What Happens If Polyester Gets Wet?

Imagine this scenario: you’re out and about, enjoying a sunny day, when suddenly dark clouds roll in and rain starts to pour. Your heart sinks as you realize you’re wearing a polyester outfit. But before panic sets in, let’s take a deep breath and explore together what happens if polyester gets wet. Brace yourself for some fascinating insights that might just save your rainy day ensemble!

How Does Polyester Respond to Water?

Polyester’s Water Repellent Properties

Polyester is known for its water-repellent properties, which means it does not easily absorb water. It is made from synthetic fibers that are woven tightly together, creating a barrier that prevents water from penetrating the fabric. This water resistance is one of the reasons polyester is used in various applications such as clothing, outdoor gear, and home furnishings.

Polyester’s Potential to Absorb Water

While polyester is generally water-resistant, it is not completely waterproof. When exposed to water for prolonged periods or under certain conditions, polyester can absorb a small amount of moisture. This is because water molecules are small enough to penetrate the gaps between the synthetic fibers. However, compared to natural fibers like cotton or wool, polyester absorbs significantly less water.

Effects of Water on Polyester

Changes in Appearance

When polyester gets wet, it may undergo some changes in appearance. The fabric can become slightly darker or appear translucent due to the water absorption. However, these changes are usually temporary and will revert to normal once the fabric dries out.

Possible Color Bleeding

Color bleeding is another potential effect of water on polyester. If the polyester fabric is not colorfast, there is a risk that the dyes used in the fabric may bleed or transfer when exposed to water. This can result in color fading, discoloration, or staining of other items that come into contact with the wet polyester.

Potential Shrinkage

Unlike natural fibers that are prone to significant shrinkage when wet, polyester is relatively resistant to shrinking. However, prolonged exposure to hot water or high heat during drying can cause the synthetic fibers to contract slightly, leading to minimal shrinkage. It is essential to follow the manufacturer’s care instructions to minimize the risk of shrinkage.

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Alterations in Texture

When polyester gets wet, the texture of the fabric may change temporarily. It can feel slightly softer or more pliable due to the moisture absorption. However, once the polyester dries out completely, it will regain its original texture.

Impact on Performance and Functionality

Diminished Insulation

When polyester becomes wet, its insulating properties may be compromised. Moisture trapped between the polyester fibers can conduct heat away from the body, resulting in reduced insulation. This can lead to a decrease in warmth and comfort, especially in cold or wet conditions.

Decreased Breathability

Polyester is known for its breathability, allowing air to circulate and moisture to escape. However, when polyester absorbs water, it can hinder its breathability. The presence of moisture can trap heat and sweat against the skin, causing discomfort and potentially leading to skin irritation.

Reduced Moisture-Wicking Ability

One of the advantages of polyester is its moisture-wicking ability, pulling moisture away from the skin and drying quickly. However, when polyester fabric becomes saturated with water, its moisture-wicking properties are compromised. This can result in a damp and clingy feeling, making it less suitable for active or athletic clothing.

Weakened Durability

Although polyester is generally known for its durability, exposure to water can weaken its strength over time. Repeated wetting and drying cycles can cause the synthetic fibers to degrade, leading to a loss of tensile strength. This can result in the fabric becoming more prone to tearing or fraying, especially in high-stress areas such as seams or stretch zones.

Drying Polyester

Air Drying

Air drying is the gentlest and safest method for drying wet polyester. Simply hang the garment or fabric in a well-ventilated area away from direct sunlight. Avoid using heat sources such as radiators or dryers, as excessive heat can damage the fabric and lead to shrinkage or distortion.

Machine Drying

If machine drying is necessary, use the lowest heat setting available on your dryer. High heat can cause the polyester fibers to melt or shrink. To prevent excessive wrinkling, remove the garment from the dryer while it is still slightly damp and hang or lay it flat to finish drying.

Avoiding Sun Exposure

Direct sunlight can fade colors and weaken the fibers of polyester fabric. When drying polyester outdoors, ensure it is in a shaded area to prevent damage from prolonged sun exposure. If possible, it is best to dry polyester indoors away from direct sunlight.

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Preventing Damage to Wet Polyester

Avoid Wringing or Twisting

When wet, polyester fabric is more vulnerable and can be easily damaged by excessive force. Avoid wringing or twisting the fabric, as this can stretch or deform the garment. Instead, gently squeeze out the excess water without exerting too much pressure.

Gentle Handling

When handling wet polyester, it is important to be gentle to prevent unnecessary stretching or distortion. Avoid pulling or tugging on the fabric, as this can lead to permanent damage. Treat wet polyester with care, ensuring smooth movements and minimal manipulation.

Using a Towel for Excess Moisture Removal

To remove excess moisture from wet polyester, place a clean, absorbent towel on top of the fabric and gently press down. The towel will help to absorb the water without causing any damage to the garment. Repeat this process with a dry towel if necessary until the fabric feels less saturated.

