Rayon vs Polyester: Differences and Comparison (With Table)

Rayon and polyester are two popular fabrics in today’s garment and industrial use. But they have many similarities that amounts of people often confused them.

The obvious difference between rayon and polyester is that the rayon fabric is bright, soft, and easy to shrink and wrinkle as cotton fabric. Polyester is not bright as rayon and has good wrinkle resistance and good elasticity.

Rayon vs Polyester fabric

Rayon and polyester fabric have different properties except for the ones mentioned above. This article will explore how rayon is different from polyester and how they are applied in our daily life.

Rayon vs Polyester: Comparison Chart

The following chart shows the basic properties and uses of rayon and polyester fabrics.

NicknameArtificial silk, art silkPolyethylene terephthalate, PET, microfiber
Fiber ContentSemi-synthetic Synthetic
AppearanceShiny, ranging from a low sheen to a very shiny texture Coarse, but also some type of polyester like China silk fabric is smooth.
CompositionMade of cellulose from raw materials such as wood pulpDerived from fossil fuels or organic sources
PropertiesSoft and comfortable to wear, keep cool in warm weather, beautiful and luxurious looks, good moisture-absorption, easy to shrink and wrinkle, not stronger in wet conditionsSturdy, strong, water-repellent, but not very breathable; good wear-resistance and UV resistance; good elasticity and can keep its shape and color well, not easy to fade over time

What Is Rayon?

Rayon is a semi-synthetic and regenerated fiber fabric made of cellulose which is derived from raw and natural materials such as wood pulp, bamboo, and trees. It needs to be processed with chemicals and then become a manufactured fiber.

Rayon fabric is soft and comfortable to wear, and it has good moisture absorption and a luxurious appearance like silk, which makes it popular in the fashion industry. Rayon is easy to shrink and fade, and it is easy to wrinkle if not processed by chemicals. And its stretchability is not good.

The common types of rayon fabric are:

Viscose rayon: a semi-synthetic fabric that is used as an alternative to silk due to its smooth feel and similar drape to the luxury material. Viscose is the common type of rayon that is widely used in clothing.

Modal rayon: this fabric is very common to see in underwear and pajamas as well as in households like bedsheets and towels. Modal rayon is also a semi-synthetic fabric and is more expensive than viscose rayon and cotton due to its excellent soft feel.

Lyocell rayon: this fabric is also -synthetic but more environment-friendly fabric than the two mentioned above. It has excellent moisture absorption so people may feel cool and dry when wearing clothes made of this fabric.

Polynosic Rayon: It is a special type of rayon that contain 55% polymerization, which is higher than other rayon fabrics. It is stronger when wet, which is not like the common rayon.

Other types of rayon fabrics are bamboo rayon and cuprammonium rayon.

What Is Polyester?

Polyester is a synthetic fabric made from the polymerization of petroleum-derived ethylene glycol and purified terephthalic acid. It is one of the most popular fabrics known for being durable and relatively inexpensive cost. It’s very lightweight, sturdy, and long-lasting. Polyester fabric has good shrink-proof and wrinkles resistance because of its synthetic nature. So the clothes made with these fabrics don’t need to be ironed often.

Rayon vs Polyester: 5 Key Differences

Rayon and polyester fabrics have advantages and disadvantages based on their own features. Here is a table indicating the key differences between rayon and polyester, and the details will be explained as well.

StretchabilityNot GoodExcellent
ShrinkleabilityEasy to shrinkShrink-proof
WrinlkabilityEasy to wrinkleWrinkle-resistant and can hold its shape easily
Moisture-absorbentExcellentNot good, and water-repellent
Applied ClimatePopular in warm climatePopular in cold climate
MaintenanceRayon fabrics can’t handle machine-washing and require dry-cleaning or hand-washingWash up to 30°C, do not bleach, tumble dry at moderate temperature, iron at low temperature
Common UseClothing, curtains, bedsheets, tire cordsOften used for outdoor clothes like rain-resistant garments, industrial applications such as power belts, tire cords and floppy disk liners
CostRelatively expensiveCheap

Breathable and Moisture-absorbent

When it comes to rayon vs polyester fabric, breathability is an important point to mention. Rayon fabric is made of regenerated fiber derived from wood pulp, so it has good breathability and moisture-absorbent like cotton, and it’s comfortable to wear near to the skin.

Polyester is different, it comes from oil and is produced through a chemical process. It’s essentially plastic. So its breathability is not good like rayon.


At this point, polyester fabric performs better than rayon ones. Polyester has good stretch than rayon and its fiber are sturdy and light, ensuring they can be stretched but still keep their shape.

Shrinkle and Wrinkle

As mentioned above, rayon is easy to shrink and wrinkle because it is semi-synthetic from natural materials. Rayon has poor resilience and shrinks to varying degrees after washing. Therefore rayon fabric requires ironing after washing.
At this point, polyester performance is better. It is wrinkle-resistant and will better hold its shape, drape, and rigidity, so this fabric is easy to care for.

Applied Climate

Thanks to its natural features, rayon fabric has good water absorption and breathability, making it an ideal choice for activewear and humid climates. This feature makes it keep cool in warm weather, and people who wear it still feel comfortable even in hot weather.

Compared with rayon, polyester can keep warm in cold weather. Because polyester is water-repellent and not breathable, it’s often used for clothing such as down jackets, raincoats, and gear that needs to keep the rain off.


The price of rayon and polyester varies for diverse uses. Generally speaking, rayon is more expensive than polyester fabric, usually, the price is twice as much as polyester because it is often used as an alternative to silk.

Polyester is a synthetic fiber and was introduced as the replacement for natural fiber clothing, its production cost is low and easy to get, so the whole cost is relatively lower, which makes it popular in clothing and other industrial applications.

Rayon vs Polyester: Which Is Better

There is no good or bad when it comes to choosing rayon and polyester fabric, it’s just based on your choice and requirements about the products you need. The following explores the comparison between rayon and polyester manufacturers.

Rayon vs Polyester Embroidery Thread

Both rayon and polyester embroidery thread are popular in sewing and embroidery. And they have an excellent embroidered effect and are suitable for a variety of embroidered fabric types. Properties of Rayon embroidery thread:

● High sheen and eye-catching

● Keep soft at high stitch counts

● Can bear up to 203 degrees when laundering in water

Properties of polyester embroidery thread:

● Durable and sturdy

● Higher tensile strength

● Not fade when laundered

● Colorfast and can withstand bleach

Rayon vs Polyester Dress

When buying a dress, the fabric is the first factor to consider. Both rayon and polyester can be used to make dresses. From the properties of rayon and polyester, rayon has better breathability while polyester has good wrinkle resistance and will better hold its shape, drape, and rigidity. If you attach great importance to comfortable wear, rayon may be a good choice, and if you pay attention to durability and wear resistance, polyester would be a nice choice.


In a nutshell, the differences between rayon and polyester fabric are decided by their properties, that is, rayon is semi-synthetic and natural. Polyester is synthetic and needs to be treated through chemicals. These decide their applications. Each fabric has its advantages and disadvantages. Knowing their differences can help us choose the most suitable one to meet your need.

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