What Is Nylon Used For?

So many things that we use every day are made out of nylon that it is difficult to believe that there are people alive today who lived before it was invented. Nylon was the first man-made fabric to function as a synthetic substitute for silk. Now, as one of the strongest fabrics available, it is used in clothing, household goods, and other commercial and industrial products.


Nylon was invented in the E. I. DuPont de Nemous & Company laboratory by the organic chemist, Wallace Carothers. He discovered the structure of natural polymers and used the information as the basis of his formula for synthetic polymers. He patented the fabric in 1935 and the first duPont nylon stockings became available for sale in the United States in 1939. Part of the original motivation for creating nylon was to produce a silk substitute because of problems with importing Japanese silk into the United States at that time just prior to World War Two.


Since then, nylon has continued to be improved in the laboratories. It is a very strong fabric that is difficult to tear. It does not soak in water easily which makes it a useful fabric to use for tents, sleeping bags, and sails. While it can stretch, it can also bounce back to its original shape so it is good for things like rope and the strings of tennis rackets, for instance. Even fishing line is made from nylon.


A lightweight fabric that is also wind and water-proof, nylon is also widely used to make jackets and sports bags. Tents, parachutes, bathing suits, and ski clothes are frequently made out of nylon. An added advantage to making these items out of nylon is that the fabric is very easy to dye. Nylon is also difficult to stain or damage.


Nylon will not be damaged by oils, solvents or alcohols. However, if nylon comes into contact with dilute acids such as ammonium hydroxide or sulfuric acid, the fibers in the material will begin to break down. If nylon is touched by phenols, alkalis, iodine or other kinds of acids, they will irrevocably damage the fabric.

Expert Insight

Nylon cooking utensils have recently become very popular. Spoons, spatulas and even cake pans made from nylon are heat resistant up to 420 degrees Fahrenheit. They don't melt and won't scratch away the finish on pans with non-stick surfaces. Since nylon comes in so many different colors, nylon utensils can coordinate with every kitchen design starting at prices for spoons under $10.