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Which Fabric Fades Faster: Synthetic or Cotton?

Updated February 21, 2017

Not all types of fabric area created equal. Some last longer and are more durable than others. while some hold colour better or are softer. Synthetic fabric tends to hold dye better than natural fabrics such as 100 per cent cotton fabric. Thus, cotton fabric fades faster. Cotton fabric is woven from white fibres extracted from the cotton plant. All cotton fabric is naturally white or off-white. Thus, any cotton fabric that is coloured has been dyed. Synthetic fabric is always dyed and is created from man-made fibres.

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Causes of Fading

There are two main causes of fading, chemical and physical wear and tear. Chemical fading happens when a chemical reaction takes place in the fabric, which causes it to lose its pigment. Chemical reactions occur depending on the type of dye used, the drying process, the temperature and the humidity. Sunlight is a common cause of fading. The UV radiation causes the dye to break down chemically in the fabric. Physical wear and tear can also remove wear out the dye and cause the fabric to fade.

Cotton Dye Placement

While most type of cotton fabric do not fade easily, some are dyed in a unique manner that makes it more susceptible to fading. This includes denim, which is a thick fabric woven from cotton fibres. Manufacturers brush denim with dye so that it only lays on the surface. This prevents the dye from touching, and perhaps dyeing, your skin. This causes fabric that is only dyed on one side to fade quickly.

Synthetic Fabric

Just like natural fabric, synthetic fabric has a wide variety of types. Some types, such as acetate, will fade in the sun easily, while others such as polyester, will hold the dye well and resist fading. Fade-resistant fabrics are treated with a chemical solution that protects the dyed-fibres from fading due to chemical changes or physical pressure. Thus, some types of synthetic fabric might fade faster than cotton fabric while others will take longer to fade.

Fade Prevention

Prevent any fabric from fading by turning it inside out when you put it through a washing machine or before you hang it out to dry. Don't dry clothes in the sun if you are concerned about them fading as the UV light will only accelerate the fading process. Purchase fade resistant fabric for outdoor upholstery that will be subjected to physical wear and tear as well as chemical pressure to fade.

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About the Author

Kaye Wagner has been working in the fields of journalism and public relations since 2006 and is a recipient of a National Hearst Award. She is particularly interested in home-and-garden projects, as well as beauty and fashion writing. An avid traveler, she also writes travel reviews and guides. Wagner earned a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Brigham Young University.

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