What Is A Synthetic Fabric?

If you are spending your cash on new clothes, you’ll want to ensure that your choices are comfortable to wear and last a long time.

Fabric choice is one of the factors that affect this, as the wrong fabric can lead to the garment deteriorating over time.

What Is A Synthetic Fabric?

Many synthetic fabrics have an advantage, as they mimic the feel of natural fabrics, like silk or cotton, while being stronger and more durable from the manufacturing process.

Many of these materials, like spandex and polyester, have additional properties, like resisting moisture or wrinkling.

Synthetic materials are made using particular methods that blend substances sourced from oils, natural gas, and coal. They are then formed into fibers which are woven into different materials.

We’ll cover more about synthetic fabrics in this post, including what they are, their pros and cons, and the different types of synthetic fabrics that are popular today.

Synthetic Fabrics: The Basics

Synthetic, or artificial fibers are made by creating polymers from chemical monomers through polymerization, a type of chemical reaction.

The substances used for this process are generally carbon disulfide and sodium hydroxide. These are derivatives of natural gas, coal, or oil.

The solutions from these substances are pushed through small openings, known as spinnerets, creating a filament as a result.

As the fluid flows through the spinnerets back into the air, the liquid cools to make small, continuous threads of filament fibers.

A twisting action turns these filaments into threads which are then dyed into different colors. After the threads are dyed, they are woven together to create a material.

Different chemicals can be used in the process to give the fabric certain characteristics. The synthetic fabric can be made smoother, wrinkle-resistant, stain-resistant, or flame resistant.

Pros And Cons Of Synthetic Materials

Advantages Of Synthetic Materials

Synthetic fibers are often a lot stronger, more resilient, and more durable than natural ones.

Here are some of the advantages of synthetic fibers.

  • Fast drying fibers
  • Can be more absorbent
  • Can be formed into waterproof materials
  • Can be formed into stretchy materials ideal for lingerie and swimwear

Disadvantages Of Synthetic Materials

At the end of their lifespan, the waste leftover from synthetic fibers can be harmful to the environment.

Here are some of the disadvantages of synthetic materials.

  • Can generate toxic gasses when they are burnt
  • Can take a long time to break down in landfills. Synthetic fibers are non-biodegradable. Substances used to create the fibers can seep out into the environment as they decompose.
  • Need to be ironed carefully as they can burn and melt easily

Synthetic materials should never be worn in labs or kitchens, unless they are made for this purpose. Synthetic fibers can burn and melt easily if they are heated, which increases the risk of skin burns and fire hazards.

Difference Between Synthetic And Natural Fibers

The main thing distinguishing synthetic and natural fibers from each other is that synthetic materials are artificially made from chemical methods.

These are often made as affordable substitutes for natural fabrics, as natural fibers are present in nature and occur in smaller quantities.

Natural fibers tend to need less processing to reach their final stage before they are woven into material. They often contain cellulose-based materials, like flax, hemp, or cotton.

Other natural fabrics which are made from animal matter are leather, wool, silk, and mohair.

Synthetic fibers need to be treated with harsh chemical processes before they can be woven into fabric.

The polymers needed to produce these aren’t present in nature. They need to be sourced from coal, natural gas, oil, or petroleum.

Synthetic Fabric Characteristics


The specific characteristics of synthetic fibers will differ between each type. Overall, these man-made fibers are shiny and smooth, capable of forming much stronger materials than natural fabrics.

Other than these properties, the specific properties of each material will depend on what the fibers were designed to do.

A lot of synthetic materials, like polyester, are moisture-absorbent, which is ideal for athletic wear. Others, like neoprene, are waterproof, allowing fluids to run off its surface, a good choice for wetsuits.

Several synthetic materials are designed to be inflexible and stiff, while others are elastic or stretchy. These characteristics will depend on what chemicals the fibers were treated with at the time of processing.

However, bear in mind that the majority of synthetic fabrics have a long lifespan, which means they break down with difficulty. They also melt quickly under high temperatures, emitting dangerous fumes when burned.

This is why natural fabrics are more eco-friendly than synthetic ones.

Different Types Of Synthetic Materials

Here are some popular examples of synthetic fabrics. Remember that some clothing items will be made with a blend of several different fibers, not just one type.


Polyester is the most popular type of synthetic fabric. It’s known for its stiff and durable properties, forming materials that resist wear and tear well.

Polyester clothing keeps its shape and is easy to care for. Many clothing brands create their clothes with polyester, as it is wrinkle-resistant and soft to the touch.


Spandex is popular as it forms flexible, fitted clothes that are comfortable and elastic. Spandex is also called elastane and lycra, though it’s generally blended with different fibers for more durability.

Spandex was made using polyester and polyurethane. These substances resist moisture well, which is ideal for athletic clothes that won’t soak up sweat as you move.


You have probably come across nylon at some point in your life. Nylon fabric is lightweight, durable, and tear-resistant.

It is easy to care for and dries very quickly. Nylon is elastic, but it is usually blended with other fibers to make it more comfortable to wear.


Rayon is created from cellulose fibers. These are sourced from chemically treated vegetable and plant cell walls. It resembles the texture of silk, which is why rayon clothing needs to be treated with care.

Rayon is generally woven with different fibers to make it less stiff and easier to care for. Rayon needs to be laundered with cooler temperatures as it is prone to shrinking in the wash.

The Bottom Line

Now you know more about synthetic fabrics! Synthetic fabrics are very popular today, thanks to their strength, durability, and various positive characteristics.

Whether you want a material that’s waterproof, wrinkle-resistant, or easy to launder, there will be a synthetic fabric that’s ideal for your purpose.

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