Polyester vs. Microfiber? What Are the Differences?
Are polyester and microfiber the same?
Polyester and microfiber share some similarities such as being generally comfortable and durable but there are still important differences between the two that may affect your buying decision. Polyester is more durable while microfiber is more absorbent, breathable, and more comfortable. Both are easy to care for.
Let’s take a closer look at these two fabrics to understand them better.
What Is Polyester Fabric?
You see it all the time on the tags of your clothes, pillow covers, and bedsheets but what exactly is polyester? Polyester is a synthetic fabric usually made of chemicals derived from petroleum, coal, and other fossil fuels.
It’s used to make a range of different products, from apparel to carpets to fishing nets. However, it’s most commonly used for making clothing items — the purpose it was originally intended for. It’s also extensively used for home furnishings, especially for bedsheets and blankets.
Polyester’s popularity is largely because it’s cheap to produce and durable. Items made of polyester don’t wrinkle or tear easily. Stains in polyester are also relatively easy to remove. Since it isn’t the most breathable fabric, it’s often blended with other types of materials like cotton for added comfort.
What Is Microfiber?
Microfiber is a derivative of polyester. Like polyester, it’s also a synthetic fabric. It’s made by combining polyester with similar synthetics like polyamides (think nylon). Because of this, you could consider it an updated version of polyester. The addition of polyester in microfiber lends it more density and a richer texture than polyester, making it more comfortable and absorbent.
The term “microfiber” comes from the fact that the fabric is made to be thinner than regular polyester fabrics. Microfiber is generally created by combining polyester with nylon to make the fabric more breathable and absorbent. It’s generally finer than one denier which makes it comparable to silk in terms of thinness.
Microfiber fabric has a lot of uses. When it comes to apparel, it’s often used for making athletic wear due to its high rate of absorption, keeping your body dry by absorbing sweat during strenuous physical activities. For the same reason, it’s used for towels, wipe cloths, mops, and beddings such as blankets, sheets, comforters, duvets, and weighted blankets.
History of Polyester and Microfiber
Unlike most fabrics, polyester was the result of scientific endeavors. Its roots go back to the 1930’s when an employee of DuPont, W.H. Carothers, learned how to create fibers by combining alcohols with carboxyl acids. Despite being a successful experiment, it was only in 1941 that British scientists C.G. Ritchie and W.K. Birtwhistle fully developed Carothers’ idea and formulated the first polyester fiber.
The new material appealed to the masses because it didn’t wrinkle easily, was durable, and comfortable.
In comparison to polyester, microfiber is a relatively new fabric that only rose in popularity in recent decades. It has an intriguing and mysterious history since no one person or country can be solely credited for its invention. Some sources claim that it was developed by the Japanese in the 70’s. Others say it originated in England during the 80’s. While still other sources credit its discovery to the Swedes who marketed the first microfiber fabrics in the 90’s.
Regardless of which version of history you agree with, it’s undeniable that microfiber has cemented its position in the textile industry with its many practical features and advantages.
Difference Between Polyester and Microfiber
What’s the difference between polyester and microfiber? Although microfiber and polyester share some similarities, there are still some differences between the two. They both have their pros and cons. People mainly choose one over the other based on preferences and what they’ll be using it for.
In this section, we explore seven ways they differ from each other.
Polyester is known for its durability. It’s actually one of the most durable fabrics around which is why it’s used for a variety of products including beddings and apparel. Polyester is strong in terms of wear and tear resistance. It’s also resistant to wrinkles and shrinking. If it’s properly cared for, products made of polyester can last for years.
Microfiber, on the other hand, is a fabric that was made to be thinner than polyester and features smaller fibers in comparison. However, since the core component is still polyester, it does have a high degree of durability.
Polyester is breathable to a certain extent. Since the fiber weaves of polyester are closely intertwined, it isn’t very breathable. However, polyester’s moisture-wicking ability is high and you can count on it to remove moisture from your skin when you’re sweating.
Microfiber is more breathable than polyester because its thinner fibers aren’t as closely woven as that of polyester, allowing more air to pass between them. Microfiber is used quite often for bedsheets for this very reason.
Polyester has thicker fibers, making it quite stiff and rough. It isn’t that comfortable to wear, especially for long hours. That’s why it’s generally blended with other fabrics to make it more comfortable. New polyester products may also feel a bit scratchy and rough. It may take a few washes before they become a little more comfortable to wear and lay on.
In contrast, microfiber is much softer due to its thinner fibers and has a silk-like texture. It’s great to use for beddings and pillowcases since it has a softer feel to it. As long as you give your microfiber items the right care, they’ll retain their same soft and comfortable textures for a long time.
Polyester has a cool feel to it so it’s ideal for summers and warmer climates. It also wicks sweat away from your skin.
Like polyester, microfiber also wicks moisture away. The added benefit of microfiber is that due to its advanced textile properties it also helps retain heat when it’s cold and remain cool when it's hot. Therefore, microfiber is a great choice for both warm weather and cold weather.
