What is Mesh Fabric: Properties, How its Made and Where

Fabric nameMesh
Fabric also known asPower mesh, tulle, powernet
Fabric compositionA variety of different synthetic fiber types
Fabric possible HPI variations6-16 holes per inch
Fabric breathabilityVery breathable
Moisture-wicking abilitiesMedium
Heat retention abilitiesLow
Stretch ability (give)High
Prone to pilling/bubblingNone
Country where fabric was first producedEngland
Biggest exporting/producing country todayChina
Recommended washing temperaturesCold or hand wash
Commonly used inAthletic jerseys, athletic shorts, lingerie, shapewear, workout apparel, screens for screen printing, net
Power Mesh Fabric
Power Mesh Fabric

What Is Mesh Fabric?

Mesh fabric is a type of material that is known for its porous and breathable texture, which is achieved through the use of closely spaced and evenly sized holes or apertures. These holes are created through a combination of warp and weft knit or woven techniques. Mesh fabric can be made from a variety of materials including cotton, polyester, nylon, and spandex, and different types of mesh fabrics can be produced depending on the size and shape of the apertures, as well as the yarns and weave patterns used in their construction. Mesh fabrics are popularly used in sportswear and activewear due to their breathability, as well as in the manufacture of bags, hats, and other accessories.

At the end of the 19th century, textile innovators started using mesh for apparel, primarily in the form of athletic wear. Mesh proved to be ideal for athletic wear due to its breathable nature, which allows sweat to evaporate quickly and keep the wearer cool. Mesh garments like jerseys and shorts became popular among athletes, and they remain a staple of sports uniforms to this day.

Impressed by the warmth and lightness of the gloves, Haslam began experimenting with mesh fabrics in his mill. His early experiments with mesh resulted in a fabric that was stiff and uncomfortable to wear, but after refining his techniques and experimenting with different weaves, he finally created a breathable, lightweight mesh fabric that was comfortable to wear. He called his new fabric “Aertex” and began producing it in large quantities. By the early 20th century, Aertex had become a popular fabric for sportswear and other outdoor clothing.

Spray color blocking - mesh fabrication
Spray color blocking – mesh fabrication

Lewis Haslam, a British mill owner, was fascinated with the idea of loosely-knit fabrics after noticing the warmth of his aunt’s hole-ridden gloves. He went on to found Aertex, the first company to produce mesh fabric. Although Aertex is no longer the only supplier of this material, their textiles became a pop culture icon in the 1980s, frequently worn by celebrities on MTV.

Mesh fabric gained a lot of popularity in the 1980s, especially after Adidas started using Aertex mesh fabric as the main material for their sportswear. The use of mesh fabric in sports apparel provided an airy and lightweight option for athletes, and the fashion industry quickly took notice of its benefits. Since then, many other companies have started producing mesh fabric, leading to the emergence of various subtypes of this fabric.

Mesh fabric is typically made from synthetic fibers such as polyester and nylon. While some argue that the weave style of popular polo shirts could also be considered a type of mesh, this article will focus on traditional mesh fabrics and their variations, including power mesh and powernet.

How Is Mesh Fabric Made?

how is mesh fabric made

Mesh fabric production varies depending on the fiber used, with nylon and polyester being the most common materials. While these materials share some similarities, polyester was developed more recently, and therefore, its production involves more advanced manufacturing processes.

For nylon fabric, the monomers are extracted from petroleum oil, and they are then reacted with various acids to produce polymers, which are then melted and extruded through spinnerets to produce nylon fibers. In contrast, polyester fabric is derived from a compound called ethylene, which is a component of petroleum. Ethylene is then reacted with dimethyl terephthalate at a high temperature to produce a monomer alcohol, which is then combined with terephthalic acid to produce the polymer known as polyester. The molten polyester is then extruded through a spinneret to create polyester fibers.

At the textile manufacturing facilities, the polymer strands are fed through a knitting machine with specialized needles that weave the strands together to create a loose, open structure with a series of small holes. The resulting fabric is lightweight, breathable, and stretchy. In the case of power mesh and powernet, the fabric may be made using a similar process, but with thicker strands or different weaving techniques to produce a more durable and supportive textile. The final mesh fabric product may then be subjected to finishing processes, such as dyeing or printing, to add color or patterns to the fabric.

Manufacturers of mesh fabric often dye their polyester or nylon fibers before weaving them into fabric. The fibers are then woven in different ways to create various types of mesh. While some types of mesh, like the traditional square pattern, have been used for thousands of years, other, more contemporary forms, such as Tulle, may be woven in a hexagonal structure.


