Is Polyester Breathable? How to Pick the Right Fabric

Rayward Apparel

Polyester: a versatile fabric that can evoke strong feelings from both fans and critics! But what is polyester? Polyester is a common term for fabrics made with polyester yarns. The name is shortened from a common synthetic polymer called polyethylene terephthalate, which is made by mixing ethylene glycol and terephthalic acid. Essentially, polyester is a form of plastic. More than half of all retail clothes sold in the world contain polyester! In this article we'll guide you through picking the right fabric, and the age-old question of polyester vs nylon.

Why Choose Polyester?

Polyester is durable, strong, lightweight, flexible, resistant to shrinking and wrinkling, and easily dyed. However, to answer the question of the title, polyester is not technically breathable. In practice, polyester can even trap heat next to the skin, which can make you feel sticky and uncomfortable in humid weather. However, polyester makes up for this disadvantage by providing high UV protection. Most polyester fabrics have a UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) score of 30 or greater. This is much better than a typical cotton t-shirt with a score of 5-10. Additionally, polyester can be blended with natural fibers to improve breathability, aid moisture-wicking and provide a softer touch.

Polyester Fabric for Sun Protection

Polyester vs Nylon

Nylon is similar to polyester in that it is a polymer made out of petroleum and is made in a similar manufacturing process. However, the main difference is that nylon is typically softer, while polyester is more versatile and water-resistant. There are some other key differences, however. The first difference is breathability. As mentioned earlier, polyester is not breathable, but it can be blended with cotton to increase its breathability. Nylon is less breathable and lacks the versatility to be combined with other fabrics.

A key factor for us at Rayward Apparel is UV protection. So how do polyester and nylon stack up? As mentioned earlier, polyester is highly UV resistant. Therefore, polyester is great for skin protection and color durability. Adding to polyester's durability and versatility is that it can handle most types of weather without damage. Polyester is also resistant to mold and flames. Nylon is very durable, but less resistant to UV rays. Not only does nylon provide less protection from the sun, but its colors are more likely to fade if exposed to the sun over long periods of time.

Running Polyester Shirt

Which Fabric Should You Choose?

Of course it all comes to personal preference, but let's help you out even more. Whether you are a manufacturer, retailer or consumer, the best choice will most likely be polyester. Polyester is cheaper, resistant to the elements and more versatile. Nylon may be a stronger fabric, giving it a lot of utility outside of the fashion industry! Nylon is also softer and smoother than polyester, which makes it suitable for more specialized articles of clothing such as dresses. When it comes down to it, neither nylon or polyester are "better" than the other. The "right" choice depends on your needs. Likewise, the right choice for Rayward Apparel depends on the needs of each piece of apparel and the demands of our customers. When polyester is the more suitable option, we use polyester, such as in our Shoreline collection of UV shirts.