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Polypropylene, Polyester, and Nylon: More Than You Ever Wanted to Know About Materials

So Polypropylene, Polyester, and Nylon Walk Into a Bar…

Whether you’re a promotional products pro or an advertising amateur, you’ve run across some terminology in the imprinting world that leaves you scratching your head. Maybe you’ve compared two seemingly identical products and wondered why one costs so much more than the other. This article will give you some insight on the various materials used for promotional products. It’s not terribly exciting stuff, but it’s highly informative, and I’ve included baby animals where I can.

Spot enjoys the spacious, gusseted bottom of this messenger bag.

What does the D stand for when you’re talking about a 600D polyester tote bag or a 210D nylon lunch cooler?

The D stands for denier which is a unit of measurement that describes the linear mass density of the material, calculated by the mass in grams of a single 9,000 meter strand (reference: one denier is the mass of one 9,000 meter strand of silk).

Denier is a good measure of strength and durability when you’re comparing two deniers of the same material. For example, a 400D nylon bag is not as strong as a 600D nylon bag. However, when you’re comparing between different materials (for example, nylon and polyester) all deniers are not equal. Since nylon is a stronger material than polyester, 420D nylon is actually stronger than 600D polyester.

im helpin u wif ur thread count lol

What about the T in a 190T nylon travel pouch or a 210T polyester drawstring backpack?

The T refers to thread count, or the number of warp and fill (or picks and ends) threads in a square inch. Warp and fill refer to the threads in woven materials that are interlaced at right angles to create the cloth. The number of these within one square inch determines thread count. Similar to denier, it’s a good measure of the thickness (and usually, strength) of an item when comparing within the same material.

And the GSM in 80 GSM nonwoven polypropylene tote or a 75 GSM padded laptop sleeve?

GSM stands for grams per square meter or “grammage.” Like denier and thread count, this is a measure of density, but this refers to the weight in square meters. Like thread count and denier, this roughly correlates with strength in that a material with a higher GSM is generally more resistant to tears and damage, all other things (e.g., materials) equal.

What’s the difference between woven and nonwoven materials?

Multiple layers of thread woven through each other provide more strength than if they were simply stacked on top of one another.

Rubbing soft, nonwoven materials like felt can you put in a calm moooooood.

Woven fabric consists of yarns placed at rights angles to each other. The warp runs the length of the fabric while the fill (or weft) is perpendicular. The cloth gets its strength from weaving the threads over and under each other. Nonwoven fabric is composed of yarns combined in a different way, such as melting or gluing them together.

Woven materials are stronger and higher quality than nonwoven materials due to the layers created by the threads woven over and under one another. However, nonwoven materials are generally more affordable, because they are cheaper and faster to manufacture.

What are the differences between polypropylene, polyester, and nylon?

Polypropylene

Polyester

Nylon

Does not absorb water Absorbs some water Absorbs the most water
Dries faster Dries slower Dries quickly
266°F / 130°C* Variable but likely around 500°F / 260°C* 490°F / 254°C*
Less UV resistant More UV resistant Somewhat UV resistant
Moderately resistant to stretching and shrinking Resistant to stretching and shrinking, resists pilling Greater stretchability, shrink resistant
Mildew resistant Mildew resistant Mildew resistant
Floats Does not float Does not float

*Corrected from original publication. Thanks to Albert for the correction!

Polypropylene

 

Products made from polypropylene: tumblers, water bottles, tote bags, drawstring backpacks, cooler bags

Polypropylene feels like a wax paper towel, when used as textiles such as tote bags. It’s often used in coolers, tumblers, and water bottles due to its low heat transfer, meaning it’s a great insulator. It’s resistant to hinge stress, which means in products like a Round the Clock Pill Box, the repeated opening and closing in typical use won’t wear away at the polypropylene lid as quickly as it might if it were made with another material.

This material also floats and does not absorb water, making it an excellent choice for promotional materials that will be at the beach, pool parties, or other places where staying afloat and drying quickly are major assets.

