Learn About: Synthetic Fabrics

In the journey towards a more sustainable wardrobe, I came across the topic of fabrics. The production of garments whether from natural or synthetic fabrics cost a lot of resources. Natural fibers have a better impact on the environment than synthetic ones. But in order to know more about this topic, I will show you the advantages and disadvantages of the most common synthetic fibers.

Polyester

is the most common synthetic fiber in the market. Chemical reactions are necessary in during the production of polyester and that involves coal, petroleum, air, and water.

Polyester:

  • Strong
  • Flexible
  • Dries quickly
  • Durable
  • Resists wrinkles
  • Doesn’t shrink
  • Inexpensive
  • Easy to wash

Disadvantages of polyester:

  • Not breathable
  • It builds up static
  • Can cause bad smell
  • It isn’t biodegradable
  • The production requires a lot of energy
  • Causes an allergic reaction in some people
  • Microfibers come off during washing, which ends up polluting the oceans
  • It is difficult to dye, which requires a lot of toxic dyes and bleach in the production process

Polyester fabric

Acrylic

is made from a polymer. It is like polyester, a petrochemical fiber. The fabric is often used for sweaters, as linings for boots and gloves, as well as in furnishing fabrics and carpets. Some acrylic is used as a less expensive alternative to cashmere.

Acrylic is:

  • Soft
  • Lightweight
  • Warm – with a wool-like feel
  • Colourfast
  • Machine washable
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Inexpensive

The disadvantages of acrylic:

  • Painful to knit with
  • It is flammable
  • Pills easily
  • It builds up static
  • It doesn’t breath
  • Can cause bad smell
  • It isn’t biodegradable
  • It’s hard or even impossible to recycle
  • The production requires toxic chemicals
  • Microfibers come off during washing, which ends up polluting the oceans

Research has found that acrylic is responsible for releasing nearly 730,000 tiny synthetic particles (microplastics) per wash. Five times more than polyester-cotton blend fabric, and nearly 1.5 times as many as polyester. ( “Accumulation of Microplastic on Shorelines Woldwide: Sources and Sinks”)

Green acrylic fabric

Nylon

is a petrochemical man-made fiber. It was developed in order to make a synthetic replacement for silk.

Nylon is:

  • Strong
  • Weather resistant
  • Versatile
  • Water repellent
  • Machine washable
  • Dries quickly
  • Durable
  • Inexpensive

The disadvantages of nylon are:

  • It builds up static
  • It can irritate the skin
  • It isn’t biodegradable
  • The production requires toxic chemicals
  • Energy-intensive
  • Microfibers come off during washing, which ends up polluting the oceans

Nylon fabric

Spandex

is made from petrochemicals as well. It is also called Elastane or Lycra and it’s usually found blended with other fabrics.

Spandex is:

  • Elastic
  • Stretch
  • Retains its shape

The disadvantages of spandex are:

  • It breaks down over time
  • It becomes brittle
  • It isn’t biodegradable
  • Energy-intensive
  • Polluting to make
  • The production requires toxic chemicals

Spandex

Rayon

is a fiber that is extracted or fabricated from wood pulp. Rayon is considered as a semisynthetic fiber.  It comes from wood but in order to make the fibers, it is combined with synthetic materials. Types of rayon include viscose, modal, and lyocell. Each of which differs in the manufacturing process.

Rayon is:

  • Versatile – It can imitate the feel and texture of silk, wool, cotton, and linen
  • Easy to dye
  • Soft
  • Smooth
  • Comfortable
  • Highly absorbent
  • Cheap

The disadvantages of rayon are:

  • Bad quality
  • Pills easily
  • Wrinkles
  • Shrinks
  • Loses appearance and shape when wet
  • There are toxic dyes and bleach in the production process
  • Workers can be seriously harmed by the carbon disulfide used in the production
  • Because it comes from trees, it might contribute to deforestation problems

Rayon fabric

As you can see, all of the fibers have advantages and disadvantages. I personally find synthetic fibers too harmful in general. I prefer to buy and wear garments from natural fibers as much as possible. This is a personal decision but whatever you choose, it’s good to know about the fabric of your garments. I hope you find this information useful and helps you to become more aware of synthetic fabrics. If you want to learn more about natural fibers, you can read my latest post about this subject here.

With Love,

Alisson

Learn more about Natural Fabrics
Learn more about cotton and polyester

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3 thoughts on “Learn About: Synthetic Fabrics

  1. I find this information incredibly useful! The idea of microplastics building up in our water supply is frightening for so many reasons-we should all try to buy more natural fabrics, and if consumers lead the charge, clothing companies will have to follow!

    Like

  2. […] While the production of semi-synthetic fibers uses natural raw materials, the transformation to fabric and garments use many harsh, even toxic and chemicals in the processes. As you can see, all of the fibers have advantages and disadvantages. I personally find semi-synthetic fibers too harmful in general. I prefer to buy and wear garments from natural fibers as much as possible. This is a personal decision but whatever you choose, it’s good to know about the fabric of your garments. I hope you find this information useful and will help you to become more aware of semi-synthetic fabrics. If you want to learn more about natural and synthetic fibers, you can read my latest post about this subject here, and here. […]

    Like

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