This article is all about the polyester material. We’ll talk about polyester in terms of its definition and characteristics.
Then we’ll see just how bad polyester production is to us humans, the environment and also to aquatic organisms and other life forms that depend on them for sustenance.
Without wasting time, let’s get to it.
What is polyester?
Polyester is one of the many synthetic fibers produced out there. It’s synthetic, meaning that it comes from a chain of chemical reactions. So polyester is effectively a man made invention.
The synthesis process produces a material from crude oil having an abundance of impressive qualities and characteristics, and these are highly useful in the clothing niche.
As a measure to further improve the versatility of the resulting material, it is blended with many other types of natural fibers.
Below we take a good look at each of these qualities and characteristics so we may understand why manufactures are really fond of the material.
What are the qualities and characteristics of pure polyester?
Polyester is obtained from crude oil, in a reaction that involves the crude raw material, air and water.
The filaments generated from the chemical reactions are drawn into yarns i.e they are combined together to form a much durable strand that can easily be manoeuvred, then woven, dyed and finished with chemicals to give a final product that has useful clothing attributes.
Polyester has the following qualities and characteristics.
Polyester does not require special care
The chemical process that births polyester renders the material very strong. Polyester is highly durable and doesn’t require special care during laundry.
It doesn’t shrink when washed in water because it is hydrophobic, but that isn’t true for high heat applications like the dryer and ironing, polyester can definitely shrink when you go past the recommended heating temperature.
To have a material that is much stronger that what native polyester can ever boast, polyester is blended with other types of natural fibers like cotton, terrycot and linen.
It’s not breathable
There’s one shocking news about polyester. One key characteristic that makes it a very good material is also the same characteristic that makes it a bad one.
Its hydrophobic nature.
Polyester shares a mysterious affair with water. These two never seem to amalgamate on a chemical plane.
Water won’t go into polyester fibers and polyester won’t go into water. Because of this, you feel very sticky and miserable when you sweat inside some polyester cloth.
Polyester isn’t biodegradable
Polyester takes a very long time to degrade once it is released into the environment.
Some 20 to 40 years is needed to fully break down the constituents material of polyester, depending on the environment where it is released. For that reason, polyester is regarded as a non-biodegradable material.
But that aside, polyester is perfectly recyclable . It can be taken alongside other plastics and spun into a new fiber for making new clothes. In this way, even though it doesn’t degrade quickly, it can remain in active state for a very long time.
Depending on the quality, the feel or texture of polyester can range from cheap to luxurious.
Poorly made polyesters have a very cheap feel. They feel uncomfortable when they make contact with the skin because they give that coarse feeling.
High quality polyester on the other hand, can have texture that nearly matches that of premium silk or satin fabric.
It doesn’t shrink
Wool absorbs water and drape, polyester: being a chemical step-sister, does not absorb water, so the talk of draping, shrinking, or wrinkling doesn’t come up.
Polyester is very easy to iron as well since it doesn’t produce wrinkles and it holds on to shape near perfectly.
It is colorfast
Once polyester is dyed using premium techniques, it’s quite difficult to remove the dyes from the fibers as a result of its hydrophobic nature.
For this reason, premium polyester products dyed with quality techniques are almost always colorfast.
It may pill
Polyester has the potential to peel in the washer or when rubbed — for instance during stain removal techniques.
Polyester can be dry cleaned
The composition of polyester makes it perfectly compatible with dry cleaning solvents and methods.
Does polyester last?
Polyester is a very durable material. You’ll enjoy the material the most, especially when you rotate clothes.
A polyester garment sandwiched into a garment rotation routine would definitely last for at least two years before it begins showing signs of breakdown like fading and tearing, provided all the instructions on the care label are strictly adhered to.
Some polyesters even last longer than others, because their build quality is quite different and so also their composition i.e polyester blended purposely to strengthen it or make it more durable.
Does polyester attract stains easily?
Polyester doesn’t get water stains but can get oil stains that would get progressively worse when let to set in.
Oil stains in polyester can be quite a headache to get rid of, especially set in ones, simply because the fibers do not wet in water. So you may get a stain spot that lasts a pretty long time even after consistent effort to get rid of it.
Polyester aside being an adhesive to oil stains, also attracts dust and tiny particles because of its static properties. Fabric softener and its alternatives are a brilliant anti softener to try out for static removal.
Is polyester easy to wash?
Polyester is pretty easy to wash as it’s hard to water stain it. Most dirt or soil that forms on it accumulates within the spaces between the weaves and stitches and these can be washed out easily in warm water using an all purpose detergent.
You can even bleach white polyester fabrics to make them whiter, or, if you do not want to use bleach, you can soak them in a solution of half cup dishwasher detergent (the one meant for your dishwasher), and one gallon of lukewarm water. Then launder as usual and use half cup of vinegar to eliminate static.
Just like it’s easy to wash polyester, it’s also easy to dry and iron it. When heating polyester, ensure you never go above the heat settings recommended for the fabric which is typically on the low side. Going higher will cause shrinkage and possibly do damage.
Is polyester easy to wear?
Depending on the kind of polyester you buy, whether cheap, quality or blended polyester, you might find the comfort it gives a bit different.
Cheap polyester has a very poor texture when it comes in contact with the body. Quality polyester feels normal or even premium, whereas blended polyester, depending on what level it is on the quality scale can feel coarse to sleek.
Is polyester a good material for a couch?
The hydrophobic nature of polyester makes it a good material for a couch. Your couch won’t get dirty easily and when they do, you can easily get them cleaned. Polyester is a good material for curtains in the same manner
Is polyester good for the environment?
While polyester is loved and worshipped for its many uses in the apparel industry, the brutal truth about it must be said.
Polyester really isn’t good for the environment. Once it’s produced, its unpleasant footprint must be felt at one point or the other.
Polyester is dangerous to the environment because it pollutes it. This happens directly, for example when the material is disposed of and ends up clogging landfills.
And Indirectly, when microfibers from washed polyester end up in our waterways and eventually inside the fishes and other sea foods we consume.
This is the same reason why recycling polyester still doesn’t make it any less harmful. Because the more a polyester material ages, the more microfiber it leaks into the washer.
And recycled polyesters are definitely old! Meaning a lot of microfibers actually end up in waterways because of them.
Polyester is a great material to use for clothing as it is durable and highly resistant to water stain. It is easy to wash, doesn’t wrinkle and squeeze as much as cotton does and can be ironed with very little effort.
The only negative thing about polyester happens to overshadow all its good goodsides, and that is that polyester is not safe for the environment.
Both new and old polyester materials release microfibers into waterways which end up contaminating waterways and entering into fishes and other sea foods we consume.
At the end of the day, we, the producers, will also be part of those at the receiving end.