag or other container for a long time, or wrapped in a towel, and do not expose the bag containing the wet swimsuit to direct sunlight.
When you get home, wash your suit right away, following the instructions on the product label. Some people toss their swimsuit in the wash with everything else and see no immediate ill effects, so they assume the instructions on the label are overly conservative. With time, though, the damage will add up. If you want your swimsuit to provide the best possible performance for the longest time, be sure to hand wash it with detergent suitable for delicate clothes and air-dry it away from heat sources. Never dry clean, bleach, machine dry or iron swimwear.
High-tech fabrics do require a bit of special attention, but the improved performance, comfort and durability are worth the extra effort.