a woman wearing activewear made from synthetic fibers such as spandex is stretching on a racetrack before her run

Get to Know Your Fibers! - Part 1: Polyester, Nylon, Acrylic.

SHOO-FOO Team

In today's bustling world of fashion and textiles, it's essential to understand the materials that make up the clothes we wear every day, the sheets into which we sleep every night. From cozy sweaters to sleek activewear and cozy pillowcase, each garment has a story woven into its fabric. Synthetic fibers play a crucial role in modern textile production, offering a wide range of benefits and versatility. Let's dive into the world of synthetic fibers and get to know some of the most commonly used ones

Polyester: The Versatile Workhorse

  • Introduction: Polyester, often acclaimed as the working horse amongst synthetic fibers, is a staple fiber for the textile industry. It is vital, tough, highly resistant to stretching, and shrinks very little on washing. The prevalence of these qualities has helped the fiber to be used in many fabrics.
  • Production: Polyester is manufactured from petroleum through a chemical process using coal, air, water, and oil. It does take energy to manufacture this material. Still, it does tend to take on many different forms and be highly recyclable.
  • Benefits: With good strength and resistance to wrinkling, the ease of care with polyester makes it a top choice for activewear, outdoor gear, and home furnishings. It is also used extensively in blends with natural fibers to give them more durability and performance.
  • Environmental Impact: While having many advantages, the environmental production and post-consumer impact of polyester is worrisome. Microplastics that emanate in washing it away are responsible for seawater pollution, and their non-biodegradability further aggravates landfill waste. Recycling programs intend to reduce its ill effects.

Nylon: Tenacity and Elongation

    • Introduction: With the strength of renowned fiber for strength, suppleness, and luxurious lightweight touch, nylon is still favored for a myriad of end-uses, including active sportswear, hosiery, and outerwear materials. It is one of the most versatile and durable fibers ever known by human beings in the manufacturing of textiles.
      • Production: Nylon is formed by polymerization from adipic acid with hexamethylene diamine. However, nylon releases potent greenhouse gas nitrous oxide and uses fossil fuels.
        • Benefits: With excellent tensile strength, abrasion-resistant, and very resilient, it is easy to create high-performance garments using nylon. Being smooth in texture and retaining its shape, it draws enormous demand for many applications.
          • Environmental Impact: It is more or less similar to polyester as nylons are also associated with microplastics after their washing process and experience difficulty in getting disposed of at their end of life. Recycling promotion and sustainable sourcing tactics are observed to overcome this menace.

            Acrylic: Softness & Warmth

            • Introduction: Acrylic, known for its softness and warmth, is a flexible synthetic fiber featuring a woolen feel in knitwear, blankets, and upholstery. Owing to the virtue of being closest to wool, it offers the best substitute for people who need warmth and yet are allergic to itching from woolen clothes.
            • Production: Acrylic comes from acrylonitrile, which is a close derivative of polypropylene. Its manufacture is energy-intensive, plus it uses harmful chemicals that have potentially toxic effects on the surrounding environments and health.
            • Benefits: Acrylic's light weight, resistance to sunlight, and wicking tendencies have turned out to be a massive hit on cold-weather gear plus outdoor clothing. Its cheapness and straightforward maintenance have gained popularity in several other uses.
            • Environmental Impact: Although acrylic has its advantages of keeping people warm and comfy, the resulting production, plus post-consumption, needs a watch. These involve increasing recycling and minimizing chemical use so that the fiber leaves the lowest possible ecological footprint.

            As consumers, understanding the materials in our clothing empowers us to make informed choices that align with our values and sustainability goals. Stay tuned for the Part 2 of Get to Know Your Fibers, where we'll explore the properties and impacts of rayon, spandex, and polypropylene.

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