Polyester vs Viscose: Difference Between Polyester and Viscose

If there weren’t any differences, there would be no need for freedom of choice. That is because there would be nothing to compare or choose between. The same can be said for fabrics. If there were no differences, there would be nothing to do but use the same thing every day.

The biggest difference between polyester and viscose is how they are made. Viscose comes from wood chips or cellulose and chemicals and polyester comes from plastic, petroleum, and other chemicals. Both are not natural and one is not synthetic.

To learn more about the differences between polyester and viscose just continue to read our article. It has those differences as well as other information to help you find the best fabric for you. Take a few minutes and get caught up on these two materials.

What is Polyester?


Because it is made from petroleum and other products, including harsh chemicals, polyester is a synthetic fabric that has a broad range of uses. That use goes beyond the fashion world as polyester is found in several non-clothing industries.

Its creation was due to the efforts of different scientists who were looking to find a way to stop or resist shrinking, fading, and other laundry ills. They came up with polyester, a fabric that does those things, and more.

Unfortunately, it is not a material that breathes very well so its best use is in the cooler times of the year. Its creation may have come in 1926 under the name Terylene by a scientist in England. But DuPont took the creation to new levels and soon it became known as polyester.

Unfortunately for many polyester manufacturers, polyester got a bad start and reputation in the 1970s with the double knit version that is often associated with the disco fad and leisure suits.

Since then the different makers of this fabric have sought to upgrade it and overcome that reputation. Although that artificial feel and texture remain somewhat.

What is Viscose?

Also known as rayon, the name applied to the fabric in North America, this material got its start a lot earlier than polyester did and was created sometime in the late 19th century. It is listed as an ‘other’ fabric because it is made with both natural materials and chemicals.

It is partially natural and partly synthetic fabric that has lots of good uses, though not as many as polyester. Viscose was used as the name for this material originally and that label came from the viscous manufacturing process the wood cellulose had to undergo.

This manufacturing process also produced cellophane. The uses of viscose only go so far as it is used to make clothing, blend with other fabrics, be used as tire cords, and in feminine hygiene products.

This material is said to be the oldest manufactured fabric when it was produced in 1883. far ahead of all other synthetic materials produced today. It resembles cotton and does not cost a lot.

Normally, this is a lightweight fabric that is good to wear in the summer heat and humidity. It doesn’t normally keep you warm so winter is not a good time to wear this fabric.

The Difference Between Polyester And Viscose

To help keep you on time as your busy schedule is probably very demanding, here is a quick comparison chart to help you see the differences quickly. It only takes about a minute to read through and get the important differences between these two fabrics.

Category Polyester Viscose
Origin Petroleum and harsh chemicals Wood chips and chemicals
Cost Usually not expensive May be a bit more expensive than polyester but cheaper than other fabrics
Moisture Repels water does not absorb it Absorbs moisture very well
Breathability Very poor at this Very good at breathing
Uses Broad application including fashion Mostly in fashion but has other applications as well
Laundry issues Resists shrinking and wrinkles Wrinkles but shrinks and stretches
Feel Not soft, a little rough and artificial Soft and silky, sometimes feels like cotton
Durability Very durable and strong Loses its strength when wet
Warmth can keep you quite warm Usually helps keep you cooler
Care Easy to care for Needs custom care as it is a vulnerable fabric
Style Usually hard to dye Accepts dyes fairly well

Is Viscose More Breathable Than Polyester?


Yes, viscose is more breathable than polyester. In fact, polyester is one of the least breathable fabrics out there on the market today. Viscose is made to be lightweight which allows it to be breathable when you need it to be.

Polyester was designed specifically to tackle other fashion issues like shrinkage, wrinkles, and fading. During the creation and manufacturing process, the ability to create breathing in polyester was forgotten.

This does not mean that lightweight polyester doesn’t breathe, it just doesn’t do it as well as viscose can. Viscose is designed more for breathing and not resisting shrinking or wrinkles. Although, some viscose or rayon products can be treated to prevent those laundry issues.

Polyester will resist fading as well but viscose does fade fairly quickly when left out in the sun. If you hang dry this material, you should not do it in direct sunlight. Viscose is not as strong a fabric as polyester which means you have to treat with extra care.

Polyester may have more designs and colors it comes in but you can always dye viscose to get the shade of color or design you want.

Is Viscose Warmer Than Polyester?

No, not really. Viscose is often called the most misunderstood fabric in the world today and that leads people to all sorts of different conclusions. This is why you will hear so many contradicting opinions about this material.

Some people will call it cool and breathable while others say you should avoid wearing it in the summer. You would have to be the judge on this as your experience may say one or the other. When compared to polyester though, viscose is the cooler fabric.

The reason for that answer is that viscose is usually a lightweight fabric that allows for a lot of breathing. Polyester is usually a tighter weave than viscose and as they say, the tighter the weave and the closer to your body the warmer you will be. There is little breathing in those types of fabrics.

Polyester is also better for winter not only in terms of fashion but also in terms of bedding. The polyester sheets should keep you warmer than viscose ones. Then, if you live in warm year-round climates, polyester may be too warm of a fabric to wear.

Viscose vs Polyester Lining

The battle here will go down to breathability. The polyester lining is not going to let you breathe well and may cause you to become too warm. If you have a polyester lined dress or coat, wear it in the cooler times of the year. It won’t help you stay cool.

Viscose on the other will help you stay cool and a 100% viscose lining should let your body breathe as well as release the heat. If you mix viscose and polyester, forget about being cool. Polyester just has that touch to it.