The imprints on polypropylene are not as crisp as nylon or polyester, because the surface is not smooth. Thin lines or tiny details, especially on the edge of designs, may be lost. However, large, bold imprints show some interesting texture, which may be a style that your organization is aiming for.

The imprints on polypropylene are not as crisp as nylon or polyester, because the surface is not smooth. Thin lines or tiny details, especially on the edge of designs, may be lost. However, large, bold imprints show some interesting texture, which may be a style that your organization is aiming for.

Polypropylene has a fairly high melting point (320° F), which means that you can wash it in hot water without worrying about it melting, but you probably shouldn’t be fashioning any firefighting gear out of it.

Because polypropylene is not as UV resistant as polyester or nylon, prolonged exposure to intense sunlight is more likely to cause discoloration or warping of the fabric than the other materials. However, typical use for a day at the beach or an afternoon hike won’t compromise the durability or look of the product; just don’t leave it on the roof for a month.

Polyester

 

Products made from polyester: messenger bags, tote bags, visors, apparel, caps, lanyard, backpacks

Polyester gets a bad rap for being the cloth of choice in tacky 70’s suits, but this material is actually an incredible resource for promotional products. Everything from apparel to tote bags is made from this affordable, lightweight material.

Polyester is highly resistant to UV radiation and a very high melting point, which means it can stand more prolonged exposure to the sun than polypropylene or nylon without the material breaking down. It’s mildew resistant, which makes it great for marine uses, but it doesn’t float, so make sure it stays on dry land.

Polyester is highly resistant to UV radiation and a very high melting point, which means it can stand more prolonged exposure to the sun than polypropylene or nylon without the material breaking down. It’s mildew resistant, which makes it great for marine uses, but it doesn’t float, so make sure it stays on dry land.

The dye process for polyester involves coloring the material by heating the solid dye to a vapor, which opens the pores of the material and allows the dye to sink in.

Polyester is also well known for being an exceptional material in cold weather, maintaining its insulating properties in the presence of dampness (say, sweat under three shirts?) where 100% cotton isn’t as effective. For combination comfort and style, 50/50 cotton/polyester blends are a great deal.

Nylon

 

Products made from nylon: flying discs, cooler bags, backpacks, key rings, briefcases, watch straps

When it comes to strength, nothing beats nylon. This material was used for parachutes and ropes during World War II, so it’s safe to say that it’s strong and durable. Nylon is also well known for its ability to stretch without breaking and return to its original shape, so if your promotional products end up in the hands of rough and tumble types, they’re far more likely to stand up to the challenge than the others.

Nylon is somewhat UV resistant (better than polypropylene) and does not float, but it is mildew resistant and dries quickly, which makes for a great material if you need promotional products for use at a spa or resort.

The imprints on nylon have crisp edges and very little visible texture. Both the material and imprint feel smooth, and logos with fine details are best served on this kind of material. Nylon is so densely woven that dye can’t sink “into” the fibers like polyester; in fact, a chemical epoxy is added to the ink so that it’s essentially glued to the fabric to create the imprint.

The imprints on nylon have crisp edges and very little visible texture. Both the material and imprint feel smooth, and logos with fine details are best served on this kind of material. Nylon is so densely woven that dye can’t sink “into” the fibers like polyester; in fact, a chemical epoxy is added to the ink so that it’s essentially glued to the fabric to create the imprint.

Nylon’s biggest selling points are strength and comfort. With these perks, products with this material tend to be slightly pricier than in other materials discussed in this article, but if you’re looking at long term brand impressions, it’ll be worth the investment. If you want something soft to the touch that’s able to take a beating, nylon is the material of choice.

Cost vs. Value

 

Because we offer tens of thousands of promotional products, you will often come across similar products made out of different materials. For example, compare the Cinch-Up Backpack to the Drawstring Bag. At first glance at the product images, they both appear to be about the same. Why would one cost more than the other at the same quantity price point?

