Nylon Versus Polyester Fabric

Clothing made with nylon and polyester is easy to care for.

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Nylon and polyester are synthetic fabrics. They were both created during the textile boom in the mid-1900s. Synthetic fabrics are versatile and free of the flaws that plague fabrics made from plants and animals. Nylon and polyester share many properties. However, both possess unique characteristics that support their popularity in the marketplace.

History of Nylon

DuPont introduced the United States to nylon in 1939. Nylon was first used in women’s hosiery, thread and parachute fabric. During World War II, nylon was used exclusively for military purposes in tires, parachutes, tents, currency and other military supplies. The introduction of nylon hosiery prior to the outbreak of the war created a huge demand. During war-effort drives, nylon hosiery was auctioned for as much as $40,000 a pair. After the war, the majority of nylon produced was used to satisfy consumer demand for hosiery.

History of Polyester

In 1953, DuPont introduced Americans to polyester and the “wash and wear” industry was born. Sales of polyester garments soared during the 1960s and 1970s as manufacturers rushed to create new styles to feed demand. Today, polyester shares the “wash and wear” title with nylon.

Fabric Characteristics

Nylon is an extremely adaptable fabric. It is easy to clean and resists damage from oils. It can be colored in the manufacturing process or dyed afterward. Like nylon, polyester is easy to care for and strong. Both fabrics are abrasion and chemical resistant. Both resist wrinkles and polyester retains heat-set creases and pleats. Polyester dries quickly and resists mildew and shrinking. A key difference is that while nylon is stretchable, polyester is not.

Commercial Uses

Nylon and polyester are both used widely in apparel manufacturing. Nylon is low-absorbent and a popular fabric for swimwear. Nylon fiber is used most often in undergarments, hosiery and outer wear while polyester is used in all clothing types. Both are used in carpets, bedding, furniture upholstery and curtains. Polyester is also used in wall coverings. Nylon is used in dental floss and polyester is used as fiberfill. Nylon and polyester are used in the manufacturing of many other products including ropes, nets, hoses and tire cords.

Fabric Care

The majority of garments made with nylon and polyester are machine washable. Some garments require hand washing, especially if other, more delicate fibers are used in the garment’s construction. Tumble drying at low temperatures is recommended for both fabric types as is pressing with a warm iron when needed.

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