Polyamide Fabric – What Is It?

You may not realize that you have several garments already in your wardrobe that contain Polyamide fabric.

It is easier to find once you discover that Polyamide fabric can be better known as Nylon and you can find it in swimsuits, pantyhose, and other stretchy garments. 

But what else do we know about this material? And how can we identify it? These questions can race around our minds, and no matter what we do, we just can’t find the answers that we need. 

Well, no more! Today we are walking you through what polyamide fabric is and everything that you need to know about it! Just keep on reading to become an expert today. 

Polyamide Fabric

What Is Polyamide Fabric?

Polyamide fabric has been around since the early 20th century though you may be forgiven to think that the ‘poly’ in its name means that it must be closer to polyester.

While Polyamide fabrics can be synthetically made, they should not be linked to polyester. 

There are numerous differences between polyester and Polyamide fabrics, one is that polyester is water-resistant and dries quickly.

However, Polyamide fabrics, including Nylon, tend to absorb moisture and are thus relatively slow to dry which can also make them comfortable to wear if you can prevent them from getting wet.

As a term, Polyamide is used to explain the molecular structure of the fabric’s fibers which can be organic or artificial.

Other Polyamides can include natural fibers such as wool and silk as the poly stands for polymer, as in a substance that is formed from extensive chains of similar blocks which are joined together by amide bonds.

If you were to consider naturally occurring Polyamides then think of them as proteins and natural fibers but in this case Polyamide fabric includes Nylon as an artificially made Polyamide.  

These synthetic Polyamide fibers have a basis in petroleum yet retain the characteristics of artificial fibers.

In general, Polyamide fabrics are not very breathable and have the sensation of plastic when touching skin.

However, Polyamide fabrics do excel for strength and durability which makes them very useful for creating clothes and for other materials.

Some of the most common variations of synthetic Polyamide fabric include Nylon but also Kevlar and Nomex.

You should be aware of the Nylon products in your wardrobe and home yet Kevlar is well-known for its use in bulletproof vests. 

Nomex is renowned for being created by the DuPont Corporation for its range of flame and heat-resistant textiles.

While Nylon is still used for making pantyhose and umbrellas, the material came to prominence during World War 2 when it was used for creating resilient parachutes.

What Are The Different Types Of Polyamide Fabrics?

In the production of Polyamide fabric, two types of fibers are both classed as polyamides. These are synthetic Polyamides and organic Polyamides.

Organic Polyamides

The organic Polyamides are naturally-formed which stands them apart from synthetic fibers. 

Two of the most widely available organic Polyamide fibers are wool and silk though these are technically proteins.

The fact that both wool and silk can be found naturally tends to be forgotten as we think of them as fibers rather than Polyamides. 

However, they do fit the profile of Polyamides which are formed as a long chain of similar molecules that are joined together by amide bonds. 

Both wool and silk fibers can be spun to create a roll of fabric.

For instance, when woolen fibers are turned into wool yarn they are spun together and then woven or knitted into wool fabric. 

The same method is used for silk and both fabrics are named after the fiber in which they are created.

It becomes much easier to consider wool and silk as the yarns that are created, rather than as the fibers and their natural molecular structure. 

Synthetic Polyamides

When you consider synthetic Polyamides, it is easier to split them up into various sub-categories to make sense of them.

These include Aromatic Polyamides, Aliphatic Polyamides, and Polyphthalamids. 

Aromatic Polyamides

These polyamides tend to be quite expensive as materials so you may only find them for specialist products.

This includes Kevlar for its bulletproof properties though this does come at a high price.

You can also call Aromatic Polyamides by the term ‘aramids’ which can be classed as a heat-resistant and formidably strong material. 

Those two properties alone make them ideal for military applications, such as Kevlar, but also in the transport and aviation industry.

That heat resistance makes Aromatic Polyamides ideal as a replacement for asbestos or to be used in reinforcing boat hulls and marine cordage. 

Aliphatic Polyamides

Cheaper than Aromatic Polyamides, this is where you can find several variations of Nylon.

These include PA6, PA11, PA12, and PA66, and many that can be found in commercial products, notably as plastics to be used for engineering purposes.

Think of this Polyamide as wholly synthetic as well as thermoplastic as it is a linear polymer that is made from a straight linked chain of monomers. 

You may find Aliphatic Polyamides in such products as seatbelts, tire reinforcements, upholstery, carpets, and clothing.

