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What Is The Difference Between Nylon And Polyester?

Nylon and polyester are both synthetic fabrics, but nylon production is more expensive, which results in a higher price for the consumer. Nylon also tends to be more durable and weather-resistant, which is why it is more likely to be used in outdoor apparel or gear. Both fabrics are flame retardant, but nylon is stronger, while polyester is more heat-resistant. Polyester and nylon fabrics have a lot in common. They’re both lightweight materials made from synthetic fibers. And they’re both very popular options for sportswear.

That’s down to their durability – which is much better than that of natural fibers. And how well they respond to post-finishing processes that enhance their function. But there is also a difference between polyester and nylon fabrics. Understanding how their characteristics differ will help you to decide which material is most suited for the clothing you’re creating.

History

Nylon, the world's first synthetic fiber, was invented by Wallace Carothers in 1935. It was not available to the public until after World War II but was used extensively by the military for parachutes and tents. Polyester did not make its debut until the early 1940s and only became popular in the 1950s.

FAQs

Both nylon and polyester rate well for strength and durability. But when we make a direct comparison, nylon is stronger and stretchier than polyester, meaning garments made from nylon should last longer. Nylon is more durable and strong than polyester, that's why it's a popular material for ropes.

Of course, the type of weave both fabrics are made into will determine how much breathability each material has. In addition to that, if both fabrics are lightweight enough, then both will breathe quite well. If nylon is breathable than polyester is more so.

Both nylon and polyester resist water, but polyester resists it better than nylon. Additionally, polyester's water-resistant properties increase as the thread count rises. However, neither material is fully waterproof unless it's coated with special materials.

Nylon and polyester are both synthetic fabrics, but nylon production is more expensive, which results in a higher price for the consumer. ... Both fabrics are flame retardant, but nylon is stronger, while polyester is more heat-resistant.

Nylon is softer than polyester but also stronger. On the other hand, polyester is going to dry faster than nylon because it expels water where nylon is slightly absorptive. Recent improvements in technology and manufacturing have made polyester softer than cotton and competitive with nylon.

Nylon Overview

Nylon is a group of synthetic polymers known as thermoplastics or aliphatic polyamides, derived from petroleum. Nylon’s first use was as an alternative to silk. But its first commercial application was for toothbrush bristles in 1938. In 1940 it was followed by women’s stockings.

During WWII, nylon was used extensively by the military and was challenging to obtain by the general public. Today, nylon remains one of the most commonly used fabrics in the world, second only to cotton. Also, being fabric, nylon can be condensed into a hard but flexible solid to be used for mechanical parts, gears, hair combs and other items.

Nylon forms through a chemical reaction in a process known as ring-opening polymerisation. The molecules of the raw materials from which nylon forms are in ring form. But a chemical reaction, usually between adipoyl chloride and hexamethylenediamine, causes the rings to open and flatten into curly strings that bond to one another. When nylon stretches, the fibres become thin and smooth yet retain their strength.

Advantages of Nylon

  • Highly elastic
  • Durable and abrasion-resistant
  • Resilient
  • Water-resistant
  • Mould and mildew resistant
  • Stain-resistant
  • Easily cleaned
  • Ideal for dog beds

Disadvantages of Nylon

  • Fades easily in sunlight
  • Environmentally unfriendly, not recyclable
  • Overly shiny appearance
  • May generate static electricity

Polyester Overview

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Polyester is a term for a group of synthetic compounds that can be woven or knitted into fabric. The most common form of polyester in the fabric is polyethylene terephthalate (PET). PET is also used to create several types of plastic bottles. So is Polyester fabric waterproof?

Polyester evolved in the U.K. in the early 1940s. By the mid-1950s, it had already become a popular textile around the world. Today, polyester is used to manufacture a variety of products. These include textiles, belts, furniture, insulation, padding, tarps and glossy finishes for hardwoods.

Like nylon, polyester is formed through a chemical process involving a chain reaction. But the reaction occurs between mono ethylene glycol, purified terephthalic acid (PTA) and dimethyl terephthalate (DMT) to create bis terephthalate. When bis terephthalate is heated, it turns into PET, which is highly malleable and can combine into long, thin and unbroken fibres.

