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Nylon Fiber and Characteristics

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Nylon does not absorb water – this is great for some uses, but also means that nylon fabric and movement combine to create static electricity.

Nylons, or polyamides (PA), are high-performance semi-crystalline thermoplastics with attractive physical and mechanical properties that provide a wide range of end-use performances important in many industrial applications.

While nylon takes many forms, it made its name as a textile fiber and revolutionized the textile industry. According to Fortune magazine in 1940, nylon was the fifth basic textile development in 4,000 years; the others were mercerized cotton, mechanical mass production, synthetic dyes, and rayon. In turn, nylon led to a host of other fibers and plastics that are integral to an advanced industrial society.


About 8 billion pounds of nylon are produced each year in the U.S. Nylon is an artificial fiber. It is durable, strong and resists abrasion.

In 1939, the DuPont company first manufactured NYLON – it was the first synthetic fiber made in the United States. It was used in nylon stockings during wartime, but even after the war became preferred over silk, and quickly replaced silk in most hosiery.

Nylon is made of polymers known as polyamides which contain carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, and hydrogen. Solid chips of these polyamides are melted and forced through a heated spinneret. The spinneret has from one to hundreds of holes. Their size and shape change the characteristics of the resulting fiber. The fiber solidifies as it cools, and can then be spun or woven.

Properties and Uses Nylon

Nylon does not absorb water – this is great for some uses, but also means that nylon fabric and movement combine to create static electricity.

Nylon has some of the look and feel of silk. It is used in sheer hosiery, sails, parachutes, blouses, gowns and veils, swimsuits, lingerie, and even car tires. Nylon has also replaced wool as the fiber most used in carpets. A process called air-texturing adds bulk to the nylon to make it useful as a floor covering.

Characteristics of Polyester Fibers and Products

  • Resists abrasion (but can “pill”)
  • Very resilient (springs back into shape)
  • Resist wrinkling
  • Very high heat can “melt” the fabric
  • The right amount of heat can be used to permanently “heat set” a crease or pleat
  • Easy to wash and wear
  • Does not absorb water (can be uncomfortable when worn next to the skin in warm weather unless loosely woven)
  • Dries quickly
  • Attracts static electricity which also attracts dirt and lint
  • Although they do NOT absorb water, they DO absorb oil and grease. This means synthetics
  • resist soiling, but once an oil-based stain soaks in, it can be difficult to clean.
  • Strong fiber (but nylon is stronger)
  • Often blended with cotton or even wool to add crease resistance
  • Polyester does not absorb water, but it can be produced in such a way (as in polypropylene and microfibers) as to “wick” water away from the skin


  • Nylon was the first synthetic fiber manufactured in the US.
  • It is made from polymers consisting of carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, and hydrogen.
  • Nylon is a versatile fiber used in clothing, carpet, and tires.
  1. Colin says

    The “Characteristics” section is about polyester, not nylon.

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