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Nylon fabric facts: properties, sustainability etc

Intro

Nylon is a lightweight, pleasant to the touch, smooth, shiny fabric made from synthetic fibres. Nylon fabric has gained fame and widespread use as a material for making women’s stockings. In addition, the material is used to produce clothing, tourism and sports ammunition, home textiles and some kinds of accessories.

Read on to learn more about the nylon fabric properties, as well as its history, manufacturing process and sustainability.

Nylon fabric history

women's stocking

Image source

Nylon is the first synthetic fabric in the fashion world. Nylon was produced as a replacement for natural silk.

Nylon, created on the basis of water, alcohol and coal tar, was officially introduced to the public in 1939 at the World’s Fair in New York in the form of women’s stockings and became an instant hit among millions of women.

World War II made adjustments to the use of nylon. Women had to forget about stockings and all the nylon produced was sent to the needs of the army. It was used to make parachutes, tents, awnings for military vehicles, body armour.

After the war nylon burst into the textile industry with renewed strength and replaced natural fabrics. The nylon used for crafting translucent blouses, voluminous underskirts, sophisticated underwear, and men’s shirts that do not require special care has become widespread.

What is nylon made of?

nylon production

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Nylon is a chemically created fabric. 

The fibres for producing nylon fabric are made from polyamide plastic in the long run of chemical reactions. Acetic acid and amines are mixed and heated. The mixture forms a plastic that is converted into fine fibres. These fibres are used for woving fabric. The final stage is the processing of the ready fabric: impregnation and reinforcement. Here is a video that shows the whole process of nylon production:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HTh_5CWMSoQ

Talking about nylon environmental impact we’d like to answer two main questions. Is nylon plastic? Yes, definitely. This is obvious from the production process that we described earlier. Is nylon biodegradable? Nylon takes a long time to decompose, on the order of 30-40 years, but it is still more sustainable than other types of plastics, which take much more time to decompose.

Is nylon recyclable? 

recycled nylon

Recycled nylon. Image source

Nylon fabric can be recycled and reused as a raw material for weaving. But it will not work to form especially thin fibers (for example, stockings).

In general, the technology consists of the following steps:

  1. Waste shredding. Polyamide is hard plastic. For crushing large pieces and ingots, a shredder is better suited. Conventional impact crushers will quickly go to smash.
  2. Washing. Here, special attention should be paid to the flotation washing, since flotation will allow separating the crushed plastic into fractions. Very often, products are combined with polyolefins and rubbers. They are lighter than water, so they are easy to separate. Polyamide is denser and sinks to the bottom of the tub.
  3. Drying. Particular attention is paid to the separation of moisture. In addition, it is necessary to strictly control the residual moisture using analytical instruments (for example, a moisture analyzer). Polyamide is very sensitive to water. It darkens even in the presence of 0.5-1% moisture.

Recycled polyamide is usually used for:

  1. Carpets and floor coverings. When entering a store or supermarket, each person passes through a black dirt mat. It is made from recycled nylon. About a third of the recycled polyamide in the world is used for the production of these products.
  2. Technical fabrics and tapes. It is used as a fixing and fastening material at building and in industry.
  3. Bristles for brushes. A variety of brushes, brooms, grinding wheels can be made from recycled nylon. 

What’s more, recycled nylon can be used to make clothing. In 2019, Prada launched its Re-Nylon project. As part of this project, the brand creates items from Econyl fabric made from recycled plastic fibres. The project also produced a miniseries on environmental protection in collaboration with activists from National Geographic. You can see the first episode below. It is fully dedicated to the production process of Econyl. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P_iAApRUtzc

Prada plans to switch to recycled nylon by 2021. The first collection of Re-Nylon includes six classic brand accessories, including belt models, shoulder bags and two backpacks made from the new material.

prada econyl

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Nylon fabric properties

nylon fabric properties

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Nylon is a smooth, lightweight fabric that feels nice to the touch. Outwardly, the material resembles natural silk, but its cost is much lower. Below we’ve listed the main advantages of nylon:

  1. Affordability. There is enough nylon on the market to be freely purchased for daily use. Fabric production does not require painstaking manual labour or the use of rare natural materials.
  2. Durability. The material retains its colour and does not wipe off during frequent use, does not thin out in places of accidental creases.
  3. Lightweight and strength. Despite its delicate structure, nylon is difficult to tear.
  4. Unpretentiousness. Nylon does not require special conditions of care and storage, dries quickly and doesn’t need ironing.
  5. Shape stability. Is nylon stretchy? Yes! Nylon greatly retains its shape, doesn’t deform, stretches and fits the figure favourably.
  6. Cold and wind protection. Nylon is not a warm material, but it is impermeable.
  7. Variety of colours. The fabric is easily dyed, which allows you to experiment with designs.
  8. Aesthetic appearance. Thanks to the soft sheen of the fabric, nylon products are attractive and modern.

Nylon vs. silk

The two materials have similar molecular structures, but they manifest themselves differently during decomposition. Silk, being a completely natural material, decomposes rather quickly. Nylon also decomposes, however, as we remember, this takes a very long time. The advantage of nylon is that its production is less expensive, and the material itself is simply cheaper than natural silk.

Final word

Modern modifications to nylon fabric have made it virtually irreplaceable. Today it is no longer possible to imagine a single area of our life where nylon would not be used. Excellent price and excellent characteristics allow it to remain in demand for more than half a century. How do you use nylon in your everyday life? Let’s discuss in the comments!

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