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Polyester Vs Nylon Fabrics: Comparing Properties and Uses (2024)

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polyester vs nylonGreetings, my textile-loving friend.

Let’s delve into the nuances between polyester and nylon. Though similar synthetics, distinctions exist.

Polyester excels in wrinkle-resistance and industrial uses like conveyor belts. Nylon shines in moisture-wicking sportswear.

By comparing attributes like biodegradability and care, you’ll discern which fiber suits your needs.

Our insightful tête-à-tête illuminates polyester and nylon’s subtle, yet significant, differences.

Key Takeaways

  • Polyester is more versatile and cost-effective for apparel, while nylon is often preferred for shapewear and sportswear where stretch is important.
  • Nylon carpets and home furnishings tend to attract more soiling and require frequent cleaning compared to polyester options.
  • Polyester offers better softness and smoothness for bedsheets and pillowcases versus nylon bed linens.
  • Nylon is preferred over polyester for industrial applications like conveyor belts and tire cords due to its high strength, abrasion resistance, and elasticity.

What is Polyester?

What is Polyester
One: Polyester is the category name for a group of polymers made of PET (polyethylene terephthalate).

Originally patented in 1941, polyester became a fashion staple in the 1950s as synthetic fibers were introduced into the market.

Polyester is manufactured by polymerizing ethylene glycol and terephthalic acid to create long molecular chains.

The fibers are then spun together to create thread.

While early polyester was known for its frumpy look and feel, advances in textile engineering have improved the fabric’s hand and drape tremendously.

Modern closed-loop manufacturing techniques have also made polyester more sustainable.

Breathable polyester blends are now go-to fabrics for activewear and athleisure.

With its versatility and continued innovation, polyester will remain a fiber of the future across industries from fashion to furnishings to industrial applications.

What is Nylon?

What is Nylon
Nylon is a synthetic thermoplastic polymer first produced in 1935.

A versatile material with a wide range of applications, nylon is made of repeating units linked by amide bonds creating long molecular chains.

These chains can be formed into either a fiber or solid plastic.

The nylon chemical composition can be tailored to influence properties like strength or flexibility by adjusting chain size and incorporating additives.

To manufacture nylon, short-chain diamines react with certain acids to form polymer chains in a process called polycondensation.

While extremely durable, nylon’s longevity creates waste concerns since it resists biodegradation.

However, innovative applications continue to expand nylon’s uses in high performance fabrics, electronics, automotive components and more.

With judicious use and recycling efforts, nylon’s outstanding attributes can positively impact industries and consumers.

Polyester Vs Nylon Apparel Use

Polyester Vs Nylon Apparel Use
When comparing polyester and nylon for apparel use, there are a few key differences to consider.

Polyester is more widely used and can be found in almost every type of clothing, from shirts to pants to jackets.

Meanwhile, nylon is typically used for specific items like blouses, underwear, hosiery, swimwear, and sportswear where its strength and stretch are beneficial.

For most apparel applications, polyester will be the more versatile and cost-effective choice while nylon offers performance advantages in certain categories.


While polyester is more commonly used for sportswear like running, basketball, soccer, and football apparel, nylon can also be utilized for its stretchiness and durability.

Nylon and polyester both provide solutions for activewear needs.

Nylon’s elasticity allows greater freedom of movement.

Meanwhile, polyester wicks moisture better, keeping athletes drier.

Blends optimize cost, function, and fashion.

Ultimately, fabric choice depends on the sport and athlete preferences.

Yet with ongoing material innovations, both fabrics will continue advancing athletic pursuits.


Your underwear wardrobe likely contains more nylon than polyester.

Nylon is the preferred choice for intimate apparel and shapewear because of its softer handfeel and greater stretch.

Polyester blends well with other fibers like cotton for underwear with good moisture management.

Here’s a comparison of key properties for undergarment use:

Property Nylon Polyester
Softness Superior Inferior
Stretch Excellent Good
Cooling Good Fair

Nylon’s softer handfeel provides superior comfort next to skin in bras, shapewear, and underwear.

The excellent stretch accommodates movement.

Good moisture management keeps garments cooler and faster drying than polyester.

Polyester Vs Nylon Home Use

Polyester Vs Nylon Home Use
When considering polyester and nylon for home furnishings like carpeting, curtains, and upholstery, both synthetics are quite durable and resistant to fading.

