Many frightening and alarming stories have been written about polyester. Some of them are unfortunately true, but can we attribute only the bad to this fibre? It all seems to be an individual issue – our attitudes to the environment, health and fashion are crucial aspects to cover. Let’s take a look at this controversial fabric and try to gather all the relevant and objective information about it.

Origins of Polyester:

In terms of origin, we can divide fabrics into natural, artificial, and synthetic. Natural fibres are derived directly from plants and animals, while artificial fibres are created through chemical processes, but from natural components, such as viscose, which is based on cellulose derived mainly from wood. Among the synthetic materials, i.e. man-made from start to finish, is polyester. It was invented in 1941 by chemist Wallace Carothers. Initially, it was extremely popular and was even called the material that revolutionised fashion. In the 1950s and 1960s, it was used among the greatest designers and fashion houses.

Examples of materials by origin:

Natural: linen, cotton, wool, silk, natural leather, etc.

Artificial: viscose, lyocell, modal, bamboo, acetate, cupro, etc.

Synthetic: polyester, elastane, polyamide, acrylic, fleece, etc.

Polyester is a mixture of petroleum derivatives and ethylene glycol. It is a polymer with ester bonds. It is formed by melting PET polyethylene terephthalate granules (yes, the one from bottles) at a high temperature and then undergoing a spinning process. In the process of creating polyester, large amounts of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere. However, it is important to realise that the production of any fabric is harmful to the environment. In the case of cotton, pesticides and insecticides are used to grow it, as well as unimaginable amounts of water. When it comes to viscose, huge amounts of energy and water are used during its production – when choosing a fabric, certification is key here, including Ecovero, to ensure that the whole process of making the yarn has respected the environment. However, it is important to realise that up to 70% of the wood used to produce the cellulose fibre is wasted. It is not uncommon for effluent from viscose factories to be released directly into rivers, posing a risk to animal and human health and life.

Advantages of Polyester:

Contrary to what one sometimes hears or reads about polyester, when looked at from different perspectives, this fibre turns out to have several significant advantages:

  • It is resistant to sunlight and does not fade or burn in the sun.
  • It prints and dyes very easily, quickly and the colours remain solid and saturated.
  • It is easy to care for and does not eat into the household budget.
  • It dries very quickly and is resistant to stretching.
  • It does not crease much.
  • Very durable and does not rub off.
  • Stain-resistant.

Thanks to its easy care and quick drying, as well as its lack of susceptibility to creasing, polyester is particularly appreciated by athletes and people who do not have time to take special care of their clothing. Its lack of hygroscopicity means that sweat quickly evaporates from the athlete’s body during exercise when exposed to high temperatures, leaving the jersey dry. Polyester can be easily refined, making it waterproof or more breathable. Manufacturers of footwear or furniture praise it above all for its durability.

Disadvantages of Polyester:

The disadvantages cover several areas:

  • Clothing comfort
  • Environmental degradation
  • Health

Clothing comfort:

  • Clothes made of 100% polyester can be uncomfortable and contribute, especially in summer, to excessive sweating. Skin dressed in polyester ‘does not breathe’.
  • The material is easily electrified.
  • It can stick to the body and look unattractive.

Environmental degradation:

  • Emission of harmful greenhouse gases and carbon dioxide are emitted during the energy-intensive polyester production process.
  • When clothes are washed, microplastic fibres end up in the water, which then falls into the seas and oceans and is consequently eaten by fish and other aquatic organisms and may eventually end up on our plate.
  • Polyester is not biodegradable – while linen decomposes in as little as two weeks, synthetic fibres can sit in landfills for over 200 years. The only solution is to recycle polyester. At the moment, only 1 per cent of clothing is recycled using the Textile to Textile formula. Upcycling is becoming increasingly popular – backpacks, bags, for example, are created from materials that may have been discarded.


  • Polyester can cause inflammation to the skin
  • Under the influence of excessive perspiration caused by polyester, the skin pores expand strongly, opening the way for germs and harmful substances that may be in the fabric, such as cobalt or bromide. For printed or dyed fabrics, using certified dyes in the printing process are an important consideration.

Applications for Polyester:

  • Apparel industry
    • Polyester can be used on its own or in blends. It is extremely popular in the clothing industry, although it is absolutely not recommended for children. It is often paired with cotton or viscose. Thanks to its presence in a knitted or woven fabric, the material is less prone to pilling and creasing, among other things. Polyester materials vary in weight (GSM), weave and finish. An ideal material for printing, particularly by sublimation.
  • Upholstery and footwear
    • Used for furniture and footwear, polyester is characterised by its durability, resistance to dirt and damage, while being soft enough and flexible enough to give the required shape.
  • Home accessories – curtains, drapes, tablecloths, decorative pillowcases, etc.
    • Thanks to the fact that polyester fabrics print and dyE well, it is possible to achieve unique visual effects, which play a large role when decorating interiors. In addition, they are functional and durable.
  • Advertising banners, advertisements, posters etc.
    • In office or exhibition spaces, textile advertisements made of shatterproof polyester look clearer and more aesthetically pleasing than those made of PVC, for example.
  • Fabric for prams
    • The polyester used in the manufacture of baby prams must be additionally coated with a waterproof membrane, finished in a child-safe manner (zero chemicals) and fire-resistant. Ideally, the fabric should be recyclable.
  • Reflective fabric – Used for workwear and all reflective items.
  • Mattress covers
    • Does not wrinkle, crease or stretch. Polyester material is very easy to keep clean, dries quickly and is durable. It insulates well against heat and is soft.


The perception of polyester remains an individual and complex issue. It is not possible to make an unambiguously negative or positive judgement about this material. Its disadvantages seem to outweigh its advantages, but if we learn to use polyester sensibly, consciously and with care for the planet – there is a chance to change the way we talk about it. It is only up to us to tame this textile beast.