5. Contact With Water
As mentioned earlier, polyester is a water-resistant fabric. While we won’t get into too much detail, it helps to remember that this fabric doesn’t absorb water (or sweat). Instead, droplets stay on the fabric’s surface, running along the fiber weaves. Once they come up to the surface of the fabric, moisture evaporates which is why it’s extensively used in sportswear and athleisure.
Microfiber is a highly absorbent fabric. It’s capable of holding water seven times its weight — no we aren’t making that number up! It doesn’t just absorb water but picks up dirt and grime from the surface which is why it’s commonly used for cleaning.
Polyester is simple to care for. All you have to do is make sure to never wash or dry it in high temperatures as this can damage the product. Polyester fabric is also shrink-resistant so you can wash it in normal settings without worry.
Microfiber, just like polyester, should also not be washed or dried at high temperatures.It’s best washed with other microfibers to keep lint and fibers from getting stuck in the fabric.
As a fabric, polyester has many applications, from consumer goods to industrial materials. It’s used extensively to make apparel (especially sportswear) like shirts, pants, jackets, and hats. It can also be blended with other fibers for use in home products, including beddings, blankets, and upholstered furniture. Industrial polyester is used to make fabric for conveyor and safety/seat belts, car tire reinforcements, and coated fabrics.
Microfiber is most often used for bed sheets, pillow covers, and blankets because it’s low maintenance and has a soft texture. It’s also used to make towels because it's highly absorbent. This characteristic makes it a popular choice for cleaning cloths and mops. Its soft texture ensures that it doesn’t leave scratches or marks behind.
Polyester is the cheaper of the two since it can easily be manufactured in large volumes.
Microfiber is a bit more expensive than polyester but is still budget-friendly compared to most fabrics.
Which Is Better: Polyester or Microfiber?
There really is no clear winner between polyester and microfiber. Since each fabric has its own advantages and disadvantages, the better choice comes down to how and where you’re going to use it. External factors like the temperature and humidity in your area can also affect which material you choose to go with.
Since polyester lacks breathability, it isn't the optimal choice for hot and humid climates. It also has a more synthetic feel which can cause discomfort over a long period of time. This is especially true for bedsheets since they can make you feel hot and sweaty while you sleep. In this case, microfiber bedsheets are the way to go since they offer more breathability and a softer texture that’s more comfortable to sleep on.
Since both fabrics are synthetic, they have an adverse effect on the environment because they aren’t biodegradable. If you’re looking for organic and natural alternatives to polyester and microfiber bedding, you might want to consider bamboo-based fabric. Bamboo possesses the durability of polyester and the silky smooth texture of microfibers — all while being eco-friendly!
Microfiber vs. Polyester Sheets
Polyester has a lot of practical features like being easy to care for, affordability, and the ability to provide sufficient comfort for most people. However, with its slightly higher price tag, microfiber can give you the same benefits while being even more comfortable and breathable.
These qualities have made these two fabrics popular materials for bedsheets. Though they’re comparable and have similarities, microfiber sheets can provide you with better comfort and skin-friendly breathability. If you don’t mind paying a few dollars more, opt for microfiber bedsheets.
Microfiber vs. Polyester Comforter
In a previous section, we covered how microfiber is the warmer material of the two. If you live in a cold climate where you frequently use comforters, a microfiber comforter can provide you with more warmth than a polyester cover.
Since microfiber fibers are finer but woven less closely together, you can also count on a microfiber comforter to be more breathable for your skin than polyester.
We hope this article has helped you understand the differences between microfiber and polyester fabrics.
Since microfiber is derived from polyester, microfiber retains some of its parent fabric’s properties while still being different from microfiber. To make choosing between them easier, here’s a quick recap and a side-by-side comparison of the two:
- Durability: Polyester is more durable (resistant to wear and tear, wrinkles, and shrinking)
- Breathability: Microfiber is more breathable.
- Comfort: Microfiber is softer and thus more comfortable.
- Contact With Water: Microfiber absorbs water while polyester helps it evaporate quickly.
- Care Applications: Both are easy to care for.
- Applications: Polyester is often used for beddings, sportswear, and upholstery. Microfiber is often used for beddings and cleaning.
- Cost: Polyester is cheaper and easier to manufacture in large volumes.
Now all you have to do is identify what you need from the fabric you’ll be using. You may find that microfiber is better for some of your items while polyester is the smarter choice for others.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is microfiber cooler than polyester?
Yes, microfiber is cooler than polyester because its fibers aren’t woven as closely together. As a result, microfiber is also more breathable.
Which is better: polyester or microfiber?
It depends on how you define “better.” However, many describe microfiber as an “upgrade” to polyester because it’s a derivative of polyester and has more features that polyester doesn’t have such as being more breathable and having a softer texture.
Is 100% polyester the same as microfiber?
It’s important to understand that microfiber is a kind of polyester fabric, therefore, it’s possible to encounter microfiber fabrics that are categorized as 100% polyester. Keep in mind, however, that microfiber materials that are 100% polyester are generally lower in quality.