Part 2 – A Comprehensive Introduction to Synthetic Fabrics: “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Leather”

Part 2 – A Comprehensive Introduction to Synthetic Fabrics: “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Leather”

Synthetic Fabrics

Part 2 – A Comprehensive Introduction to Synthetic Fabrics: “I Can't Believe It's Not Leather”

Table of Contents

Synthetic Fabrics

Are you curious about the strengths and applications of synthetic fabrics?
Or maybe you’re wondering what the difference between natural and synthetic fabrics is?

If you’re here from part one, then you’re definitely an expert in natural fabrics and you’ll ace the quiz. Kidding!
I
n this part, we go over synthetic fabrics, and in part three, we discuss fabric standards and regulations.

Below is a general guide outlining some of the most common synthetic fabrics, their characteristic, best applications, and areas to avoid.

In contrast to natural fabrics, synthetic fabrics are created through chemical synthesis and are generally less expensive and more stain and UV-resistant. 

Acrylic

Acrylic is often used as a replacement for wool because of how it looks and feels.

It’s more affordable when compared to wool, making it a popular choice for many applications.
It was first manufactured in Germany in the early 1890s and in the late 1940s, Acrylic was introduced to the US through DuPont, a producer of chemical and science-based products.

CHARACTERISTICS
This material is relatively durable and easy to clean. It withstands wear, wrinkling, stains, and fading. Acrylic holds its shape well and does not shrink. It’s quick drying and resistant to mildew and insects.
Low-quality acrylic has a tendency to pill whereas high-quality acrylic won’t pill as much.

It retains colour
and is soft to the touch making it a cozy material. 

CLEANING
Make sure to use damp cloths, the softer the better as acrylic easily scratches.
Avoid any solvents as they can damage the surface of the fabric.

To avoid unwanted marks, use a different cloth than the ones used for the rest of the home.
Dirt, grit, and chemicals can leave marks on this fabric.

BEST APPLICATIONS
Carpet/Rugs and upholstery when blended with other synthetic fabrics.

AVOID
High traffic areas and direct sun exposure as it’s flammable. 

Polyester

Polyester is usually derived from petroleum. It’s commonly known and used in multiple applications.
It was first created in the US and its biggest exporter is China.
It’s one of the more
affordable fabrics making it a great choice for smaller budgets.

CHARACTERISTICS
Polyester has tons of desirable qualities including good resilience and elasticity. Like Acrylic, Polyester is durable and easy to clean, however, polyester is rarely used alone and is blended with other fabrics.

When blended, polyester is softer
but still breathable.

Grey Sectional with Prints on the Wall

CLEANING
Vacuum on a regular basis.

If you spill, don’t use tap water as it can leave an unsightly ring that will look worse than the stain you originally tried to remove. Use distilled water to remove stains and don’t let it sit for too long.

BEST APPLICATIONS
Upholstery as it’s available in a variety of colours and is easy to clean.

AVOID
In high humidity areas as mildew can appear. 

Nylon

Nylon is one of the most popular synthetic fabrics. It’s commonly blended with other fibers making it a great choice for upholstery. Similar to Acrylic, Nylon was produced in the mid-1930s in the US by DuPont.


It was first created for use in women’s stockings and in the mid-1
950s, DuPont began to experiment with its use as carpeting. Nylon is considered to be a cost-effective material making it a great choice for small budgets. 

CHARACTERISTICS
It’s strong with great resilience and elasticity. Nylon is resistant to many chemicals, water, and microorganisms and is often combined with other synthetic or natural fibers to obtain both advantages. It’s not breathable but withstands shape and wears well as it doesn’t mildew or mold. Nylon is elastic meaning it doesn’t shrink. 

CLEANING
Like other fabrics, nylon follows a similar cleaning procedure. Make sure to vacuum gently before removing any soils and stains. You’ll want to make a mixture of water and mild laundry detergent. 

Yellow Sofa

It’s best to not oversaturate the fabric. Take a cloth and wipe gently, do not rub aggressively.

BEST USES
Curtains/drapery, carpet/rugs, and upholstery when blended with other synthetic fabrics.

AVOID
Using Nylon in its purest form, especially for upholstery. 

Vinyl

Vinyl is a popular synthetic fabric often used to imitate leather, sometimes it’s referred to as ‘pleather’. It comes in various colours, patterns, thicknesses, grains, and textures, making it a top choice for interior applications.

Its origins can be attributed to a German chemist in 1872 and was further developed in the 1920s for wider use. Today, Vinyl is frequently used around the world. 

CHARACTERISTICS
It’s flame retardant which means once removed from a fire source, it will not ignite or burn. Vinyl is extremely durable and will not fray. This fabric is typically waterproof, repelling water/moisture. Vinyl is a great choice for outdoor furniture as it’s UV resistant. It’s not a breathable material but is easily disinfectable.

Vinyl is low maintenance,
easy to clean,
and is a suitable choice for folks with children and pets.

CLEANING
There are a few different methods you can use to clean vinyl since it’s a highly durable material.
We always recommend a clean cloth, mild liquid detergent, and water.

Although vinyl is generally waterproof, you’ll still want to wipe it dry once you’re done cleaning.
Don’t clean this material with degreasers, bleach, or other harsh household cleaners.

BEST USES
Upholstery, wallcoverings, and flooring.
Heavy traffic areas, outdoor use, and commercial applications.

AVOID

Pressing vinyl as this can damage the fabric. 

Final Thoughts


The synthetic fabrics on the market today are technologically advanced and designed to withstand high levels of daily abuse. Synthetic fabrics are a great choice for those who are looking for a variety of colours, textures, and finishes or for those who prefer natural fabrics.

Now that you know the differences between natural and synthetic fabrics, aren’t you curious about how these fabrics are classified in the first place and in what ways fabrics are tested?

There’s so much more to learn about fabrics. 

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