Does Polyester Shrink?

Polyester does not shrink under normal circumstances. It is a man made synthetic fiber, a polymer derived from petroleum via a chemical reaction. The most commonly created and used polymer is polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which is a plastic derived from crude oil; PET is used to make plastic bottles for carbonated drinks and condiments. The use of polyester in the production of clothing is constantly increasing as it is comparatively cheaper than farming natural fibers.

In order to shrink polyester it must be washed at high temperatures potentially in a harsh detergent or ironed with a high heat and this will compromise its structural integrity. Scientific research states that a minimum temperature of 140 degrees Fahrenheit is required to shrink the material.

There are pros and cons to the use of polyester in clothing; as previously mentioned it is resilient to shrinkage under normal conditions, it is a light weight material and relatively strong in its composition. It is resistant to most chemicals and very absorbent to colourants (often chemical based dyes) used in the dyeing process, polyester is also resistant to discolouration from environmental conditions such as sunlight.

In contrast there are a number of disadvantages associated with polyester, the main one being its chemical composition which can be very hazardous to the skin of the individual wearing the clothing as well as to the environment. The manufacturing process for polyester is harmful to the environment in terms of the toxic gases released into the air and the pollutants released into our rivers, streams and oceans. Polyester does not have a luxury feel like natural fabrics, it can be coarse to the skin as well as look cheap with its unnatural sheen. Although polyester is able to easily absorb colourants, the dyes used to bind to the synthetic fibers can be extremely harmful and toxic. Polyester is not a breathable material and so it is best not to purchase and wear clothing which is 100% polyester but rather a blend of polyester and cotton at the very least. The final negative point to mention regarding polyester in this article is that it can be subject to dye migration when worn, body heat and sweat can allow for the dye (which is often toxic) to transfer from the clothing to the individual's skin.

Recycled Polyester

The majority of the clothing designed by Jackson James is made from 100% organic materials. In the rare case where polyester is incorporated into the garments it is recycled polyester using PET from plastic waste products such as plastic bottles and other potential landfill materials. Recycled polyester is only sustainable in the fact that it prevents the plastics from adding to landfill sites or worse yet polluting our air and water sources. Another benefit of recycled polyester is that it can be recycled infinitely.

However, we must still be aware that even though it is recycled polyester it is still a non-biodegradable product and will take years to breakdown if discarded into the environment (but as previously mentioned) a trade off is that it can be recycled infinitely. The other benefit is that using recycled polyester significantly reduces our reliance on petroleum as a raw material to create polyester. Recycling plastics to create recycled polyester drastically reduces the impact on the environment (when compared to the creation of traditional polyester from virgin materials) which requires petroleum as a raw material and sources of energy which contribute to the detrimental impact on the planet.

The process to creating recycled polyester is relatively uncomplicated. Used plastic bottles are recovered, washed, cleaned and crushed prior to being dried, spun and stretched into yarn which will be used to knit the clothing. The recycled polyester is equal to the virgin polyester with far less detrimental impact.

Research shows that 1 tonne of regenerated PET yarn can be created from approximately 70,000 plastic bottles. Recycling these materials means that we can reduce carbon dioxide emissions by over 4 tonnes, preventing the use of over 65 litres (14 gallons) of petroleum and over 6,365 litres (1,400 gallons) of water when compared to the traditional production of virgin polyester.

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