Updated on July 26, 2022 by Sarina
As two of the most popular fabrics on earth, Polyester and Nylon need no introduction, as such. Everyone knows that both polyester and nylon fabrics are manufactured man-made synthetic fabrics. So, no doubt that there will be similarities between them. A lot of the characteristics of these materials are the same. The question is – Which material is better than the other – Nylon or Polyester?
Some similarities of Nylon and polyester include good resilience, abrasion resistance, high strength and durability, low density, and low cost. But subtle differences make one fabric better than the other in all the features that matter.
Polyester is made from polyethylene terephthalate, whereas Nylon is made from polyamide. They are both petroleum products. Wallace Carothers first made polyester in its initial form in 1929. DuPont patented Nylon in 1937.
Nylon vs. Polyester
Looks & feel
Both Nylon and Polyester fibers make good-looking fabrics. They also feel quite soft. But Nylon is smoother and softer than normal polyester fabric. Figures as Nylon was created as an alternative to silk. It is a lustrous fabric. Polyester, on the other hand, is duller. But microfiber, a variety of polyester, is said to be the softest and very much in demand as a better, stronger, and smoother replacement to silk in many applications.
Polyester and Nylon are wrinkle-resistant. The garments made of these materials are termed ‘wash and wear’, meaning that you do not even need to iron them. If you take care of them by not letting wrinkles set in after washing and drying, these fabrics naturally wrinkle less. When compared, polyester is more wrinkle-resistant than Nylon.
Both are colorfast.
Both Nylon and polyester are easy to wash and clean. However, polyester can be dry washed, but Nylon can’t be as the solvents will damage the material.
Nylon builds up static electricity, unlike polyester. This causes it to pick up and hold dirt particles. It also absorbs perspiration stains, unlike polyester. So it is challenging to get cleaner than polyester. Polyester does not become grey or yellow with age or poor care, whereas Nylon does.
Polyester absorbs oil stains very quickly and holds on to them. And also pills, especially after some washes.
Both polyester and Nylon are low-weight materials. But the comfort level of both of them on the body is questionable—both scores low in breathability, releasing steam to the outside, absorption of moisture, temperature control. So the question is, Is nylon more comfortable than polyester?
Both have very low moisture retention. This low absorbancy makes both materials unsuitable for making clothes for summer/hot weather. The sweat on your body will be retained, and your polyester/nylon clothes are of no help here. But polyester is better than Nylon in this aspect.
Nylon fiber has some stretch and is used to make figure-hugging clothes. Stockings were once called ‘nylons’ because they were famously made of Nylon. The nylon stockings were very popular in the 1940s. Before elastane, was used Nylon was the stretch material- In the 1950s, stretch nylon pants were very popular. With the introduction of spandex fibers (1959), the stretch capacity of Nylon has increased a great deal. Nylon and spandex knits are used extensively to make clothes, including sportswear and swimwear. Nylon nets or fine nylons are famous in dressmaking as sheer material for veils etc.
Which one of nylon or polyester is better for winter? Nylon is usually used in winter clothes and windbreakers.
As Nylon and polyester do not absorb water (low moisture absorbency) and even repel water, many consider these materials to be water resistant. Many of the waterproof materials are polyester or Nylon with special waterproof finishes on them.
Is Nylon stronger than polyester? This is a question on everybody’s mind when selecting outdoor wear. Both Nylon and polyester are high strength fibers/fabrics; compared to natural fabrics, these fabrics may seem indestructible. But for some purposes, you need the best material. You need a material that will withstand the struggles of outdoor life. Both are very strong and durable. But one is stronger than the other.
Nylon was used to make tents and parachutes during World war two, so you can imagine the level of strength it must have. Ripstop Nylon is a very strong nylon. So you can say, Nylon is the strongest of the two.
To know for sure, check the grams per denier (fiber capacity) of your fabric – this is an indication of your fabric strength.
Polyester, as well as Nylon, are widely used to make a variety of clothes. Nylon is mostly used for blouses, dresses, hosiery, lingerie, tights, undergarments, ski apparel, swimwear, and cycle wear. Nylon chiffon, which is a thin sheer knitted fabric, is used a lot in dressmaking; it is very, very fine and is used to make overlays, veils, linings, sheer sleeves, wraps etc. But according to versatility as well as usage, polyester wins over Nylon. Polyester is the most used material in the world. Its versatility makes it a dependable fiber for many uses – home furnishing, including fabric for curtains, upholstery, carpets, apparel making, and batting inside quilts.
One major difference between Nylon and polyester
The low cost of the materials makes these fabrics very much in demand in the fast fashion industry. But then this leads to the main problem with Nylon and polyester – Low biodegradability. Both Nylon and polyester are non-biodegradable and remain in the soil for years and years, polluting the earth. Polyester fares a little better here as it can be 100% recycled. It can be reused in many other forms.