Nylon and polyester are both synthetic fabrics, but nylon production is more expensive, which results in a higher price for the consumer. Nylon also tends to be more durable and weather-resistant, which is why it is more likely to be used in outdoor apparel or gear. Both fabrics are flame retardant, but nylon is stronger, while polyester is more heat-resistant.

Comparison chart

Nylon versus Polyester comparison chart
Edit this comparison chartNylonPolyester
Chemical Name Polyamide Polyethylene Naphthalate
Manufacture Created as a liquid, mechanically spun and dried into individual fibers. Spun into thread from chemical solution.
Uses More common to certain kinds of apparel, including lingerie, tights, raincoats, and swimwear. Carpets, drapes, and bedding. More wide range of industrial uses. More widely used in all kinds of apparel. Carpets, drapes, and bedding. Some industrial use.
Wearability Low moisture absorbency Wrinkle resistant
Durability Exceptionally strong, abrasion resistant, resistant to damage from oil and many chemicals. Strong, resistant to stretching and shrinking, resistant to most chemicals, crisp and resilient wet or dry, abrasion resistant.
Flammability Melts then burns rapidly Melts and burns at same time
Environmental impact Most nylon made from unavoidable oil refinery byproducts Non-biodegradable, but can be recycled - possible to purchase 100% recycled polyester
Comfort Light-weight, warm, smooth, soft, quick drying. Quick drying, light-weight, smooth.
Styles Blouses, dresses, foundation garments, hosiery, lingerie, underwear, raincoats, ski apparel, windbreakers, swimwear, cycle wear. Every form of clothing
Appearance Lustrous, wide range of colors. Wide range of colors, slightly slick.
Allergic reactions Possible, more likely caused by finishing resins, fibers repel typical allergens. Possible, more likely caused by finishing resins, fibers repel typical allergens.
Maintenance Easy to wash, mildew resistant. Easily washed, mildew resistant.
Cleaning Easy to wash, mildew-resistant. Can be dried on low heat cycle, but must be removed as soon as finished. Can be ironed. Cannot be dry-cleaned. Easy to wash, mildew-resistant. Can be dried on low heat cycle, but must be removed as soon as finished. Can be ironed. Can usually be dry-cleaned.
Materials Polyamide made from petroleum. Polymer production of coal, air, water, petroleum products.
UV Resistance Somewhat Very
First Made First U.S. Commercial Nylon Fiber Production - 1939, DuPont Company First U.S. Commercial Nylon Fiber Production – 1953, DuPont Company
Worldwide Production Around 3.9 million metric tons, 11% of synthetic fiber production Around 21 million metric tons, 58% of synthetic fiber production

Fabric

Nylon is exceptionally strong, even stronger than polyester.

Nylon and polyester are both abrasion resistant and resistant to damage from most chemicals. Nylon is also resistant to oil.

Both are flammable — nylon melts then burns rapidly; polyester has a higher flammability temperature, but melts and burns at the same time.

They also tend to be wrinkle-resistant, polyester more so. It doesn't stretch of shrink, and is a crisp, resilient fabric whether wet or dry.

Both nylon and polyester have a relatively low moisture absorbency, though nylon's is lower.

Nylon is well-suited for umbrellas.
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Nylon is well-suited for umbrellas.

Use

Both nylon and polyester are used in a wide variety of items, from apparel, to home furnishing, to consumer electronics, and much more.

Apparel

Polyester is more widely used in apparel, found in almost every form of clothing. Typically nylon is only used for blouses, dresses, foundation garments, hosiery, lingerie, tights, underwear, raincoats, ski apparel, windbreakers, swimwear and cycle wear.

Nylon tights (left) and polyester sarees (right).
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Nylon tights (left) and polyester sarees (right).

Polyester vs Nylon Carpets

In the home, both nylon and polyester can be used for carpets, curtains, draperies, bedspreads and upholstery. Polyester is also used for sheets, pillow cases and wall coverings. The video below talks about nylon vs polyester carpets:

Industrial Use

Nylon has a wider range of industrial uses including tire cord, hoses and conveyor belts. Other uses for nylon include seat belts, parachutes, racket strings, ropes, nets, sleeping bags, tarpaulins, tents, thread, mono-filament fishing line and dental floss.

Nylon fishing nets and rope.
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Nylon fishing nets and rope.

Polyester is also used for some industrial purposes such as hoses, power belting, tire cord and floppy disk liners. Polyester is used for ropes, nets, thread, auto upholstery, sails and fiberfill for various products including pillows and furniture.

General Use

Both nylon and polyester can be used for bags and backpacks. Nylon is more durable and weather-resistant, so it gets used for outerwear or outdoor gear. Polyester is better for companies with intricate logos who want to use bags for branding purposes.

Comfort

Comfort wise, both nylon and polyester are light-weight, quick-drying and smooth. Nylon tends to be warmer than polyester, and can often be more sweaty or cling more to the body.

Allergies

Any fiber can cause allergic reactions. However, people tend to be more allergic to the finishing resins used in synthetic fiber production to render them waterproof. As such, neither nylon nor polyester is more allergy-inducing than the other. Concerning their use in carpets and other home goods, since nylon and polyester are manufactured fibers, they tend to repel typical allergens. This makes them more hypo-allergenic.

Care

Both nylon and polyester are easy to wash and are mildew resistant. Both can be washed in a washing machine and dried on a low heat cycle. Articles made from nylon or polyester should be removed from the dryer immediately. A warm iron can be used on either nylon or polyester. Polyester generally can be dry-cleaned, depending on the manufacturer's instructions. However, nylon cannot be dry-cleaned as the solvents melt the material.

Environmental Impact

While neither nylon nor polyester is as green as natural fibers, they can both be made with minimal environmental impact. Most nylon is made from the unavoidable byproducts found at oil refineries. Polyester is non-biodegradable, but it can be recycled. In fact, it is possible to purchase 100 percent recycled polyester fabric.

Manufacture

The chemical name for nylon is polyamide, and the chemical name for polyester is polyethylene naphthalate. Both were first produced in the United States by the DuPont Company, nylon in 1939 and polyester in 1953. Production for both starts from a chemical liquid base that is spun and dried into fibers. Nylon is a polyamide made from petroleum, while polyester consists of a polymer production of coal, air, water and petroleum products.

Worldwide, polyester is manufactured more than nylon. Production of nylon comprises 11% of worldwide synthetic fiber production, or approximately 3.9 million metric tons. Production of polyester comprises 58% of worldwide synthetic fiber production, or approximately 21 million metric tons.

References

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