How Is Mesh Fabric Used?

how is mesh fabric used

Mesh fabric has a range of applications beyond apparel, including the production of fishing nets and net bags. However, the density of the mesh fabric can significantly impact its transparency. While a bolt of mesh fabric may resemble a net, higher HPI densities result in less transparency, which may make it a more suitable option for apparel.

Mesh fabric gained popularity in the textile industry due to its extensive usage in sportswear. From sports bras to shorts to jerseys, mesh fabric revolutionized the world of sports clothing during the mid-1980s, and its popularity has remained steadfast since. This type of fabric is especially common in sports jerseys worn in sports such as basketball, rugby, wrestling, and football, with most of them being made from synthetic mesh fabric.

Casual Mesh Fabric Breathable Bowknot Embellished Sandals
Casual Mesh Fabric Breathable Bowknot Embellished Sandals

Mesh fabric is not only popular in the world of sports; it is also commonly used in other types of clothing. The high breathability of this fabric makes it ideal for activewear like gym clothes, and top athletic wear brands like Nike and Adidas frequently use synthetic mesh fabrics in their products. Additionally, mesh fabric’s elasticity makes it perfect for shapewear, which is designed to shape and contour the body. Shapewear made from mesh fabric is particularly popular due to its ability to compress and smooth out the body’s curves.

Shapewear made from mesh fabric is a popular choice among women as it can help alter the shape of their bodies. It can be used to conceal excess fat or tighten up certain areas such as the abdomen or thighs. This fabric is also widely used in various types of lingerie due to its lightweight and breathable nature. Mesh fabric is also popularly used in industrial applications such as netting and screen printing tools due to its permeability and durability.

Where Is Mesh Fabric Produced?

mesh fabric in the world

Nowadays, mesh fabric is produced by numerous manufacturers all around the world, including China, India, and Turkey. These countries are currently the leading producers of mesh fabric, due in part to lower labor and production costs. However, some fashion and sportswear designers still prefer to source their mesh fabric from Western nations to ensure higher quality and compliance with labor and environmental regulations.

As a result of this shift in production, mesh fabric is now produced in large quantities in China, India, and other Asian nations. These factories use advanced manufacturing techniques to produce mesh in a wide range of colors and styles, which can be shipped to consumers around the world at affordable prices. While the quality of mesh fabric produced in Asia is generally good, some consumers still prefer to purchase mesh products made in the Western world, as they believe that these products adhere to more rigorous production standards.

Diane von Furstenberg Long-Sleeve Fitted Mesh T-Shirt
Diane von Furstenberg Long-Sleeve Fitted Mesh T-Shirt

In addition to China, countries like South Korea, Taiwan, and Japan are also competing to be the primary global producer of synthetic fabrics like polyester and nylon. With the growing awareness of environmental issues and the rise of sustainable fashion, some companies are also looking into producing mesh fabric made from recycled materials

How Much Does Mesh Fabric Cost?

In addition, the thickness and density of the mesh also affect the price, with denser meshes being more expensive due to the higher amount of material required to create them. The cost of manufacturing mesh fabric may also vary depending on the country of origin and the local production costs. As with any textile product, the price of mesh fabric is also influenced by factors such as supply and demand, production volume, and global economic conditions.

Additionally, factors such as quality, production volume, and labor costs can also affect the price of mesh fabric. Higher quality mesh, for example, may be more expensive due to the use of better materials and more meticulous production processes. Larger production volumes may also result in lower costs due to economies of scale, while higher labor costs in certain countries may contribute to higher prices. Ultimately, the price of mesh fabric will depend on a variety of factors, and it’s important for procurement agents and fashion designers to carefully consider all of these factors when making purchasing decisions.


What Different Types of Mesh Fabric Are There?

different types of mesh fabric

Here are some different types of mesh fabrics along with alternative terms:

Polyester mesh is commonly used in sportswear and athletic apparel because it is incredibly lightweight and has the ability to wick moisture. This fabric does not become heavy or bogged down with sweat, making it ideal for use in clothing designed for high intensity activities. Additionally, polyester mesh is highly breathable, allowing air to easily flow through the fabric and help regulate body temperature.

• Nylon mesh: One of the most iconic applications of nylon mesh is in beekeeping veils, where it provides the wearer with necessary protection while also allowing for breathability and visibility. However, nylon mesh is less commonly used to make apparel and is more frequently used in items like tent screens and laundry bags. Despite this, it is sometimes used to make lightweight garments like evening dresses due to its delicate and airy appearance.

