Cotton vs Flannel: 11 Differences Between Flannel and Cotton

Sometimes it is easy to see the differences between two fabrics. If one is a natural fiber and the other is a synthetic one then the differences are often very obvious. But when the same type of fibers is used, then the differences are very subtle.

One of the biggest differences between flannel and cotton is that cotton only comes from the cotton plant. Flannel is made from brushed cotton, wool, or synthetic fibers. Then, cotton has more applications than flannel as the latter fabric is seen as a cold-weather material.

To learn more about the differences between flannel and cotton, just continue to read our article. It has the information you need to be able to tell the difference between the two fabrics. take a few minutes and see what makes flannel, flannel and cotton, cotton.

Is Flannel Cotton?


In one sense you can say that flannel is cotton but then you could also say that flannel is wool, plastic, or polyester. The reasoning behind those statements is that flannel is made from cotton, wool, and synthetic fibers.

So technically, you could say flannel is cotton only if the flannel sheets you own were made from cotton fibers. if you are going to buy flannel sheets, the thread count is not the indicator for softness.

The makers of this material use weight instead of the thread count and the equation often used is grams per meter 2 or ounces per yard 2. The higher the weight the more comfortable the flannel should be. That goes for all three types of fibers used to create this material.

Also, the weight factor should tell you that you will be warmer with a flannel sheet or blanket on your bed than if you had a regular cotton sheet. That warmth is also seen when you wear flannel clothing over cotton items, especially if the flannel material is made from wool.

You should get more breathability out of cotton flannel than polyester or synthetic flannel shirt, etc.

Difference Between Flannel and Cotton

There actually is quite a difference between the two materials. This quick comparison chart will show you many of those differences in a few seconds.

Category Cotton Flannel
Origin the cotton plant Cotton, wool & synthetic fibers
Year of first use 5000 BC +/- Since the 17th century
Best season Late spring to early fall Late fall to early spring
Design A variety of designs Usually associated with plaid
Application A wide variety of uses including medical and clothing Limited to sleepwear, shirts, blankets, tartan clothing
Care Easy to wash Easy to wash
Wrinkle May wrinkle a lot Doesn’t wrinkle that much
Shrinkage May shrink a lot May not shrink
Breathability Very well Not as good as cotton
Warmth factor Not as warm as flannel Very warm
Cost Inexpensive to expensive Usually not that expensive

Polyester Flannel vs Cotton Flannel


Technology has come a long way since polyester was first introduced to the world. Back in its original offering, it was easy to tell the difference between polyester items and cotton items. These days the upgrades to making polyester have made it a bit more difficult to tell the difference.

The biggest difference you will find between these two kinds of flannel is in the strength and durability departments. Cotton is not as strong as polyester and does not last as long either. Cotton wears out with a lot of use while polyester can handle the wear and tear of daily use with ease.

Then while polyester does have a heat problem, cotton cannot take the frequent washing or drying in the machines that polyester can. If you keep the heat low enough polyester can be washed more often than cotton flannel can and that saves you a bit of money in the long run.

What makes cotton a better flannel over polyester is not the warmth factor but the natural fiber factor. It may be best to endure the weaknesses of cotton over putting plastic or petroleum fibers next to your body.

Flannel vs Cotton Sheets


Flannel is made to keep you warm, no matter what style it is made into. When it comes to flannel sheets vs. cotton sheets the former fabric will let you turn the heat down in your room and save you a few dollars on your heating bill.

Both types of sheets are soft and comfortable even the polyester flannel ones and flannel probably will last longer than regular cotton sheets even if used or washed more.

Then the flannel sheets should not wrinkle or shrink on you while you may experience both laundry ills with cotton sheets. The place where cotton may win this comparison is in its many versions.

Since cotton can be woven or knitted into different types of fabrics and thicknesses, it has a chance of being warmer and more comfortable than flannel sheets. The flannel variety that may compete with cotton on this score would be wool or synthetic flannel as the last one does not breathe that well.

Check the thicknesses of the sheets and which fibers they are made from before you buy. The drawback to flannel will be the synthetic version as that will have harmful chemicals as part of its construction.

Cotton vs Flannel Receiving Blankets


This is a hard choice as many flannel receiving blankets are made from cotton. That means the cotton flannel will be as soft as regular cotton, as absorbent, and as warm, if not a touch warmer. Plus, it allows your baby to breathe easily and not overheat.

Flannel cotton is as lightweight as regular cotton here making it ideal to wrap around your newborn child. Then you will have almost as many different colors and patterns to choose from so you do not have to stick with the gender-specific blue and pink colors.

The synthetic fleece flannel may be thicker than the cotton receiving blanket and it provides incredible softness which you may want around your child. It is a very warm style of receiving blanket and it is durable, doesn’t pill, and is good for any time of the years. Its drawback is that it is made from 100% polyester.

The synthetic flannel seems to come in a variety of styles including microfiber and if you like that version of synthetic materials, then your baby is not going to lose any warmth, comfort, or softness.

Use your expert motherly eyes and hands to find the right receiving blanket for your child. The cotton option comes in a variety of styles as well and they all have their own positive and negative factors.

Cotton vs Flannel Cloth Pads


The key to winning this comparison will be found in absorbency. If the material does not absorb very well then it is not a very good pad to use no matter what it is made from. The problem with flannel is that it can be too thin.

That lack of thickness means you have to stack many layers of flannel padding on top of each other making sewing almost impossible. You may like layers and that is okay but flannel is often combined with other very absorbent materials to make it work better and to cut down on the layers.

Since cotton can be made into different thicknesses, it is not only absorbent but requires fewer layers to get the job done. Both materials are soft and almost have the same durability with flannel winning that segment of the comparison. But overall you should use cotton over flannel to make sure your pads do not get too bulky.

It is possible to use both flannel and cotton in reusable pads for that feminine time of the month. Both breathe very well and are soft next to the skin. But as a core absorbing material, cotton is better than flannel as you need less of it than you do its competitor here.

Also, if you choose cotton over flannel as the exterior fabric, choose a dark color as that material stains easily. Darker colors will hide those stains. Using a reusable feminine hygiene product is also good for the environment as well as the sewer system.

The choice is yours in this department.

Some Final Words

Both flannel and cotton have their positive points. As you can see they are not that much alike except when flannel is made from cotton. You can go with a synthetic flannel as it is more durable and stronger than the natural fibers but then you have to deal with the chemicals in that fabric.

Both materials are soft, comfortable, and can easily be used as a receiving blanket as they will keep your young child warm, comfy as well as keeping him or her from overheating. The synthetic flannel will take longer to biodegrade so keep that in mind when you go shopping for flannel items.

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