What Is Polypropylene Fabric?

The mid 20th century was a busy time in the production of new materials. Scientists across the world competed to create something a little more practical than what came before. This meant more synthetics to replace natural materials, as well as improvements on old favorites. Polypropylene was one of these inventions to appear in the 1950s. An Italian scientist discovered it when working with gas and oil by-products. So, what is polypropylene fabric, is polypropylene a plastic material, and how does it play a part in our lives?

What is polypropylene fabric? 

Polypropylene has a range of potential applications in the world of manufacture, consumer products, and even clothing. It all depends on how the material is processed after its initial creation. There are some great applications for polypropylene fabric in activewear because of the benefits over materials like polyester and nylon. However, there are disadvantages in some situations. 

How is polypropylene made?

The resulting polypropylene sleeve for the manufacture
The resulting polypropylene sleeve for the manufacture of bags is wound on large reels. drum for winding sleeves of woven polypropylene yarns. PP bag production line.

The process of creating polypropylene fabric is quite convoluted – as is the case with a lot of these synthetic plastics. It all starts with stringing propylene monomers through a spinneret in an extrusion process. This creates long fibers that are easier to work with. These are then mixed with stabilizers and fillers to create a more substantial product, before being dyed and treated ready for manufacture. We then get large textile sheets in various colors for shipment to different companies, where they can become all kinds of useful items and garments. 

What are some of the applications of polypropylene plastic?

There are many different applications for polypropylene in different sectors. There are options for using polypropylene as a plastic in a range of tools. A lot of drinking straws – where plastic is still used in place of paper or metal – are polypropylene. It is a safe and practical option for drinkware. You can also find polypropylene plastic in packaging and rope for its strength and light weight. Drawstring gym bags are also a good application because of the way the material handles water and rough treatment. 

As for clothing, polypropylene fabric is in use in materials for outdoor wear and sportswear. The strength and heat resistance make it a reliable choice for coats and activewear that needs to be a little more insulating and protective than some other choices. Nylon and polyester have their uses here, but some companies find that polypropylene is the more superior choice for high-end, long-lasting items. Interestingly, this material also became a popular choice recently for face masks. The poor breathability means that particles are less likely to pass through than using cotton. 

Can you use polypropylene fabric at home?

It is possible to get hold of some of this material from a supplier and try working with it yourself. You could find that it is a great choice for making your own activewear if you need something that is a little more lightweight. You could also use it to reupholster items around the home. It isn’t necessarily difficult to sew with, because of the density and the lightweight. If you have worked with other synthetic materials in past then you should be fine. One possible problem, however, is that the material doesn’t take dyes very well, so you are stuck with the original color. The plus side to this is that it doesn’t react to bleach that much either. 

What are the benefits of using polypropylene in fabric?

One of the most significant benefits of using this fabric is its strength. Like polyester and other synthetic materials, it is abrasion-resistant. This should allow for scrapes and rougher treatment when taking part in hikes or sports. It should also prolong the life of the garments, which is important considering one of the disadvantages below. Despite this toughness, the material is also very lightweight. It is said to be 20% lighter than nylon and 34% lighter than polyester. This could make a big difference when wearing larger coats for long periods or traveling with luggage. 

Another interesting benefit noted here is that there is less leaching of chemicals from this plastic than in some other varieties. This is a safety consideration when choosing a material that may be close to food, water, or the mouth of users. It is why it is so good for straws as well as drinkware.

What are the disadvantages of using polypropylene? 

One of the disadvantages here is that while this product is great for winter wear in the colder and wetter months, it doesn’t do so well in the sun. There are some materials in this family used in outdoor products and for gardens. Olefin, for example, is related to polypropylene and common in awnings and furniture. But, polypropylene fabric isn’t so resistant to UV damage. 

What about the impact of polypropylene on the environment? 

The other disadvantage to using polypropylene fabric compared to a natural fiber is the environmental damage. This risk is two-fold. First, there is the impact of the process of creating the material in those processing plants. Creating polypropylene, as with other plastic-based materials, requires heat, water, and a lot of energy. Then there is the impact of the finished material in a landfill. The material doesn’t break down for a long time and discarded materials add to plastic pollution. 

However, some users point out that the production of polypropylene is an effective way to deal with some waste products. Those byproducts of oil and gas are surely better off used in applications like this than left as pollutants. There is also the fact that if we can create longer-lasting products like polypropylene fabric that aren’t single-use, or even recycle the fabrics into something else, we aren’t producing as much. 

Is polypropylene fabric a good choice for your needs?

There are some clear pros and cons to this fabric. It is understandable if you feel it is too extreme or unenvironmental to use this regularly. But, there are some great properties, especially compared to nylon and polyester. You may be surprised not just at how it can help, but how much you already use it.