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Nylon Fabric Guide: Characteristics, Uses, Types & More

Zilingo Editorial Team
Nylon is one of the most used man-made fibers in the world. It is a synthetic fiber with a variety of uses in the fashion industry. Due to its excellent strength and durability, nylon also has many industrial uses. In this article, we will look into what is nylon fabric. This article will also cover the characteristics of nylon fabric, its uses, types, environmental impact, and more.

What is Nylon Fabric?

Nylon is a synthetic polyamide that is produced from petrochemicals. A polyamide is a polymer that has repeating amide groups. Polyamides can be natural such as silk and wool, and artificial (synthetic) like nylon.

Nylon is a soft material with excellent strength, elasticity, and durability. It was first manufactured in the 1930s by the DuPont company. The polyamide fabric is extensively used to make swimwear, bulletproof vests, stockings, workout clothing, and more. Nylon is a silk-like thermoplastic material that can be blended with other synthetic fibers such as spandex and polyester to achieve different properties.

Where is Nylon Produced?

According to the Textile Exchange, the total global polyamide
fiber production increased from 3.74 million tonnes in 1990 to 5.4 million tonnes in 2020, accounting for around 5 percent of the global fiber production market in 2020. The global production volume of recycled polyamide fiber was estimated at around 0.11 million tonnes in 2020. Recycled nylon producers are located in the USA, Spain, Italy, South Korea, Israel, Taiwan, and Japan.

The major nylon fiber-producing countries are China, Taiwan,
Japan, Korea, and the USA.

What are the Properties of Nylon Fabric?

The following are some of the top characteristics of nylon fabric:
  • Strong, durable, and elastic
  • Retains shape
  • Abrasion resistant
  • Wrinkle resistant
  • Dries quickly
  • Retains color well and doesn’t bleed color when washed
  • Resistant to dirt, mildew, and many chemicals
  • Easy to wash and care for

What are the Disadvantages of Nylon?

Here are some disadvantages of nylon textiles:
  • Not biodegradable
  • Can be overstretched
  • Prone to static
  • Melts instead of catching fire

Common Uses of Nylon Fabric

The following are some of the uses of nylon fabric:
  • Apparel: Stockings, underwear, swimwear, bulletproof vests, protective wear, corsets, foundation garments, workout clothing, windbreakers, raincoats, and bridal veils.
  • Domestic uses: Carpets, upholstery, ropes, umbrella, and cords.
  • Industrial uses: Conveyer belts, seat belts, sleeping bags, tents, parachutes, toothbrush bristles, airbags, fish nets, and machinery parts.

How is Nylon Made?

Nylon is produced through a condensation polymerization reaction. It is made by reacting together two di-functional monomers, diamine acid and dicarboxylic acid. The reaction produces a larger polymer which results in amide formation at both ends of the monomer and water is produced as a byproduct.

The most common types of polymers are called nylon-6,6 and nylon 6. They are formed depending on how many carbon atoms are present in the two acid groups and the two amine groups.

Water produced as a by-product is removed and a giant sheet of nylon is formed that is shredded into chips. The chips are melted and run through small holes in spinnerets to make fibers. The length and thickness of the fibers depend on the opening sizes.

The fibers solidify into a filament when exposed to air. They are then loaded onto bobbins. In the drawing process, filaments are straightened, stretched, and again loaded onto another spool. After the drawing process, fibers become ready to be spun into garments.

What are the Different Types of Nylon?

The following are the different types of nylon:

Nylon 1,6

Nylon 1,6 is produced from different constituents, including adiponitrile, formaldehyde, and water. It is highly moisture-absorbent but is not commonly used as a textile. Nylon 1,6 finds uses in wires and strings.

Nylon 510

Nylon 510 is produced from pentamethylene diamine and sebacic acid. It has exceptional strength and durability but is costly to produce. Nylon 510 finds uses in the industrial and scientific sectors.

Nylon 4,6

Nylon 4,6 has a higher operating temperature than some other types of nylon, holds its shape, and is resistant to chemicals and oils. These properties make it an ideal polymer to make engine components, such as gears and brakes.

Nylon 6

Nylon 6 is strong, elastic, and has a low heat resistance and low friction. Some of the industries that use Nylon 6 include the clothing, automotive, and electronic industries.

Nylon 6,6

Nylon 6,6 is high-quality nylon that has several advantages over Nylon 6, such as more crystalline, higher melting point, and better chemical resistance. It is widely used in the fashion industry to make clothing, sportswear, and swimwear. It is also used in the industrial sector to make workwear, airbags, and parachutes.

Nylon Fabric Environmental Impact

Nylon is a commonly used fabric with excellent properties. However, like some other synthetic fabrics, nylon also has some drawbacks.

Nylon is produced from petroleum, a non-renewable resource. Its extraction negatively impacts the environment. Nylon manufacturing is energy-intensive and produces nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. Nylon is not biodegradable and may stay in landfills for hundreds of years. But there is a way to reduce nylon’s environmental impact – Recycling.

Rather than throwing the waste nylon garments and products in landfills, they can be recycled. Recycled nylon is produced from nylon materials that are already in circulation instead of petroleum.

What is Recycled Nylon?

According to Textile Exchange, the market share of recycled
polyamide is about 1.94 percent of all polyamide fiber. Polyamide is the second-most used synthetic fiber and it has the potential to be transformed into recycled and biobased polyamide.

Both pre-consumer waste like processing scraps; and post-consumer waste, such as fishing nets and carpets can be recycled through mechanical or chemical processes. For instance, Econyl is a certified recycled nylon fabric that is produced from used fishing nets and other post-consumer waste present in oceans.

Recycled nylon helps brands utilize the same properties in their garments as virgin nylon fabric while also being considerate of the environment. Recycled nylon has many environmental advantages, such as it reduces landfill waste and uses fewer resources (water and energy) compared to virgin nylon.

Some of the sustainability standards used for recycled
polyamide include the GRS (Global Recycled Standard) and the Recycled Claim Standard (RCS).

Wrapping Up

Nylon is a versatile and durable fiber with a huge variety of beneficial uses in various industries. It is an excellent fabric to make activewear, swimsuits, raincoats, tights, socks, and other garments in the fashion industry. But just like any other synthetic material, the environmental impacts of nylon fabric are significant. This challenge, however, can be overcome by switching to the eco-friendly or recycled version of nylon.

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Zilingo Editorial Team
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