While cotton has been manufactured for hundreds of years, polyester has only been around since the early 1950’s. It was discovered by Wallace Carothers and his team of research scientists while working for DuPont in 1930. DuPont wanted Carothers to develop artificial materials, deciding that basic research was the way to go. When Carothers team discovered a strong polymer that could be drawn into a fiber, they decided to change the course of research and developed nylon. The development of polyester was set aside and was not developed. As stated in my last article, a group of British scientists working for Imperial chemical Industries and following Carothers notes developed polyester and patented it.
Then in 1945 DuPont purchased the rights for further development of polyester. By the late 1950’s polyester cotton blends were made available in the marketplace. Because of its use as a stretch fabric poly cotton fabrics became a textile that could be used for clothing and bedding.
Polyester was combined with cotton fabrics to solve some of the problems people would have with wearing 100% cotton. Cotton would wrinkle very easily due to the absorptive qualities of all natural fibers. Polyester could retain its shape and color and can be cleaned very easily because of the different types of treatments that were applied to the fabric during its manufacturing process.
Polyester cotton blends are known for durability. It can be put in the washing machine and will retain its shape better than items made of pure cotton. Poly cotton blends are known for comfort when worn or used as bed sheets and pillow cases. The cotton will allow the fabric to breathe and maintain its soft feel while the polyester helps maintain the original structure.
Poly cotton is used to make a wide variety of items, from upholstery, bed sheets, pillow cases, blankets, comforters to sportswear and denim. Poly cotton is mainly used in items that are expected to get a lot of wear. Sheets, sofa covers, track suits, t-shirts and hooded sweat shirts are often made of poly cotton blend because they are comfortable and durable.
Poly cotton can be blended in varying amounts. The fiber that is listed first will be the dominant fiber. In a cotton poly mix it would be 51% cotton and 49% polyester. A standard poly cotton mix used in the manufacture of bed sheets, pillow cases and blankets would be 65% polyester and 35% cotton for comfort and durability.
Let me offer advantages and disadvantages of using cotton or polyester alone:
- Cotton is light and cool in warm climates. It is easy to clean and care for. It is hypoallergenic and will not cause skin rashes. It is breathable and will keep you cool in very warm climates. The disadvantages are that when washing you should wash in cold water and dry on low heat but don’t keep it in the drier for a long length of time. Cotton will have develop static when dried in a drier. You will have to separate the dark and light colors and wash separately and will have to iron cotton materials with high heat and steam.
- Polyester is a strong durable and long lasting fiber. When washed it will easily maintain its shape. Polyester will wick away moisture in very warm climates but will not breathe like cotton. It will keep you warm in cold climates. It may not be best for sensitive skin and should be used for heavy use clothing and bedding. Polyester when washed will not need very much ironing, but if you must iron it use low heat so as not to melt the fiber. Remember it is made from petroleum.
- Poly cotton blends of 50/50 are very durable and versatile. It will maintain its shape longer than cotton alone and will hold its colors longer. It is soft and light to the touch and is less susceptible to shrinkage, wrinkles and static. Poly cotton blend is not as breathable as pure cotton and will keep you warmer than pure cotton. If you need to iron poly cotton use low heat setting. It can be washed in warm water and dried on low to medium heat.