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Rayon vs Polyester: What’s The Difference?

In today’s world, the possibilities of fabrics that have been created are limitless and special. Rayon and polyester make no exceptions. So, this makes it hard if you try to choose between the two of them, the most used man-made materials, and deciding which has greater value can be confusing.

On one hand, we have rayon fabric, a light breathable soft fabric brought to the market in the late 19th century. When it was first introduced, it had such an elegant look that people started substituting it for silk, earning it the name “artificial silk”.

While on the other side of things we have polyester fabric. A material that was introduced at the beginning of the 20th century, a bit later than rayon, but that gained traction fast in the industry and advanced to the same level as the favorable rayon.

Rayon vs Polyester: Comparison

Uniqueness of Rayon Fabric

Rayon is known to be a soft material for its nature. It might be surprising to some to know that originally it is plant-based. Of course, this is before going through its development in laboratories and factories.

Being around for so long people have mastered its production leading rayon to be inexpensive to make and sell. Known for being a light breathable fabric it also does not take a lot of time to dry. Only with these qualities, it makes an excellent fabric for an outdoor wardrobe. Rayon has even more positive characteristics that we will compare with the uniqueness of polyester all while not forgetting to mention their cons.

Uniqueness of Polyester Fabric

The familiar fabric of polyester is also made in laboratories through chemical reactions making it also artificial. While I will not bore you with a science lesson, I will mention that polyester is not biodegradable. A massive disappointment when you consider that its current competition, rayon, decomposes easily in nature

Not to be fooled polyester threads have their benefits. Polyester finds use in the clothing industry as well as in the home. Mostly focusing its use on our daily apparel, it impressively holds its original shape and is resistant to stretching. Other great qualities this fabric has is its breathability and how easy it is to take care of not stressing the owner much. It is also an ideal rival to rayon when it comes to activewear seeing the durability it has.

Fabric Durability

rayon is considered a semi synthetic fiber yet it is a durable fabric. polyester is a synthetic fiber fabric, however, polyester conquers in the field of durability. Now, this does not exactly mean that you should stay away from rayon at all given costs because the details in this matter are important.

If mixed with other fabrics a rayon t-shirt might hold up longer but just by itself, it is prone to stretching or shrinking under certain conditions. While it may look and feel like a lavish style it does not hold up to one.

Polyester does better than rayon in its durability. It may not be as soft and extravagant looking as rayon but it lasts much longer. A polyester dress or shirt will be very resistant to stretch. By this, I mean that it is known for its elasticity making it almost impossible to stretch, intentionally or not. The durability of a polyester garment can be seen when it retains its original shape, which it does greatly.

If you need to choose one textile based only on the fabric’s sturdiness polyester is the best and safer choice. Rayon is suitable if you do not look for the longevity of the clothing article.

After Care of Fabric

When choosing a garment its aftercare plays a significant role. After all, no one wants to be an owner of a nerve-racking fabric. Let me remind you that an article’s clothing label should always be checked! Even if you are already well-informed about the natural fibers used.

Starting with rayon you can wash it in a washing machine but only with the lowest temperature setting possible or even better hand wash it using the identical temperature. A high-heat wash will cause shrinkage to the threads.

Another thing that should be avoided with rayon is the dryer. This material should continuously be air-dried and out of the sunlight. If you cannot escape the drying machine you can try to turn the garment inside out and put the dryer on the lowest possible setting. The inside-out technique should be used while ironing rayon too, luckily it is an easy fabric to iron not needing much pressure to get the wrinkles out. Ironing should also be done on low heat. The caution towards heat should be followed since not doing so might make the fabric bleed out its color.

The washing process of polyester is a bit different; some may say even easier. Unlike high tenacity modulus rayon or high wet modulus rayon, you can wash polyester with warm or cold water using the washing machine or hand washing it. This works for a polyester blend and 100% polyester articles.

If by chance you accidentally do end up washing your polyester at a high temperature you will be able to avoid shrinkage if it does not pass 40 degrees Celsius. This is great news of course but you should not see it as an easy pass to polyester since it is still a delicate fabric towards heat. This sensitivity is seen in its drying process. The fabric will be damaged if you dry it in high heat.

Both fabrics have their specifications when you are taking care of them but due to their durable nature maintaining polyester clothes is a little bit less challenging than rayon.

Final Thoughts

Even with the preferred visual aspects of rayon it still loses a lot of points when you start looking at its other qualities. Its soft nature will not cover its negative aspects. I am not stating that polyester is perfect, but it holds up better than its competitor in this article.

In conclusion, if you are looking for a durable garment that will last you and won’t cause panic while maintaining it, polyester would be your ideal choice. On the contrary, if you want your clothing to live for a good time, not for a long time, rayon will suit your needs perfectly.

Further Reading

There is some further reading you can do regarding rayon and polyester.

There’s a blog on whether you can shrink rayon or does rayon wrinkles. As for Polyester, you can read about does polyester wrinkle and can you iron polyester or does polyester shrink.

There’s also a great tutorial on how to remove iron on letters.