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Key Difference – Rayon vs Polyester

Rayon and polyester are two types of fabrics used in the textile industry. Rayon, although classed as a semi-synthetic fiber, is made from a natural raw material. Polyester is a synthetic fiber. The key difference between rayon and polyester is that rayon tends to shrink, wrinkle and tear just like natural fibers like cotton whereas polyester is resistant to wrinkles and shrinkage.

What is Rayon?

Rayon is the first manufactured fiber in the textile industry and is considered as a semi-synthetic fiber, i.e., it is neither natural nor synthetic. It is made of wood pulp, a natural raw material based on semi-cellulose. Thus, it is similar to fabrics such as cotton and linen which are made of natural fiber.

Rayon is soft, comfortable, and breathable; it is also moisture absorbent. It is, in fact, the most absorbent out of all cellulose. This absorbent property makes it ideal for summer wear. Rayon fabrics also drape well. However, like other fabrics made of natural fibers, it also tends to wrinkle and tear.

However, various properties and characteristics of rayon also depend on its processing, additives, and other factors. There are four major types of rayon fabrics,

– regular rayon

– high wet modulus rayon

– high tenacity modulus rayon

– Cuprammonium rayon

Rayon is sometimes also blended with other fabrics to reduce different features such as cost, softness, luster, absorbency, etc.

Key Difference - Rayon vs Polyester

What is Polyester?

Polyester is made of synthetic fiber. It is a strong and durable fabric that is comparatively resistant to wrinkles. This fabric is not suited for warm weather since it has a tendency to stick to the skin once the wearer starts to perspire.  However, it is suitable for cold weather since it can keep the wearer warm. Polyester fiber is also elastic; therefore, it tends to be resistant to tear and wear. In addition, polyester fabric is not very soft nor does it drape well. However, it doesn’t need to be carefully maintained like cotton. Garments made from polyester can be washed constantly and treated with harsh detergents. They can be worn when doing recreational activities or heavy work due to their durability.

When compared to fabrics made of natural fibers such as cotton and linen, polyester is very cheap. Polyester is blended with cotton to make polycotton, which has the advantages of both fibers.

Difference Between Rayon and Polyester

What is the difference between Rayon and Polyester?

Type of Fiber:

Rayon: Rayon is a semi-synthetic fiber.

Polyester: Polyester is a synthetic fiber.


Rayon: Rayon is worn in warm climates.

Polyester: Polyester is good for cold climates.

Shrinking, Wearing, and Tearing:

Rayon: Rayon has a tendency to shrink, wrinkle and tear just like natural fibers like cotton.

Polyester: Polyester is resistant to wrinkles, tears, and shrinkage; it is more durable than rayon.


Rayon: Rayon drapes well.

Polyester: Polyester doesn’t drape well.


Rayon: Rayon shrinks and stretches when washed.

Polyester: Polyester can be washed and worn.


Rayon: Rayon fabric is very smooth.

Polyester: Polyester fabric is not very smooth.

Image Courtesy:

“Rayon closeup 3” By  Digitalgadget~commonswiki assumed (based on copyright claims).Own work assumed (based on copyright claims)., (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia

 “Polyester Shirt, close-up” By Damieng at the English language Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia