Types Of Synthetic Fabrics

Types of synthetic fabrics

Acetate

  • Function: Cooling
  • Wrinkle-resistant
  • Machine wash
  • Breathability: 3/5
  • Comfort: 4/5

An acetate is a form of rayon that covers a whole range of manufactured fibers made from regenerated cellulose fiber. Acetate is made from biodegrading naturally occurring wood pulp, making it a semi-synthetic fiber. Pure acetate fabric has a luxurious feel and appearance (similar to silk), but it’s also very delicate.

Where to wear it:

Acetate is often blended with other fibers – most commonly silk, wool, and cotton, to give these fabrics better wrinkle recovery and good draping quality at a lower price. Since acetate imitates silk, it is often used to produce soft garments like blouses and dresses and wedding and party attire. Frequently, it is also used for lining.

Advantages:
  • Drapes well
  • Quick-drying
  • Resists stretching & shrinkage
  • Resistant to moths & mildew
  • No static & pilling
  • Dyes & print well
Disadvantages:
  • Weak fabric
  • Sensitive to heat
  • Not colorfast
  • No elasticity
  • Wrinkles & creases easily
  • Must be hand washed

Acrylic

  • Synthetic fiber
  • Function: Warming
  • Wrinkle-resistant
  • Machine wash
  • Breathability: 2/3
  • Comfort: 3/5

Acrylic is a fully synthetic fiber made from a polymer. Acrylic fiber closely resembles the appearance and feel of wool. The fabric is lightweight, warm, and soft to the touch. Therefore, it is used as a cheaper alternative to wool or blended with sheep wool or cashmere.

Where to wear it:

Since it is mainly used as a wool-substitute, common end product of acrylic fabric includes jumpers, hats, and socks. Due to its low absorbency properties – meaning it would not soak up sweat on hot summer days, it is only beneficial for winter clothing.

Advantages:
  • Durable
  • Colourfast
  • Resists shrinkage & wrinkles
  • Resistant to oil & soil
  • Moisture-wicking
  • Quick-drying
  • Resistant to mildew & insects
  • Easy to clean
Disadvantages:
  • Static & pilling
  • It May be clingy to the skin
  • Can irritate the skin
  • Water-repellent (encourages bacteria growth)

Lyocell

  • Semi-synthetic fiber
  • Function: Cooling
  • Wrinkle-resistant
  • Machine wash
  • Breathability: 3/5
  • Comfort: 4/5

Lyocell is another type of rayon. It is also produced from wood pulp which makes it a semi-synthetic fiber. Interestingly, this fiber is fully biodegradable, making it a more eco-friendly synthetic fiber.

Where to wear it:

Lyocell is very similar to cotton and is often used to substitute for the latter. Hence it is used to make everything from shirts to underwear. While some garments are made entirely from lyocell, it is more common to see this fabric mixed with other fabrics like cotton or polyester.

Advantages:
  • Drapes well
  • Strong & durable
  • Resistant to wrinkles
  • Quick-drying
  • No static & pilling
  • Biodegradable

Modal

  • Semi-synthetic fiber
  • Function: Cooling
  • Wrinkle-resistant
  • Machine wash
  • Breathability: 4/5
  • Comfort: 5/5

Another type of rayon, modal, is also produced from wood pulp, but specifically from beech trees.

Where to wear it:

Modal is stronger and more stable when wet than other rayon types yet has a soft feel, similar to cotton. It is also moisture-wicking making it an excellent choice for activewear. It’s also used in the manufacture of underwear, pajamas, and bathrobes and more generally as a cotton substitute.

Advantages
  • Lightweight
  • Smooth, soft & comfortable
  • Drapes well
  • Very strong & durable
  • High resiliency
  • Absorbent & dries quickly
  • Hypoallergenic & non-irritating
  • Dyes & print well
  • No static or pilling
Disadvantages:
  • Prone to stretching
  • Pilling

Nylon

  • Synthetic fiber
  • Function: Warming
  • Wrinkle-resistant
  • Machine wash
  • Breathability: 1/5
  • Comfort: 2/5

Nylon is one of the most common synthetic fabrics. It is a rigid, lightweight, elastic synthetic polymer with a protein-like chemical structure. Nylon is often mixed with other fabrics – such as polyester, spandex, or cotton.

