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Rope Knowledge

Nylon vs. Polyester

by Fred Dieckhaus
Nylon vs. Polyester

There sometimes seems to be some confusion between Nylon and Polyester rope. Are they the same or are they different ? They are different and in our industry sometimes serve different purposes.

So why the confusion ? Well first off, to simply look at 2 different pieces rope and know that one is polyester and one is nylon: even if you have a trained eye and work in the industry, there is a good chance you cannot tell the difference. I have been working with cordage for some 20 years now and unless I use a rope burner and smell the two, it will be difficult to tell.

Within the Marine industry, Nylon is much more prevalent in the US than Polyester. Because of supply situations and the cost of Polyester,The price for polyester in  Europe is less than that of Nylon. Hence European companies sell more polyester than nylon. To help complicate the issue, European Captains and crew come to the US and are in the need of some new or replacement lines. In Europe , Nylon is called Polyamide and Polyester is called , you got it, Polyester. Personally I think Nylon is a better fiber and hence a better line. Here are the specifications I would like to compare: tensile strength, stretch, and weight of 100 ft. Let’s look at some differences for 1-1/2” / 36 mm ;

Polyester Double Braid - 1-1/2”  -  tensile strength = 64,300 lbs – Elongation at break = 15 to 20% - weight per 100 ft = 75.4 lbs.

Nylon Double Braid – 1-1/2”       -  tensile strength = 74,000 lbs – Elongation at break = 30 to 35% - weight per 100 ft = 58.4 lbs. 

The above specifications were taken directly off Spec sheets from Cortland Puget Sound Rope Company. So The tensile strength of the nylon is 15% stronger than that of the polyester. It has more stretch than Polyester. And is almost 23% lighter than the polyester. For docking and mooring lines, I think the nylon certainly surpasses the Polyester. For other application this might not be a whole story. For control lines on Sailboat, the polyester is preferred be ause of the lower stretch.


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