The introduction of nylon fibers in the late 1930s changed both the textile and manufacturing worlds. Not only could women have sheer stockings, but fishermen could have strong lines, promising ballerinas could have tutus and cars could have sturdy seat belts.
How to Care for Nylon Clothes and Accessories
Nylon fibers can take many forms but the fibers used for clothing and accessories are soft and silky.
They are extremely durable but are sensitive to high temperatures in the washer, dryer or when ironing. Nylon fibers are dyed during manufacturing so the finished fabric is colorfast and resistant to fading. Nylon clothes are resistant to mold and insects and many are waterproof (check your umbrella!).
Unless the nylon fibers are combined with non-washable fibers - always check the manufacturer's care label - nylon clothes can be machine or hand-washed using cool or warm water using any commercial or homemade detergent. If the item is delicate, like lingerie, consider hand-washing or use a gentle cycle with the item placed in a protective mesh bag. It is always best to wash nylon garments with similar synthetic fabric items after you have closed all zippers and turned the garments inside out. Washing a nylon shirt with a pair of blue jeans can result in snags and pulls.
Nylon is quick drying and air drying is most gentle on these clothes.
However, nylon garments can be tumbled dry on low to warm heat. The problem with tumble drying is that nylon clothes will develop static cling. This can be reduced by using natural wool dryer balls or a dryer sheet.
Most stains can be removed following recommended stain removal steps for the specific stain.
Nylon fibers, due to how they are manufactured, attract oil stains. Oil stains are easily removed if treated immediately. Use an enzyme based pretreater or a bit of heavy duty detergent (Tide, Persil) that contains enzymes that break apart oil. Always check nylon clothes to be sure the stains have been removed before drying. Heat from a tumble dryer or iron will set oil stains and make them almost impossible to remove from nylon.
Ironing nylon clothes is not recommended because an excessively hot iron can actually melt the fibers. If you must press something nylon or with nylon content, use a low iron temperature and always place a pressing cloth between the nylon fabric and the soleplate of the iron.
Using a clothes steamer can remove wrinkles from nylon but any high heat can also cause melting and create holes. And, excessive heat may cause the garment to shrink and that cannot be reversed. Always hold the steam wand at least twelve inches from the clothes and keep it moving. Rewashing or spritzing with water and allowing the clothes to air dry are also choices for removing wrinkles from nylon clothes.
What is Nylon and its History?
Nylon does not exist in nature; It is a polyamide or plastic with very long, molecules made up of repeating formations of atoms.
Nylon is often manufactured first in large plastic chips which are melted at high heat and drawn through a plate with dozens of tiny holes (a spinneret) to create strands of nylon yarn. The strands can them be woven in knit into fabrics that range as sheer as women's stockings to heavy tarps or tent fabrics.
Nylon was discovered by a DuPont chemist, Wallace Carothers (1896-1937). Carothers was part of a team at DuPont that invented neoprene, a synthetic rubber that is now used for wetsuits. His team went on to produce a polymer that when drawn out into long, thin fibers that was named nylon 6,6. It was the world's first commercially successful synthetic polymer.
The first commercial use of nylon by DuPont was for toothbrushes in 1938 and the first nylon stockings went on sale in 1940. Today, nylon is used in clothing, home furnishings like carpet and upholstery and in industry for everything from conveyor belts to parachutes to dental floss.