Polyester Fabric: Properties and Care

One of the well-known and used synthetic fabrics is polyester. The fabric has been around for a long while and was originally introduced as one that could be worn, pulled, and washed without wrinkles.

Polyester is widely adapted for various uses and is a fabric you should get to know because almost everyone has one or more polyester clothing items. 

What is Polyester Fabric?

Polyester Fabric

Polyester is an artificial fiber widely used in the fashion industry, unlike natural fibers such as cotton and wool, which are produced from the condensation of chemical compounds.

The fibers can be found in nature but are produced using ethylene. And the ethylene used in its production process can be obtained from petroleum and other sources like plants. This is why some polyester fibers are biodegradable, but most of them aren’t.

As it’s always said, there are two sides to a coin; polyester fabric has some endearing properties and ones that aren’t so good. This is why polyester can be used singly for apparel or is blended with other fibers like cotton to combine their natural properties and produce a perfect mix of fabric.

Polyester is inexpensive yet still durable. However, it can be quite uncomfortable as it’s often not breathable. Asides from using polyester for apparel, it is also used for home furnishings and upholsteries. It can also be adapted for outdoor use because the fabric is manufactured to withstand harsh environmental conditions. 

Origins of Polyester Fabric

Polyester is a popular synthetic fiber obtained from petroleum. In 1929, a DuPont researcher, Wallace Carothers, published an article about his polyester creation. DuPont obtained a patent on this early form of polyester in 1931 but didn’t commercialize the fabric.

However, in the 1940s, researchers at Imperial Chemical Industries produced the practical version of polyester in a lab through a chemical reaction between an acid and alcohol. The chemical reaction resulted in durable and versatile polyester fibers (PET).

DuPont bought the rights to PET and began commercial production of polyester. Today, China is the world’s largest producer of polyester fibers, making it the hub of the international polyester industry, followed by some other Asian countries like Japan, Korea, and Taiwan. Many countries like the US employ polyester fabric for many applications due to its durability and versatility. 

Common Polyester Fabric Properties

Polyester structure

Polyester fabrics have unique properties, which include:

  • High durability

One of the major properties of polyester is its durability. It’s a super strong and stable fiber to withstand long-lasting use, stains, and abrasion. The fabric retains its strength even when it’s wet.

  • Affordability

An excellent feature of polyester fabric that makes it a popular choice is its affordability. Polyester fabric is inexpensive despite its durability and versatility.

The fabric is one of the cheapest fabrics in the textile industry. This is primarily because its raw materials are obtained from crude oil, and its production process isn’t costly.

  • Easy to maintain

Another unique feature of polyester fabric is its ease of maintenance. Polyester is designed to be somewhat stain and wrinkle-resistant. And this makes washing it super easy.

In addition, the fabric dries on time whether you air-dry or tumble-dry it. The fabric also may not require ironing as it is wrinkle-resistant. You also won’t need to worry about long-term damage as the fabric is resistant to moths, rot, and mildew.

  • Lightweight and flexible

Polyester fabric isn’t just strong but also lightweight and flexible. It’s also slippery and bright, with a soft and silky feel. 

  • Low moisture absorption

Polyester fabric isn’t breathable like cotton, doesn’t absorb moisture, and makes you sweat. So, wearing this fabric in hot weather like summer might be quite uncomfortable. 

  • Coarse feel

In contrast to many natural textiles, polyester does not have a very delicate feel, and low-quality polyester may even irritate the skin of those with sensitive allergies.

Polyester Fabrics Production

Production of a monomer is the first step in the manufacturing of polyester. Firstly, ethylene glycol is reacted with dimethyl terephthalate under high temperatures to form a monomer which, after production, reacts with dimethyl terephthalate again to create a polymer.

The molten polyester polymer obtained from the previous step is then extruded from the reaction chamber in long stripes. These stripes are given time to cool and dry so they can easily be broken into smaller pieces.

The resulting smaller pieces are melted back to create a molten substance which is then extruded through a spinneret to form fibers.

The polyester fibers are hot stretched until they are about five times their original length to decrease the width. Afterward, the fibers are wound onto cones as filaments or crimped and cut into staple lengths. The fibers are made into yarns.

The two types of polyester yarns include filaments and spun. Spun yarns are produced by cutting long filaments into short staples, which are then combined and spun. While filament yarns group long polyester filaments together and twist them to create one long polyester fiber that’s not twisted.

The last step involved in the production of polyester is finishing. During this step, the resulting polyester fabric reacts with various chemicals depending on the desired result to improve the fabric’s quality.

Common Varieties Of Types of Polyester

There are different types of polyester textiles, all of which we will discuss below. Outlined below are the types of polyester.