But that type of lining may be smooth and slippery making it easier to get the clothing item on or off. Breathing is not the only quality in this issue and viscose can hold its own against polyester as it is lighter weight and better for lightweight fabrics.

Remember, the lining weight should match the outer fabric’s weight or you are going to have trouble with the drape and other issues. Polyester’s ability to resist shrinking helps keep the coat, etc. In good shape as well as keep wrinkles at bay.

Polyester vs Viscose Rug


If you do not like the color of the viscose rug, you can always change it. The natural fibers in this material accept dyes very well and help you restore its original color and splendor. The same cannot be said for polyester.

Then viscose is softer, more absorbent, and smoother than polyester. The latter type of rug is usually hard, stiff, and does not absorb moisture or spills. About the only area where polyester may best viscose is in durability.

Since viscose loses its strength when wet, it may not last as long or endure heavy traffic areas as well as polyester can. Viscose may absorb spills quite well but the damage done to its fibers is another thing.

It is hard to say how damaged they get but you do need to be careful as even in cleaning you have to watch the cleaning supplies and techniques you use. Polyester may come in more colors and designs as well making it easier to match your room’s decor.

Overall, if you can keep your viscose rug from getting damaged too soon, it may be the better rug to have as it doe snot have all the harsh chemicals polyester has. The toxins may be absorbed through the skin if someone lies on the polyester rug for too long.

Viscose vs Polyester Stretch

In this situation, it may be a tie. Both fabrics are not naturally stretchy and both need to have stretch material blended with it to make sure you get the stretch you need. Viscose has soft fibers making it more comfortable to wear but it doe snot stretch that much. This may cause you a few embarrassing moments if you are not careful.

Then in the blend with stretchy materials, viscose should not lose its drape. That is good news for those who do not like clingy fabrics sticking to their skin when the evening is hot and humid.

Polyester may feel a lot smoother when blended with a stretch fabric. Its artificial nature can be overshadowed when blended with the right companion fabric. Plus, the polyester will lend its anti-shrink and anti-wrinkle capability to that fabric helping it to be laundered easier.

Viscose is not so unselfish. It may still lose its strength when wet, shrink some, or be damaged in other ways. Of course, you have to watch out for polyester’s ability to catch fire. It may be blended with stretchy material, but if that material is also synthetic, stay away from open flames when wearing it.

Is Polyester or Viscose Better

These are two different fabrics so this question will be easy to answer. It is and it isn’t. The reason that it isn’t is that both fabrics were designed for different purposes and different weather conditions.

You can get polyester wet and it should still remain strong and its fibers go undamaged. Viscose loses its strength when wet and does not hold up very well when soaked.

But viscose is made for warmer weather and also better occasions than polyester. In those cases, it is the better fabric. Polyester is better when it's used according to its strengths.

The easy part of this question is that both fabrics have specific qualities that make deciding which one is better easier. Polyester’s durability, strength, broad uses, and colors, as well as its wrinkle and shrink resistance make it the better fabric overall.

Viscose may breathe better but its weaknesses overshadow its strengths and make it a lesser material to wear. It is harder to launder viscose so that is a point against it as well.

The best thing to do is to wear viscose when your outing matches its strengths and wear polyester when your day meets its strengths. Your preferences will help guide you when to wear fabrics at other times.

Viscose vs Polyester Clothing


Which one you will wear depends on what you will be doing. Viscose is usually used for outer and underwear while polyester is used for sportswear, dress clothes, party items, performances, and more.

But viscose has better drape and feels better against your skin. It is also softer than polyester and probably more comfortable. So far polyester doesn’t seem to make it past that artificial feel it has and that is due to the materials it is made from.

It is hard for artificial materials to best natural ingredients. Viscose has those natural ingredients which make it better to wear. The main concern about polyester items is the harsh chemicals used to create that fabric.

Their toxins can be absorbed into your skin creating different health issues you would rather avoid. Viscose does use chemicals but they may not be as harsh or as toxic as the ones used in polyester.

Your preference and bank account will be the final deciding factor in this issue as will your sense of fashion. Choose which fabric you like the best and can afford. Make sure to read all the facts then make your decision.

Is Polyester or Viscose Cooler?

There is no doubt about the fact that viscose is cooler than polyester. The breathability factor alone puts viscose ahead in this category and makes it the better choice when the day or evening is both hot and humid.

Also, viscose is usually lighter in fabric weight and has a looser weave than polyester. Those two factors allow viscose to keep you cooler and let the heat be released into the air. Despite what some people claim, viscose or rayon is good for the summer heat and sultry nights.

Polyester is better for winter times as it usually comes with a tighter weave and doe snot absorb moisture. The heat stays trapped close to your body and you may overheat at some point in the day or night.

Then viscose drapes better allowing more room between you and the fabric. That design makes sure heat has someplace to go instead of sticking nearby and raising your body temperature.

If you want to stay cool, go with viscose or rayon materials. Polyester may be tough and durable as well as easy to clean but it won’t cool you down or keep you cool. This fabric is for those days you feel a chill coming on or when the fall or spring days are not as warm as they could be.

Some Final Words

If you want an overall champion in this comparison, it may be said that viscose is a better fabric to wear in the summer and hotter climates. Polyester would be better than viscose when the temperatures are cooler.

The main drawback of polyester is its origin. Being made from petroleum products and harsh chemicals does this material no favors. It also does not do you any favors. In this situation, viscose should be the better fabric despite its weaknesses.

Go with the softness, the drape, and the comfort over the artificial nature of polyester.

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