Synthetic Performance Fabrics


Elastane (spandex, Lycra®, Elaspan®, Acepora, Creora®, Dorlastan®, Linel) is known for its elasticity and can be stretched up to 500 percent its original length and spring back without losing its integrity. When blended with natural fibers, it creates a lightweight and flexible fabric with high shape retention.

Where does it come from? Synthetic polymer made from polyurethane/polyurea

Found in: Sportswear and athletic apparel, leggings, swimwear, undergarments, socks and tights


  • Lightweight
  • Durable and abrasion-resistant
  • Soft, smooth, and breathable
  • Wrinkle-resistant
  • Easy to launder
  • Easy to dye, although can require formaldehyde for dye fixing
  • Quick-drying
  • Can be allergenic
  • Fabric melts when in contact with flame or high temperatures

Nylon is a synthetic fabric originally created as a replacement for silk. Nylon can be woven or knitted.

Where does it come from? Synthetic polymer made from plastic fibers (polyamides)

Found in: Clothing, upholstery, seat belts, thread, hairbrushes, toothbrushes, dental floss


  • Exceptionally strong
  • Elastic
  • Easy to wash
  • Resistant to damage from dirt, oil, chemicals, and perspiration
  • Low moisture absorbency
  • Lightweight
  • Can melt at high temperatures
  • Pealing can occur
  • Can require formaldehyde for dye fixing

Polyester (Polartec®, polar fleece, fleece, Capilene®, Coolmax®, wickaway) is a synthetic material made from petroleum derivatives. It has many high-performance qualities. Polyester can be highly insulating, breathable, and wicking. Combined with natural fibers such as cotton, rayon, or wool, polyester can provide strength and resistance to wrinkling and the elements.

Where does it come from? Synthetic polymer fibers derived from a petroleum resin

Found in: Clothing, bedding, upholstery, curtains, soft toys


  • Durable and strong
  • Insulating and warm
  • Quick drying
  • Lightweight
  • Wicking
  • Stain- and mildew-resistant
  • Resistant to stretching and shrinking
  • Wrinkle- and abrasion-resistant
  • Easy to wash
  • Can require formaldehyde for dye fixing
  • Recycled polyester can be made by melting down postconsumer recycled PET bottles (generally water and soft-drink bottles) into a resin and then into a fiber; the result is as effective as polyester made from virgin petroleum resin

Polypropylene is a thermoplastic polymer fiber used in insulating base-layer fabrics, thermal underwear, labeling, and nonwoven materials for diapers and
sanitary products.

Where does it come from? Synthetic fibers made from petroleum derivatives

Found in: Insulating clothing, disposable diapers, sanitary products


  • Insulating and warm
  • Quick-drying
  • Lightweight
  • Repels water
  • Easy to wash
  • Holds odors
  • Not flammable, but polypropylene melts when exposed to fire
  • Formerly used widely in the U.S. military and outdoor industry, but has been mostly replaced by polyester base layers
  • Can require formaldehyde for dye fixing

Microfiber is a manufactured fabric made from fiber strands less than one dernier. This can produce a soft, suede-like feel that is much stronger and more durable than real suede leather. Terry cloth made from microfiber is highly absorbent and antimicrobial.

Where does it come from? Synthetic polymer fibers of polyester, nylon, rayon, or acrylic

Found in: Clothing, upholstery, car interiors, cleaning cloths, cloth diapers, swim diapers


  • Soft and suede-like
  • Strong and durable
  • Stain-resistant and easy to clean
  • Highly absorbent and quick-drying
  • Lightweight
  • Antimicrobial
  • Resists dust and lint
  • Can require formaldehyde for dye fixing

Acrylic (acrilan, Orlon, Dralon) is a synthetic fiber that closely resembles wool in its character.

Where does it come from? Synthetic fibers made from the polymer polyacrylonitrile

Found in: Clothing, flame-retardant-protective clothing, yarns for knitting and crocheting, wigs, hair extensions


  • Quick-drying
  • Wicking
  • Flexible esthetics for wool-like, cotton-like, or blended appearance
  • Does not insulate well
  • Easy to wash
  • Retains shape
  • Resistant to moths, oil, and chemicals
  • Easy to dye and very colorfast
  • Can irritate the skin of people with dermatological conditions such as eczema
Grow Healthy. Grow Happy. Guide
By Grow Healthy. Grow Happy. The Whole Baby Guide. ™

A comprehensive and accessible resource for natural baby care. Nurture your baby with nature's principles for a radiant life. Grow Healthy. Grow Happy. The Whole Baby Guide is a complete resource for parents to give their babies a healthy beginning for the first three years.

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