What Is Polyester Fabric Made From?

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Polyester is a durable, easy-care synthetic fabric made from petroleum byproducts. It can be manufactured in a variety of weights and textures. Polyester is used for a wide range of applications, including clothing, home furnishings and industrial fabrics.


Chemical Reaction

Polyester consists of "long-chain polymers" that are derived from a chemical reaction involving coal, petroleum, air and water. Specifically, a reaction between the petroleum byproducts alcohol and carboxyl acid forms a compound that is known as a monomer or "ester." This reaction, which takes place at high temperatures in a vacuum, is referred to as polymerization.

Molecular Structure

According to Princeton University's WordNet website, a polymer is a synthetic compound that consists of large molecules composed from a linked series of repeated simple compounds called monomers. The term "polyester" refers to a linked change of ester monomers. This chain is formed as part of the polymerization process.


Creation of Polyester Fiber

The polymer material that is formed during polymerization is extruded to create long, thin fibers. These fibers are stretched when hot until they are about five times their original length, resulting in an arrangement of molecules that forms a strong fiber.

Spinning of Polyester Yarn

Polyester yarns are created from polyester fibers. They may be either a filament type, which is twisted from several long fibers, or a spun type, which is created from combining short pieces of fiber called staple. During the spinning process, natural fibers such as cotton or wool may be blended with the polyester fibers.


Creation of Polyester Fabric

Polyester fabric may be knitted or woven from polyester yarns. After the fabric is created, a variety of finishes may be applied. These finishes include water repellents, flame retardants, antistatic finishes and design embossing.