What Are Synthetic Fabrics?

Synthetic fabrics, such as polyester, rayon, spandex, nylon and acrylic, are composed of man-made fibers. Conversely, natural fabrics are made of natural fibers from plants, animal coats and seeds, and these include cotton, silk, linen and wool.

Synthetic fabrics attempt to improve the properties of natural fabrics, such as:

  • texture
  • warmth
  • elasticity
  • absorbency
  • shine
  • dying properties

Many synthetic fabrics are made through chemical processes and can generally withstand stains and damage from oils and chemicals. These include:

  • Acrylic, which feels like wool but dries more quickly
  • Spandex made of lastex, an elastic fiber, which resists damage from washing, heat and perspiration
  • Nylon, a lightweight and strong fabric often used in carpet and military uniforms
  • Polyester, which resists wrinkling and is often used in cotton blends for softness
  • Acetate, which is moisture and shrink resistant, shiny and soft
  • Rayon, a strong, soft and absorbent fabric

Although rayon is made from plant cellulose, a natural material, chemicals are used in its production. Therefore, it is synthetic.