Do you know the polyester fabric? This is a full guide to polyester fabric, including its characteristics, uses, and types.
You have probably seen clothing that says, “100% polyester”. But what is Polyester, and how can it be used? Polyester fabric (polyethylene terephthalate) is a synthetic woven material known for being durable and relatively inexpensive to produce.
Find out what you need to know about polyester before using it for your project or product.
What is Polyester?
Typically made from petroleum, polyester is a synthetic fabric. One of the most widely used textiles in the world, this material is utilized in a huge variety of commercial and non-commercial settings.
Polyester is a chemical polymer made up primarily of substances with an ester functional group. The majority of synthetic and some plant-based polyester fibers are produced using the chemical ethylene, which is a component of petroleum but can also be produced using other materials. While some types of polyester are biodegradable, the majority of them are not, and polyester use and production contribute to global pollution.
In some applications, polyester may be the sole constituent of apparel products, but it’s more common for polyester to be blended with cotton or another natural fiber. Although using polyester in clothing lowers production costs, it also makes clothing less comfortable.
Polyester enhances the durability, wrinkling profile, and shrinkage of this widely produced natural fiber when combined with cotton. Polyester fabric is excellent for long-term use in outdoor applications because it is highly resistant to environmental factors.
Characteristics of Polyester Fabric
From faux leather to velvet, off-white organza to burgundy broadcloth, every fabric will have a special set of qualities that determine its best use. Some of the most prominent characteristics of polyester are that:
- It’s durable. Because polyester fibers are so strong, unlike cotton and other natural fibers, they do not easily rip, stretch, or pill. Because of its durability, polyester clothing doesn’t need special maintenance and can easily withstand abrasion from machine washing. Polyester fabric is particularly well-liked for outdoor clothing because of its durability.
- It’s moisture-resistant. Polyester is a common material for outdoor clothing and equipment (like tents) that must fend off rain and precipitation because polyester fibers resist liquid droplets, meaning that the fabric will wick away moisture rather than soak it up. Polyester is also stain-resistant because of its resistance to moisture. Polyester is less breathable than cotton because of its moisture resistance. If you perspire while wearing polyester, the fabric will hold onto the moisture (instead of wicking it away) and make you feel warm and sticky.
- It retains its shape. Polyester fabrics are less likely to wrinkle and will maintain their shape, drape, and rigidity better than linen and cotton fabrics, which must be ironed. In the 1970s, polyester gained popularity as an alternative to clothing that needed frequent washing and ironing to prevent wrinkling due to its resistance to wrinkles.
- It can be coarse. Polyester, in contrast to many natural fabrics, doesn’t feel particularly luxurious; cheaply made polyester can feel slightly coarse to sensitive skin. However, there are a variety of ways to make and weave polyester fabric, which will impact its texture and make some polyester coarse. Other types of polyester like China silk fabric are almost as smooth as natural silk or satin fabric.
- It’s typically non-biodegradable. Many natural fibers are biodegradable, which means they will decompose over time and prevent landfill clogs. The majority of polyester yarns have quite the opposite effect on the environment because they are typically not biodegradable and difficult to degrade.
How is Polyester Made?
Being a synthetic fiber, polyester differs from cotton in that it is not derived from a plant. Instead, polyester is created chemically from derived substances. While the process varies depending on the different types of polyester and the manufacturer, there are five basic steps to creating polyester:
- Create a monomer: Petroleum is converted into components that can be used for a variety of applications after being extracted from the earth and transported to a refinery. The two monomers required to create polyester are ethylene and p-xylene, which are extracted from petroleum.
- Create a polymer: The polymer polyethylene terephthalate (PET), the material used to make soda and water bottles, is made by combining the monomers with dimethyl terephthalate. The consistency of PET in this form is similar to honey.
- Extrude the polymer: The PET is then extruded after it has been created so it can dry and harden. Then, it is divided into tiny pellets.
- Melt and spin the pellets: The PET pellets are once again melted, and the molten PET is extruded through spinnerets, which are tiny holes, to form thread. These lengthy threads become polyester fibers once they have cooled. The shapes of the spinnerets can be changed to produce various fiber qualities depending on what the fibers are used for.
- A yarn is born: After being twisted into polyester yarn, the fibers are now ready to be knit into fabric. To achieve particular results, the fibers can now be cut or subjected to additional chemical alterations.
Various ways to alter this production process exist, depending on the desired result. For instance, the fibers will be adjusted to create a thin filament in order to produce soft and smooth fabrics. There are also ways to alter the ethylene used in the process. The source of ethylene used to make plant-based polyester is typically sugarcane rather than petroleum.
Different Types of Polyester Fabric
To further your knowledge of polyester fabric, it’s important to learn more details about the three major types of this textile:
The most widely used kind of polyester on the market is PET or ethylene polyester. In most contexts, the word “polyester” is synonymous with “PET” even though other types of polyester exist.
The fact that this fabric is biodegradable is its primary benefit over conventional polyester. However, compared to its PET or PCDT textile counterparts, plant-based polyester may be less durable and cost more to produce.
Although PCDT polyester is less common than PET polyester, it is more elastic, which makes it perfect for some applications. PCDT Polyester is also more durable than PET polyester, so this fabric is frequently preferred for heavy-duty applications like upholstery and curtains.
Uses for Polyester Fabric
Polyester fabric has a variety of uses in fashion:
- Clothing: Anything that would be made from the cotton fiber can be made from polyester fiber. Polyester can be used to make any type of clothing, whether it be for formal, business, or casual occasions. Polyester fabric has countless uses in clothing, from suits and tuxedos to shirts for everyday wear and socks.