  • Plant-Based Polyester

This type of polyester is obtained from plants, although polyester is primarily synthetic. This is because the primary material used in the production process of polyester, ethylene, can be obtained from plants.

Originally, ethylene used to be obtained from petroleum. But recently, many manufacturing companies have moved to get this material from cane sugar as it is more eco-friendly. A feature distinct to this type of polyester is its sustainability and biodegradability due to its plant origin, unlike other polyester types.

However, its manufacturing process is costlier and also not as durable as the other types.

  • Ethylene Polyester

This type of polyester is also referred to as PET. It is the most popular polyester type in the market. Ethylene from petroleum is used for its production process.

Ethylene glycol is the monomer that reacts under high heat to create a polyester polymer that’s then made into fibers. This type of polyester is versatile and is used in many industries, including plastic bottles and electronics. When PET fibers are spun into yarn, they are used to make different types of clothing. 

  • PCDT Polyester

PCDT polyester is another type of polyester, and it is also known as Poly 1. Although its production process is similar to that of Ethylene polyester, PCDT P polyester is made to be much more resilient and durable than PET. This is why it’s popularly used as curtain and upholstery fabric, and the fabric is also wrinkle and stain-resistant.

  • Polyester fabric blends

Fabrics made from polyester yarns can be woven or knitted using only polyester or coupled with other fibers. It’s a combination of cotton, linen, rayon, and wool.

These mixed textiles combine the benefits of polyester fibers with those of other fibers.

Polyester Vs. Cotton

Polyester and cotton are two popular fibers with numerous applications and distinct properties. Asides from the fact that cotton is a natural fiber and polyester is synthetic, there are many more properties that make them unique from each other. Cotton fiber is extremely breathable, highly absorbent, and sustainable as it is obtained from plants.

Polyester fiber, on the other hand, isn’t breathable and can’t absorb water. If you’re in the market for an environmentally friendly fabric, polyester is most definitely not your pick because it is not sustainable due to its production from petroleum. 

In addition, polyester is synthetically manufactured to be stronger and resistant to wrinkles and stains, unlike cotton. Surprisingly though, when cotton and polyester fiber are blended, the resulting fabric type is incredible. This is probably because the resulting fabric has unique properties that can’t be obtained when the two fibers are used alone.

Polyester and cotton blends are highly durable and breathable, which is why they are widely used in the fashion and apparel industry.

How Much Does It Cost To Purchase A Yard Of Polyester Fabric?

Polyester is one of the most inexpensive textile products in the world. You can get a yard of polyester fabric for an average cost of $10 per yard. The price of high-quality polyester fabric is more than that of low quality. So, the amount you will ultimately spend on this fabric will depend on the quality of the type you want.

Common Applications Of Polyester Fabric 

Polyester Clothing
Polyester Clothing

Polyester is a highly versatile type of fabric that can take on different forms and be used for different purposes depending on its exact production process. Some of the uses and applications of polyester include:

  • Apparels

Pure and blended polyester fabrics are used to make different kinds of items of clothing ranging from loungewear, underwear, and pants to formal evening wear. Polyester blended with wool makes a perfect suit fabric and can also be used with cotton fibers to make shirts.

Aside from using polyester to make various clothing items, it can also be used inside some garments to provide extra warmth without unnecessary bulkiness.

  • Home Furnishings

Another major use and application of polyester are in making home furnishing pieces. It is used to make upholstery, curtains, draperies, wall coverings, and carpets. Polyester fiber is also blended with cotton to make bedsheets, blankets, and pillowcases.

  • Industrial application

Polyester fabric is popularly used in umbrellas, tents, and sleeping bag manufacturing companies because of its strength and low water absorbency. The fabric is also good for tire cords, hoses, ropes, fishing nets, and belts.

Additionally, polyester is used in manufacturing conveyor belts, seat belts, film, wire casing, and mousepads. It’s also widely used in plastic bottles and container manufacturing companies.

How to Care for Polyester Fabrics 

Polyester is a durable and resilient fabric. But if adequate care isn’t provided, it may hold oil stains and become yellow over time. These care and maintenance tips are essential for your polyester fabric. 

  • Turning your polyester clothes inside out before washing them would be best to avoid snags.
  • You can also machine wash your polyester fabric in warm water setting with a simple detergent using chlorine bleach only when necessary.
  • To keep your white polyester fabric from yellowing, soak it overnight with warm water and automatic dishwashing detergent. After washing, you can then add vinegar to the last rinse.
  • To avoid shrinkage, you must use a low-temperature setting when tumble-drying your polyester clothing. Or you can air-dry the fabric, too, to prevent any damage risk.
  • Put all the instructions on the care label of the fabric into consideration, as it contains everything you need to know about properly taking care of the fabric.
  • You can iron polyester fabric. But ensure you use the right heat settings to prevent any potential damage.

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