Viscose vs Polyester Fabrics: Differences and Comparison

Viscose vs Polyester Fabrics: Differences and ComparisonPin

Fabric comparisons in the past few months have helped us to better understand the origin, as well as the purpose of different fabrics, especially when it comes to their use in jackets.

So far, we have gone through a multitude of different fabrics and fabric technologies, by learning more about their composition, use and the qualities that set them apart.

Our fabric comparison series has primarily relied on Polyester as the main fabric to compare other fabrics to, the reason for that being quite simply its versatility.

Polyester is used in a number of different clothes, household items, bedding and also for outdoor items such as backpacks or sleeping bags.

In today’s comparison we have chosen to compare Viscose fabric to Polyester and see where the two differ and how they are used in jackets.


1. Viscose Fabric

Viscose, otherwise referred to as rayon because it is a type of rayon, is a cellulose-based fiber, made of regenerated cellulose that can be produced by a number of plants such as sugar cane, bamboo and soy.

It resembles cotton structurally, but because of the way it is made it cannot fall under the category of natural fibers, despite its origin being from plants.

It was first produced in 1883 by British scientists Charles Frederick Cross and Edward John Bevan. Viscose is in referral to the way that the fibers are created, which is through a viscous liquid that is made from wood pulp and a variation of chemicals. This organic liquid is what makes cellophane and rayon.

Thus, viscose is indeed rayon, but its name comes directly from the viscose manufacturing process.

As a fabric, viscose is also referred to as artificial silk due to its smooth, glossy and extremely soft fibers.

These fibers are also very easily blended with other fibers, making viscose a versatile fabric.

It is a durable fabric that can be colored quite easily and it holds the color for a really long time, without fading from sunlight either.

The fibers are very lightweight, which also goes for the fabric itself, and one of its best qualities is the ability to keep you cool in hot weather and warm in cold weather.

As a fabric, it is antistatic and highly absorbent, said to absorb nearly twice as much as cotton. Like cotton, it is hypoallergenic, too.

Are there issues with viscose?

There are, albeit quite few.

For one, it is prone to wrinkling and can shrink during washing. Because it is so absorbent and also based on natural cellulose, it is prone to mildew in moist conditions.

Also in moist conditions, the fibers tend to weaken, making the fabric more susceptible to damage.

The production of viscose fibres at Kelheim Fibres GmbH

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Other comparisons that you might like:
Viscose vs Rayon: Are They the Same Material? A Comparison
Polyester vs Rayon Fabrics: Differences and Comparison
Nylon vs Polyester – Differences and Comparison

2. Polyester

Polyester fabric is made of polyester fibers, which are in fact a type of thermoplastic that is spun into fibers. We will learn a bit more about this in a minute.

While it was DuPont, an American company, that patented and made polyesters “official debut” into the textile industry in 1945, the material itself was created 4 years earlier, in 1941, by British scientists John Whinfield and James Dickson.

Polyester is all around us, not solely limited to textiles. Odds are that most plastics you come across will indeed be polyester.

Polyester is a polymer that is comprised of a long chain of esters, resulting from the chemical reaction between an alcohol and an acid.

The plastic that is created is melt-spun through spinnerets, which shape them into different sizes and lengths of polyester fibers.

These fibers are then woven into fabric, either on their own, to create the 100% Polyester fabrics, or blended with other fibers, usually Elastane or Cotton, to get the best qualities of all fibers used.

This versatility of polyester to find use in many different industries is due to its characteristics, both chemical and physical.

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Its low water absorbency due to the hydrophobic nature of the fibers is one of the primary reasons why it is so widely used in technical clothing.

It is not that good at fending off damp conditions, but it helps greatly with moisture wicking as it allows moisture from perspiration to move through the fibers and out of the garment, instead of soaking it all up.

Despite not being the best against rain, polyester is a very quick-drying fabric, which really comes in handy if you are caught in unpredictable weather.

Polyester is also quite durable as a fabric, as it withstands a good deal of chemicals, as well as abrasion, which makes it very long lasting.

The fibers, being so strong and durable are also considerably wrinkle-resistant, which is great for everyday clothes and especially jackets, as you will not have to iron them.

In case you will have to iron polyester garments, we have just the guide for you here.

When it comes to pilling, polyester is not too susceptible to it, and the higher the quality the lower the risk that the fabric will pill over time.

Pilling is the formation of little balls of fluff from the surface of a garment, which do not affect the overall quality and performance, but are not great to look at.

Of course, polyester has some weakness, as does everything.

For one, because it is a plastic, it risks melting under high temperatures, which is why ironing is done in a specific way to prevent damaging the fabric.

Its main issue is its oleophilic nature, which makes the fabric prone to hold on to oil-based stains and smells, such as body odor. While this will require a while to become an actual problem, it is still something to look out for.

Other comparison you might like: Spandex (Lycra, Elastane) vs Polyester: Differences and Comparison

Polyester Yarn Manufacturing Process

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3. Viscose vs. Polyester: Comparison and Differences

Performance and Composition

Two very different fibers in their composition, viscose is naturally sourced from wood pulp and undergoes a series of chemical processes to become what we know as viscose fibers.

Polyester, too, undergoes a number of chemical processes, but it is a fully synthetic fabric, entirely man-made.

Regarding performance, both are good insulators in winter, which is one of the reasons they are used in jackets, but polyester leaves more room to work with in regards to creating fabric technologies and its use as insulation.

Out of the two, viscose is much more comfortable due to the softness of the fibers.

Weather Resistance and Durability

Neither of them is the best at weather-resistance, with polyester being the better of the two due to its low absorbency.

Viscose fabric is highly absorbent and as such is best suited for dry conditions.

When it comes to durability, despite the considerable resistance of dry viscose fibers, when wet conditions come into play, viscose is at high risk of damage. Its susceptibility to mildew and poor heat resistance are not the best either.

On the other hand, polyester is highly durable both to chemicals and abrasions. The fibers do not mind wet conditions and are very long lasting.

Polyester is not really prone to shrinking, unless high temperatures are used, unlike viscose which will shrink during washing.

You might also like: Polyester vs Acrylic Fabric: Comparison and Differences

Sustainability and Maintenance

Regarding sustainability, viscose is the better of the two as it is based on natural products. The modern processes of manufacturing viscose fibers produce very little waste, making it a better choice for the environment, despite the use of chemicals.

Polyester is entirely synthetic, its manufacturing process requires the use of numerous chemical reactions to create the fibers.

However, while it is not the most eco-friendly in this regard, polyester’s durability makes it less necessary to constantly re-manufacture new fibers. At the same time, polyester can be recycled, as we have seen with brands like The North Face.

Maintenance is easier for polyester overall as it is not prone to mold or mildew, does not shrink and is quite durable.

4. Use in Jackets

Woman wearing fleece jacketPin

Out of the two, Polyester is the fabric you will come across most of the time when looking at jackets.

It is used for many purposes, either for the shell, as a laminate, or as the inner lining in the jacket.

In the form of fleece it can be used as either a standalone jacket or insulating lining inside a jacket, and it is primarily used for softshell jackets that are made for demanding activities.

Read also: Softshell Jacket vs Fleece: The Differences

Viscose fabric is also used in jackets as a standalone fabric, giving them a glossy appearance and making them quite comfortable and lightweight.

Usually it is part of bomber or biker-style jackets due to its shine.

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