Polyester is a synthetic fabric that is usually composed of polyethylene terephthalate, or PET. Polyester can also consist of poly-1, 4-cyclohexylene-dimethylene terephthalate, or PCDT. All polyester fabric is made primarily from petroleum. The polymerization, or chain reaction, involving ethylene creates polyester, which was patented in 1941, is widely available and is relatively inexpensive.
PET is stronger and commonly used to make clothing, while PCDT is more elastic and is incorporated into heavier products like upholstery and drapery, according to MadeHow.com. Both may be combined with other materials to make fabric. Depending on its application, polyester is processed in various ways to produce different finished forms. Polyester filaments and polyester staple fibers are both used to make fabric with different uses and characteristics.
Polyester in filament form is used to make fabrics with a smooth surface, while polyester in staple form is more easily blended with other types of fibers to make fabrics with different properties. Fabrics that combine polyester and cotton yarns are very common. Typical fabric blends are 50 percent polyester to 50 percent cotton and 65 polyester to 35 percent polyester, according to "Textile Science and Care."
The reaction of dimethyl terephthalate with ethylene glycol at a temperature of 302 to 410 degrees Fahrenheit produces an alcohol that is then combined with terephthalic acid and further heated to 472 degrees Fahrenheit to produce polyester. The product is then extruded to form ribbons and cooled, according to MadeHow.com. The ribbons become brittle, are cut into chips and dried. The chips are melted, put into a metal container and forced through tiny holes to produce yarn. The yarn is drawn and wound before it is cut and later woven into fabric.
Polyester and polyester-containing fabrics drape well and have advantages such as wrinkle resistance, durability, elasticity, faster drying and ease of care. The fabrics are also resistant to shrinking, fading, bleach, damage by insects and mildew. Most polyester fabric is woven on looms and commonly used in bed linens, table linens and curtains, as well as clothing and upholstery. Polyester fabric in knitted form is often seen in active wear, where elasticity and stretch are important.