For tolerance when subjected to high heat, PA6 and PA66 stand up well which makes them ideal to be used in industrial applications. 

Polyphthalamids

Polyphthalamids are almost considered to be a midway point between Aliphatic and Aromatic Polyamides, they should certainly be cheaper than Aromatic Polyamides.

This type of Polyamide is another one that is known for its resistance properties, in this case to high temperature and harsh chemicals.

You tend to find it used in vehicles as it can be made into motor parts, air coolers, heat shields, and fuel line connectors. 

Where Did Polyamide Fabric Originate From?

Where Did Polyamide Fabric Originate From?

Polyamide fabric is not exactly new as it was first developed by the DuPont Corporation in the United States.

While the corporation became more well-known for creating Teflon to coat pans, Polyamide fabric was used as a substitute for silk stockings. 

It was given a grand reveal in 1939 at the World Fair when it was held in New York though it was not known as Polyamide fabric at the time.

Back then, it was known as ‘Fiber 66’ which sounded far too generic and simply another in a long line of fabrics that the corporation had produced.

The material went through several name changes, as you can expect.

‘Fiber 66’ became ‘No-Run’ which was soon scrapped when it became known that whoever wore the stockings could attest that ‘No-Run’ was highly susceptible to experience runs.

‘No-Run’ became Nuron which was problematic for how close it was to a neuron which was a nerve toxin.

It was the Head of the Rayon Department, Ernest Knight Gladding, who simply replaced a couple of letters in the name and came up with Nylon.

When World War 2 broke out, Nylon became associated as a go-to material for durability and strength so it became used for making parachutes.

Once the war was over, the fabric was refashioned into dresses but this did not last very long.

For one, the Polyamide fabric was not great with high heat exposure as it tended to melt so ironing any dresses was difficult.  

In the 1940s, Nylon fell out of fashion due to how often it got damaged and its lack of breathability.

By the 1970s, not only Nylon but synthetic fabrics, in general, were falling out of fashion due to the uprise in environmental movements which were against such synthetic products.

A lot of this was down to how the fabric was created from crude oil which was thought of as unsustainable and another, unnecessary use of fossil fuels. 

The Polyamide fabrics that you see today in contemporary fashion where Nylon is used only amount to a tiny amount of synthetic material that is still produced.

You can still find it used in garments as its vulnerability to damage has been reduced by incorporating other fibers such as wool and cotton.

Now it is far more reliable than it once was and is more conscientiously made.

How Polyamide Fabric Is Made

How Polyamide Fabric Is Made

There are several stages involved in the production of Polyamide fabric but it is largely quite simple for most manufacturers to carry out.

The fabric can also prove to be quite versatile when other fibers are used in the production process. 

  • First, diamine acid is extracted from crude oil which is then mixed with adipic acid to form the polymer known as Nylon salt. 
  • The Nylon salt is in a crystallized form until heat is brought in when it dissolves into a hot liquid.
  • To mimic the movement of silkworms and spiders in the natural world, the hot liquid is put in a die that has a similar spinning action to those creatures. This die is named a spinneret and pushes the liquid using centrifugal force where it forms long fibers. 
  • These long fibers are collected on a bobbin, similar to the process of wool and silk production.
  • To stretch the fibers out, they are put under pressure while on the bobbin which encourages elasticity. Now stretched, the fibers are then wound onto a further spool for spinning. 
  • Just like many fibers, Polyamide fibers are spun into a yarn which is then collected on spools to be transformed into fabric.
  • The final stage of the process can also be the most important as some of these Polyamide fibers are woven to create pure Nylon fabric while others are combined with other fibers to create altogether different fabrics. 

The history of Polyamide fabric starts with the DuPont Corporation though Nylon was not trademarked by them as Kevlar and Nomex were.

Instead, it was hoped that Nylon would become a more generic name for the fabric type.

Kevlar and Nomex production remains manufactured by DuPont around the world through standard Nylon is more widely produced by various manufacturers in the United States as well as Pakistan, India, China, and Brazil. 

What Are The Features Of Polyamide Fabric?

Several features characterize Polyamide fabric which goes some way to explain why it remains so popular.

These include its breathability, its stretchiness, how waterproof it is, and its biodegradability.

Breathability

The breathability of Polyamide fabric depends on which type of fabric you use.

For excellent breathability, consider organic Polyamides as these are classed as natural fibers and include silk and wool.

However, synthetic Polyamides are not considered breathable and you can count Nylon as one of these artificial fabrics.

