Cotton vs Modal: Differences, Durability, and Breathability

The biggest difference between fabrics is usually the price. If you can afford it then this difference is moot. If you can’t then you need to look at the other differences to justify spending that much money on a particular fabric. Differences do help you find the perfect fabric to use.

Modal is partly synthetic and partly natural material that comes with a lot of benefits, It is usually less breathable than cotton because of its tighter weave. On the other hand, it is About 50% more absorbent than cotton which is good for a hot & humid day.

To learn more about the differences between these two fabrics just continue to read our article. It has those differences and more so you know which material to use when you want to create something special.

Difference Between Cotton And Modal Fabric

When it comes to choosing a fabric for clothing, nightwear, and bedding it pays to know the differences. Those pieces of information help you make the right choice every time.

Here is a nice comparison chart to help you see the basic and main differences between these two fabrics.

Item Cotton Modal
Price Most options are cheaper than modal Can be expensive
Origin The cotton plant Beech trees and chemicals
Feel Soft Silky and soft
Biodegradable Very much so Yes
Type of fabric Natural Synthetic and natural
Absorbency Absorbs roughly 25 times its weight 50% more absorbent than cotton
Laundry care Can shrink, wrinkle and pill Resists shrinking, pilling and wrinkling
Thickness Can come in several thicknesses Usually very thin and gets thinner with each wash
Durability Has some good long lasting features More durable than cotton
Weave type Available in a variety of weave types Usually made into a tight weave

Cotton vs Modal Underwear


This will depend on your preference but while cotton is ideal, modal may be more of a luxurious material next to your skin. This applies to men as well as women. Modal can be very absorbent, does not trap perspiration or odors.

The good news is that when blended with cotton and other stretchy materials there is enough breathability in the underwear to keep you comfortable. Plus, modal is easy to blend with other fabrics to make underwear made from this material even better.

Then the modal material does not weaken when wet. That is good news when you are doing something that makes you sweat up a storm. Cotton remains strong as well so this may be an even match up.

What makes modal ideal over cotton is its short fibers that are spun in such a way that the material is very, very soft.

Pima Cotton vs Modal Sheets

The advantage that Pima cotton sheets have over modal variety is their softness. While modal material is made to be very soft and silky, Pima cotton rivals Egyptian cotton and the latter is just better than the modal sheets.

Where modal may beat its Pima competitor here is in price. Pima can be very expensive to buy while modal will be a bit cheaper than those ultimate cotton options. Being synthetic, modal sheets should last you longer than the Pima sheets but that depends on your sleeping habits more than anything else.

Then in the shrinking and wrinkling department, modal resists both so your laundry time should be a bit less stressful. Both let your body breathe at night but Pima cotton may be the more breathable of the 2.

Cotton vs Modal Pajamas


In terms of feel, modal may be more soft and luxurious next to the skin over the cotton pajamas. There is no doubt that cotton is soft and durable when made into all types of clothing including nightwear. It is just that modal is designed to be softer than cotton.

Where cotton will win the battle is in the breathing category. It is hard to beat natural fibers when it comes to this ability., The natural fibers can be woven loosely to make sure you do not have the night sweats.

Synthetic fibers, even if they can breathe, are made with a tighter weave making it harder for heat and moisture to evaporate into the air. Semi-synthetic materials have the natural fiber influence allowing them to breathe well.

It will depend on the manufacture of the fabrics which are warmer for you in the wintertime.

Is Modal as Breathable as Cotton?

They say that modal is woven in a tighter weave than cotton can be which usually means that the material is not as breathable as a looser weave. But some say that modal, despite its tighter weave, is supposed to be 50% more breathable than cotton.

Modal does absorb more moisture than cotton can and that ability makes it a very popular fabric to be used in making different sportswear. It is also a lightweight material.

Any comparison is usually subjective because of the depends factor. Cotton can be grown in different ways, woven in different ways so some cotton fabrics may top modal even in breathability. It will all depend on how the cotton was woven.

Whether you choose modal or cotton, you are not going to lose out on moisture absorbency, breathability, or softness. You may lose out on extra cash in your wallet if you choose modal over cotton clothing or bedding.

One last word, you may find that some people have a different opinion on this topic and pick cotton over modal.

Modal vs Cotton Durability


This is going to be a tough category to pick a winner as both fabrics have their strengths and weaknesses when it comes to durability. Modal is made to be very durable because of its long fibers and the tight weave used to make the fabric.

Due to its flexibility, cotton can be made in different ways making it a very durable fabric that stands up to the rough and tough treatment some lifestyles send its way. You will find contradicting opinions on this topic as well.

Since cotton can be woven into heavyweight material, that option is probably more durable than modal can hope to be. Right now many people give the edge here to modal because of its moisture-wicking properties.

How long either material lasts you will depend on how you treat the fabrics, how you launder them, as well as how active you are. If you live a very quiet and sedate lifestyle your clothing may last you forever.

Supima Cotton vs Micro Modal

This may be a hard category as well but in one aspect, cotton does wear down after being worn a few times and then washed regularly. The chemicals used in creating modal fabric give it an advantage over cotton in this regard.

Both materials provide a casual look with a refined flavor. This means while you are dressing casual, you are not looking casual as you would be if you wore regular cotton or polyester clothing.

Keep in mind that Supima is the brand name for Pima cotton. That difference does not take away any of the fine qualities Pima cotton provides you. This fabric is also made with long fibers which keeps it as soft and as strong as modal materials.

The real benefit that comes in this competition is when they blend modal with Pima or Supima cotton. It is just a superior fabric when combined and makes sure you are getting more than your money’s worth.

Is Modal or Cotton Better?


If you followed the head to head comparison, you would most likely conclude that modal is better than cotton. In some regards that is true. Modal is made to compete with and over-take cotton in many categories including durability, strength, and so on.

To manufacture modal, it takes less raw materials, like water, to make which is another few points in modal’s favor. Both are biodegradable but cotton is more so. That means on an environmental impact level the two would be in a neck and necktie.

But, and if this is important to you, there are chemicals used to create modal fabric. Depending on the type and quality of those chemicals, it may not be a healthy fabric to wear over cotton.

Finally, most cotton varieties are cheaper than modal which is a big factor when choosing one fabric over the other. In this case, the two materials are basically very good and on even ground.

Some Final Words

If you have to choose a fabric over another one, the natural quality always beats the semi-synthetic or the synthetic qualities. Natural is always better but other people may not agree with that as they look at durability, strength, and other factors to say which is better.

That is okay as everyone’s experience with these two fabrics will be different. Go with the one you like the most and feel good against your skin.

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