Polyester and nylon are popular fabrics that constitute most of the materials people wear. A search for workout clothes, for instance, would reveal that most of them are made from either of both fabrics. When faced with making a decision, you wonder if anyone is better than the other and how much difference they both have.
This article highlights the key differences between polyester and nylon, the uses, and features, which we will consider in the following headings.
- Polyester vs Nylon: An Overview
- Polyester vs Nylon: The Features
- Polyester vs Nylon: The Uses
- Polyester vs Nylon: The Pros and Cons
- Polyester vs Nylon: The Environmental Impact
Polyester vs Nylon: An Overview
Polyester is a synthetic fabric manufactured through polymerization, which combines monomers through heat and pressure into a polymer. Polyester, a polymer or plastic, is made from ethylene glycol and terephthalic acid.
The plastic melts and thrusts into long filaments when the polymerization method is complete. These filaments are wound into threads or incorporated with the fiber of another fabric to form a polyester blend.
Polyester was created in the 1930s, shortly after the invention of nylon. Although polyester was called a double knit because it was scratchy and thick, it still served several functions and industrial uses. In the 1970s, polyester became popular because it had a lot of striking colors and was used to make bell-bottom pantsuits.
With the advancement of the fabric industry in current times, polyester is made in light and smooth weights and textures. Although some manufacturers recycle plastics to make polyester, that method is more expensive.
Nylon is another polymer made from petroleum by combining single monomers into a long polymer. Nylon is made out of monomers adipic acid and hexamethylenediamine. Similar to polyester, nylon polymers are melted from pellets into long strings thrust through industrial nozzles to make filaments that become threads.
Although there are similarities with how polyester and nylon are created, the bonds that hold the monomers together are different. Weak hydrogen bonds hold the monomers together in nylon production, but in the case of polyester, the bonds are held together by firmer bonds.
Nylon was invented in 1935, a few years before polyester, and with its invention as the first synthetic fabric, the fabric world changed. Nylon became instantly popular because of its lightweight and silky properties. Because silk was needed during World War II, nylon was used as a silk replacement to produce items like parachutes.
When the war ended, nylon was still used publicly to make silk-like stockings and underwear for women. Presently, nylon still makes an excellent fabric for women’s apparel, and its weatherproof features make it an ideal option for outdoor clothing.
Both materials are non-biodegradable, and the option of manufacturing them with recycled materials remains expensive, even more so for nylon.
Polyester vs Nylon: The Features
Polyester and nylon have similar features and characteristics, but each has unique strengths and weaknesses. Below is an overview of their various features.
Nylon is light and silky, and its texture makes it the softer of the two materials. With its entrance into the market, polyester was considered thick and scratchy.
Although nylon remains a popular fabric for underwear and dresses, polyester makes unique household items. Its more delicate threads, high thread counts, and new manufacturing techniques have made polyester excellent for bedsheets.
Polyester and nylon are impressive when it comes to durability. But where nylon has greater tensile strength than polyester, polyester is resistant to different factors discussed below.
Polyester and nylon are flame resistant, which means they do not catch fire easily. Although that might be the case, they would still melt in high heat.
However, these materials are treated with chemicals that make them more flame-resistant. Still, polyester is a safe material used to make children’s nightwear because it takes longer to ignite.
Polyester retains its color under direct sunlight because it is more UV resistant than nylon. Although nylon is UV resistant, it fades off faster than polyester if made for outdoor use.
One of the significant differences between polyester and nylon is odor retention. Polyester absorbs body oils that cling to the fabric even after washing it.
On the other hand, nylon is odor resistant because it does not retain body oils and scents.
Mildew is a form of white, powdery mold and can form on damp surfaces. Polyester and nylon can withstand damage and are mildew resistant, unlike other materials.
Polyester and nylon are not fully waterproof, but rather than absorb water, polyester allows water to bead on its surface. Although with enough pressure, water drops can pass through the tiny air holes in any polyester fabric.
Although nylon absorbs water, it still has the moisture-wicking ability. This means that in some cases, nylon draws moisture away from the body and spreads it across its surface.
Polyester lacks breathability, and as such, it is hot to wear when performing tasks such as working out. Polyester is often blended with cotton to improve its breathability in current times.
