The Battle Between Polyester and Microfiber – A Complete Guide On The Differences, Pros, and Cons

Polyester and microfiber are two of the most widely used fabrics in the world. Both materials share a host of similar characteristics, but at the same time, they’re also unique in a number of different ways.

In this guide, we’ll take a closer look at six of the key differences between polyester and microfiber, including everything you need to know about their use, cost, durability, warmth, and much more. 

What’s more, we’ll also look to answer a number of the frequently asked questions related to the two popular fabrics. 

What Exactly Is Polyester Fabric? 

What Is Polyester?

Polyester is a synthetic fabric that was invented in 1941 by a pair of British chemists.

Despite being invented over 80 years ago, it wasn’t until the 1970s when it was advertised as a “miracle fiber”, that polyester became increasingly popular. 

The fabric isn’t made up of just one particular fiber. Instead, polyester fibers are made up of polymers, which essentially makes them a form of plastic.

These polymers are made from chemicals that are derived from petroleum, coal, and other fossil fuels. 

The fibers themselves are large, thick, and closely woven together to provide the fabric with good durability and to prevent dirt and stains from penetrating the fibers. 

What Exactly Is Microfiber Fabric? 

Microfiber Fabric

Microfiber is mainly made from polyester, but sometimes uses nylon too.

Most accounts related to the origin of the fabric explain that Japanese scientists invented it around the 1970s, however it was the 1980s when microfiber was redeveloped to be absorbent, and subsequently rose in popularity. 

Microfiber gets its name from the fact that it uses polyester to make thinner-than-normal polyester fibers. As a result, microfibers are typically the same size as silk fiber. 

In terms of how microfiber is made, the fibers are pushed through a pipe, with heat used to fuse them together. These fibers are then split into smaller microfibers. 

It’s worth noting that the size of microfibers can vary significantly. This is why the fabric of some microfiber products can often look different to other microfiber items. 

The Key Differences 

Before discussing some key differences between the two fabrics, it’s important to note that despite these differences, polyester and microfiber typically behave similarly. 

This is mainly due to the fact that both fabrics are made of the same synthetic fibers. Polyester refers to a group of fibers, while microfiber is just one particular type of polyester fiber.

In other words, fabrics that are known as “microfiber” are essentially made of polyester. 

When selecting the best and most suitable fabric to use for a particular project, it’s essential that you take a number of different factors into account. 

While both polyester and microfiber share plenty of similarities with one another, there are some significant differences between the two to consider.

Listed below are six of the most important to keep in mind. 

1). Uses

Polyester can be used for pretty much anything due to its low price and impressive durability.

Household items such as bedding, blankets, and towels are all made from polyester, but the most common use for the diverse material is clothing.

For example, you’ll find lots of shirts, coats, socks, and caps made from polyester – especially those items that are specifically designed for activewear. 

On the other hand, microfiber is predominantly used in household fabrics such as cleaning cloths and bedding.

The lint-free and soft quality of the material makes it ideal for cleaning surfaces without leaving behind any residue or scratching the surface. 

This explains why microfiber is also commonly used in the production of blankets and towels. 

2). Cost

Both polyester and microfiber are incredibly cheap fabrics due to the fact they’re mass-produced in factories using chemicals, and therefore, readily available to buy. 

Polyester is slightly cheaper than microfiber because of how the latter is made, but even then, microfiber is still extremely affordable compared to natural fabrics such as linen and cotton that aren’t as quickly produced.  

3). Ease Of Care 

Polyester and microfiber are both relatively easy to care for, however there are some important precautions to take with each fabric. 

For polyester, avoid washing it using hot water and drying it at a high heat as high temperatures can damage the fibers.

Considering microfiber is also made with some polyester fibers, you should take the same precaution with microfiber too. 

To properly look after polyester, wash it in either cool or warm water and on a normal cycle setting. Since the fabric can’t tolerate high heat, dry it at a low or medium heat, or alternatively, allow it to air dry. 

Microfiber needs a bit of extra care if you want to maintain its unique softness and quality.

The vast majority of microfiber is lint-free, meaning that it’s probably best to only wash microfiber with other fabrics made of microfiber in order to avoid lint and threads from sticking to the material. 

4). Durability

As touched upon earlier, polyester is one of the most durable fabrics in the world, mainly because it’s designed for this very purpose.

Polyester fabrics are resistant to shrinking, wrinkling, and stains, and if properly taken care of, can last for a considerable amount of time. 

In contrast, microfiber is typically made up of smaller fibers, so doesn’t provide quite the same level of durability as polyester.

Therefore, a greater amount of care is needed to make sure that microfiber lasts as long. 