• Tulle: a type of mesh that is typically used as a decorative element in dance costumes and evening wear. It is often found in brightly colored garments as an accent, and it is frequently bunched to create a textured appearance. While tulle can be made from silk, polyester and nylon are the more common materials used to create this type of mesh fabric. However, it’s worth noting that some manufacturers are using sustainable and eco-friendly methods to produce tulle fabric.

Camouflage Mesh Fabric Board Shorts
Camouflage Mesh Fabric Board Shorts

• Power mesh: a stretchy and durable type of mesh fabric, often used in sportswear and shapewear. This material provides compression and support while still allowing for breathability and freedom of movement. Power mesh is typically made from nylon or polyester, and it is designed to be more elastic than traditional mesh fabrics. While it is commonly used in athletic and fitness clothing, power mesh is also sometimes used in home decor due to its sheer appearance. It’s important to note that power mesh is not a brand name, but rather a term used to describe this specific type of mesh fabric.

• Powernet: a type of mesh fabric that is characterized by a dense weave, which provides firm support and shaping. This fabric is commonly used in shaping garments like control slips, bras, and tights. It is similar to power mesh in terms of elasticity and compression abilities, and the terms “powernet” and “power mesh” may be used interchangeably in some cases.

How Does Mesh Fabric Impact the Environment?

The impact of mesh fabric on the environment varies based on the material it is made from, but as synthetic materials like polyester and nylon are typically used, mesh fabric can be considered harmful to the environment.

The negative impact of mesh fabric on the environment is primarily due to the fact that it is made from synthetic materials such as nylon and polyester, both of which are derived from petroleum oil. This non-renewable resource is being depleted rapidly and is used for various essential products, including gasoline and engine oil. Petroleum oil is considered unsustainable, and the use of this fossil fuel for fabric production is being questioned by environmental advocates across the political spectrum.

The production of nylon and polyester requires significant amounts of energy and labor to extract and refine petroleum oil into fabric filaments. This process also involves large amounts of water for cooling purposes, and this water often becomes contaminated and contributes to water pollution.

River Island Mesh fabric Sequin and bead embellishment Kimono
River Island Mesh fabric Sequin and bead embellishment Kimono

Furthermore, the production of nylon not only requires petroleum oil but also a substance called adipic acid, which is made from a chemical process involving nitrous oxide. Nitrous oxide is a greenhouse gas that is 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide in terms of contributing to global warming. Thus, the production of nylon has a significant negative impact on the environment.

When polyester and nylon garments reach the end of their useful lives, they are often discarded in landfills, where they will never decompose. Furthermore, these materials release microplastics as they break down, which are tiny particles that can be ingested by marine animals and ultimately work their way up the food chain. As a result, the environmental impact of mesh fabric is not limited to its production, but rather extends throughout the entire lifecycle of the product.

Reducing the production of garments made with polyester or nylon fabrics is the only way to reduce the environmental impact of these materials. Even if they are disposed of properly, they will eventually reenter the ecosystem and harm the environment. Therefore, it is crucial to explore alternative, sustainable materials and methods for creating textiles in the fashion industry. Initiatives like using recycled polyester or natural fibers like organic cotton, hemp, and bamboo are gaining popularity in the fashion world as a way to reduce the industry’s negative impact on the environment.

Mesh Fabric Certifications Available

mesh fabric certifications

Additionally, if mesh fabric is made with sustainable and non-toxic practices, it may be eligible for certification from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) as organic. Similarly, the European Union’s organic product certification service may provide similar certification for mesh fabric that is grown in Europe. Moreover, textile manufacturers can obtain certification under ISO 9001 standards to indicate that their products meet high-quality standards. Other certifications may be available based on specific criteria or geographic locations.

In addition to certifications for recycled mesh fabric, there are also regulatory certifications available for non-recycled materials. One such certification is ISO 9001, which is provided by the International Organization for Standardization. This certification guarantees that synthetic textiles produced by businesses meet a set of regulatory rules to ensure that the final product is of standard quality. This is important for both businesses and consumers as it ensures consistency and quality regardless of where the product is sourced from.

Mesh fabric, typically made from synthetic materials, is not eligible for organic certification from the USDA or similar organizations. However, American companies can seek certification from the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) to ensure their products meet ISO requirements and other standardization principles. ANSI certification goes beyond ISO certification by incorporating additional regulations and guidelines. By obtaining certification, companies can demonstrate their commitment to producing high-quality mesh fabric while adhering to industry standards.


Author's Bio:
Sherry Lin

Sherry Lin

Sales Director of fabricstrades.com, a GRS-certified manufacturer of sustainable stretch fabrics. She love sharing fabrics procurement insights.

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