Cinch-Up Backpack vs. Drawstring Bag

Take a closer look: the Drawstring Bag is made from polypropylene and the Cinch-Up Backpack is made from nylon. That means the Drawstring Bag feels like a wax paper towel, and the Cinch-Up Backpack feels smooth and almost silky. It also means the Drawstring Bag doesn’t show thin details as clearly while the Cinch-Up Backpack has a much crisper imprint for the small text at the bottom of the featured logo.

In this case, both the cost and the value of the Cinch-Up Backpack are higher than the Drawstring Bag. The one you choose will depend on your budget, target audience, event, and marketing strategy. Is quantity or quality more important for your specific goal? Does your imprint require fine details, or is it a large design with no extraneous lines?Nylon vs. Polypropylene

Now compare the nylon Fashion Tote to the polyester Poly Pro Trapeze Tote and imagine you’re a grocery chain targeting the return business of young children. Is the look of the bag as important as the number you are able to provide if your target audience is going to use it to haul groceries? What if your target is a high-income demographic?

Before You Buy


As with most things in life, you get what you pay for. Generally, a more expensive item is going to last longer, look better, and have a greater perceived value in the eyes of your customers. However, depending on the use of the product and the type of imprint, a lower-priced item may offer the better return on investment for your ideal customer. Here are some factors to consider before you finalize your decision:

  • Financial investment
  • Strengths/weaknesses of the item
  • Value perceived by target audience
  • Intended use

IMPORTANT: All of the information in here is general information on these materials. When they are blended with other fibers or undergo heat transfer for the imprint, there is sure to be variability.

If you want a true feel for a specific promotional product or want to put it to the test, order a sample from Quality Logo Products by calling (866) 312-5646.

References

Indiamart | Shop Well With You | Design, Research, and Development Corporation | Wise Geek | Wise Geek [2] | Superior Threads | Designer Entrepreneurs | Fibre 2 Fashion | U.S. Rope & Cable | Argonne National Laboratory | Premier Athletics | eHow – Polyester vs. Nylon

Image Credits

Puppy in Messenger Bag by Thirteen of Clubs | Kitten and yarn by Tommy Olesen

Woven rug by Naama Ym | Felt Cow by Ayleesha Chong



Jana Quinn

An old ‘G’ that’s been working for QLP since it was in Bret’s basement – Jana has been writing since she made up a story about a Jana-Tiger that liked rocky road ice cream and got straight A’s. She enjoys writing about marketing and pop culture, posting a ‘Die Hard’ article as often as she’s allowed. She is inspired by the articles at Cracked and frequently wears a Snuggie in the office. You can also connect with Jana on Google+.

Comments

  1. Doc

    Very Informative, Jana!!! Thanks for helping our customers out with this article.

    • Jana Quinn

      No prob, Doc. Glad it helps!

  2. Kat

    It’s amazing what goes into the manufacturing of a simple promotional item. I’ve always been able to explain to my customers the basic difference between all of the above, but I also definitely learned quite a bit from reading this today. Great future reference and I’ll be sending my customers this link whenever that question pops up, “But, what’s the difference?” because it’s asked quite a bit more than I think everyone realizes :) Very infomative, two thumbs up!

    • Jana Quinn

      Thanks – hope all QLPers (QLP-ites? QLPizens?) can use this info to help them pick the promo product of their dreams.

  3. Myrtle

    Awesome sauce!

  4. Jeff Porretto

    Well… this is awesome… I think. My head is spinning. Is this your PhD thesis paper? It’s just about the most informative thing I’ve ever read. I felt like I knew this stuff fairly well beforehand. Nope. I was wrong. I is SMRT now though! Thanks Jana!

    • Jana Quinn

      Ha, I’d love to get a PhD out of this; it certainly felt like post-grad level research. However, I was really surprised an article like this didn’t already exist!

  5. Ness

    There likely could have been more pictures of said “baby animals”… :p

    • Jana Quinn

      Yeah, I dropped the ball on that one. Next time, man. Next time.

  6. Cybernetic SAM

    These are all great explanations, thanks for sharing.

