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What are synthetic fibers?

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Quick Answer

Synthetic fibers are textiles that are made from chemicals. These fibers are stronger than natural fibers such as wool and cotton, and regenerated fibers such as rayon and acetate, according to IHS GlobalSpec, a digital media company that connects industrial marketers with industry professionals.

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Full Answer

According to "College Fashion," an online magazine written by and for college students, the first artificial fibers were developed in the late 19th century. Nylon was the first synthetic fiber. Women began buying nylon stockings in significant quantities in the 1940s.

Other synthetic fibers include polyester, acrylic and spandex. While all of these fibers are wrinkle-resistant, they tend to pill easily and do not absorb well, according to "College Fashion." Blended fibers, such as polyester-cotton blends, tend to offer the best of two fabrics while compensating for the worst of each. For example, a poly-cotton blend shirt is fairly wrinkle-resistant, a polyester trait, yet somewhat breathable, a cotton trait.

There are advantages and disadvantages to synthetic fibers, reports IHS GlobalSpec. In general, the advantages of synthetic fibers are that they are durable, moth-resistant, easy to care for, cheap and abundant. Disadvantages are that they are made with petroleum, a non-renewable resource, melt easily in high temperatures and cause some people to experience allergic reactions.

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