Blankets made out of polar fleece
Blankets made out of polar fleece

Polar fleece is a soft napped insulating fabric made from polyester.


Polar fleece is used in jackets, hats, sweaters, sweatpants, cloth diapers (nappies), gym clothes, hoodies, blankets, and high-performance outdoor clothing. It can be made partially from recycled plastic bottles and is very light, soft, and easy to wash. Polar fleece can stretch more easily in one direction than in others.[1]


Polar fleece originated in Massachusetts in 1979 when Malden Mills (now Polartec LLC), and Patagonia developed Synchilla (synthetic chinchilla).[2] It was a new, light, strong pile fabric meant to mimic, and in some ways surpass, wool. Malden Mills CEO Aaron Feuerstein intentionally declined to patent polar fleece, allowing the material to be produced cheaply and widely by many vendors, leading to the material's quick and wide acceptance.[3][4][5] Malden Mills registered PolarFleece as a trademark with USPTO on 6 October 1981.[6]


A lightweight, warm and soft fabric, fleece has some of wool's good qualities but weighs a fraction of the lightest available woolens. Fleece is categorised by weight – in gsm, or grams per square metre. Polar fleece garments traditionally come in different thicknesses: micro, 100, 200, and 300, with 300 being the thickest and least flexible.

It is hydrophobic, holding less than 1% of its weight in water. It retains much of its insulating quality even when wet. It is machine washable and dries quickly. It is a good alternative to wool for those who are allergic or sensitive to wool. It can also be made out of recycled polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles, or even recycled fleece.

Regular polar fleece is not windproof[7][8] and does not absorb moisture (although this is often seen as a benefit, per above).[9][10][11] Fleece readily generates static electricity, which causes the accumulation of lint, dust, and pet hair. It is also susceptible to damage from high temperature washing, tumble drying, or ironing under unusual conditions. Lower-quality polyester fleece material is also prone to pilling.

Environmental issues

Further information: Plastic pollution

Non-recycled fleece is made from petroleum derivatives. PET is fairly easily recycled from used beverage containers, although this material is still manufactured from crude oil. Compared to the use of petroleum as fuel, however, the amount of crude oil processed into PET is very small. The total production capacity of PET is around 30.5 million metric tons,[12] compared to 4.2 billion metric tons of crude oil production,[13] thus around 0.7% of crude oil is processed into PET.

When fleece goes through the laundry, it generates microplastics that become part of domestic waste water.[14] Municipal waste water systems often discharge into rivers and oceans. However, PET has a density of around 1.3, so will sink in both fresh and sea water. Microplastics which are present on the bottom of the river or seabed can ingested by small marine life, thus entering the food chain.[citation needed] Very light fibers can become airborne, directly from clothes dryer vents or wind. Fibers can travel long distances and migrate to fields, where they are ingested by livestock or delivered to the human food supply on produce products. PET is known to degrade when exposed to sunlight and oxygen.[15] To this date, scarce information exists regarding the life-time of the synthetic polymers in the environment.[16]

See also


  1. ^ Polar Fleece history and the history of pile fabrics
  2. ^ Greenbaum, Hilary; Rubinstein, Dana (2011-11-25). "The Evolution of Fleece, From Scratchy to Snuggie". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2015-08-03.
  3. ^ "Xavier hosting Aaron Feuerstein on March 30". Citizens For A Better Norwood. 2009-06-29.
  4. ^ Rabbi Avi Shafran (2002-06-22). "Mr. Feuerstein is a legend in the corporate world, keeping his employees on the payroll until the plant could be rebuilt after a fire. His company went bankrupt, and was purchased out of bankruptcy, yet he doesn't regret a thing".
  5. ^ "Aaron Feuerstein". YouTube. 2006-07-07. Archived from the original on 2021-12-22.
  6. ^ POLARFLEECE; Registration Number 1297628; Malden Mills, Inc., 46 Stafford St. Lawrence MASSACHUSETTS 01841; First use 16 June 1980; Filing Date 06 October 1981; Published for Opposition 17 July 1984; Registration Date 25 September 1984
  7. ^ Polartec Windpro web page Archived 2012-02-17 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ Polartec Windpro web page Archived 2012-02-17 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ Columbia Layering Guide for Warmth and Comfort by Frank Ross Archived 2009-03-21 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ Choosing and Using a Quarter Sheet. Discussion of characteristics of wool vs. fleece
  11. ^ Moisture Buffering Archived 2007-10-25 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^
  13. ^,where%20this%20is%20recovered%20separately).
  14. ^ Hartline, Niko L.; Bruce, Nicholas J.; Karba, Stephanie N.; Ruff, Elizabeth O.; Sonar, Shreya U.; Holden, Patricia A. (1 November 2016). "Microfiber Masses Recovered from Conventional Machine Washing of New or Aged Garments" (PDF). Environmental Science & Technology. 50 (21): 11532–11538. Bibcode:2016EnST...5011532H. doi:10.1021/acs.est.6b03045. PMID 27689236.
  15. ^ Chamas, Ali; Moon, Hyunjin; Zheng, Jiajia; Qiu, Yang; Tabassum, Tarnuma; Jang, Jun Hee; Abu-Omar, Mahdi; Scott, Susannah L.; Suh, Sangwon (9 March 2020). "Degradation Rates of Plastics in the Environment". ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering. 8 (9): 3494–3511. doi:10.1021/acssuschemeng.9b06635.
  16. ^ Ioakeimidis, C.; Fotopoulou, K. N.; Karapanagioti, H. K.; Geraga, M.; Zeri, C.; Papathanassiou, E.; Galgani, F.; Papatheodorou, G. (22 March 2016). "The degradation potential of PET bottles in the marine environment: An ATR-FTIR based approach". Scientific Reports. 6: 23501. Bibcode:2016NatSR...623501I. doi:10.1038/srep23501. PMC 4802224. PMID 27000994.