Polyester fibre fill … the good and the not so good news

I was recently asked by an experienced retailer associate to explain why polyester quilts and pillows are so popular and what do the terms “Microloft, Microsoft, Microdenier etc ” mean and she was quite surprised by my answer.

On a post about alpaca fleece and other fibres on this site, I made a comment that all textile fibres, natural or synthetic have both strengths and weaknesses. There are a considerable number of published articles on this subject but in my experience of over twenty years in the textile industry, these articles tend to be more comparative of one fibre to another fibre or discuss their physical terms ie tenacity, elongation, dye affinity etc, rather than discussing their end use suitability and performance.

In this post I would like to discuss the realities of polyester fibre, its positive and negative attributes and its performance in bedding products.

Firstly, what is polyester fibre?

It is a synthetic textile fiber which is manufactured by extruding a liquid chemical polymer made from ethyelene glycol and terephthalic acid which are both derived from oil. In non technical terms, it is a form of plastic. 100% synthetic chemical fibre made from a non renewable source. It is not bio degradable, nor environmentally friendly. To give a balanced discussion, polyester is however not toxic nor harmful even though it’s a chemically engineered textile fibre.

The Positives -

  • Polyester is warm especially the newer styles of polyester fibre which have a hollow core, to trap warm air
  • Polyester is durable (and almost indestructible)
  • Polyester is easy care (high temperature machine washing with chemical bleaches will not affect the polyester filling)
  • Polyester is soft and has good loft
  • Polyester is cheap, readily available and easy to process

The Negatives -

  • Polyester fibres are a pure chemical textile fibre and are made from oil, a non renewable resource.with a specially engineered inherently flame retardant polyester
  • Polyester fibre is hydrophobic i.e. it will not absorb any moisture – this is a major point and also explains why 100% polyester sheets aren’t available.

So is polyester suitable for bedding?

In some cases, yes. As an example, Kelly & Windsor supplies the Royal Australian Navy with bed pillows that are filled with a specially engineered inherently flame retardant polyester. This is because they meet strict performance requirements in unusual conditions i.e. the pillows must be inherently flame retardant, be easy care with high temperature industrial machine washing, be bleach & chlorine resistant, quick drying, lightweight and durable. For this end use and conditions, specialty polyester filled pillows are the best option.  For recreational sleeping bags, especially where they are used in high altitude hiking, polyester filling is good as it’s warm, lightweight, easy care, mildew resistant and lightweight.

For domestic home use however, polyester bedding doesn’t do so well, mainly because it does not absorb moisture nor effectively wick moisture away from the body. The result is you having a “hot sweaty night”, certainly not conducive to a comfortable night’s sleep. This means that you can overheat whilst sleeping, a very undesirable event and in certain cases a dangerous situation especially in baby or children’s bedding.

What is micro denier polyester fibre?

It’s a textile fibre that has a thickness of less than one denier. In bed quilts and pillows a micro denier polyester fibre filling will be very soft and have a very silky feel but will not have a high resiliency ie loft due to its softness. The use of the word “Micro…” is just marketing talk and is often used to confuse and mislead consumers about the actual filling fibre’s description.

While drafting this post, I came across an article that was an excellent example of marketing hype, “we have range of quilts and pillows which blend silky-soft down-like microfibre with wool, they are known as Wool Touch Quilts”  I won’t quote the source but in my opinion this statement is deliberately misleading on several counts.  The filling fibre may be a micro denier but it doesn’t actually state what the fibre is, nor the blend ratio for that matter, 99% polyester and 1% wool?

So, finally, why are polyester fibre filled quilts and pillows so popular?

Simple, it’s a one word answer, price.

There are so many other relevant factors that need to be taken into account when buying bed quilts and pillows. After all, everybody spends a considerable amount of time sleeping, an essential part of life, so the quality of your quilts and pillows directly relate to your sleeping comfort and quality and suitability should be the priority not simply a product’s price.

Quality, performance, features and benefits are surely more important to optimize one’s sleeping comfort. Choose carefully and buy for your own well being.

For more information please refer to our Fibre comparison matrix

I hope that you have found the above article of interest. I would appreciate receiving your comments.

Wishing you sleeping comfort, Trevor