If you combined Nylon with cotton you may be able to introduce some breathability though it will not be as effective as silk and wool. 

One of the issues with Polyamide fabrics such as Nylon is how they can draw in moisture and even absorb it.

This is far from ideal for clothes as if you are caught in rainfall, the Nylon can soak up the liquid then find it difficult to release leaving you damp and a bit cold as the moisture clings to your body.

When made to wear the same soggy Nylon garment, you may find it increasingly uncomfortable as it takes so long to dry out when soaked through. 

Stretchiness

Just like the breathability, a Polyamide fabric’s ability to stretch has a lot to do with the type you use.

Nylon can almost be guaranteed to be stretchable then revert to its original size and shape once removed.

This makes it an ideal material for leggings, pantyhose, and yoga pants as you can freely move without fearing that the material will hold you back.

You should be careful not to overstretch the fabric as it can lose its credibility over time and even run which can be seen in pantyhose.

Other Polyamide fabrics such as Nomex and Kevlar are designed to be impenetrable.

To that extent, neither material can be stretchy as this would pose questions to their effectiveness as being fire-resistant and bulletproof. 

Waterproofing

Indeed, you can largely rely on the water resistance of synthetic Polyamide fabric.

This is largely down to how the material is produced from crude oil which essentially means that they are plastics in another form.

Again, depending on the type and thickness of the Polyamide fabric will determine how water-resistant it is. 

On a molecular level, Nylon is the effect of crystallizing long-chain polymers and this structured pattern creates a dense surface once packed together tightly.

The more tightly packed they are, the thicker the surface will be and the more water-resistant the fabric should be as a whole. 

Examples of where the fabric is more expansive can be seen in pantyhose which is more stretchy but certainly less waterproof as the liquid simply seeps through the material.

Biodegradability

Just like its other features, the biodegradability of a Polyamide fabric largely depends on the type of fabric and the contents of its fibers.

You can expect wool and silk to decompose yet synthetic fibers tend not to be as biodegradable.

If you were hoping that Nylon and other Polyamide substances would be biodegradable then you may be disappointed.

How biodegradable a Polyamide fabric depends on the polymer that is used.

For instance, Polyethylene Terephthalate, or PET for short, does break down but this can take a long time.

It is still considered plastic yet is more popular for recycling purposes due to its biodegradability. 

Alas, you can expect Nylon to remain in a landfill site for centuries as it fails to decompose and the best you can do is give it away rather than hope it gets recycled.

However, for durability, plastics have admirable qualities as they can be used in food containers to be reused over and over again.  

How To Wash Polyamide Fabric

As a largely waterproof fabric, it can be difficult to wash Polyamide fabric.

You may have bought Polyamide fabric in clothing and not realized it but it can feature in outerwear as well as underwear and sports gear.

You should check the label to find out if the shirt or jacket that you have bought can be dry cleaned as much Polyamide clothing is specifically not appropriate for dry cleaning. 

Spot Treatment

Cleaning a Polyamide jacket should be done with some spot treatment using a pre-treating stain removal soap bar to work into the specific area.

Use a lint-free cleaning cloth that’s slightly wet to remove the dirt and any residual soap. You may need to repeat the process to ensure you get rid of all the soap. 

Machine Washing

As you should be aware, you can use the delicate cycle on your washing machine.

This is perhaps the ideal solution for cleaning a more durable use of Polyamide fabric such as in a jacket.

Make sure you do not opt for the hot cycle as you may damage the fabric, yet cool water should work.

If your Polyamide fabric is particularly soiled then you may want to pre-treat it with a dedicated stain remover. 

Once your Polyamide fabric is washed then you will be tempted to throw it in the tumble dryer.

However, the same rules on heat apply and you should choose the low-temperature settings or simply hang them on the line to air dry.

You could also use the steam from iron but only on a delicate setting as exposure to high temperatures can manipulate the fabric beyond retrieval. 

Handwashing

You can also try to handwash your Polyamide fabric to clean it.

That might work well for delicate materials such as pantyhose.

Use a specific laundry cleaner that is designed for delicates and you may only need a squirt depending on how many garments you intend to clean.

Use a sink that is full of cold water as Polyamide fabric is prone to shrink when exposed to hot water.

Simply submerge your garments in the solution and use your hands to fuss the water and evenly distribute the laundry cleaner.

You can then leave your garments to soak for around half an hour. Once you are happy with how clean your garments are, rinse them in running cold water until no more soap comes out.

You can leave them air dry after pressing the excess water out of them yet try not to mishandle them by wringing the water out.

Final Thoughts

Polyamide fabric has been around since the early part of the 20th century and can come in various forms.

The term ‘Polyamide’ refers to the molecular structure that exists in the fibers that make up the fabric.

To that extent, you can claim that wool and silk are natural Polyamides as they are also substances that are joined together on a molecular level by amide bonds.

However, the most well-known Polyamide is Nylon which is synthetically made. 

These common synthetic Polyamides tend not to be breathable at all but are ideal for durability.

The substance’s strength can also be seen in how it is applied in the creation of Kevlar to stop bullets.

Another Polyamide is Nomex which is renowned for its flame and heat-resistant properties.

Polyamides can be manipulated when exposed to high heat which means you should be careful when cleaning them and always read the label. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How Safe Is Polyamide Fabric To Wear?

You can be relatively assured that when you put on a Nylon garment the manufacturer has taken the necessary precautions to make sure it is safe for you to do so.

Even though synthetic Polyamide fabrics such as Nylon can contain some toxic chemicals, as long as you follow the instructions on the label you should be fine. 

This largely means taking into account the fabric’s qualities. For instance, its lack of breathability will mean that it can absorb moisture and become soggy.

Also, if you do wear a synthetic fabric for a long period of time, that lack of breathability can mean it will trap bacteria which can lead to unpleasant odors and even skin irritation or infection. 

You may even find that some synthetic fibers can emit some volatile organic compounds, also known as VOCs.

These can cause headaches, dizziness, breathing problems, and nausea so you should be careful when you wear them if you experience such symptoms.

Try not to regularly wear synthetic fabrics such as Polyamides though they can be hard to ignore.

When worn in limited amounts and as intended, you can still wear synthetic fabrics such as Polyamides safely.

What Do You Use Polyamide Fabric For?

As a versatile fabric, Polyamide fabric can be used for its stretchy properties in pantyhose and underwear.

However, with a different thickness, you can seriously vary how it is used and where it is applied. From Kevlar to flame-resistant clothing, carpets, fishing line, rope, tents, and tire reinforcements. 

What Are The Similarities Between Polyamide Fabric And Nylon?

Nylon is known as a Polyamide fabric and this is the name given to those synthetic fibers that were created as far as back as the 1930s.

Remember that Nylon is one of the most well-known synthetic Polyamides as a fiber that is created as a long chain of monomers that are joined by amide bonds. 

What Are The Differences Between Polyester And Polyamide Fabric?

Before looking at the differences between polyester and Polyamide fabric, it is worth recognizing the similarities between the two materials.

Both tend to be considered as plastics that have been made in chemical laboratories since the early 20th century and their melting points are also close as polyester has one of 500°F while Polyamide fabric is at 490°F. 

That’s largely where the similarities end as polyester is far less absorbent than Polyamide fabric so you are unlikely to suffer in soggy clothing.

Just that factor alone can make a huge difference as polyester will also dry a lot quicker than Polyamide fabric.

Polyester is also far better for insulation than Polyamide fabric but less durable.

The feel can also differ; polyester can be rougher than Polyamide fabric which means it is more easily dry cleaned without worrying about damage. 

Polyester will also fare a lot better for wicking away moisture from your body compared to Polyamide fabrics such as Nylon.

However, to be truly waterproof, both fabrics would need to be treated with waterproofing substances and that should be known from the label. 

Can You Dye Polyamide Fabric?

Yes, you can dye Polyamide fabric though it is far from easy.

This is down to how Polyamide is defined as a plastic that narrows down your choice of dye to those which are principally designed for artificial or synthetic fabrics.

Specialist dyes such as disperse and acid dyes are ideal yet require heat as all plastic fabric dyes do. 

The heat application poses a problem as plastic does melt when subjected to high temperatures.

Not only that, but synthetic fabrics tend to come out in blotches when attempts are made to dye them, simply because the fibers fail to soak in the dye evenly due to how they are packed on a molecular level.

Your fabric could have a weird multiple-tone effect instead of the even tonal shade that you hoped for.

The simplest way to dye Nylon is to add the color when the plastic is produced as you can rely on a more evenly applied coverage.

This suggests that dying a Polyamide fabric yourself would be difficult and that is certainly the case.

The easiest way to get a Polyamide fabric, such as Nylon, in the color that you want is to buy it like that.

Amanda Brown

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.