5). Breathability 

While both polyester and microfiber provide a certain degree of breathability, microfiber is a little better in this respect.

The fibers of polyester are closely woven together, meaning that the material is unable to trap moisture. 

Fortunately, the moisture-wicking qualities of the material prevent the fabric from being too weighed down with either water or sweat. This is what makes polyester so great for activewear and sport. 

On the other hand, the fibers of microfiber are a lot finer and not as closely woven as polyester, making the fabric slightly more breathable.

This explains why microfiber is such a popular choice of fabric for bedsheets as the breathability of the material prevents you from getting too hot while sleeping. 

However, it’s worth keeping in mind that microfiber doesn’t wick away moisture quite as effectively as polyester. 

6). Warmth 

Both fabrics are extremely warm and known for their ability to hold in heat well. Polyester might sometimes feel cool to the touch, but it’s effective in terms of trapping air and preventing it from circulating. 

While microfiber is much warmer to the touch, it’s no more effective than polyester at retaining heat. The softness of the fabric is what helps the material trap air inside. 

Pros Of Polyester

Considering the popularity of the fabric, it’s hardly surprising that there are plenty of pros for using polyester.

We’ve already discussed the affordability, durability, and ease of care of the fabric, but there are a few other important advantages to take note of. 

  • Resistant to stains
  • Good moisture-wicking abilities
  • Resistant to shrinking and wrinkling

All the pros listed above make polyester an excellent choice if you’re looking for a clothing fabric that can withstand a considerable amount of wear and tear.  

Cons Of Polyester

In terms of the disadvantages of polyester, there are a few essential things to keep in mind. Listed below are four of the main reasons why some people prefer other fabrics to polyester.

  • Polyester is unable to tolerate high heat
  • It’s slightly less breathable than microfiber
  • The chemicals used in its production can sometimes make it flammable 
  • It isn’t quite as soft as other fabrics

Furthermore, if you’re someone who prefers fabrics that are made of natural fibers like silk, cotton, or linen, it’s safe to say that polyester isn’t the right fabric for you. 

Pros Of Microfiber

A large number of polyester’s pros can similarly apply to microfiber. For example, it’s easy to care for, affordable, and durable. Some extra advantages of microfiber are listed below.

  • Incredibly warm 
  • Simple to easy
  • Soft to the touch
  • Absorbent of moisture

Unlike polyester, microfiber is absorbent of moisture, making it a great choice of fabric for towels and other pieces of clothing. 

Cons Of Microfiber

Again, many of the cons of microfiber are comparable to polyester. For example, microfiber is a synthetic fiber that’s unable to tolerate high heat.

Some other drawbacks of the popular fabric are listed below:

  • Has delicate fibers
  • Wrinkles a lot easier than polyester
  • Has the potential to shrink 

Considering the cons listed above, it’s a good idea to be extra careful when washing and drying microfiber to make sure the fabric doesn’t shrink.

Moreover, if you’re intending to air dry microfiber, it’s important to remove it as quickly as you can from the washer to prevent wrinkles. 

Polyester Vs Microfiber: Which Is Better? 

If you’re still unsure about whether polyester or microfiber is the most suitable fabric for you, make sure you carefully consider what you’re buying the product for. 

If you’re buying fabric for a big project that you’re working on, ask yourself what the purpose is of the product that you’re making. This will help you to decide which material is best. 

This is equally important for products that you buy. Consider what it is that you’ll be using the item for and take your personal preferences into account too.

For example, if you’re buying some bedsheets, but don’t want them to be overly stiff or scratchy, you should probably opt for microfiber over polyester. 

However, if you typically get warm and sweaty while lying in bed, the moisture-wicking quality of polyester sheets might be the more suitable option – especially if you don’t mind a little stiffness. 

As this guide has demonstrated, both fabrics have their own strengths and weaknesses, so there isn’t one clear winner.

Polyester will be the best fabric for some people, while microfiber is better suited for others.

What About Nylon? 

Just like polyester and microfiber, nylon is a synthetic fabric. However, there are plenty of differences between polyester and nylon. Below, we’ve explained five of the most significant. 

  • Use – while polyester is used in all kinds of apparel like bedding, drapes, and carpets, nylon is more commonly used in certain kinds of apparel such as raincoats, pantyhose, and lingerie. 
  • Durability – nylon is an exceptionally strong fabric, even more than polyester. Both fabrics are abrasion resistant and resistant to damage from the vast majority of chemicals, however nylon is also resistant to oil. 
  • Ease Of Care – both fabrics are relatively easy to care for as washing is super straightforward, and they’re both also resistant to mildew. One difference between the two is that while polyester can generally be dry-cleaned (depending on the guidance of the manufacturer), nylon can’t due to the fact that the solvents melt the material. 
  • Environmental Impact – polyester and nylon are both synthetic fabrics, meaning they’re not as green as natural fibers. Despite this, both can be produced with minimal impact on the environment. This is because nylon is made from many of the unavoidable byproducts that are found at oil refineries, while polyester can be fully recycled. 
  • Industrial Use – nylon has a much more comprehensive range of industrial uses. Some of the most common include tire cord, seat belts, sleeping bags, racket strings, parachutes, and conveyor belts. Despite not providing quite as much use in an industrial sense, polyester is still used for some industrial purposes, including power belting, hoses, and floppy disk liners. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Polyester Warmer Than Cotton? 

Yes, polyester provides greater warmth than cotton which is why the fabric is typically used in the production of winter clothing and accessories all over the world. 

Polyester is able to hold a considerable amount of heat due to its tightly-woven fabric structure, enabling you to remain nice and warm during the cold winter months. 

What Are The Benefits Of Using A Microfiber Bed Sheet?

There are lots of advantages to using a microfiber bed sheet. Listed below are four of the most important. 

Hypoallergenic – for allergy sufferers, microfiber sheets are ideal due to the fact that they repel dust and allergens. This is because of the fabric’s fine woven material. 

Non-Iron – while most cotton fabrics are treated with chemicals that tend to wash out over time, microfiber bed sheets are 100% polyester.

This makes them wrinkle-resistant, so long as you properly care for them with the correct washing and drying techniques. 

Durable – as explained earlier in this guide, the tight fit between fibers makes microfiber incredibly strong and durable.

Not only is the fabric unlikely to rip, it’s also designed to maintain its shape and color for a long period of time. 

Breathable – microfiber bed sheets are light and airy, meaning they’re perfect for providing breathability in warmer climates and during the summer months.

This breathability also enables the fabric to dry incredibly quickly, saving you a considerable amount of time when cleaning your sheets. 

How Much Can A Microfiber Cloth Absorb?

The amount of moisture absorbed by a microfiber cloth all depends on how often you wash it.

If you wash it regularly, then you shouldn’t experience any significant problems with it absorbing too much water.

Can You Wash Microfiber Bags With Woolite?

Woolite doesn’t work very effectively with microfiber since it contains a number of chemicals which might damage the fabric.

Instead, it’s a much better idea to use a mild detergent such as Dawn or Ivory Snow, which don’t contain any harmful chemicals.

Is Microfiber Safe?

Concerns about the safety of microfiber have always been an issue since it’s a  synthetic fabric. Both polyester and microfiber are made from plastic, which is mainly made of petroleum.

Therefore, some of the chemicals used to make these products are considered toxic.

Many of the chemicals used in making these products are also carcinogenic. This leaves people with concerns about the safety of the workers who handle these chemicals.

Furthermore, the environmental effects of microfiber production are also significant. Not only is it harmful to the environment, it can also cause long-term effects.

While microfiber is often the fabric which is called into question more than others, all synthetic materials that are produced this way pose similar risks to the environment and other human beings.  

What Is Meant By A “Synthetic” Material? 

As mentioned earlier in this guide, polyester and microfiber are synthetic fabrics.

What this means is that both materials originally come from a natural material, before going through a controlled chemical reaction in either a factory or laboratory. 

Natural and synthetic materials are both found in the products that we use on a day-to-day basis. 

Do Hotels Use Cotton Or Microfiber Sheets?

The vast majority of hotels use cotton sheets because they’re typically cheaper to buy and more durable than microfiber.

However, if you’d rather a softer bedding material, then microfiber is probably the way to go.

Is Polyester Or Microfiber Softer? 

Microfiber has thinner fibers than polyester which makes it considerably softer. In fact, microfiber is so soft that it can often provide a silky feel.

In contrast, the thicker fibers of polyester give the material a thicker feel. Moreover, it can also sometimes feel a little scratchy – especially when it’s new and hasn’t yet been washed. 

Is Polyester Water-Resistant? 

Yes, polyester is able to resist water, and this improves the higher the thread count.

Just be mindful that although no water is absorbed by the threads of the fabric, water can still breach the gaps in the weaves and make the polyester garment wet. 

If this happens, there’s every chance that the polyester will develop an unpleasant odor – especially if the material is wet for a long time.

Fortunately, polyester tends to dry out relatively quickly.  

The Bottom Line

To conclude, learning the main differences between polyester and microfiber is essential if you regularly use both fabrics and want to maximize their respective strengths. 

Hopefully, after reading the information in this guide, you’ll be in a much stronger position to decide which of the two fabrics is best-suited for your individual needs!

Amanda Brown

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