Polyester is a manufactured product, usually a textile, that is made from synthesized polymers. It tends to be very resilient, quick drying, resistant to biological damage such as mold and mildew, easy to wash and able to hold forms well. Although polyester is often maligned as a textile, it has many useful applications. It is, however, highly flammable, so care should be taken when wearing it. Many synthetic fabrics are subject to flammability because they are made from polymers.
This substance is made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET), the same material that is used to make plastic drink bottles. Many drink bottles are recycled by being reheated and turned into polyester fibers, which, in addition to being an efficient use, also helps keep polymers out of landfills. Polyester is a plastic that was invented in Britain in the early 1940s. In the 1950s, it became popular as a textile because of its easy care, its drape and its versatility.
To make polyester, ethylene glycol and dimethyl terephthalate are mixed together. The chemical reaction results in bisterephthalate. This substance is heated to 270 degrees Fahrenheit (132 degrees Celsius), and it reacts again to form polyethylene terephthalate. Like many chemical reactions that result in polymers, the polyester-making process results in unhealthy off-gassing, and protection should be worn by anyone who is making PET. After synthesizing the polymers, the manufacturer decides what to do with them.
PET can be formed into plastics that can later be recycled. It is a highly malleable material and appears in all sorts of applications, such as drink bottles, food trays and hoses. PET can also be used to make fibers that are used in products such as auto upholstery, quilt batting and clothing of all sorts.
To make polyester fiber, an extruder is used to produce very fine threads of PET. Polyester clothing tends to be slippery and silky in feel, although it can cause skin irritation for some wearers. This type of fibers used to make clothing can be knitted or woven, although most are knit, to maximize the flexibility of polyester. Some polyester is blended with other fabrics to provide more loft or stretch or to minimize skin irritation.