Advantages of Polyester

  • Very durable and abrasion-resistant
  • Resists water, dries quickly
  • Resists stretching and shrinking
  • Mould and mildew resistant
  • Holds colour well, resists fading
  • Easy to clean, may be dry cleaned
  • Recyclable

Disadvantages of Polyester

  • Non-breathable
  • Oils may stain

What Is The Difference Between Polyester And Nylon?

Fabric

Nylon is exceptionally strong, even stronger than polyester. Nylon and polyester are both abrasion resistant and resistant to damage from most chemicals. Nylon is also resistant to oil. Both are flammable — nylon melts then burns rapidly; polyester has a higher flammability temperature, but melts and burns at the same time.

They also tend to be wrinkle-resistant, polyester more so. It doesn't stretch or shrink, and is a crisp, resilient fabric whether wet or dry. Both nylon and polyester have a relatively low moisture absorbency, though nylon's is lower.

Feel & Performance

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During the early years, nylon was always considered a smoother and softer fabric than polyester. Nylon was created as a substitute for silk and it shows in its soft, lustrous feel. From its inception, polyester has always been a rougher fabric than nylon, hence its original use in outerwear garments and suits. The refined manufacturing capabilities of today have resulted in softer polyester that in many ways matches nylon and certainly the softness of cotton. Nylon was created as an alternative to silk, which explains its soft and silky feel. It is also shinier and stretchier than polyester.

Polyester is generally a rougher, duller fabric. However, modern manufacturing practices have improved the feel of polyester. You can now find polyester that mimics the softness of cotton and isn’t so close to the feel of nylon.  You’ll also find polyester blended with other fibers, like cotton and rayon. This means the yarn has all of the great features of polyester at a more affordable price.  

Dyeing

Disperse dyes are used to color polyester whilst acid dyes are used to color nylon. Polyester responds to the dyeing process much better than nylon. Dyes are absorbed well and polyester has good color fastness. Cationic-dyeable (or CD) polyester is a modified polyester. This type of polyester can be dyed in a different way, giving richer and more vivid color.

Nylon is trickier to work with, which makes dyeing nylon a job reserved for very best professionals. Dyes are sometimes absorbed in an uneven way across nylon fabric, creating unwanted striping. And nylon isn’t particularly colorfast either. Under UV rays, dyed nylon fades more quickly than polyester.

In cases where nylon and polyester fibers have been blended together, dyeing creates a two-tone effect. You can use acid dye, which the nylon will absorb and the polyester won’t. Or disperse dye, which nylon absorbs to a lesser extent. 

Durability

Both nylon and polyester are strong and lightweight due to their polymer-based construction. Nylon is the stronger of the two fabrics with greater stretchability. Though not as strong, polyester resists pilling better than nylon, which is when fibers unravel and ball up at the end. While this does not weaken the garment physically, it is not attractive aesthetically.

Nylon falls down slightly when it comes to abrasion resistance. This material pills more easily than polyester. Whilst this doesn’t weaken the garment, it will tend to look older more quickly.

Water-Wicking Ability

When it comes to fast-drying fabrics, polyester has the edge. Both are naturally hydrophobic, which means they expel water, ideally to the surface of the garment where it will evaporate. Nylon actually absorbs some water, which means it takes longer for a wet garment to dry. When nylon gets wet it absorbs water and can expand up to 3.5%. So when you’re sweating or working out in the rain, it will take longer for nylon to dry.

Polyester, in comparison, is much less absorbent. It’s a hydrophobic fabric, which means any water is thrust to the surface of the garment, where it is able to evaporate. This makes it great for high-intensity sports where lots of perspiration is a given

Reaction to Heat

Next up. How do these two fabrics cope in the face of heat? Polyester is the more durable option. It actually needs high heat to absorb dyes. This means it’s a reliable option for sublimation or digital print. Nylon, on the other hand, can’t be processed under high heat so heat transfer printing is a much more delicate process.

Lasting Color

Polyester absorbs more color faster than nylon due to the same properties that made it better at wicking water. Dyed polyester expels the water in the dye but not the dye itself, which bonds with the fibers. Nylon absorbs water, resulting in less dye bonding to the fibers.

