Sustainable Fashion

Silk vs Polyester Fabric: Guide & Comparison Table

Learn about the differences between silk and polyester.

Fabric Comparison Featured

Silk or polyester? Which is better, a natural silk fabric, or synthetic polyester? Which should you wear? Let’s find out!

Genuine silk fibers are smoother, softer and more luxurious than polyester fabric, which is known for its very high durability and breathability, making it a more practical fabric. Unlike silk, polyester is cheap to produce, but this comes at the cost of sustainability (unless it is recycled). Real silk, however, is not suitable for vegans.

Check out the comparison table below, then read on to find out more, including whether you should choose polyester satin, polyester silk, or natural silk.

Silk vs Polyester Comparison Table

Other NamesPET (polyethylene terephthalate)
Made FromSilk is a soft and shiny fiber harvested from silkworm cocoons.Polyester is a synthetic fabric made using petroleum products, although it is increasingly made from recycled plastic bottles.
AdvantagesSmooth, soft and luxurious. Looks and feels fantastic.Very high durability, with good breathability and moisture wicking makes polyester a very practical fabric. Can be mass produced at low cost.
DisadvantagesLess practical than many other fabrics. Heat retention, water-resistance and color-fastness are all poor, and overall less durable than many other fabrics.Significant environmental concern.
UsesFashion, particulary luxury items, as well as lining for mens suits, ties, and pocket squares. Other uses include curtains, sheets, pillows, and upholstery.As a fabric, polyester is used widely in apparel and furnishings. Other uses include bottles and LCD displays.
Natural or SyntheticNaturalSynthetic
Woven or KnittedEither, typically wovenEither
Thread CountUp to 600200-1000
WashingSafest to dry clean only. Hand washing may leave to fading. Do not put in the washing machine.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 onlyNormally fine in a tumble dryer with a low heat setting (check the label first)
IroningDo not iron. Silk should be steamed.Can 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 ResistanceDoesn’t tend to wrinkleDon’t tend to wrinkle
Heat RetentionPoorMedium
Moisture WickingGoodGood
BreathabilityGoodVery Good
Flammability (untreated)Very HighHigh (tends to melt rather than burn)
Water-Resistance (untreated)PoorMedium
StrengthGood, but weaker when wetVery Good
SoftnessVery GoodMedium
Environmental Impact Score (A is best, E is worst)Normal Silk = C, Organic Silk = BVirgin Polyester = D, Chemically Recylced Polyester = B, Mechanically Recycled Polyester = A
Sustainability IssuesSilk production is relatively low impact, and does not require too many fertilizers or pesticides. Organic silk is best, and readers may also want to look for humane silk which harvests after the moths have left (instead of with the pupae inside).Polyester is a plastic. It does not degrade and requires significant energy, chemicals, and waste to create. We recommend only using recycled polyester products.