Nylon vs. Rayon

What's the Difference?

Nylon and rayon are both synthetic fibers commonly used in the textile industry. However, they differ in terms of their production process and properties. Nylon is a thermoplastic material made from petroleum-based chemicals through a process called polymerization. It is known for its high strength, durability, and resistance to abrasion, making it suitable for applications such as clothing, carpets, and industrial materials. On the other hand, rayon is a semi-synthetic fiber derived from natural cellulose, usually sourced from wood pulp or bamboo. It is known for its softness, breathability, and ability to mimic the drape and feel of natural fibers like cotton or silk. Rayon is often used in clothing, home furnishings, and medical textiles. While both fibers have their unique characteristics, nylon is more durable and resilient, while rayon offers a more natural and comfortable feel.


CompositionMan-made synthetic polymerMan-made regenerated cellulose fiber
StrengthHigh tensile strengthLower tensile strength compared to nylon
ElasticityHigh elasticityLower elasticity compared to nylon
SoftnessLess soft compared to rayonSoft and comfortable
Moisture AbsorptionLow moisture absorptionHigh moisture absorption
Wrinkle ResistanceHigh wrinkle resistanceLower wrinkle resistance compared to nylon
ShrinkageLow shrinkageHigher shrinkage compared to nylon
Chemical ResistanceResistant to many chemicalsLess chemical resistance compared to nylon
CostRelatively inexpensiveRelatively inexpensive

Further Detail


When it comes to synthetic fibers, Nylon and Rayon are two popular choices that have found their way into various industries. Both materials offer unique characteristics and have their own set of advantages and disadvantages. In this article, we will delve into the attributes of Nylon and Rayon, exploring their differences and similarities, and understanding their applications in different fields.

1. Composition and Manufacturing Process

Nylon is a synthetic polymer made from petrochemicals, specifically coal, water, and air. It is created through a process called polymerization, where the molecules are linked together to form long chains. On the other hand, Rayon is a semi-synthetic fiber derived from cellulose, which is extracted from wood pulp or other plant materials. The cellulose is chemically treated to create a viscous solution, which is then extruded into fibers.

2. Strength and Durability

Nylon is known for its exceptional strength and durability. It is highly resistant to abrasion, making it suitable for applications that require toughness, such as outdoor gear, ropes, and seatbelts. On the other hand, Rayon is not as strong as Nylon and is more prone to damage. It is not recommended for heavy-duty applications but is often used in clothing and home textiles due to its softness and draping qualities.

3. Moisture Absorption and Breathability

One of the key differences between Nylon and Rayon lies in their moisture absorption and breathability properties. Nylon is hydrophobic, meaning it does not absorb moisture easily. This characteristic makes it ideal for swimwear, activewear, and other applications where quick drying is essential. In contrast, Rayon has excellent moisture absorption capabilities, making it comfortable to wear in hot and humid climates. It allows air to circulate, providing breathability and reducing the risk of overheating.

4. Appearance and Texture

When it comes to appearance, Nylon and Rayon have distinct characteristics. Nylon fibers have a smooth and shiny surface, giving them a lustrous appearance. This quality makes Nylon a popular choice for hosiery, lingerie, and other garments that require a sleek and polished look. On the other hand, Rayon fibers have a natural sheen and can mimic the appearance of silk. It has a soft and smooth texture, making it comfortable to wear against the skin. Rayon is often used in dresses, blouses, and linings.

5. Care and Maintenance

Both Nylon and Rayon have specific care requirements. Nylon is relatively easy to care for, as it is resistant to wrinkles and can be machine washed. It is also quick-drying, reducing the need for extensive drying time. However, Nylon can be prone to static cling and may require anti-static treatments. On the other hand, Rayon is more delicate and requires gentle handling. It is prone to shrinkage and should be hand washed or dry cleaned to maintain its shape and texture. Rayon garments should also be ironed at a low temperature to avoid damage.

6. Environmental Impact

Considering the environmental impact, Rayon has an advantage over Nylon. Nylon is derived from non-renewable resources and requires a significant amount of energy in its production. It is not biodegradable and can persist in the environment for hundreds of years. On the other hand, Rayon, although not entirely eco-friendly, is made from renewable resources and has a lower carbon footprint. However, the manufacturing process of Rayon involves the use of chemicals, which can have environmental implications if not properly managed.

7. Cost

Cost is an important factor to consider when choosing between Nylon and Rayon. Nylon is generally more expensive than Rayon due to its superior strength and durability. The production process of Nylon also contributes to its higher cost. Rayon, on the other hand, is more affordable and widely available, making it a popular choice for budget-conscious consumers.


In conclusion, Nylon and Rayon are two synthetic fibers with distinct attributes and applications. Nylon offers exceptional strength and durability, making it suitable for heavy-duty purposes. It is hydrophobic and dries quickly, making it ideal for swimwear and activewear. On the other hand, Rayon provides softness, breathability, and moisture absorption, making it comfortable to wear in various climates. It has a natural sheen and is often used in clothing and home textiles. Consider the specific requirements of your project or application to determine whether Nylon or Rayon is the better choice for you.

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