However, nylon carpeting and furnishings tend to attract more soiling and require more frequent cleaning compared to polyester alternatives.

Polyester home textiles like sheets and pillowcases also tend to feel softer and smoother next to skin versus nylon bed linens.


You’ll find both polyester and nylon used for carpeting, curtains, and other home furnishings.

Carpet longevity:

  • Nylon carpets typically last longer thanks to their strength.

Stain resistance:

  • Both resist stains well, but polyester carpets do better.

Eco-friendly options:

  • Recycled polyester is an environmentally friendly choice.

Texture variety:

  • Nylon and polyester carpets come in plush, frieze, and patterned styles.

Maintenance tip:


Both fabrics can be used for your curtains, draperies, bedspreads, and upholstery.

Polyester and nylon offer softness and lustrous sheen while being shrink-and-stretch resistant.

Their environmental impact can be reduced through textile innovations like recycling programs.

We must meet sustainability challenges through design adaptations and address emerging trends like microplastics from fabrics entering waterways.

Fabric Strengths Concerns
Polyester Wrinkle-free, durable Not biodegradable
Nylon Smooth, hypoallergenic High energy use in production

Industrial Applications

Industrial Applications
You’ll find both polyester and nylon used extensively in industrial settings.

Nylon is often the preferred material for conveyor belts and tire cords thanks to its high strength and abrasion resistance.

Polyester also sees some use in tire cords and conveyor belts when cost is a main factor.

Conveyor Belts

One can also use nylon and polyester for industrial applications like conveyor belts and tire cords.

You’re going to find that polyester performs better in high heat environments, so it’s often the preferred material for conveyor belts and tire cords where heat build-up can be an issue.

Polyester’s high strength, stiffness, dimensional stability, and chemical resistance make it well-suited to the demands of industrial production processes.

At the same time, one should consider environmental impact – while neither material is biodegradable, polyester is easier to recycle in some forms.

With thoughtful material selection, manufacturers can optimize performance while minimizing waste.

Tire Cords

You’re also likely to see both nylon and polyester used for tire cords in industrial applications.

While polyester displays greater strength and chemical resistance, nylon offers more elasticity and ability to flex—crucial properties for a tire’s performance.

Manufacturing innovations have led to more sustainable alternatives like recycled PET and bio-based polyamide for tire reinforcement as well.

Still, these synthetic polymers continue dominating this application due to their:

  • High tensile strength
  • Dimensional stability
  • Resistance to stretching

Fabric Properties Compared

Fabric Properties Compared
Here we’ll compare some key fabric properties between polyester and nylon.

Both fabrics have low moisture absorption, though nylon absorbs even less moisture than polyester.

Additionally, polyester tends to be more wrinkle-resistant compared to nylon.

Wrinkle Resistance

Your ‘Polyester vs Nylon Fabrics’ wraps up regarding industrial uses, so let’s shift gears and compare some fabric properties.

Polyester’s naturally more wrinkle-resistant than nylon.

You’re apt to see fewer creases in polyester apparel and home goods.

Polyester fibers have higher elastic recovery, meaning the molecules snap back quicker after compression.

This helps polyester better resist permanent wrinkling.

Treating polyester with fabric finishes like resin also boosts wrinkle resistance.

Compared to nylon, polyester has superior wrinkle prevention from the get-go.

You can often skip ironing polyester fabrics altogether.

Moisture Absorption

Your fabrics have low moisture absorption, with nylon’s staying drier.

  • Polyester fibers absorb 0.4% water, pushing moisture to the surface of the fabric.
  • Nylon can absorb up to 4% water before saturation, wicking it throughout the textile.

Humidity and sweat are kept from clinging to the skin with quick-drying polyester apparel.

The hydrophobic and hygroscopic traits of these synthetic fibers provide useful moisture management properties in textiles like sportswear and detachable linings.

Care and Maintenance

Care and Maintenance
When caring for and cleaning polyester and nylon items, there are some key differences to keep in mind.

While both fibers can be machine washed and dried on low heat, polyester has the advantage of being safe for dry cleaning, whereas nylon can melt under the solvents used.

Taking note of care instructions is critical, but in general, both synthetic fabrics are quite easy to launder, remaining resistant to shrinking, wrinkling, and mold.

Machine Washing

You can machine wash both nylon and polyester.

When washing these fabrics:

  • Use cold or warm water on a gentle cycle.
  • Remove items promptly from the dryer after tumble drying on low.

