To choose the best fabrics for your clothing and properly care for them, this article explains what synthetics are.
Different materials, each chosen to give clothing particular desirable qualities, are used to make clothing. In general, natural and synthetic fabrics can be divided into two groups.
It seems easy enough, but what exactly are synthetics? Fabrics like polyester, rayon, acrylic, and many others are made entirely of synthetic materials, which are entirely man-made. These synthetic fibers have gained popularity over time.
Synthetics will be discussed in this article. Please keep reading.
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What Are Synthetic Fabrics?
By joining chemical monomers into polymers through a chemical reaction known as polymerization, synthetic fibers (man-made fibers) are created. Typically, carbon disulfide and sodium hydroxide, which are derivatives of coal, oil, and natural gas, are the chemicals used.
To create a filament, the chemical liquid is compelled through minuscule openings known as spinnerets. Cooling and forming into tiny continuous filament fiber threads occur as the liquid exits the spinnerets and enters the atmosphere. The filament is twisted into yarn through a twisting procedure. Prior to weaving them together to create fabric, colors are added.
To make the fabric softer, wrinkle-free, flameproof, water-resistant, stain-resistant, or moth-repellent, additional chemicals can be added.
Advantages of Using Synthetic Fabrics
In comparison to natural fibers, synthetic fibers frequently exhibit greater durability, strength, and resistance. They can also:
- Dry very quickly
- Be extra absorbent
- Be made into waterproof fabrics, and
- become fabrics that are elastic and stretchy for lingerie and swimwear.
Disadvantages of Synthetic Fabrics
Synthetic fibers typically produce waste that isn’t very good for the environment when they reach the end of their useful lives.
- They have the potential to release toxic gases when burned.
- They are not biodegradable, and the chemicals used in their production can leak into the environment, so when they are dumped they take a very long time to degrade.
Unless they are specially made for this purpose, synthetic fabrics should not be worn in kitchens or laboratories because the fibers melt when heated, which makes them extremely dangerous.
Types of Synthetic Fabrics
The most commonly used synthetic fibers are:
derived from cellulose. It is wrinkle-free and resistant to mildew, moths, and shrinkage. It drapes well and has an opulent appearance and feels. Acetate pure is typically only dry cleaned. It is typically utilized for dress linings and formal attire.
In the 1940s, acrylonitrile, a synthetic polymer, was used to make acrylic for the first time. In the 1950s, it gained popularity as a wool substitute that could be machine-washed and is still used today in sweaters and knitwear.
The fabric is soft and breathable while still being durable enough for daily use. Although it is less breathable than its natural counterpart, it is still soft and has a wool-like feel.
cellulose-based rayon of a certain type. Although much more robust and has a much stronger wet strength, it has a similar soft feel and drape to rayon. As a result, it can usually be dried and washed in a machine.
It has a light sheen, is highly breathable and absorbent, and is also shrink- and wrinkle-resistant. Dresses, suits, sportswear, and trousers are just a few of the garments that can be made from lyocell. Additionally used in home furnishings like curtains, upholstery, and tablecloths are lyocell.
made from incredibly finely woven filaments of acrylic, nylon, polyester, or rayon. It is frequently used to make raincoats because it can be woven so tightly that wind, rain, or cold cannot penetrate the fabric. Since it wicks moisture, sportswear designers frequently use it. Additionally, it is used for underwear, swimwear, and hosiery. It is washable.
It is made of polyamide, which has the advantages of being incredibly durable, elastic, light, and abrasion-resistant. It also drapes well. It dries quickly and is simple to wash (since dirt does not stick to it). Stretch and durability are provided by effective blending with natural fibers.
It can be extremely static, melts in extreme heat, and is uncomfortable to wear in warm weather because it doesn’t absorb moisture. Sportswear, underwear, swimwear, and hosiery are among the uses.
constructed from polyethylene terephthalate. a fabric that holds its shape well, is strong, soft, quick to dry, and does not wrinkle. When combined with synthetic or natural fibers, such as cotton or wool, it creates a fabric that is more washable and durable.
Due to its high durability and low cost of production, it is used in most types of clothing. It is quite easily stained and does, however, draw static electricity.
a strong, abrasion-resistant, stain-, static-, sunlight-, and odor-resistant fiber that is also incredibly light. It is highly insulating and has good moisture-wicking abilities. used in high-performance activewear for backpacks, mountaineering gear, swimwear, etc. It dries quickly and can be washed at low temperatures.
Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)
a fabric that is waterproof and has a rubbery texture. It typically has a polyester backing and a shiny plastic surface coating. Typically, PVC and polyurethane (PU) are blended to create the actual plastic layer. 100% PVC creates stiff, glossy-shiny fabrics, while 100% PU creates stretchy, silky-shiny fabrics.
PVC fabric does not “breathe,” making it uncomfortable to wear. Additionally, it shouldn’t be stretched. It is typically wiped clean, but if necessary, it can be hand washed with mild soap. Although it can also be used for trousers, tops, skirts, and other items, it is typically used for protective clothing like raincoats.
Rayon (also Known as Viscose)
Plant cellulose is used to make rayon. However, just because cellulose is a naturally occurring protein does not equate to rayon being a naturally occurring substance.
Cellulose is a semi-synthetic substance that is created by chemically extracting it from plants. The eco-friendly synthetic fiber rayon has an opulent appearance and a fluid drape, making it a superior choice over silk.
Spandex (also Known as Lycra Or Elastane)
It is strong, light, supple, and impervious to water and oils. It always returns to its original shape after stretching, making it stronger and more resilient than rubber. However, it can also be blended with nylon. Typically, it is combined with natural fibers.
Tights, sportswear, swimwear, and corsetry are a few examples of clothing items made with spandex where a lot of permanent elasticity is required. It is utilized in clothes that are designed to cling to the body while still being comfortable. It is washable.
Is Synthetic Fabric Sustainable?
A certain query has a simpler response: NO.
Synthetics and sustainability don’t go together, with the exception of recycled synthetics (which still present a risk when they degrade or when they’re washed) and a few semi-synthetics made in a closed-loop, zero-waste production process that reuses chemicals and water.
For conventional, virgin-made synthetics, there isn’t much of a defense, in our opinion. Here are a few ways in which synthetic fabrics are causing man-made mayhem—especially for our planet:
- Plastic and synthetic are often used interchangeably. Clothes made of plastics release microplastics into our waterways when we wear and wash them. This is a challenging topic that we go into more detail about below.
- In addition to contributing to the 15.1 million tons of textile waste produced annually, plastic is not biodegradable, and synthetic fibers, even when mixed with natural fibers, take hundreds of years to decompose.
- Synthetic fabric production necessitates a plethora of toxic chemicals, which harm the environment, the workers involved, and even us when we wear the clothing.
Conclusion: Caring for Synthetic Fabrics
Synthetic fabrics are pretty synful. But they’re here to stay, and they’ll probably play a significant role in our lives for many years to come.
Many synthetic fibers are chemically unstable and age-related color changes, material degradation, or plain disintegration occur. Keep them away from sunlight as it will hasten these issues if they are exposed to light.
How Do I Know If My Clothes Are Synthetic?
The swatch in a fire-proof container and ignite a corner of the fabric: Cotton will have an odor that is similar to burning paper. Wool will smell like burning hair or feathers. Synthetic polyester materials will be identified by a chemical or plastic smell.
Why Should We Avoid Synthetic Clothes?
All synthetic fibers are created using petroleum-derived raw materials. Synthetic fibers catch fire easily. Synthetic fibers melt when heated and adhere to the wearer’s body.