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Polyethylene vs. Nylon — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman & Fiza Rafique — Updated on September 14, 2023
Polyethylene is a versatile, lightweight plastic made from ethylene gas, commonly used in packaging and containers. Nylon is a strong, synthetic fiber made from polyamides, often used in textiles and automotive applications.
Polyethylene vs. Nylon — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Polyethylene and Nylon

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Key Differences

Polyethylene is one of the most widely used plastics in the world, known for its lightweight, durable nature. Nylon, on the other hand, is a synthetic polymer that's most commonly formed into fibers for use in textiles. Polyethylene is generally easier to produce and is less costly compared to nylon.
Tayyaba Rehman
Sep 14, 2023
In terms of applications, polyethylene is frequently used in packaging, plastic bags, and bottles. Nylon finds its utility in areas such as clothing, ropes, and automotive parts. While polyethylene excels in moisture resistance, nylon has superior strength and heat resistance, making it suitable for more demanding applications.
Tayyaba Rehman
Sep 14, 2023
Polyethylene comes in different densities like LDPE (Low-Density Polyethylene) and HDPE (High-Density Polyethylene), each with specific uses. Nylon, meanwhile, comes in various forms like Nylon 6,6 or Nylon 6, which differ in molecular structure and, consequently, in their properties.
Tayyaba Rehman
Sep 14, 2023
From a chemical perspective, polyethylene is a polymer of ethylene, a hydrocarbon. Nylon is a polyamide, made from reacting a diamine and a dicarboxylic acid. The two materials differ substantially in chemical composition, which accounts for their different properties and applications.
Tayyaba Rehman
Sep 14, 2023

Comparison Chart

Basic Composition

Polymer of ethylene
Polyamide
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Sep 14, 2023
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Common Uses

Packaging, bottles
Textiles, automotive
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Cost

Generally cheaper
More expensive
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Strength and Durability

Moderate
High
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Types

LDPE, HDPE
Nylon 6,6, Nylon 6
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Compare with Definitions

Polyethylene

Commonly used in packaging.
Polyethylene bags are commonly seen in grocery stores.
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Sep 14, 2023

Nylon

A strong synthetic fiber.
Nylon ropes are known for their strength.
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Polyethylene

A lightweight, versatile plastic.
Polyethylene is often used for disposable water bottles.
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Nylon

Made from polyamides.
Nylon is a polyamide, giving it unique characteristics.
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Polyethylene

Resistant to moisture.
Polyethylene is often used for outdoor furniture because it resists moisture.
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Nylon

Comes in different forms.
Nylon 6 and Nylon 6,6 have different molecular structures.
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Sep 14, 2023

Polyethylene

Comes in different densities.
HDPE is a type of polyethylene used for sturdy containers.
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Nylon

Resistant to heat and wear.
Nylon is often used in cookware because it can withstand heat.
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Polyethylene

Made from ethylene gas.
The production of polyethylene starts with ethylene as a raw material.
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Nylon

Used in textiles and automotive applications.
Car seat belts often use nylon for its durability.
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Polyethylene

Polyethylene or polythene (abbreviated PE; IUPAC name polyethene or poly(methylene)) is the most common plastic in use today. It is a polymer, primarily used for packaging (plastic bags, plastic films, geomembranes and containers including bottles, etc.).
Tayyaba Rehman
Aug 06, 2019

Nylon

Nylon is a generic designation for a family of synthetic polymers composed of polyamides (repeating units linked by amide links). Nylon is a silk-like thermoplastic, generally made from petroleum, that can be melt-processed into fibers, films, or shapes.
Tayyaba Rehman
Aug 06, 2019

Polyethylene

A polymerized thermoplastic ethylene resin, used especially for containers, kitchenware, and tubing, or in the form of films and sheets for packaging.
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Aug 06, 2019

Nylon

Any of a family of high-strength, resilient synthetic polymers, the molecules of which contain the recurring amide group CONH.
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Polyethylene

(organic compound) A polymer consisting of many ethylene monomers bonded together; used for kitchenware, containers etc.
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Nylon

Cloth or yarn made from one of these synthetic materials.
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Polyethylene

A lightweight thermoplastic; used especially in packaging and insulation
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Aug 06, 2019

Nylon

Nylons Stockings made of one of these synthetic materials.
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Nylon

Originally, the DuPont company trade name for polyamide, a copolymer whose molecules consist of alternating diamine and dicarboxylic acid monomers bonded together; now generically used for this type of polymer.
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Nylon

(in the plural) A stocking originally fabricated from nylon; also used generically for any long, sheer stocking worn on a woman's legs.
I tore a hole in my nylons while walking home through the woods.
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Aug 06, 2019

Nylon

(perjoratively, by comparison to silk) A Queen's Counsel, King's Counsel or Senior Counsel who was appointed as a courtesy, rather than on merit.
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Nylon

Any of several thermoplastic polyamide plastics, comprising a family of high-strength resilient synthetic materials, used mostly in fibers.
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Nylon

A synthetic fabric consisting of fibers of nylon[wn1].
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Nylon

Stockings made of a thin form of nylon{2}, especially full-length stockings either sheer of of varying shades.
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Nylon

A thermoplastic polyamide; a family of high-strength resilient synthetic materials
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Nylon

A synthetic fabric
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Common Curiosities

What are common uses for Polyethylene?

It's commonly used in packaging, plastic bags, and bottles.
Tayyaba Rehman
Sep 14, 2023

How is Polyethylene made?

It is made by polymerizing ethylene gas.
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How is Nylon made?

It is made by reacting a diamine and a dicarboxylic acid.
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Is Polyethylene expensive?

It's generally cheaper compared to nylon.
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Is Nylon strong?

Yes, it's known for its high strength and durability.
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Is Nylon heat-resistant?

Yes, it can withstand high temperatures.
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Sep 14, 2023

What is Nylon?

Nylon is a strong synthetic fiber made from polyamides.
Tayyaba Rehman
Sep 14, 2023

What is Polyethylene?

Polyethylene is a lightweight, versatile plastic made from ethylene gas.
Tayyaba Rehman
Sep 14, 2023

Is Nylon expensive?

It tends to be more expensive due to its more demanding production process.
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Sep 14, 2023

Are there different types of Nylon?

Yes, like Nylon 6 and Nylon 6,6.
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Sep 14, 2023

What are common uses for Nylon?

It's commonly used in textiles, ropes, and automotive applications.
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Is Polyethylene strong?

It has moderate strength and is less durable than nylon.
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Can Polyethylene and Nylon be recycled?

Both can be recycled, but the processes differ and may have limitations.
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Sep 14, 2023

Are there different types of Polyethylene?

Yes, like LDPE and HDPE.
Tayyaba Rehman
Sep 14, 2023

Is Polyethylene moisture-resistant?

Yes, it's highly moisture-resistant.
Tayyaba Rehman
Sep 14, 2023

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to askdifference.com. As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.
Co-written by
Fiza Rafique
Fiza Rafique is a skilled content writer at AskDifference.com, where she meticulously refines and enhances written pieces. Drawing from her vast editorial expertise, Fiza ensures clarity, accuracy, and precision in every article. Passionate about language, she continually seeks to elevate the quality of content for readers worldwide.

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