Where to wear it:

Nylon fabric is used as an alternative to silk stockings (its original application). Combined with other fibers, it can be found in blouses, evening dresses, and everyday clothing.

On its own, nylon isn’t the softest fabric, making it a better choice for stiffer outwear items like athletic shoes and sports jackets. However, it is not very absorbent, so not ideal for wicking away sweat. This is something to consider since nylon is often found in activewear.

Because it is rugged and water-resistant, it’s also a popular material for handbags.

Advantages:
  • Lightweight
  • High resiliency
  • Very strong
  • Fast drying
  • Dyes & print well
  • Resists shrinkage & wrinkles
  • Resistant to abrasion & mildew
Disadvantages:
  • Low absorbency
  • Prone to tears & rips
  • Can have an unpleasant sheen
  • Prone to static
  • Produced from fossil fuels
  • Not biodegradable

Polyester

  • Synthetic fiber
  • Function: Warming
  • Wrinkle-resistant
  • Machine wash
  • Breathability: 1/5
  • Comfort: 1/5

Polyester fibers are obtained by mixing the two chemical substances, ethylene glycol, and terephthalic acid. Polyester is a type of plastic and hence a fully synthetic fiber in less scientific terms.

Where to wear it:

Polyester is ubiquitous and used in all types of clothing, either alone or blended with other types of fiber. It’s not an excellent choice for summer clothing because it is not a breathable material and will make you feel hot. It is, however, a superb wicking fabric that can be used to draw sweat away from the body and allow it to evaporate much more quickly. When blended with another fabric, it can make an effective choice for athletic wear.

Advantages:
  • Lightweight
  • Crisp, but soft
  • High resiliency
  • Abrasion-resistant
  • Strong & durable
  • Quick-drying
  • Dyes & print well
  • Colourfast
  • Resists stretching & shrinkage, wrinkles & creases
  • Resistant to mildew
Disadvantages:
  • No breathability
  • Static & pilling
  • Very low absorbency
  • Can have an unpleasant sheen
  • Stains are difficult to remove
  • It tends to be slippery
  • Not biodegradable
  • Not eco-friendly

Spandex / Lycra / Elastane

  • Synthetic fiber
  • Function: Stretching
  • Wrinkle-resistant
  • Machine wash
  • Breathability: 1/5
  • Comfort: 1/5

Spandex, Lycra, or elastane is a fully synthetic fiber known for its exceptional elasticity or stretch. It is made from polymer polyurethane, making it a type of plastic.

Where to wear it:

Spandex fabric can stretch to five to eight times its normal size, and this is typically used to make other fabrics stretch beyond their natural abilities. In most cases, pure spandex isn’t used in garments. Instead, small quantities of this spandex are woven into other fabrics. It is used primarily to make form-fitting clothes, activewear, bras, and swimsuits.

Advantages:
  • Lightweight
  • Strong & durable
  • Resistant to sweat
  • Excellent elasticity
Disadvantages:
  • No breathability
  • Clingy to the skin
  • Slippery on surfaces
  • Sensitive to heat
  • Not biodegradable

Viscose

  • Semi-synthetic fiber
  • Function: Cooling
  • Wrinkle-resistant
  • Machine wash
  • Breathability: 4/5
  • Comfort: 5/5

Viscose is a semi-synthetic fabric and part of the rayon family. It is made from purified cellulose fibers, which are typically created from wood pulp.

Where to wear it:

Viscose was originally created as a cheaper alternative to silk. However, it can take on many properties depending on how it is made and can also be similar to cotton. The fiber swells and loses strength when wet, readily penetrated by water and sweat. Since it’s not very breathable, it won’t wick away moisture well. Rayon is thus best used in dry heat and is a good choice for summer clothing. It can be used to make everything from shirts through to dresses.

It is also often used for coats, jackets, and other outerwear.

Advantages:
  • Soft & comfortable
  • Drapes well
  • Highly absorbent
  • Dyes & print well
  • Colourfast
  • No static or pilling
Disadvantages:
  • Wrinkles & creases easily
  • Susceptible to mildew
  • Low resiliency
  • Sensitive to heat
  • Stretches
  • Weakens when wet
  • Fabric shrinks when washed
  • Not eco-friendly

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