Is Polyester A Cheap Fabric?

If you’re wondering whether polyester is an inexpensive fabric option, you’re not alone. With so many fabric choices available, it can be tricky to know which ones are budget-friendly. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about polyester fabric and its cost.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Yes, polyester is generally considered an inexpensive, budget-friendly fabric option compared to natural fibers like cotton, wool, silk and linen.

What is Polyester Fabric?

Polyester is a synthetic fabric made from petroleum-based fibers

Polyester fabric is a popular choice in the textile industry due to its versatility and affordability. It is made from synthetic fibers derived from petroleum, which are then spun into threads and woven into fabric.

The process of creating polyester involves chemically reacting ethylene glycol and terephthalic acid, resulting in long chains of polymers. These polymers are then melted, extruded, and cooled to form fibers that can be further processed into various types of polyester fabrics.

One of the key advantages of polyester fabric is its durability. It is highly resistant to shrinking, stretching, and wrinkling, making it a practical choice for everyday wear and household items. Polyester is also known for its ability to retain color, making it a popular choice for vibrant and long-lasting clothing and home decor.

Additionally, polyester fabric is moisture-wicking, which means it has the ability to draw moisture away from the body. This makes it a great choice for activewear and outdoor clothing, as it helps keep the wearer dry and comfortable during physical activities.

It was first developed in the 1940s as a cheap alternative to silk

Polyester fabric was first developed in the 1940s as a more affordable alternative to silk. Silk was a luxurious and highly sought-after fabric, but its high cost made it inaccessible to many. Polyester provided a solution, as it could mimic the lustrous appearance of silk at a fraction of the price.

Over the years, polyester has evolved and improved in terms of quality and variety. Today, polyester fabrics come in a wide range of textures and finishes, including satin, chiffon, and fleece. This allows for endless possibilities in fashion and interior design.

While polyester may have started as a cheap alternative to silk, it has since become a staple in the textile industry. Its affordability, durability, and versatility have made it a go-to fabric for a variety of applications, from clothing to upholstery.

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Why is Polyester an Inexpensive Fabric?

Polyester is widely known for being an affordable fabric option. There are several reasons why polyester is inexpensive:

It’s made from inexpensive raw materials like petroleum

Polyester is a synthetic fabric that is derived from petrochemicals, primarily petroleum. As petroleum is abundant and relatively low-cost, it contributes to the affordability of polyester. The availability of inexpensive raw materials helps keep the production costs down, making polyester a cost-effective fabric choice.

The manufacturing process is efficient and high-yielding

The manufacturing process of polyester is highly efficient and yields a high amount of fabric. Polyester can be produced in large quantities, reducing the overall production costs. The efficiency of the manufacturing process allows for mass production, making polyester more affordable compared to other fabrics that may require more complex or time-consuming processes.

It has easy care properties that reduce costs

Polyester fabrics are known for their easy care properties. They are wrinkle-resistant, durable, and have excellent color retention. These characteristics eliminate or reduce the need for expensive and time-consuming maintenance, such as ironing or dry cleaning.

Polyester can be easily machine washed and dried, saving both time and money. This easy care aspect contributes to the affordability of polyester garments and textiles.

How Does Polyester Compare to Other Fabrics?

Polyester is cheaper than natural fibers like cotton, wool, and silk

When it comes to affordability, polyester is a clear winner compared to natural fibers like cotton, wool, and silk. The production process of polyester is less labor-intensive, making it a more cost-effective option for both manufacturers and consumers.

This cost difference is reflected in the price of polyester garments, making them a budget-friendly choice for those looking to update their wardrobe without breaking the bank. Additionally, polyester is known for its durability, meaning it can withstand frequent washing and wear, further adding to its value for money.

It’s more affordable than synthetic fabrics like nylon and spandex

While polyester is already a cheaper option compared to natural fibers, it also holds an advantage over other synthetic fabrics like nylon and spandex in terms of cost. Nylon and spandex are commonly used in activewear and swimwear due to their stretchiness and moisture-wicking properties, but they generally come with a higher price tag.