Nylon is worse than polyester in the breathability sector because it traps moisture and heat, making it cling to the skin.
It is important to note that other factors like design, brand, and location would determine the cost of either product.
But generally, nylon has a more expensive production process, making it the more costly of the two fabrics. On the other hand, polyester is more prevalent in demand because it has a low cost of production.
Polyester and nylon are machine-washable, wrinkle-resistant, and require easy care.
However, nylon absorbs water and takes longer to dry, unlike polyester. While drying and ironing both materials, you should keep them away from high heat to avoid melting and burning. Air drying is the best option for both.
Nylon has a much higher tendency to peel than polyester, so handwashing is advised to reduce the effect.
Polyester vs Nylon: The Uses
Polyester and nylon are used to produce different items, which include but are not limited to home furniture, electronics, and apparel. Polyester and nylon are interchangeably used to create backpacks, bags, and jackets. However, polyester is more popularly used in making different kinds of clothing, unlike nylon. Polyester makes more than 60% of clothes worldwide, while nylon has more industrial use and can make some blouses, outdoor apparel, underwear, and dresses.
Polyester and nylon can both be used to make bags and backpacks. However, nylon is more water-resistant, durable, and can be used for outdoor gear or outerwear, unlike polyester, which is mainly used for branding purposes.
Polyester is used in mainly all kinds of clothing because of its versatility. Unlike nylon, this is used to make blouses, dresses, lingerie, raincoats, windbreakers, ski wear, and cycle wear.
Both nylon and polyester come in handy in making household items like curtains, bedsheets, draperies, carpets, and pillowcases.
Nylon, although more expensive, is more durable when used for carpets because it still retains a lot of its characteristics after being in use for a long time.
Polyester carpets are cheaper and stain-resistant with the use of a special coating. But these need frequent replacements and do not last as long as nylon carpets.
Polyester also has some industrial uses and can produce hoses, rooms, nets, thread, auto upholstery, and power belting.
Nylon has more industrial use and can make items such as conveyor belts, tire cords, hoses, seatbelts, tarpaulins, sleeping bags, parachutes, and tents, among others.
Polyester vs Nylon: Pros and Cons
Here is a quick rundown of the pros and cons of polyester and nylon.
Pros of Polyester
- Polyester is durable and functions excellently in any weather condition.
- It does not absorb water and is highly water-resistant.
- Polyester is machine-washable and is easy to care for
- Its high versatility makes it an excellent option for different clothing types.
- Cost-effective because of its cheap production scale
- Resists stretching and shrinking
- Resists fading
- Mould, UV, and flame resistant
Cons of Polyester
- Polyester is not very breathable.
- Absorbs body oils and holds on to smells
Pros of Nylon
- Nylon has high tensile strength and is durable.
- Mould and flame resistant
- Odor resistant
- Easy to care for
Cons of Nylon
- Not very breathable
- May generate static electricity.
- It is not as water-resistant as polyester.
- Not UV-resistant
- It fades off quickly in sunlight.
- Has a limited use in clothing types
Polyester vs Nylon: Which is Warmer?
Nylon clings to the body more than polyester does, making it the warmer of the two materials. Nylon stays close to the body in any event, and the tighter it is, the less breathable it would be. This fabric traps body heat and sweat and does not let air pass through. On the other hand, polyester has minimal breathability but is not as warm as nylon.
Polyester vs Nylon: Environmental Impact
Although none of them are natural fibers, polyester and nylon can be produced with minimal effects done to the environment. Nylons are mainly made with byproducts found at oil refineries, and polyester is not biodegradable but can be recycled. With modern technology and changes in the fabric industry, it is now possible to purchase 100% recycled polyester.
As a precaution, you must lookout for the chemicals applied to these materials to keep them waterproof. This is because some people have allergies that are triggered by these chemicals.
With the significant difference between polyester and nylon being that nylon is softer and more weather-resistant, and polyester more water-resistant, your choice still plays a vital role here.
Both fabrics have unique strengths and weaknesses, and the function should be thought of before any purchase is made.
Although polyester is more popular than nylon and makes for excellent sleeping wear, it’s not as resistant to weather conditions as nylon is.
However, polyester and nylon remain excellent fabrics characterized by durability and functionality.