Samples of many of the Bella Dura fabric colors and designed, organized by color.

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What Is Polyolefin Fabric?

Manufacturers rely on polyolefin for various consumer items due to its durability, elasticity, heat-trapping properties and other qualities. Learn more about polyolefin in this complete guide.

Polyolefin Fabric Overview

Polyolefin is a group of polymers constructed from an olefin monomer, such as ethylene or propylene. Manufacturers can seamlessly mold and shape these thermoplastics through heating and cooling processes, making polyolefin ideal for various products – including fabric. This article looks at the material’s origins, characteristics and standard uses.

The History of Polyolefin Fabric

Polyolefins were one of the first manufactured plastics with roots tracing back to the 1930s. Researchers in England discovered that ethylene could polymerize into a high molecular weight resin when combined with oxygen and high pressure. The Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI) in England began commercially manufacturing low-density polyethylene in 1939.

High-pressure plants, such as Union Carbide Corporation and the DuPont Company, appeared in the United States and Germany during World War II. Because polyethylene provided excellent electrical insulation, it was used in radar instruments for attack warnings and played a significant role in the outcome of the war.

In the early 1950s, European and U.S. research groups found that heterogeneous catalysts and low pressure could create linear, high-density polyethylene. Phillips Petroleum Company began producing linear polyethylene in 1956.

Other manufacturing plants quickly followed in the company’s footsteps. Phillips received an award for inventing crystalline polypropylene in 1980.

How Is Polyolefin Fabric Used?

Polyolefin fabric is in many products we use daily, including furniture, home decor and apparel. Here are some common uses of polyolefin fabric:

  • Apparel: Polyolefin fabric is in various clothing items, including socks, undergarments, shoes, jeans, athletic wear, hosiery and knitwear. Its waterproof properties also make it ideal for manufacturing wetsuits.
  • Furnishings: Polyolefin fabrics are excellent for upholstery of both indoor and outdoor furniture because of their stain resistant properties and ease of cleaning. 
  • Home decor: Polyolefin fabrics are ideal for indoor/outdoor carpets, pillows, ottomans and wall coverings. 

Benefits of Polyolefin Fabric

Polyolefin fabrics bring many notable characteristics to consumer goods and products. The material is:

  • Flexible
  • Lightweight
  • Durable
  • Quick-drying
  • Strong and resilient
  • Resistant to stains, moisture, mildew, sunlight, solvents, chemicals and other abrasions

Other Types of Textiles With Synthetic Fibers

Many other synthetic fabrics are available in addition to polyolefin. Here are some of the most common.

1. Nylon

Nylon is manufactured from polyamides. It is typically made from petroleum, which can be melted into various fibers, shapes and films. Wallace Corrothers, a leader in organic chemistry research at DuPont, originally developed nylon in 1935. He created it as an alternative to silk, giving it similar texture and characteristics.

Manufacturers can combine nylon polymers with numerous additives to achieve different characteristics. Nylon is:

  • Fast-drying
  • Lightweight
  • Easy to wash
  • Bright and shiny
  • Flexible and elastic
  • Strong and abrasion-resistant

Nylon has thrived in several markets, including apparel, home furnishings, industrial and construction. The material’s qualities suit it to a wide array of products:

  • Clothing: Nylon is used to make shirts, socks, undergarments, raincoats, swimsuits and sportswear.
  • Industrial applications: Manufacturers use nylon to make nets, parachutes, tarpaulins, airbags, conveyor belts and seatbelts.
  • Other consumer products: Nylon is found in many other miscellaneous goods, such as toothbrushes, curtains, threads, rock climbing ropes and tents.

2. Rayon

Rayon comes from the purified cellulose fibers of wood pulp. It requires certain chemicals during production, making it a semi-synthetic material. Manufacturers often infuse rayon with wool or cotton to make soft, warm textiles like carpets and bedsheets.

Like nylon, rayon shares similar qualities to silk, yet it is less expensive. Rayon is often referred to as “artificial silk.” The material is lightweight, breathable, soft and absorbent. It is also easy to dye in a wide range of colors. Here are some popular uses of rayon:

  • Upholstery
  • Rugs and carpets
  • Blankets and sheets
  • Curtains and drapery
  • Cords and surgical products
  • Clothing, including shirts, dresses, outerwear, socks and athletic apparel

3. Acrylic

Acrylic fibers come from a synthetic polymer called acrylonitrile, which contains fossil fuel-based chemicals like coal and petroleum. Acrylic textiles are known for their softness, warmth, heat retention and lightweight nature. They also resist fading, shrinkage, moisture and chemicals easily.

These attributes make acrylic a premier choice for many consumer items:

  • Furnishings: Manufacturers use acrylic fabric to make carpets, area rugs, upholstery and blankets.
  • Clothing: Acrylic fabric is an excellent insulator, making it suitable for winter clothing like mittens, gloves, boot lining and sweaters. Additionally, it is a popular material for sportswear like tracksuits, jackets, sweatshirts, hoodies and pants. 
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE): Manufacturers can use acrylic for some types of PPE, such as gloves, face shields and barriers.
  • Props and costumes: Acrylic fabric can be designed to mimic fur, making it great for costumes. The material can also help create hair extensions, wigs and hair brushes.
  • Yarn: Many knitters choose acrylic yarn since it is affordable and easy to use.

4. Polyester

Also developed by Wallace Corrothers at DuPont, polyester is a synthetic fabric made from petroleum. It has many favorable characteristics:

  • Lightweight
  • Fast-drying
  • Cost-effective
  • Wrinkle-resistant
  • Low-maintenance
  • Strong and durable
  • Simple to wash and clean

Here are some standard uses of polyester:

  • Bedsheets
  • Tablecloths
  • Furniture coverings
  • Plastic bottles and utensils
  • Apparel such as sportswear, hats, shirts, jackets and trousers
  • Industrial products like ropes, tarpaulins, conveyor belts, protective gloves, safety belts and tires

Contact Swavelle Group Today

Polyolefin brings many benefits to textile products. At Swavelle Group, we solution-dye our proprietary Bella Dura™ performance fabrics from polyolefin yarn. They can deliver optimal performance and reliability, even in the most demanding indoor and outdoor environments.

We engineer these recyclable, bleach-cleanable solutions to resist staining, sunlight, mildew, microbes and other contaminants. Clients in various markets turn to us for superior textile products and customized services. Whether your customers need fabrics for their homes, offices, RVs, hotels or other spaces, Swavelle Group will work with you to design products that exceed their expectations.

Give your customers long-lasting strength and beauty with our expertly crafted textiles. Learn more about our Bella Dura™ fabrics and other products by contacting our team today.

contact Swavelle Group today