Tuesday, September 06, 2005

the miracle of POLYESTER

Polyester began as a group of polymers in W.H. Carothers' laboratory. Carothers was working for DuPont at the time when he discovered that alcohols and carboxyl acids could be successfully combined to form fibers. Polyester was put on the back burner once Carothers discovered nylon. A group of British scientists took up Carothers' work in 1939. In 1941 they created the first polyester fiber called Terylene. In 1946 DuPont bought all legal rights from the Brits and came up with another polyester fiber which they named Dacron.

Polyester said "hello there" to the American public in the year 1951. It was originally promoted as a miracle fiber that could be worn for 68 days straight without ironing and still look presentable. Although we've naturally been tempted, DressThatMan has not yet tested this theory. We're most curious what might happen if we stretched it to 69 days.

In 1958 another polyester fiber called Kodel was developed by Eastman Chemical Products, Inc. Polyester was in expansion mode. Since it was inexpensive and durable fiber, small textile factories popped up nationwide, producing cheap polyester garments. Polyester experienced a constant growth well into the 1970's and even a period of a shortage in the mid 70's when demand peaked. Before the 70's ended, sales drastically declined. Most likely influenced due to the negative public image that emerged as a result of the public scourge, outfit enemy #1 known as the polyester double-knit leisure suit. Polyester was seen as cheap and tacky. Not to mention its unbreathable qualities during the height of the disco era. A deadly combination.

Polyester is quite friendly and plays well with other fibers. It's a common ingredient in cotton blends to help lend a no-iron label to a wide production line. Mainly because it's cheap to produce, is durable and coupled with the wrinkle resistant properties, it all feeds into the public lazy at large factor. How many of us iron on a regular basis anymore? Most don't. For the most part, we can thank our friend polyester for that. The magic of science and chemicals.

Never EVER iron 100% polyester anything directly with a hot iron. If you must wad up and wrinkle your poly products, steam them instead - even though a warm iron will generally do the trick it's best to avoid the ugly mess and chancing the possibility of melting a petrochemical fiber and adhering it permanently onto your iron and ruining your garment. Although you can safely iron poly stuff with a towel or some other cotton fabric down on top of the polyester, the crew at DressThatMan.com prefers steaming everything to ironing. It's way more fun than ironing, too.

Nylon, polyester and acrylic tend to be slow to ignite but once ignited, severe melting and dripping occurs. So be careful. Polyester is resistant to flame ignition, but once ignited it melts like hot cheese and sticks to things.

Yikes. But oddly enough, it's the polyester blends with cotton that have higher flammable qualities. Probably because cotton likes to burn and polyester likes to drip and stick. But, silk is the worst. It has a high flash burn rate which can actually be increased by the color dyes and other additives used in its production.

As could be predicted, heavy, tight weave fabrics will burn slower than loose weave, light fabrics of the same material. The surface texture of the fabric also affects flammability. Fabrics with long, loose, fluffy pile or "brushed" nap will ignite more readily than fabrics with a hard, tight surface, and in some cases will result in flames flashing across the fabric surface.

Wool is naturally flame-retardant. If ignited, it generally has a low burning rate and much higher probability rate that it will self-extinguish. Glass fibers and modacrylic are nearly flame-resistant. These synthetic fibers are designed and manufactured to possess flame-retardant properties.

Enough about flaming and burning undesirables. Let's move back to the object of our passionate petrochemical romance. Polyester. Onto its resurgence.

Our current day passion for the charm of petrochemical polyester is embraced through the development of luxurious fibers such as the polyester microfiber. The masses adore it. Microfibers are riding a wave of popularity thus predicting a very bright future for our friend polyester. Technology has been enabled us to produce polyester filaments used that are finer than silk. The products created are breathable and water repellant and durable, too. The miracle fiber has given us polar fleece and our collective hearts were again warmed to polyester. Blankets and clothing to keep us all snuggly and cuddly microfibers made us fall for wrinkle resistant polyester again.

The invention that overcame its tacky factor reputation by surviving a major scourge has become a supernatural synthetic. The marvels of science and the resulting invention of microfiber polyester is gaining a major reputation as a luxury fabric that will surely be here to stay for years to come.

The crew at DressThatMan salutes the magic of science for giving us polyester. Daily.

We no longer have to be made to feel cheap, tacky and generally tawdry because of our passion for polyester.

Now we can feel all of those things just because we are.

for more information about fireproofing fabrics go here

1 comment:

Julia said...

Interesting article. I did not know that polyester had been around so long. I thought it was invented in the 1970's. Thanks for the info!