What are synthetic fabrics?


Quick Answer

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.

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Full Answer

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.

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