  7. Mikey

    This was a great article! It was quite informative. Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

  8. Amy Swanson

    Wow, this is the most thoroughly written blog I’ve ever seen on this topic. I never knew the slight differences and this really cleared it up for me. Thanks Jana for doing all the leg-work this blog required, it’ll be a great help to everyone :)

    • Jana Quinn

      Haha, I suspect it’s the ONLY blog you’ve ever seen on this topic. But I’m glad I could snag pieces of info from all over to create a one-stop resource for people trying to make a decision on materials.

  9. Mandy Kilinskis

    Wow! I had a loose idea about these different materials, but that was about it. Thanks for doing all the research Jana – it’s seriously helpful. You definitely want to know the strengths and weaknesses of the materials of your promotional items before you order them!

    • Jana Quinn

      Thanks! A lot of people just stop at the “pay more for a better product” analysis without really stopping to think about their target audience and the intended use of the product. Durability isn’t a big deal if the item is meant to be ornamental, and how nice it looks is irrelevant if the item is supposed to be largely functional.

  10. Rachel

    Such a fantastic resource here, Jana. The baby animals are a nice touch as well. :) Thanks for this!

  11. Jenna Markowski

    All of your hard work paid off, Jana! I know this was a doosey to write, but you totally nailed it. This will be an excellent resource for our customers! Great work! :)

  12. Rafalca

    Good article. I liked the table comparing and contrasting the different materials.

  13. Eric

    I’m starting to deal with this myself (outside of work) since I’ve a renewed interest in camping. I may be thinking about how to keep warm on the trails, but this is throughtful stuff, Jana, even moreso when your company is looking not only for a quality product, but one that will feature their logo without upstaging it.

    • Jana Quinn

      I’m glad you found value in it as a consumer. Happy trails!

  14. Ty Denni

    I have question about comparing Denier to Thread count? Which is stronger/thicker/thinner?

    Could explain an example as you did in the following statement:
    “For example, a 400D nylon bag is not as strong as a 600D nylon bag. However, when you’re comparing between different materials (for example, nylon and polyester) all deniers are not equal. Since nylon is a stronger material than polyester, 420D nylon is actually stronger than 600D polyester.”

    Thank you so much.

    • Jana Quinn

      Denier and thread count are different ways to know how much material is in a particular cloth; they are units of measure and can’t be compared. It’s like knowing one person’s height and another person’s weight and wanting to figure out from that information alone which person is bigger.

      Denier is the mass linear density (more easily understandable as weight) while thread count is the number of threads in a square inch. Every material can be calculated for both units of measure.

      In the example you quoted, I was comparing different types of material with the same unit of measure (denier). There’s no way to compare a thread count to a denier and make any conclusive statements without having more information about the material.

      Hope that helps.

  15. Amit

    Thanks Jana for posting the wonderful article!!
    Its really very informative.

    I have one question for you:-
    How to identify Nylon from Polyester?

    Thanks a lot once again!

    • Jana Quinn

      You need to bring three pints of water to a boil, then make sure you put exactly two teaspoons of salt. Under a full moon, you need to put the cloth in question over a wooden spoon and say the date three times in a language other than your native tongue.

      ;-)

      But seriously, you would check the tag. Or call the manufacturer. I’m not aware of any tips or tricks to tell one from the other with 100% certainty outside some kind of chemical testing. Many products include a blend of different materials as well, so you would want to ask about that if you were to get in contact with the manufacturer.

      • Davin

        Who needs Reddit, with well-thought out extended quips AND worthy info of this caliber…

    • Gilmijar

      Amit, if you have two samples you know are not mixes, of both, try using a flame on them. Generally polyester has a lower melting temperature and much lower ingition temperature than nylon. so it will melt faster, and light up, while nylon will take much longer to catch fire

  16. Albert

    You may want to check your melt points comments. Nylon has a much higher melt point than polyprop and usually has a higher melt point then the polyesters that are typically used.