- Housewares: Polyester is used to make various home items like microfiber towels, blankets, curtains, and upholstery. Polyester is a great fabric for pillows, chairs, and sofa cushions because of its moisture-resistant qualities.
- Automotive: When you enter your car and buckle up, chances are the safety belt is made with polyester. It’s also used to reinforce car tires, giving them more strength and lengthening their useful lives.
- Geosynthetics: Due to its suitability as a fabric for water filtration, drainage, and soil erosion control, polyester is frequently used in civil engineering and construction projects.
- Industrial applications: Bottles, ropes, cords, boats, LCDs, tarps, food containers, and other industrial products can all be made of polyester.
Polyester is also commonly used as stuffing for blankets, bedding, and sleeping bags because of its ability to insulate. You may not even be aware that polyester is used to make a lot of commonplace items.
Read More: Can You Dye Polyester?
Are There Disadvantages in Using Polyester?
Cotton, cashmere, silk, wool, and other natural fibers are among the fabrics and yarns that some people adore wearing or using only. They usually have the advantages of being breathable, hypoallergenic, and long-lasting. Additionally, they may cost more than synthetic fibers and require more attention during washing and drying.
Synthetic fabrics, like polyester, generally have problems breathing, which is their main drawback. It can be uncomfortable for some people to experience sweating or a feeling of humidity while wearing it. Because polyester absorbs much less moisture than natural fabrics like cotton, it has a lower moisture absorption rate.
However, modern manufacturing is now starting to create more moisture-wicking polyesters, which are great for working out and leisurewear. Check out Is Polyester Toxic?
People with extremely sensitive skin may experience a mild reaction when wearing synthetic fabrics, but this is less likely to happen when the fabric is blended. Since 100% polyester is highly flammable on its own, caution must be used, especially when using or wearing it close to an open flame.
The environmental impact of polyester is a concern because it is made from plastic. True, it comes from an unsustainable source, but plastic bottles are actually recycled into the polyester fabric, which is pretty amazing. On the other hand, plastic is not compostable, which means it does not decompose well in soil.
The Cost of Polyester
The price of polyester varies and is largely influenced by supply and demand, fiber quality, where you buy it, and whether the raw materials have already undergone any processing. Before 2016, polyester pricing remained relatively consistent from quarter to quarter, but since then, that stability has been replaced by accelerated movement, exacerbated by the onset of the pandemic.
Polyester pricing is dependent on a few factors:
- Price of raw materials – Mono-Ethylene Glycol (MEG) and Purified Terephthalic Acid (PTA), which are both found in crude oil, are combined to create Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET, also known as Polyester). PTA costs rise along with the price of oil, impacting the price of polyester.
- Ocean Freight – Ocean freight cannot be avoided because about 70% of the industrial polyester produced worldwide is produced in China. The cost of polyester rises along with shipping expenses. Because of the pandemic, international shipping has slowed, making it more challenging to buy polyester and driving up prices.
- Market Demand – Despite being used in numerous industries, the automotive industry has a significant impact on the demand for polyester. Seatbelts, tire carcass piles, airbags, reinforced hoses, reinforced power transmission belts, and interiors are just a few of the parts of a car that use polyester. When auto production slows (as it is currently doing as a result of a shortage of computer chips), polyester supply also decreases. Overall, market pricing is directly impacted by the supply/demand equation.
Why Choose Polyester?
Because polyester fibers are thermoplastic, or heat-sensitive, they are such a common material for clothing. This implies that 100% polyester fabrics can have permanent pleats added to them as well as have decorative shapes and patterns laser-cut into them. They are great for cleaning because they are also very stain-resistant.
If a garment is made entirely of polyester, you might notice that it is more likely to accumulate static electricity. When it comes to maintaining your hair’s appearance, this is a nightmare. You might also find that you can annoy people by giving them harmless static shocks.
Polyester is frequently blended with fibers that are more stable, like cotton, to get rid of this problem. Since it combines the advantages of both fabrics, it is known as polycotton and is much stronger, more resilient to wrinkles, and breathable than 100% polyester.
Polyester clothing tends to be slippery and almost silky to the touch and the fibers can be woven or knitted to create the fabric, although knitted maximise its flexibility. It is a fiber that is naturally bright and easily adaptable to various uses.
Conclusion: Polyester Fabric
Polyester is a synthetic or man-made fiber. Polyester serves as the foundation for numerous commercial, industrial, and household products because of its strength and capacity to hold its shape.
Polyester fabric has an enormous range of advantageous applications in a wide range of industries, and it is undeniable.
How Does Polyester Fabric Feel?
While natural fabrics like wool, silk, and cotton blends are renowned for their softness, polyester is typically not very soft. The softness of polyester will be determined by one of several different fabrication processes. The fabric can have a variety of textures, from relatively smooth when made with thin yarn to coarse when it is textured or made with thick yarn.
Is Polyester a Good Quality Fabric?
Polyester fibers are incredibly strong, meaning they don’t tear, stretch, or pill easily like cotton and other natural fibers. Because of its durability, polyester clothing can be washed in a machine without suffering any special damage.
Is Polyester Or Cotton Better?
Cotton is sustainable, natural, breathable, and absorbent. Synthetic fiber polyester, on the other hand, is unsustainable, doesn’t breathe well, and repels water.