Synthetic fabrics are textiles made from man-made rather than natural fibers. Examples of synthetic fabrics include polyester, acrylic, nylon, rayon, acetate, spandex, latex, orlon and Kevlar. Synthetic (chemically produced) fabrics are made by joining monomers into polymers, through a process called polymerization.
Synthetic fibers is the result of extensive research by scientists to improve on naturally occurring animal and plant fibers. In general, synthetic fibers are created by extruding fiber forming materials through spinnerets into air and water, forming a thread. The first truly synthetic textile was nylon, which was widely used in World War II. Before synthetic fibers were developed, artificially manufactured fibers were made from polymers obtained from petrochemicals. These fibers are called synthetic or artificial fibers. Some fibers are manufactured from plant-derived cellulose.
Synthetics require chemicals in their manufacturing processes, which can cause a variety of health problems. Fabric may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about living a healthier lifestyle, but it definitely should be considered. Even many “health nuts” don’t realize that synthetic fabrics are teeming with chemicals and dyes that cannot be washed out, making them a potential health hazard.
- PLA Fiber (corn polymer)
When I was growing up my mom hated polyester. She thought of it as very cheap, unhealthy, material. She used to tell me not to waste my money on death. Though a bit dramatic, I understand why now that I’m older. wouldn’t recommend anyone wasting their hard earned money on polyester. Overall I would say avoid it if you can. Unless it’s a natural polyester made from plant-based chemicals. If you happen to find it secondhand, try your best to repurpose it, since it can’t be trashed properly. Only natural polyester is biodegradable.
Polyester is a category of polymers that contain the ester functional group in their main chain.
There are fabric and industrial polyester. Fabrics from polyester are used extensively in furniture, clothing, and apparel. You can find them used in;
- Synthetic leather
- furniture upholstery and more.
Industrial polyester is mostly used in;
- fabrics for conveyor belts
- safety belts
- coated fabrics and plastic reinforcements with high-energy absorption.
- cushioning and insulating material in pillows
- comforters and upholstery padding
Polyester yarns and ropes are also used in car tire reinforcements.
One good thing about polyester is the fabric is highly stain-resistant.
When polyester is spun together with a natural fiber like cotton you get polycotton. Not only is polycotton strong, it is wrinkle and tear-resistant, and reduces shrinkage.
Disadvantages of cotton and polyester blends include being less breathable than cotton and trapping more moisture while sticking to the skin. They are also less fire resistant and can melt when ignited.
Acetate is derived from cellulose by reacting purified cellulose from wood pulp with acetic acid and acetic anhydride in the presence of sulfuric acid. It is then put through a controlled, partial hydrolysis to remove the sulfate and a sufficient number of acetate groups to give the product the desired properties. The most common form of cellulose acetate fiber has an acetate group on approximately two of every three hydroxyls. This cellulose diacetate is known as secondary acetate, or simply as “acetate”.
After it is formed, cellulose acetate is dissolved in acetone for extrusion. As the filaments emerge from the spinneret, the solvent is evaporated in warm air (dry spinning), producing fine filaments of cellulose acetate.
Cellulose Acetate Characteristics:
- Luxurious feel and appearance
- Varieties of Colors
- Soft and Drapable
- Fast drying
- Mildew, shrink and moth resistant
- Blouses, linings, wedding and party attire, home furnishings, draperies
Elastane is another name for Spandex or Lycra. It’s known for its elasticity and is more durable than rubber. It is also part of the polyester family. In 1958 chemist, Joseph Shivers invented the polyester–polyurethane copolymer. When introduced to the world in 1962 it revolutionized the clothing industry.
The name “spandex” is an anagram of the word “expands”
- In the United States, it’s Spandex
- Europe it’s elastane
- France it’s élasthanne
- Germany it’s Elastan
- Spain it’s elastano
- Italy it’s elastam
- Netherlands it’s elastaan
4. Lyocell (Eco-Friendly but synthetic)
Lyocell or TENCEL is a form of rayon according to the FTC. It consists of cellulose fiber made from dissolving pulp (bleached wood pulp) using dry jet-wet spinning. It was developed beginning in 1972 by a team at the now defunct American Enka fibers facility at Enka, North Carolina.
As of 2010, Lyocell is more expensive to produce than cotton or viscose rayon. It is used in many everyday fabrics.
Although they are manufactured fibers, rayon, modal and lyocell are not considered synthetic. All three are referred to generically as “regenerated cellulosic fibers” due to the manner in which they’re manufactured. Nor are they natural fibers produced directly from plants or animals.
Lyocell was created with color in mind, the fibers’ high absorbency and can be dyed to high-quality standards. It can absorb moister 50% greater than cotton and is considered a breathable eco-fabric.
Lyocell Fiber Characteristics
- Soft, strong, absorbent
- When wet produces special textures
- Excellent wet strength
- Wrinkle resistant
- Very versatile fabric dyable to vibrant colors, with a variety of effects and textures.
- Hand washable
- Like an artificial silk, suede, or leather touch
- Good for draping
Depending on the care label you can wash or dry-clean Lyocell.
Nylon is any of numerous strong tough elastic synthetic polyamide materials that are fashioned into fibers, filaments, bristles, or sheets and used especially in textiles and plastics.
Nylon is considered a lightweight fiber. It’s added at the points of wear such as seats of jeans, knees, heels of socks and toes. Once wet nylon will loose it’s strength.
Since Nylon is elastic, it’s perfect for hosiery and apparel. Nylon can be draped, is resilient, and wrinkle free. It can conduct heat and is used in winter outwear allowing the wearer to remain warmer.
Nylon is not breathable. It is resistant to water and dirt making it very easy to clean and should be bleached with peroxide instead of chlorine. It can resist moths, fungi, mildew and shrinkage.