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Content Matters: Polyester

Blog | July 22, 2016

Polyester is the most common and versatile fiber type that we weave fabric with in our mills and most of our upholstery, panel/acoustic and cubicle fabrics are woven out of polyester. In this article we will cover what polyester is, where it comes from, and its advantages and disadvantages.

Polyester is a man-made material that is essentially plastic, however it mimics natural materials like wool, cotton and silk but with increased performance. Polyester is used in lots of different products such as clothing, bedding, blankets and industrial applications. In fact, plastic water bottles also fall in the polyester family and are the main source of recycled polyester. If you understand chemistry, and want a more in-depth look at what polyester is at a molecular level, click over to the Wikipedia article here. I frankly start to get lost pretty quickly when I start to read about chemical structure of thermoplastics and polyethylene terephthalates... And I am guessing most of you do too.

In residential applications especially, there is always the question of whether to choose cotton or polyester or a cotton/polyester blend as an upholstery fabric. For heavy traffic areas such as an office, school, church, or any place that is used frequently, cotton just isn't strong enough to stand up to the wear and tear. Polyester upholstery withstands abrasion a lot better than cotton or wool and also doesn't absorb any water. This also makes it ideal for vertical surface applications like office cubicle panels or fabric wrapped acoustic panels. If the fabric absorbed water, it would sag and stretch with increases in humidity.

Recycled Polyester ready to be turned into yarn. Notice how it looks very much like wool.

Because polyester is a man-made plastic it isn't compostable or biodegradable. But fortunately it is recycleable. The majority of the polyester we weave with is of the recycled variety. Pre-consumer recycled polyester comes from the manufacturing waste of creating polyester products. Post-consumer recycled polyester is most often derived from plastic water bottles. The bottles are ground up, impurities are separated out, and then the plastic is heated and extruded into fibers that are turned into yarn. This isn't our factory, but you can see the process of how water bottles are turned into polyester yarn in this Youtube video.

Like anything in life, polyester fabric has its advantages and disadvantages.

Pros and Cons of Polyester Fabric

  • In appearance polyester fabrics can range from bright to dull in sheen with a crisp or soft feel
  • Strong and durable with good resistance to abrasion
  • Stands up well to sunlight, mildew and insects
  • Blends very well with other fiber types like cotton
  • Water-based stains can be easily cleaned
  • Has an affinity for oil-bassed stains, which can be difficult to clean
  • Looks and feels most like cotton
  • Absorbs very little water
  • Can be used in upholstery, cubicle or vertical surface applications

Overall, you can see why polyester is such a popular content for fabric for anything from acoustic panels to privacy curtains in a hospital or seating in a restaurant. It's durable, recycleable, and versatile.