    • Jana Quinn

      You are absolutely correct, Albert. Although my latest research shows a range of melting points (e.g., nylon 6 vs. nylon 12), on the whole nylon does appear to have a much higher melting point.

      The information in this article is very much outside my professional area of study and knowledge, and in the process of writing and learning, I appear to have made an error. I appreciate you bringing this to my attention. :)

      Thank you for pointing that out, and please let me know if you see any additional errors.

  17. David Hunt

    is a good rule of thumb to add UV filler to a part if its going to be out in the sun. If so, how much and how would you determine that for a Nylon 6/6

    Will adding carbon to the base help or improve uv protection?

    • Jana Quinn

      Thanks for stopping by to comment. Unfortunately, information on manufacturing practices is way above my knowledge level (and pay grade – ha!), so I will unfortunately not be able to help you on this front. I wish I had a resource to direct you to that could give you some answers, but the best I can do is advise you to contact the manufacturer of the part you’re looking to make and seek their advice.

  18. gemma

    Hi Jana, could you please tell me the manufacturing process of these materials, specifically dog collars. Are any of the chemicals used tested on animals? are they cruelty free ?
    thank you

    • Jana Quinn

      Gemma,

      The manufacturing process will depend on the manufacturer and the product. You will need to contact the company you are hoping to work with in order to find out specific information about business practices. If it’s here at QLP, please give us a call at (866) 312-5646, and we can do our best to track down these answers.

      Thanks for stopping by to comment.

  19. Tom

    Thanks for such a great article!

    I sell clothes with these fabrics and your article helped to clarify a few points.

    • Jana Quinn

      Thanks for stopping by to read and comment, Tom!

      I’m glad you found this to be helpful. :)

  20. sundeep

    Great article Jana!!
    This really helped me for making my choice of a backpack. Thank you!

    • Jana Quinn

      Thanks, Sundeep! I hope the backpack you picked is serving you well. :)

  21. Pete

    hi, I just want to know what is the equivalent thread count of the 210D nylon?

    • Jana Quinn

      If you look at the beginning of the article, you’ll see that denier talks about the linear mass density of the material, a different type of measurement than thread count (the number of threads in a square inch). Thread count is a different measurement entirely.

      My explanation to a previous commenter may be useful: “Denier and thread count are different ways to know how much material is in a particular cloth; they are units of measure and can’t be compared. It’s like knowing one person’s height and another person’s weight and wanting to figure out from that information alone which person is bigger.”

      I hope this helps!

  22. Derek

    I have a material question – what is the difference between a PVC mesh and a Nylon Mesh ?

    • Jana Quinn

      I’m not very familiar with PVC as a material for clothing, but I did a little research. PVC appears to be the shiny stuff used for… ah… let’s just say suits like Catwoman would wear. The Michelle Pfeiffer version.

      Did you have a question about one of our products specifically?

  23. Chris

    Jana, What do you know about twine? What is the difference between 210d/6 twisted nylon twine and 400d twisted twine? Is there some comparason? I know this is outside your field but you just seem to know so much stuff!
    Thanks

    • Jana Quinn

      Chris, thanks so much for stopping by. I have studied intensely under the mentorship of Dr. Google for my information. :)

      That said, Dr. Google and I consulted, and it appears twine is a broad name for any thread created by twisting hemp, cotton, or nylon together. My guess is that the denier refers to whatever material is being used. In order to compare, you’d probably have to know what the 400D twisted twine was made from.

      Sorry I couldn’t be more help, and good luck in your quest! :-)

  24. Darshan

    Jana, Which would be a better Material for bulk packaging ( 1 ton )?

    • Jana Quinn

      Darshan,

      Thanks for stopping by to read the article. At this time, Quality Logo Products specializes in imprinted apparel and other custom promotional gifts and does not manufacture or sell packaging materials. Unfortunately, I don’t have information to help you out with this particular question.

      Best of luck finding the material you need, and please give us a call if you have questions about any of our products. :)

  25. CoachVic

    Thank you. This was so informative. I’m about to order 100 bags and could not figure out what material I wanted. Now I’ve been able to narrow it down and can make a decision. Thank you again.

