When selecting fabrics for your sofa, bedding, curtains, rugs, and pillows, you’re bound to see a bunch of different terms come up. Unless you have a wealth of experience with textiles, it may not be inherently apparent what all of these fabrics are, the differences between them, and which ones are better for which applications.
A lot of people get tripped up on Dacron and polyester. There’s a little bit of a blurry line there regarding the difference between the two. It gets even blurrier when you realize that they are both the same and different. The simplest explanation is that Dacron is a better, fancier form of polyester. For the long answer, you’ll need to understand all the differences.
What is Polyester Fabric?
Polyester fabric is a human-made fabric invented in the early 1940’s by British scientists playing with esters and polymers. At the time of its invention, it was considered to be groundbreaking and futuristic. Designers began using the fabric for high fashion clothing almost immediately.
The main component of polyester fabric is a kind of plastic that is easy to wash, dry, and dye. It is resistant to shrinking, wrinkling, and warping. The fibers are strong, which helps garments and upholstery last longer without visible signs of distress. Despite its strength, polyester isn’t structurally rigid.. Prior to its invention, almost all fabric was harder to maintain and required frequent ironing.
The bonds of the fabric are flexible, making it lightweight and comfortable to wear. Polyester retains its shape easily due to its natural flexibility. It won’t crease or crinkle, making it an easy favorite for fast fashion and t-shirts. Nobody wants to iron their everyday clothes or workout gear, and that’s why the appeal and comfort of polyester quickly caught on.
Any fabric composed mainly of polyester yarn or fiber is considered to be polyester fabric. There are numerous blends of materials that can be blended with polyester fabric to change its texture, including cotton.
What is Dacron Fabric?
Dacron fabric is a specific kind of proprietary polyester fabric created by the DuPont company. They own the rights to Dacron production, as it is a trademarked invention. The “D” in “Dacron” is capitalized because “Dacron” is a brand name rather than a general noun, like polyester. DuPont’s unique spin on polyester is wildly popular because of the way the company improved upon the original fiber.
Despite its many strengths, generic polyester can’t do a few things. It isn’t hypoallergenic, and it can’t resist mold, mildew, or water. DuPont’s answer to polyester solved those problems. Dacron is a hypoallergenic polyester that isn’t absorbent, making it resistant to mildew, mold, and stains since it cannot retain water or other liquids.
That’s why Dacron is the preferred choice for household textiles. It’s really difficult to wash couches, throw pillows, mattresses, upholstered headboards, and upholstered chairs. Since other polyester fabrics come with vulnerabilities that require them to be regularly laundered or thoroughly spot cleaned to prevent long term damage, they’re far more high maintenance.
Dacron looks beautiful, and it’s practically indestructible. You may pay a premium for Dacron, but it’s worth spending a little more. You won’t spend half of your life cleaning and scrubbing all the textiles in your home, and they’ll all last a lot longer without needing replacement or reupholstery.
Who is DuPont?
DuPont invented and released Dacron almost exactly ten years after the first polyester fabric was made commercially available. This is the same DuPont you know as an automotive company. They also produce Kevlar, Tyvek, and Styrofoam. DuPont is a company with its hands in many jars, acting almost exclusively as innovators and problem solvers. They lead dozens of industries with fabrics, materials, and formulas designed to be technologically advanced improvements over what was already on the market.
The Science Based Explanation
Dacron is the patented tradename for a material called polyethylene terephthalate, also called PET plastic. You may be familiar with PET plastic already, as it is commonly used in food and beverage containers. You’re most likely taking your lunch to work in a form of Dacron. Dacron is composed of monomers that are linked through a process called polymerization. This makes Dacron easy to produce and just as easy to recycle.
Polyester material is also plastic, but it’s formed differently. Polyesters are any material that is made of 85% esters, terephthalic acid, and dihydric alcohol. The fibers form when dicarboxylic acids and alcohols react. What’s left behind is the product of the condensation, which is the plastic used to create most polyester fibers.
The difference in durability is a direct result of the way these materials are formed. Dacron has a structural advantage because it is less reactive. It doesn’t respond to moisture the same way polyester will. Polyester will wick up moisture, making it the ideal material for workout clothes. Dacron is significantly less reactive, as its closed structure repels moisture.
When to Use Dacron and When to Use Polyester
Most kinds of polyester are the ideal material for things that are laundered frequently. Polyester clothing is light, comfortable, and convenient. Since clothes are typically laundered soon after they’re worn (or immediately following a spill), it doesn’t necessarily matter if the material is resistant to mildew or stains. If there’s an accident, like a slosh of red wine on a polyester top, it’s easy to use a stain stick or toss it in the wash right away.
You won’t have the same kind of response time with your upholstery. Sofas, throw pillows, and chairs can sometimes be difficult to thoroughly wash, and they’re likely to get dirty quickly. Sipping coffee on the sofa can lead to spills, and food stains on dining room chairs occur frequently. That’s why Dacron would be a more suitable choice for that environment.
There are some areas of your home where it won’t matter all that much if you choose run of the mill polyester over Dacron. A great example would be your curtains. Curtains don’t typically come into contact with food or water, and they rarely get dirty. Allergy specialists recommend that curtains be laundered once every three to six months. You can easily toss polyester curtains into your home washing machine, so they’re relatively easy to maintain. You don’t need to splurge for a higher quality material for your curtains if you’re happy with the way they look.
Dacron Inside of Your Furniture
Having Dacron outside of your furniture has obvious advantages. Nobody wants to spend forever trying to scrub a tea spill out of the arm of their couch. Dacron is an easy sell as an upholstery fabric. It’s an even bigger sell as an upholstery batting, and that’s one of the biggest advantages that many people fail to consider.
The batting inside of your chairs, couch, and headboard is probably made of some kind of polyester. If it’s made of traditional polyester, it’s highly absorbent. That means it’s picking up sweat, body oil, and smells. It’s going to hold onto them for as long as it possibly can - usually up to the point where you deep clean your batting.
Most people never think about cleaning the internal components of their furniture, because dirt and grime aren’t usually visible. If the surface is cleaned and deodorized, the couch looks good enough. You’ll never see any underlying damage unless you take the upholstery off of the furniture. Sooner or later, the time comes to reupholster the furniture and you may find that your batting is stinky, stained, and falling apart as a result of the unchecked accumulation of everything it’s absorbed over the years.
Since Dacron repels just about everything, it won’t hold onto any unwanted moisture or odors and keep them trapped in a place you cannot see or easily access. While it’s still a good idea to deep clean all of your upholstered furniture every one to two years, it won’t be as urgent of a situation if wet bacteria isn’t stewing inside of your sofa or dining chairs. If you take decent care of your furniture, your Dacron batting might last for decades.
When you eventually go to reupholster your furniture, check the Dacron batting. If it’s still uniform and comfortable, give it a good cleaning. You can reupholster right over the batting that was already there. That’s a luxury you’re unlikely to have if you opt for another kind of polyester batting.
The Takeaway: All Dacron is Polyester, But Not All Polyester is Dacron
All clementines are oranges, but not all oranges are clementines. All tigers are cats, but not all cats are tigers. Polyester is the larger category, and Dacron is the smaller category that fits beneath polyester’s umbrella.
If you're curious, you can always try one of our swatch kits for free and see the difference for yourself.
If you have to make a choice between polyester and Dacron and you’re not sure, go with Dacron. Dacron is the better quality, longer-lasting alternative. It’s a “better safe than sorry” choice that you’re unlikely to regret, and most people don’t regret investing in something they can keep and use forever.