Both nylon and polyester have excellent stain resistance properties, making them easy to clean.

However, it’s important to avoid using fabric softeners as they can reduce the water repellency of these fabrics.

Additionally, be mindful of temperature settings when drying these fabrics to prevent damage or shrinkage.

By following proper care techniques such as gentle washing and appropriate drying techniques, you can maintain the quality and longevity of your nylon and polyester garments effortlessly.

Dry Cleaning

One can typically dry clean polyester fabrics, while nylon cannot withstand the chemical solvents that dissolve the material.

Consider environmentally-friendly dry cleaning alternatives for polyester like professional wet cleaning or at-home steam cleaning.

For both fabrics, hand wash gently in cool water with a mild detergent or soak in a vinegar solution to help remove odors without harsh chemicals.

Air dry all pieces rather than machine drying to preserve shape and prevent heat damage.

Choosing sustainable care methods maintains the integrity of natural and synthetic textiles alike.

Environmental Impact

Environmental Impact
When considering environmental impact, a key difference between polyester and nylon is biodegradability.

While neither fiber breaks down quickly, nylon is slightly more biodegradable.

You’ll also want to analyze recyclability, as polyester is easily recycled in some forms while recycling nylon poses more difficulties.

Comparing biodegradability and recyclability provides insight into the sustainability of polyester and nylon textiles.


Not biodegrading when discarded, both nylon and polyester persist in landfills and waterways, potentially causing harm.

As textile engineers, we’re considering biodegradability challenges and striving for eco-friendly alternatives like bioplastics innovation.

With sustainable disposal in mind, we hope to lessen environmental impact through ongoing assessment.


Neither fiber biodegrades, but you’re able to recycle some polyester forms more simply than nylon.

As we strive for sustainable textile solutions, polyester’s recyclability makes it an eco-friendlier choice over nylon in some cases.

However, both industries are investing in circular economy innovations to improve end-of-life options.

With advanced disposal alternatives, enhanced recycling processes, and other initiatives underway, the future looks promising for responsible production, use, and recovery of these ubiquitous synthetics.

Still, overconsumption poses the greatest threat, so mindful purchasing and proper care are key to long-term, repeated use.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How do polyester and nylon feel to the touch? Which one feels softer?

Polyester feels drier and rougher to the touch compared to nylon, which has a softer, smoother feel.

Nylon’s silkier hand comes from its molecular structure, allowing tighter winding of the fibers during manufacturing.

This compact winding creates a slicker exterior on the filaments.

Do polyester or nylon shrink, wrinkle, or lose shape over time and after washing?

Fear not, for these fabrics possess remarkable resilience. They shrug off shrinkage, wrinkles, and shape distortion, even after countless encounters with the washing machine.

Their structural integrity remains unyielding, ensuring lasting beauty and impeccable form.

Is polyester or nylon better for winter clothes and outdoor gear in cold weather? Which keeps you warmer?

Nylon retains more body heat, making it better for cold weather outerwear.

Its moisture-wicking properties also help avoid chilling from sweat.

Choose nylon over polyester for warmth.

Are polyester or nylon clothes better for sensitive skin? Do they cause more or fewer skin reactions and allergies?

Sensitive skin needs gentle fabrics.

Nylon and polyester, both synthetic fibers, rarely cause allergic reactions.

Their smooth surfaces repel allergens, making them hypoallergenic choices for comfortable clothing.

How much more durable over many years of use is nylon compared to polyester for things like backpacks and luggage?

Over years of use, nylon’s durability outshines polyester’s, especially for backpacks and luggage.

Its superior strength ensures it can withstand wear and tear, making it a reliable choice for your active lifestyle.


As we’ve seen, polyester and nylon each have advantageous properties depending on the use case.

For high-performance athleisure requiring moisture-wicking, nylon is superb.

However, polyester’s superior wrinkle resistance suits business attire.

Though neither biodegrade, both synthetics can be recycled into carpet padding and stï¿­ toys.

By thoughtfully selecting polyester versus nylon based on factors like care, environmental impact, and longevity for your needs as a textile professional, you leverage their strengths while minimizing weaknesses.

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Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim is the founder and editor-in-chief of, a site dedicated to those passionate about crafting. With years of experience and research under his belt, he sought to create a platform where he could share his knowledge and skills with others who shared his interests.