Easy Care

Bold polyester and nylon are easy-care fabrics that can be machine washed and dried, though low heat is recommended. Polyester, while not as soft as nylon, sometimes needs the addition of a fabric softener, while nylon whites should be washed separately and with bleach to avoid yellowing. As for ironing, both should be ironed on low heat because they can melt at high temperatures.

Industrial Use

Nylon has a wider range of industrial uses including tire cord, hoses and conveyor belts. Other uses for nylon include seat belts, parachutes, racket strings, ropes, nets, sleeping bags, tarpaulins, tents, thread, mono-filament fishing line and dental floss. Polyester is also used for some industrial purposes such as hoses, power belting, tire cord and floppy disk liners. Polyester is used for ropes, nets, thread, auto upholstery, sails and fiberfill for various products including pillows and furniture.

General Use

Both nylon and polyester can be used for bags and backpacks. Nylon is more durable and weather-resistant, so it gets used for outerwear or outdoor gear. Polyester is better for companies with intricate logos who want to use bags for branding purposes.

Comfort

Comfort wise, both nylon and polyester are light-weight, quick-drying and smooth. Nylon tends to be warmer than polyester, and can often be more sweaty or cling more to the body.

Allergies

Any fiber can cause allergic reactions. However, people tend to be more allergic to the finishing resins used in synthetic fiber production to render them waterproof. As such, neither nylon nor polyester is more allergy-inducing than the other. Concerning their use in carpets and other home goods, since nylon and polyester are manufactured fibers, they tend to repel typical allergens. This makes them more hypo-allergenic.

Environmental Impact

While neither nylon or polyester is as green as natural fibers, they can both be made with minimal environmental impact. Most nylon is made from the unavoidable byproducts found at oil refineries. Polyester is non-biodegradable, but it can be recycled. In fact, it is possible to purchase 100 percent recycled polyester fabric.

Nylon Vs Polyester

Nylon fabric and polyester fabric are very similar materials. Both are found in outdoor bean bag chairs. Because of their similarity, the material that is best suited for outdoor bean bags is largely dependent upon the buyer’s personal preferences. It also depends on the specific type of nylon vs polyester.

The measure of the density of nylon, polyester, and other fabrics is known as the denier (D, DEN). Most of the nylon fabric utilised for bean bags have a denier of 420D. While the polyester used in our bean bags is 1680D. The denier measurement denotes linear mass density. Denier can determine its strength when compared to the same type of material. While nylon has a lower denier thickness than polyester does, it is inherently stronger than polyester on a weight-for-weight basis. However, since polyester is a finer thread, it can weave with a higher thread count to strengthen the finished product.

Of the two materials, nylon material is stronger, and it is more stretchable than polyester. This stretchability occurs because nylon absorbs a small amount of water while polyester does not absorb any. Because it absorbs water more than polyester, nylon does not hold dye well. And nylon tends to fade rapidly when exposed to the sun. Whereas dye bonds strongly to polyester fabric and are unaffected by UV radiation. Also, nylon takes longer to dry than polyester does.

The durability, mould resistance and ease of cleaning are close between these two fabrics. However, polyester is recommended for outdoor bean bag chairs because it holds colour longer. Polyester has superior colour fastness to light, making it more suitable for countries with a high UV Index. And it also resists piling, which causes the fabric to fray at the seams. Also, nylon may stretch after several cycles of hot sunlight, requiring additional filling to retain the furniture’s form. We hope we’ve answered all your questions relating to nylon vs polyester today.

So Which Is Best? Polyester Or Nylon?

Nylon and polyester each have their own strengths. Which material is best suited to your project will depend upon the end use and the fabric design. The silky feel of nylon is hard to beat, which is why nylon is the preferred choice for yoga and underwear brands. But whilst nylon is softer and stronger, polyester dries faster, dyes more easily and is less likely to pill.

These are all reasons why polyester is a popular option for garments used in sports like running, basketball, soccer and football. Nevertheless, technological advances are improving both fabrics. For example, polyester yarn is becoming softer. And with a wicking finish, nylon can take away moisture and dry more quickly.

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