Polyester, a synthetic compound primarily derived from petroleum, is used in many products but is best known as garment fabric. Although many often refer to the fabric in a less than flattering manner, polyester abounds in the fashion and manufacturing industries. These fibers have produced easy-care and long-lasting garments, carpets, and other everyday items since the 1940s.
The manufacturing process can produce one of four types of finished polyester fiber. Garment fabric manufacturers commonly use two of the forms: filament and staple fibers. Filament fibers are continuous strands that textile machines weave or knit to create 100 percent polyester fabric. Staple fibers, filament fibers cut into short lengths, are used to create blended fabrics such as poly-cotton. Manufacturers and consumers often favor polyester blends as they possess the best qualities of both fibers. Blends are both easy to care for and comfortable.
Polyester blends are common; however, certain garment applications employee 100 percent synthetic fibers. Clothing manufacturers often use pure polyester fabrics to construct casual or dress clothes and formal wear. Bridal gown makers create gowns featuring layers of sheer georgette. Menswear designers may stipulate Swedish knit as with any western-styled Circle S Dress Pants. Other familiar polyester fabric garment applications are athletic uniforms or accessories such as neckties and scarves.
Although it is easy to care for, polyester requires specific methods of laundering and stain removal. Foremost, polyester is highly sensitive to heat. Ideally, garments should be washed in cold to warm water and never ironed or heat pressed. Hot water washing causes polyester fabrics to shrink and pucker. Attempting to iron the fabric to its original size and texture usually results in further shrinkage and even melting. Only the lowest settings are appropriate for ironing these fabrics. When washed correctly, tumble drying usually removes wrinkles from polyester garments. As with washing, the dryer heat setting should be on the synthetic preset or low. If details such as permanent creases in slacks need refreshing, the ironing process is best performed with a warn iron and a pressing cloth.
Because of its composition, polyester tends to bond with oily stains. These stains are best managed immediately with a pre-treating stain remover, then washed in warm water with an enzyme-based detergent. It is imperative that washing removes the entire oil stain before the garment is tumble dried as the heat from the dryer will permanently set the stain. The garment may require repeated treatments and washes.
Polyester garments may become grayed or yellowed. The remedy for these discolorations is a soak in a warm, oxygen bleach solution. If the oxygen bleach powder requires hot water activation, the solution should cool before the fabric is submerged. The garment may require a soak time of several hours or repeated soakings to return to bright white or to its original color. Once the oxygen bleach soak is complete, the garment requires laundering and drying. Because chlorine bleach destroys the outer layer of polyester fibers, the agent is not appropriate for use with this fabric.