Polyester, on the other hand, offers similar benefits at a fraction of the cost. So if you’re looking for a budget-friendly alternative to these synthetic fabrics, polyester might be the perfect choice for you.

Polyester costs a fraction of the price of premium fabrics

When it comes to premium or luxury fabrics like cashmere, silk, or satin, polyester is significantly more affordable. These high-end fabrics are often associated with elegance and luxury, but they can come with a hefty price tag.

Polyester offers a more accessible option for those who want to enjoy the look and feel of premium fabrics without paying the premium price. While polyester may not possess the exact same qualities as these luxurious materials, advancements in textile technology have allowed polyester to closely mimic their appearance and texture, making it a great alternative for those on a budget.

What are the Downsides of Polyester Being Cheap?

Quality and durability may be lower than pricier fabrics

While polyester may be a cost-effective fabric, it often falls short in terms of quality and durability compared to more expensive fabrics. The affordability of polyester comes at a price, as it is generally less resilient and prone to wear and tear.

This means that garments made from polyester may not last as long as those made from higher-quality materials. It’s important to consider the long-term value of a fabric when making purchasing decisions.

It is not breathable and can feel hot, especially in warm weather

One of the downsides of polyester being a cheap fabric is its lack of breathability. Polyester does not allow air to circulate easily, trapping heat and moisture against the skin. This can lead to discomfort, especially in warm weather or during physical activity.

Unlike natural fibers such as cotton or linen, which allow the skin to breathe, polyester can leave you feeling sweaty and clammy.

Polyester has environmental issues since it’s made from plastic

Another drawback of polyester being a cheap fabric is its environmental impact. Polyester is derived from petroleum, a non-renewable resource, and is essentially a type of plastic. The production of polyester involves significant energy consumption and the release of greenhouse gases.

Additionally, polyester is not biodegradable and can take hundreds of years to decompose in landfills. Its production and disposal contribute to pollution and the accumulation of plastic waste in our environment.

It is important to note that these downsides are not exclusive to cheap polyester fabrics, but can also apply to higher-end polyester products. However, the affordability of polyester often means that it is more widely used, exacerbating these issues on a larger scale.

When is Polyester a Smart Budget Choice?

Polyester, often criticized for its association with cheapness, can actually be a smart budget choice in certain situations. While it may not have the luxurious feel of natural fibers like cotton or silk, polyester offers several advantages that make it a practical option for those looking to save some money.

For clothing that needs easy care like sportswear, uniforms

When it comes to clothing that requires easy care and durability, polyester shines. Sportswear, uniforms, and other garments that are subjected to frequent washing and wear can benefit from the low-maintenance nature of polyester.

Its wrinkle-resistant properties mean you don’t have to spend time ironing, and it dries quickly, making it ideal for athletes or those who are constantly on the go.

As a blend to make an expensive fiber like wool more affordable

Another instance where polyester proves to be a smart budget choice is when it is blended with more expensive fibers like wool. By combining polyester with wool, manufacturers can create fabrics that are more affordable while still maintaining some of the desirable qualities of wool, such as warmth and durability.

This allows consumers to enjoy the benefits of premium fibers without breaking the bank.

For items where very high durability is not critical

While polyester may not be the most durable fabric on the market, it can still be a viable option for items where extreme durability is not a top priority. For example, polyester is commonly used in disposable products like single-use bags or inexpensive home decor items.

In these cases, the affordability of polyester makes it a practical choice, as it serves its purpose without the need for long-term durability.

It’s important to note that polyester’s reputation as a cheap fabric is not entirely undeserved. Its low production cost and widespread availability contribute to its affordability. However, it’s crucial to consider the specific needs of your clothing or item before dismissing polyester as a cheap option.

In certain situations, it can be a smart budget choice that offers convenience and value.


In summary, polyester is widely considered an inexpensive, budget-friendly fabric due to its low production costs and synthetic manufacturing process. While cheaper than many other fabric options, polyester does have some downsides related to quality, comfort and environmental impact.

Overall, polyester can be a smart budget choice for certain uses, but it may not be ideal for all clothing and textile needs.

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