Sustainable Fashion

Rayon vs Polyester Fabric: Guide & Comparison Table

Learn about the differences between rayon and polyester.

Fabric Comparison Featured

Rayon, a semi-synthetic fiber, and Polyester, a synthetic fiber, have similar heat retention, moisture wicking, and breathability. Rayon fabric tends to be softer than polyester and has a better drape, but polyester is a much more durable fabric. Both rayon and polyester fabric are cheap to produce at volume and both are considered unsustainable (except recycled polyester).

Check out the table below then read on for more information about which fabric is best:

Rayon vs Silk Comparison Table

Other NamesViscose, Modal, LyocellPET (polyethylene terephthalate)
Made FromChemically-treated wood and bamboo cellulosePolyester is a synthetic fabric made using petroleum products, although it is increasingly made from recycled plastic bottles.
AdvantagesRayon is cheap to produce and provides a substantially higher yield per acre than most other fabricsVery high durability, with good breathability and moisture wicking makes polyester a very practical fabric. Can be mass produced at low cost.
Rayon shrinks in hot water, and the more environmentally-friendly methods of creating it increase costs. Some forms of rayon require dry cleaning. Rayon may absorb body oils leading to staining.
Significant environmental concern.
UsesRayon is used for clothing, bed sheets, curtains, and carpets.As a fabric, polyester is used widely in apparel and furnishings. Other uses include bottles and LCD displays.
Natural or SyntheticSemi-SyntheticSynthetic
Woven or KnittedEitherEither
Thread Count300-600200-1000
WashingDry clean or gentle hand wash in cold water (always check the label first)Typically fine in the washing machine, but watch out for blends that need to be hand washed or washed in cooler water (always check the label first)
DryingAir dry only, do not tumble dry as shrinkage is likelyNormally fine in a tumble dryer with a low heat setting (check the label first)
IroningIron inside-out while damp with low heatCan be ironed, typically on warm settings. Turn it inside out and use a covering cloth and steam to reduce direct heat. Too much heat can melt the garment.
Wrinkle ResistanceWrinkles easily, especially when damp.Don’t tend to wrinkle
Heat RetentionMediumMedium
Moisture WickingGoodGood
BreathabilityVery GoodVery Good
Flammability (untreated)Very HighHigh (tends to melt rather than burn)
Water-Resistance (untreated)PoorMedium
StrengthMedium when dry, but weaker when wetVery Good
Environmental Impact Score (A is best, E is worst)Generic Viscose Rayon = E, Modal = D, TENCEL = BVirgin Polyester = D, Chemically Recylced Polyester = B, Mechanically Recycled Polyester = A
Sustainability IssuesThe Rayon industry contributes to deforestation and pollution. Rayon production is chemically-intensive.Polyester is a plastic. It does not degrade and requires significant energy, chemicals, and waste to create. We recommend only using recycled polyester products.