Why Are Most Swimsuits Made of Polyester?

Because They Are Vegan

The first pro-polyester argument doesn’t hold enough water for the majority of the population. Hardcore vegans do not eat or wear animal products, including shorn wool. It’s called cruelty-free clothing. Vegetarians are not as particular, as they generally eat eggs and wear natural fabrics. If you want to impress your vegan gentleman or lady, don’t negate the order for a cashew cheese pizza with cauliflower crust while wearing leather sandals and a cotton swimsuit.

With proper care, natural fabrics like wool, cotton and leather are generally long-lasting investments. Rayon (viscose), made from polished cellulose (wood pulp), is also considered a natural fabric. Most wool and rayon require professional dry cleaning. Cotton can be laundered but, depending on the weave, tends to wrinkle easily.

Natural fibers are biodegradable so have less environmental effects when discarded. Polyester is not biodegradable but may be recyclable.

Nylon versus Polyester comparison chart
Nylon Polyester
Chemical Name Polyamide Polyethylene Naphthalate
Manufacture Created as a liquid, mechanically spun and dried into individual fibers. Spun into thread from chemical solution.
Uses More common to certain kinds of apparel, including lingerie, tights, raincoats, and swimwear. Carpets, drapes, and bedding. More wide range of industrial uses. More widely used in all kinds of apparel. Carpets, drapes, and bedding. Some industrial use.
Wearability Low moisture absorbency Wrinkle resistant
Durability Exceptionally strong, abrasion resistant, resistant to damage from oil and many chemicals. Strong, resistant to stretching and shrinking, resistant to most chemicals, crisp and resilient wet or dry, abrasion resistant.
Flammability Melts then burns rapidly Melts and burns at same time
Environmental impact Most nylon made from unavoidable oil refinery byproducts Non-biodegradable, but can be recycled—possible to purchase 100% recycled polyester
Comfort Light-weight, warm, smooth, soft, quick drying. Quick drying, light-weight, smooth.
Styles Blouses, dresses, foundation garments, hosiery, lingerie, underwear, raincoats, ski apparel, windbreakers, swimwear, cycle wear. Every form of clothing
Appearance Lustrous, wide range of colors. Wide range of colors, slightly slick.
Allergic reactions Possible, more likely caused by finishing resins, fibers repel typical allergens.
Maintenance Easy to wash, mildew resistant. Easily washed, mildew resistant.
Cleaning Easy to wash, mildew-resistant. Can be dried on low heat cycle, but must be removed as soon as finished. Can be ironed. Cannot be dry-cleaned. Easy to wash, mildew-resistant. Can be dried on low heat cycle, but must be removed as soon as finished. Can be ironed. Can usually be dry-cleaned.
Materials Polyamide made from petroleum. Polymer production of coal, air, water, petroleum products.
UV Resistance Somewhat Very
First Made First U.S. Commercial Nylon Fiber Production—1939, DuPont Company
Worldwide Production Around 3.9 million metric tons, 11% of synthetic fiber production Around 21 million metric tons, 58% of synthetic fiber production

Polyester Swimwear is More Durable

Chlorine is harsh on fabric fibers and colors. Natural fabrics are dyed. Pigment can be mixed into synthetic fibers before weaving fabric (or imprinted afterwards). So synthetic fabric is often better suited for swimwear. But not all synthetics respond the same to chlorinated water.

Polyester swimsuits stretch, but not as much as Lycra. Spandex (Lycra), and nylon offer a smoother feel and more contoured fit than polyester. For pool swimmers, polyester is more resistant to chlorine. Spandex will eventually loose its shape. The combination of sunlight and chlorine beach can deteriorate dyed fabrics.

Polyester swimsuits have the most consistent fit over the life of the garment.

Polyester swimsuits have the most consistent fit over the life of the garment and resist bagging. Natural fibers shrink when laundered. Stability of polyester is an important consideration since swimsuits are more frequently “washed” (wetted) than other garments. Because each fabric has inherent strengths and weaknesses, it is not uncommon for textile manufacturers to combine fabrics for durability, wrinkle resistance, vibrance or texture.

Always rinse your bathing suit out in clear cool fresh water after a swim in a chlorinated pool. Do not wring excess water out. This abuses the fabric. You can pat excess water out with a towel before hanging it up to dry.


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