    • Jana Quinn

      You’re welcome. I’m glad this information helped you figure out what you needed. If you have any other questions, please give us a call at (866) 312-5646 or hop into our live chat.

      Thanks for stopping by to leave a comment. :)

  26. Bill

    Good info, thank you.

    How could one tell the difference between the materials?
    I have fabric strapping that is either polypropylene or polyester. Will test a sample to see if it floats (polypro). But how to tell if Nylon or polyester?

    • Jana Quinn

      Is this a QLP item? If so, please comment here or give us a call at (866) 312-5646 and let us know the item name/number, and we can find out for you.

      If not, I recommend contacting the manufacturer of the item. The information listed in the article is provided as general guidelines about the material’s qualities, but it doesn’t take into account blended materials and any treatment the material may have gone through (e.g., fireproofing).

      Good luck! :)

  27. Aileen

    The chart appears to be off as far as the quickness in drying. If nylon absorbs the most water out of the three, an item made of nylon will dry slower than an item made of polyester. Not a criticism, just an observation.

  28. Anne-Marie

    Thank you for sharing this information!!! I was having the darndest time trying to find out what GSM stood for and I found it here.

  29. Chri

    Dear Jana,

    thanks for your clear and very useful article!
    I need to make foldable shopping bags, I want to make a good and useful bag, with the following features:
    – big enaugh to carry the common shop like milk, wine, fruit, and so on.
    – strong enaugh to carry the shop lots of time without broken or get damaged
    – not bulky, in order to be folded into a small pouch that everybody can carry with him all the time.
    Of course I want also to print it with a nice design.
    What material do you suggest me? It seems to me the best should be nylon…!

    Thanks a lot for your reply!

    • Jana Quinn

      It’s hard to say not knowing your price range and access to materials. I recommend contacting manufacturers directly in order to find out what they can offer to suit your needs. As stated above, nylon is going to give you the best imprint quality.

      The bag design itself – how much of the handle is sewn to the bag (Is it only attached at the top or reinforced throughout the length of the bag?) and the width of the bottom – will also contribute to the durability and strength of the tote.

      Good luck!

      • Chri

        Hi Jana,

        thanks a lot for your answer!
        The size of the bag should be cm 40 height x cm 50 width x 15 depth.
        About the handles I agree with you, but it’s the same for all the materials, right?
        I also add another information: the bags may stay a lot under the sun, can it be dangerous for some material, in particolar nylon?
        Other materials I’m evaluating are PP woven and PP non woven, do you know them?

        Bye!

  30. Gail H.

    I was under the impression nylon dried more slowly than polyester, given that it absorbs more water. Is this right?

  31. daniela

    Thank you so much Jana, very helpful and informative.
    :)

  32. Julian

    Thanks for everything it help me a lot evaluating a backpack for a long term travel !

  33. Tom Foster (Strapman)

    Jana, A client of mine found your article and made a leap of faith. You seem to be discussing, primarily, cloth. He thought webbing would be the same. I deal in polypropylene, nylon, and polyester webbing. Your chart has some discrepancies which may be explained by the differences in structure between cloth and webbing. If this helps, please note these differences (and similarities)…

    Polypro AND polyester webbing do not absorb moisture, nylon does. Nylon webbing dries very slowly compared to the other materials.
    Your melting temps are a bit low for polypro webbing, spot on in polyester, but WAY high in nylon. We sublimate at 450 degrees. Nylon webbing turns to goo at that temp. We find that, in general, nylon webbing melts at more like 390 degrees. With this info, folks can accurately assume that polyester is the best, polypro a close second, and nylon not so good in WEBBING. I hope this helps.

  34. Nancy Seymour

    Was online researching both durable rain ponchos vs rain jackets for our clerks who gather shopping carts from the lot as well as info on making or buying cart straps that enable our employees to safely move several carts at once. (Am still looking if you have any advice.) This one article answered all of my questions on what materials to use. Thanks!

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