Dealing with Stains and Odors

Addressing Stains Promptly

If polyester fabric gets stained, it is important to address it promptly to prevent the stain from setting. Rinse the stained area with cold water, gently blotting with a clean cloth or paper towel. Avoid rubbing the stain, as this can cause it to spread or embed further into the fabric.

Applying Stain Removers

For stubborn stains on polyester, it is recommended to use a mild detergent or a stain remover specifically designed for synthetic fabrics. Follow the instructions on the product and test it on a small, inconspicuous area of the fabric before applying it to the stain. Thoroughly rinse the fabric after treating the stain to remove any residue.

Eliminating Odors

To remove odors from wet polyester, wash the fabric following the care instructions using a mild detergent. Adding a fabric softener or a small amount of vinegar to the rinse cycle can help neutralize any lingering smells. Ensure the garment is thoroughly dried to prevent musty odors from developing.

Special Considerations for Different Types of Polyester

Polyester Blends

Polyester blends, which are fabrics made with a combination of polyester and other fibers, may respond differently to water compared to pure polyester. The behavior of the fabric will depend on the other fibers present in the blend. It is important to refer to the care instructions specific to the blend to ensure proper handling and care.

Waterproof Polyester

Waterproof polyester, also known as laminated polyester or polyester with a waterproof coating, has enhanced water resistance compared to regular polyester. It is commonly used in outdoor gear such as jackets and tents. Waterproof polyester is designed to repel water, keeping the wearer dry even in heavy rain. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning and maintenance to preserve its waterproof properties.

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Polyester Microfiber

Polyester microfiber is a type of polyester fabric that is extremely fine and lightweight. It is commonly used in athletic wear, bedding, and cleaning cloths. Microfiber polyester is designed to be moisture-wicking, quick-drying, and highly breathable. Although it can absorb some water, it dries quickly due to its thin and porous structure.

Caring for Wet Polyester Outdoor Gear

Cleaning and Reapplying Durable Water Repellent (DWR) Coating

Outdoor gear made from polyester, such as jackets or tents, often have a durable water repellent (DWR) coating. This coating enhances the fabric’s water resistance. When wet, the DWR coating can wear off over time. To maintain the waterproof capabilities of outdoor gear, it is important to clean the fabric regularly and reapply the DWR coating according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Proper Storage and Drying Techniques

When not in use, it is essential to store wet polyester outdoor gear properly. Make sure the gear is completely dry before storing it to prevent the growth of mold or mildew. Avoid storing wet gear in an airtight container or bag, as this can trap moisture and lead to unpleasant odors or damage to the fabric. Instead, choose a well-ventilated area with low humidity for storage.

Polyester vs. Other Fabrics When Wet

Polyester vs. Cotton

Compared to cotton, polyester is less absorbent and dries more quickly. Cotton can retain more moisture when wet, leading to a longer drying time. However, cotton is often preferred for its comfort and breathability, making it more suitable for certain applications like loungewear or bedding.

Polyester vs. Wool

Wool is highly absorbent and can retain a significant amount of moisture when wet. It also has natural insulation properties that allow it to retain warmth even when damp. While polyester dries quickly, wool requires more time to dry properly. Each fabric has its advantages and suitability depending on the specific use and conditions.

Polyester vs. Nylon

When wet, nylon and polyester have similar properties. Both fabrics are quick-drying and moisture-wicking, making them suitable for active or outdoor clothing. Nylon may have a slight advantage in terms of durability and strength when wet, but polyester offers better resistance to fading and UV damage from sunlight exposure.


Polyester, with its water-repellent properties, has gained popularity across various industries. While it can resist water absorption to a certain extent, polyester is not completely immune to the effects of water. Changes in appearance, possible color bleeding, potential shrinkage, and alterations in texture are some of the effects of water on polyester.

Water can also impact the performance and functionality of polyester, including diminished insulation, decreased breathability, reduced moisture-wicking ability, and weakened durability. Proper drying techniques such as air drying or using the lowest heat setting in machine drying are recommended.

To prevent damage to wet polyester, avoid wringing or twisting, handle the fabric gently, and use a towel to remove excess moisture. Stains and odors should be promptly addressed using mild detergents or stain removers designed for synthetic fabrics.

Different types of polyester, such as polyester blends, waterproof polyester, and polyester microfiber, may have specific care considerations. Outdoor gear made from polyester requires cleaning and reapplication of durable water repellent coating. When wet, polyester behaves differently compared to other fabrics like cotton, wool, or nylon.

In conclusion, knowing how polyester responds to water and taking proper care of wet polyester will help maintain its appearance, functionality, and longevity, ensuring your polyester products continue to serve you well.