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I also incorporate polyester, but not Aunt Ester, in some of my clothing designs. Polyester is really a family of polymers that can be made into threads and woven into textiles. Different polyester fibers have different properties. Polyester is also referred to as PET by chemical industry insiders. PET stands for Polyethylene Terephthalate. Polyesters are members of a family of polymers incorporating the ester functional group in their chemical formulas.

I am aware that polyester has a reputation for being a very cheap and tacky fabric. Like most people, I used to think that polyester was a low class fabric unfit for use in nice clothing. I later changed my perceptions about polyester when I looked over some of the polyesters available on the market today. A lot of polyester on the market these days is actually quite nice to the touch and looks great. I do understand that some people are allergic to synthetic fabrics, and therefore do not wish to ever wear polyester or any other synthetic material. Because some people have allergic reactions to polyester fabrics, I will always list on this web site the material used in the shirt’s construction. I would kindly ask that in the future you would be more accepting of Mr. Paul E. Ester.

History of Polyester

At this time, polyester is not a new fabric. The first patent for polyester was filed in 1941 in Manchester England by British chemists John Whinfield and James Dickson. The initial development of polyester was based on the earlier research of British chemist Wallace Curothers, who was the inventor of nylon. The first production polyester fiber was sold under the name Terylene in Britain in the 1940’s. In 1950 the DuPont chemical company bought the patent rights to Terelyne, and produced the first American polyester textile and sold it under the name Dacron. In the 1950’s petroleum was a very plentiful, cheap, and readily available base material, thus all over the world, polyester was produced in large quantities during the second half of the 20th century.

Polyester follows the basic manufacturing process of any extruded fiber textile. The base materials of the fiber are liquefied and pushed through a hole. Pushing the base components through a hole is done by centrifugally spinning the fibers from a spinneret or pushing them through a nozzle. The base chemicals needed to make a fiber are either turned into a liquid form by heating and melting or mixing with a solvent. If the base chemicals have been heated and liquefied only a cooling bath or stream of gas is immediately needed. If a solvent is used for base material chemical liquefaction a chemical bath is needed immediately after extrusion to remove the solvents. Sometimes a combination bath is used to both harden fibers and remove solvents at the same time. Whatever liquefying and extruding methods is used, the fibers are always washed, stretched, straitened, and dried before leaving the factory.

Ecological and Social Impact of Polyester

The overall environmental impact of manufacturing polyester fabrics is a mixed bag to say the least. Polyester is a decent fabric to incorporate into clothing designs, however, its frequent lack of biodegradability, and some of the qualities of the fabric itself prevent polyester from being a large scale substitute for cotton. Some polyester textiles are made of naturally occurring base chemicals, and therefore these fabrics are actually quite environmentally friendly and non- toxic to produce. Some polyester fabrics produced today are bio-degradable; however, most polyester fabrics are still not bio-degradable. Non-biodegradable polyester produced from man-made petrochemical products requires a base of toxic chemicals to produce, then creates toxic chemicals as a by-product of the production process, similar to Acrylic/modal fabrics. Most polyester textiles on the market today do not get high marks for ecological kindness; however, not all polyester fabrics deserve a negative environmental rating.

Like all plastic manufacturing processes, the factories making polyester are progressively releasing less toxic chemicals and using less fresh water. It is possible to make polyester production a closed loop process where all the chemicals used in the manufacturing process are recycled or re-processed. A closed loop manufacturing process would not release any noxious chemicals into the environment regardless of what chemicals were used in production. The possibility of chemical spills still exists, so it is always better to never produce toxic chemicals at all. Like all plastics, hemp oil could be substituted for petrochemicals as a base material for production. If polyester were to replace cotton as the fabric of choice for textiles it would have by now.

Q: Ok, so what are the advantages of using Polyester on your shirts?
A: Polyester is pretty rugged and durable stuff and it holds its shape pretty well. These are some of the reasons why so many manufacturers put a certain percentage of polyester fibers in an otherwise cotton textile. Polyester resists shrinkage in dryers rather well and can take more washing cycles than a lot of other fabrics before wearing out. Polyester is remarkably color fast, and rarely bleeds out colors while wearing or washing. Polyesters fabrics tend to be very resistant to wrinkles. Polyester is also not known for keeping or making lint.

Q: Ok, so what are the downsides of incorporating polyester in a clothing item?
A: Polyester is a synthetic fabric, so some people can have a bad skin reaction to this fabric. Unfortunately, polyester fabric has acquired a reputation for being a bit itchy. Some of the thinner polyester fabrics can work well enough in warmer environments, and do not trap too much perspiration or body heat, but the thicker polyester fabrics can trap body heat and perspiration in warmer conditions and can be a bit uncomfortable to wear when the thermometer climbs.