Polyester is synonymous with leisure suits and tacky fabrics. But, this strong, versatile and even luxurious material is a game-changer for innovative products and the fashions and textiles you encounter every day.
By Gwen Moran
The word “polyester” might bring to mind images of disco-era leisure suits and bellbottom pants. But this group of synthetic polymers is used to make a number of surprising products used in everyday life.
Polyester’s strength, resistance to moisture and mildew, and versatility are among the many reasons it’s so popular. This plastic, first discovered in the 1930s, can be manufactured to have a number of textures and other properties depending on how it is processed. While it came to be synonymous with the rough, garish fabric of the 1970s, today, polyester fabrics are routinely used by designers in beautiful, high-end clothing and other textile-based products. But polyester’s uses go far beyond clothes. In fact, on a typical day, you may not realize how many times polyester touches your life. Here’s a hypothetical example to show you how ubiquitous it is:
A Good Morning: It’s tempting to stay in that warm bed—your polyester pillow cases, sheets, and comforter have a rich, luxurious feel. But, instead, you throw open the polyester drapes and get ready for your morning run.
Your new ultra-thin breathable athletic clothing is made from polyester, as is the clear, hard PET water bottle from which you drink to stay hydrated. PET stands for “polyethylene terephthalate,” the chemical name for polyester, and is commonly used to refer to this strong, lightweight, fully recyclable plastic that is used to make bottles, containers, and myriad other products.
Off to Work: When you return to get ready for work, the shower curtain and the area rugs in your bathroom are made from polyester fibers. You use shampoo and liquid soap from PET bottles. You pack a healthy lunch in a PET container that can be heated in the microwave. Your partner helps you get the children ready for school and changes the baby’s diaper—everything from their clothing and backpacks to the disposable diaper they wear is made with polyester.
As you leave the house, you notice a few clouds, so you grab your waterproof polyester raincoat and umbrella to protect against the elements.
At the office: Throughout your work day, you’ll likely come into contact with polyester products. The lanyard you wear to display your office identification, as well as the chairs you use at your desk and in the conference room and even some of your computer components are made with polyester. It’s in your mousepad and in the office whiteboard that everyone uses to brainstorm about new ideas. When you visit the warehouse, many workers are wearing polyester safety vests and the conveyer belts are made from this durable material, as well.
During time off: After work, you’re ready to enjoy time with family and friends. Heading to a birthday party? Those shiny Mylar balloons are made of polyester. Is the great outdoors more your style? Everything from tents to boat sails to backpacks to fish netting is made from polyester. Heading out on a road trip? Polyester is commonly used in car components like seat belts as well as road-building fabrics to make highways and byways stronger and more durable.
Today, manmade polyester fibers are a common part of everyday life. Now that you know its many applications, you can easily look around and see the vast impact of this innovative, versatile material in virtually every aspect of our lives.
Oerlikon Barmag’s large-scale filament spinning and texturing plant solutions are designed to manufacture and process polyester.