Difference between Nylon and Polyester

Updated on June 27, 2018

Nylon and Polyester are two of the most popular and widely used synthetic fabrics throughout the world. Both are highly favored for their durability and mold-resistant characteristics. These fabrics are often used to make jackets, ropes, carpets, and bean bags, among other things. Though they are similar in some aspects, nylon and polyester also differ in many ways. In this article, we have identified their main differences to help you distinguish between the two materials.

Summary Table

Nylon Polyester
Stronger material on a weight-for-weight basis and is more stretchyWeaker material on a weight-for-weight basis and is less stretchy
Absorbent material; soaks in liquid and spillsHydrophobic material – it repels liquid
Does not hold dye well and the color fades easilyHolds color well, resists fading
Stain resistant, easily cleanedOils may stain material
Non-recyclableRecyclable

Definitions

Nylon stockings
Nylon stockings

Nylon is made up of thermoplastics or aliphatic polyamides and is the generic term used for synthetic polymers. Materials used to make nylon are derived from petroleum. Nylon was originally manufactured as an alternative to silk and is now one of the most commonly used fabrics in the world, next to cotton. It is used to make a variety of products from stockings and hair combs to mechanical gears.

Polyester fabric
Polyester fabric

Polyester is made up of polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which is the same material used to make plastic bottles. Polyester is the generic term used for a group of synthetic compounds. This material can be woven or knitted into fabric and is often used for textile products, furniture, insulation, and other things.

Nylon vs Polyester

Nylon was first manufactured as a substitute for silk. However, its first commercial application in 1938 was for toothbrush bristles and in 1940, it was used to make women’s stockings. Around the same decade, polyester was first produced in the UK and in the 1950’s, it gained popularity in the textile industry around the world.

The difference between nylon and polyester is evident on the characteristics of the materials. Nylon is stronger and is more stretchy than polyester. Polyester, however, is a finer thread so it can be woven several times to improve its strength. The stretchiness of nylon occurs since it is an absorbent material. It absorbs small amounts of water, whereas polyester is a hydrophobic material, meaning it repels liquid. Hence, it takes a longer time for nylon to dry, unlike polyester.

Due to water absorption, nylon fabrics do not hold dye well and colored nylon fabrics tend to fade quickly when exposed to the sun. Conversely, dye fuses strongly to polyester and the fabric color is unaltered when exposed to UV radiation. Moreover, nylon is stain resistant and is easily cleaned. On the other hand, oils and other substances may easily stain polyester. When opting for a more eco-friendly fabric, nylon might not be the best option as it is a non-recyclable material. Polyester, though, can be recycled.

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