Polyester is a commonly used material for clothing, due to its affordability, its versatility, and the fact that it can be strong, wrinkle resistant, and tear resistant – particularly when blended with other fabrics like cotton.
But just what disadvantages does polyester clothing have?
Polyester: The Facts
Polyester is a category of polymers – or, materials with large molecules called ‘macromolecules’ – used in the clothing industry, and in making other hard wearing materials.
There are two kinds of polyester – natural and synthetic – and each can be used in different ways.
Natural polyesters are found in the cutin found with plant cuticles, as well as through a genus of bees known as colletes.
These secrete a cellophane-like substance used for underground brood cells as a means of protection.
There are 6 groups within the synthetic polyester family, including:
- Linear aliphatic high molecular weight polyesters – low melting semicrystalline polymers with poor mechanical properties.
- Aliphatic linear low-molar mass, hydroxy terminated polyesters – used for the production of polyurethane.
- Hyperbranched polyesters – used as rheology modifiers in thermoplastics.
- Aliphatic aromatic polyesters – used as engineering thermoplastics, fiber, and film.
- Wholly aromatic linear copolyesters – possess superior mechanical properties and heat resistance, making them suitable for high performance applications.
- Unsaturated polyesters – matrices used in composite materials.
Polyester: The Benefits
There are of course countless benefits to using polyester, many of which we have briefly touched upon already.
Polyester is largely waterproof, which makes them useful for a number of applications in clothing, canvas sheeting, and upholstery.
This also makes it perfect for home furnishings, bed sheets, and of course clothing, and is incredibly useful in everyday life when accidents can happen all of the time.
The fact that they are strong and tear resistant makes them incredibly useful for rugged workwear, or outdoor style clothing, as well as for more specific purposes, such as the sails for boats, or for tarpaulin in the industrial sector.
Many tents and camping accessories also incorporate polyester, due to the fact that it can survive a lot of punishment from the elements, as well as the rigor of being packed away, unpacked, and stored for potentially long periods of time without perishing.
As well as being tear free and waterproof, they are also hard to wrinkle, and maintain their shape and consistency when presented with normal everyday stressors.
This makes them good for work uniforms when a lot of unnatural moving around might be required, or for fashion items, where the aim of the game is to look good for as long as possible.
Polyester: The Downsides
Of course, as with anything, there are a couple of downsides associated with using this material.
Polyester, when compared to similarly used materials like cotton, has proven to not be as fireproof when exposed to heat and open flames.
This of course means that pure polyester is less beneficial in industrial settings, such as work uniforms.
However, blended polyester is much better suited, which is why they are commonly used for purposes where heat and fire might be an issue.
Environmentalists have also raised concerns about the non-biodegradability of polyester, as the material has been proven to remain intact even when it has been placed in landfills.
Once in a material form, it is also difficult to recycle, meaning that disposing of certain polyester items can be quite a difficult task – especially where the environment is concerned.
Polyester Clothing: Is It Viable?
All of the above begs the question: is polyester viable as a clothing material?
While polyester is difficult to shrink, and for the most part maintains its size and dimensions well, it can indeed be shrunk under the right circumstances.
This could either be a good or a bad thing, depending on what you’re trying to achieve.
For those who do not want their polyester garment to shrink, then this is obviously a good thing, and with normal cold washes, this shouldn’t pose a problem.
However, if your garment is too large and you wish to shrink it down to your size, then the best way to achieve this is to use hot washes, use a tumble dryer (if you have one), and use a steamer or an iron for added shrinkage.
While this might not happen overnight, repeating the process will have the desired effect in no time at all.
Other Uses For Polyester
As well as the garment industry, polyester thread is also used for home furnishings – due to the fact that they are relatively waterproof and hard wearing – bed sheets, blankets, upholstered furniture, and mouse mats (to name but a few).
Polyester fiber is also used as cushioning and insulation in pillows, comforters, and the padding found on upholstery.
They are also incredibly resistant to stains, making them perfect for any application throughout the home – particularly home comfort items like the ones mentioned above.
In heavy industry, industrial polyester fiber is used to reinforce car tires, the fabrics used in conveyor belts, seat belt reinforcement, coating used for certain fabrics, and for reinforcing plastic that experiences high energy absorption.
Polyesters are also widely used to make things like water bottles, films and covers, tarpaulin (for camping and construction etc), sails for boats, canoes, and LCD monitors.
They are also used as a protective finish on wooden items such as guitars, pianos, and the interior of various vehicles like cars and boats.
They are also used in holograms, filters, dielectric film for capacitors, film insulation for wiring, and for added protection in insulation tape.
And there we have it, everything you need to know about polyester, and whether or not it will shrink.
There are many uses for polyester, throughout a number of industries, and despite the potential negatives, there are numerous benefits to using this remarkable material.