Many polymers have the name of the monomer in their names, e.g. polyethylene, polyvinyl chloride, polypropylene, polystyrene etc. But the ester in polyester refers to a group of chemicals (having an hydroxyl group replaced by an alkoxy group1) rather than a single chemical compound.

This article from Wikipedia states that polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE) is the most common type of polyester. PET is the plastic from which almost all plastic soda and beverage bottles are made. This leads me to wonder if the polyester from which clothes are commonly made are PET, and if not, what types of other polyesters (e.g. polyglycolide, polycaprolactone, polyethylene adipate, polybutylene succinate, etc.) clothes may be made from.

I'm aware that most plastics can be stretched into long thin filaments/strands and wound into threads in a process similar to how natural-fiber threads are made. My question is specifically whether or not PET is commonly used as the polyester in clothes, and if not, what is? I've done some Google searches but can't find any references; maybe I just haven't gotten the search string right. Thanks.

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ester
  • $\begingroup$ I'm not sure putting it on hold as too broad is fair. There is a clear and unambiguous answer with good explanations as to why fabrics don't have the same characteristics as beverage bottles. $\endgroup$ – matt_black Jan 22 '18 at 12:05

Based on several sources (shown below), it appears that polyethylene terephthalate (PET) is in fact used in the production of fabrics, including textiles. PET is marketed under names such as Dacron, Terelene, or Lavsan by various companies depending on your location. As to if it is the only textile polyester, I was unable to be completely certain. However, it appears to be a major textile polyester at the very least, as 39 million megagrams were produced in 2008 for fabrics alone.

Though it was not part of your question, I thought that I should include the following, as I found it interesting:

As it turns out, not only is PET used as a fabric, but it also makes a very nice fabric that is highly resistant to wrinkling. This is due to the presence of an aromatic ring within the monomers, which makes it quite strong/stiff; especially in this fibre form. These wrinkle-resistant fabrics are appropriately known as "permanent press fabrics."

To find out more information, I have included some sources below:

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  • $\begingroup$ Why I didn't think of Googling "polyethylene terephthalate" is beyond me. (Too obvious?) I tried, "polyester used in clothing" and "...apparel" but didn't find anything useful. I did find the first article you reference but don't recall seeing that paragraph about PET being used in clothing. As far as Wikipedia being frowned upon, I think it depends on what's being cited. Pseudoscience claptrap often finds its way into medical articles, but articles concerning the physical sciences tend to be fairly accurate. $\endgroup$ – BillDOe Jan 23 '18 at 18:30
  • $\begingroup$ Polybutylene terephalate (PBT; for example Unifi Profiber(TM)) and polytrimethylene terephthalate (PTT; for example Dupont Sorona(TM)) are also used in some apparel, but in much smaller volumes that PET. $\endgroup$ – Andrew Feb 22 '19 at 21:27

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