Properties of Nylon

Women's stockings were the first commercial use of nylon.
••• Voyagerix/iStock/GettyImages

Nylon is a synthetically-produced fabric. It was first developed as a substitute for imported silk. Women's stockings were the first commercial use of nylon. Because it has strong fibers that are also stretchy, nylon is used to make many different things including clothing, upholstery and carpet, rope, tents and fishing line.


Chemically, nylon is formed by chains of amide molecules. The chains are arranged parallel to each other, attached by hydrogen bonds. To make nylon's fibers strong, a polymerizing process must occur that allows the molecules to combine without retaining any water. In effect the process of making nylon is a condensation reaction.


Chemically, nylon fibers are linear polyamides which are extremely versatile. Nylon is a very strong but lightweight material. It stretches but also regains its original shape easily. Nylon can be dyed almost any color and usually is a bit shiny. It is difficult to tear or damage, lasts a long time, and often can be machine washed and dried.


Wallace Carothers invented nylon. He was hired by the E.I. duPont de Nemous and Company when they decided to open a research laboratory in 1928. This was an innovative move on the part of the company but it was motivated, in part, by the cost of importing silk from Japan in this period between the world wars. Before going to duPont, Carothers taught organic chemistry at Harvard.


By 1931, Carothers was able to make a synthetic rubber material, neoprene, but it took until 1934 for him to perfect the condensation reaction that paved the way for nylon. By 1939, duPont was selling nylon stockings. Nylon is considered the first engineered thermoplastic material. It was the first synthetic substitute for silk.

Expert Insight

While oils, solvents and alcohols can stain or damage other fabrics, they do not harm nylon. This makes nylon useful for certain types of protective clothing and gear. However, diluted acids can begin to weaken the bonds in nylon fibers and phenols, alkalis, iodine and acids can destroy the fabric.

Related Articles

How to Make Cellulose Acetate
An Example of a Polymer Compound
The Properties of Nitrocellulose
Differences Between Polyethylene and Polyurethane
Facts About Nylon
What Is Supplex Nylon?
Neoprene Vs. Natural Rubber
What Is Urethane Used For?
Nylon's Properties & Uses
Properties of Polyester Fabrics
Does Neoprene Stretch?
How to Make Cellulose Acetate
What Was Done Before Dynamite Was Invented?
Difference Between Nylon 6 & Nylon 66
List of Household Bases & Acids
Uses of Thermoplastics
What Are the Chemicals in Cornstarch?
The Effects of High Temperature on Epoxy
What Is Nadph in Photosynthesis?
How Is Neoprene Made?

Dont Go!

We Have More Great Sciencing Articles!