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Rayon vs Nylon Fabric: Guide & Comparison Table

Both rayon and nylon are popular fabrics, but which is best, the semi-synthetic rayon fiber (made from chemically treated natural fibers from wood pulp or bamboo) or the fully-synthetic nylon?

Both rayon (or artificial silk) and nylon have a fluid drape, are soft, and have medium heat retention. However, rayon fibers have better moisture wicking and breathability than nylon, making it a better option in hot weather, although nylon far outperforms rayon in durability and strength. Both fabrics are typically made cheaply in a way that is damaging to the environment.

Check out the full comparison table below then read on for more information:

Rayon vs Nylon Comparison Table

Property Rayon Nylon
Other names Viscose, Modal, Lyocell -
Made from Chemically-treated wood and bamboo cellulose Nylon is a synthetic polymer made from materials derived from petroleum.
Uses Rayon is used for clothing, bed sheets, curtains, and carpets. Used extensively in fashion to make a wide range of items.
Natural or Synthetic Semi-Synthetic Synthetic
Woven or Knitted Either Either
Thread Count 300-600 -
Washing Dry clean or gentle hand wash in cold water (always check the label first) Machine washable in hot or cold water (check label for which one is best for your garment). May last longer if hand washed.
Drying Air dry only, do not tumble dry as shrinkage is likely May wrinkle if dried in a dryer at hot settings. Opt for cooler settings or air dry.
Ironing Iron inside-out while damp with low heat Iron only on the lowest heat section without steam. Use a pressing cloth. Be careful because nylon can burn easily.
Wrinkle Resistance Wrinkles easily, especially when damp. Don't tend to wrinkle
Heat Retention Medium Medium
Moisture Wicking Good Medium
Breathability Very Good Poor
Stretchability High
Flammability (untreated) Very High Medium (tend to melt rather than burn)
Water-Resistance (untreated) Poor Medium
Color-Fastness Poor Poor
Strength Medium when dry, but weaker when wet Excellent
Durability Low Excellent
Drape Fluid Fluid
Softness Good Good
Advantages Rayon is cheap to produce and provides a substantially higher yield per acre than most other fabrics Strong, lightweight, and easy to care for.
Disadvantages 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.
Environmental Impact Score (A is best, E is worst) Generic Viscose Rayon = E, Modal = D, TENCEL = B Virgin Nylon = E, Chemically Recycled Nylon = B, Mechanically Recycled Nylon = A
Sustainability Issues The Rayon industry contributes to deforestation and pollution. Rayon production is chemically-intensive. Nylon is a plastic. It does not degrade and requires significant energy, chemicals, and waste to create. We recommend only using recycled nylon products.
Vegan Yes Yes

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