Comparing Polyester vs. Nylon Clothing

apparel manufacturing, digital fabric printing -

Comparing Polyester vs. Nylon Clothing

When it comes to the differences between polyester vs. nylon clothing, which is better? As with many things, the most accurate answer is “it depends.” So today, we’ll explore nylon vs. polyester fabric: how they’re alike, how they’re different and which one is most suitable for your use.

What is Polyester?

Polyester is a general term for any textile or synthetic fabric made of polyester yarns or fibers. The name “polyester” is short for polyethylene terephthalate (PET) a synthetic polymer made by mixing terephthalic acid (PTA) and monoethylene glycol (MEG). Polyester is a form of plastic, so it has low breathability but excellent water resistance.

Polyester can be melted and reformed. During the manufacturing process, polyester pellets are forced through tiny holes called spinnerets. The pellets exit the spinnerets as filaments, solidifying into polyester fibers. The shape and size of the spinnerets dictate the fibers’ dimensions, which can be cut to any length and easily dyed to make a variety of textiles.

Polyester is hydrophobic, meaning polyester resists water. Therefore, polyester fabrics are not moisture-wicking and don’t absorb sweat, often leaving the wearer feeling moist or clammy during strenuous activities. However, once damp, polyester dries quickly. It is also very durable and resists stretching, shrinking and wrinkling.

Polyester yarn manufacturing


Why Choose Polyester?

Polyester is a popular choice for clothing as its fibers are heat-sensitive, easily retaining decorative shapes and pleats. It’s also stain-resistant and easy to care for. In addition, polyester can be pretty flexible and modified for a wide range of uses when woven or knitted.

Common Uses of Polyester for Clothing

  • Fashion
  • Sportswear
  • Coats, parkas and fleece
  • Footwear

What is Nylon?

Nylon fabric is a polymer composed of carbon-based molecule chains called monomers. Most nylon derives from polyamide monomers, which derive from petroleum.

To make nylon polymer (commonly called PA 6,6), a chemical reaction forms between diamine and adipic acids. PA 6,6 creates a crystallized substance called nylon salt, which is then heated to a molten state.

Like polyester, this substance is extruded through a spinneret, creating nylon fibers. Next, the fibers are stretched to create elasticity and strength, then wound around a spool. Nylon fibers can be used for certain fabrics in this state but are often combined with other materials and dyed to make garments.

Why Choose Nylon?

Nylon was initially intended as an alternative for silk in the 1930s. Today, nylon’s strength, elasticity and lightweight qualities make it an excellent choice for sportswear when blended with other fabrics.

Common Uses of Nylon for Clothing

  • Stockings, tights and other hosiery
  • Swimwear and workout wear
  • Jackets and windbreakers

Nylon clothing use cases and examples


Nylon vs. Polyester Fabric: A Comparison

Now that we’ve talked about the individual qualities of nylon and polyester, let’s see them side by side:



Abrasion Resistant?


No; can “pill” easily


Not highly breathable

Not highly breathable

Care Instructions

Easy to care for. Can be washed, dried and ironed on low heat settings. Not suitable for dry cleaning.

Easy to care for. Can be washed, dried and ironed on low heat settings. Not suitable for dry cleaning.


Smooth, lightweight, quick-drying

Smooth, silky, lightweight and quick-drying



More expensive


Strong. Resists shrinking, stretching, abrasions and damage from most chemicals.

Very strong. Resists oil and damage from most chemicals.


Heat resistant, but then melts and burns at the same time.

Heat resistant, but melts and then burns quickly.

Mildew Resistant?



Natural or synthetic?



Odor Resistant?

Oil absorption can retain odors.

Does not retain odors

Printing Methods

Dye sublimation

Dye sublimation on certain nylon and nylon blends







Use Cases

Usable for some industrial applications but more suitable for almost every form of clothing. Ideal for sports garments.

Higher range of industrial uses but also suitable for delicate garments like dresses, blouses, and lingerie as well as outdoor gear.

UV Resistant?


Slightly; can fade


Can include natural fibers

Always synthetic



Higher than polyester but can also be clingy and promote sweating.


Yes. Forces water to surface and dries quickly.

Slightly. Expands when wet, taking longer to dry.





Request a Design from Equipe

We hope this article helps you decide whether polyester or nylon is right for your apparel project.

Equipe Athletics specializes in dye sublimation on high-performance apparel and custom teamwear. We are your one-stop-shop for all your digital fabric printing needs, apparel manufacturing and fulfillment, and have over 30 years of industry experience.

We’d love to learn more about your custom project. Request a quote and get your design as a sample swatch.