Cotton vs Muslin: 8 Differences Between Cotton and Muslin

There are basic fabrics and then there are those fabric families that have multiple versions of the same fiber. Cotton is both a basic fabric and it has multiple versions of it. These different versions make the cotton fiber more useful and practical.

One big difference between these two styles of cotton fiber is that Muslin has a looser weave to it. Plus, it has a lower thread count than most cotton options as well as weave flaws being very noticeable. Muslin is also the test cotton before fashion designers use the more expensive fabrics.

To learn more about the differences between cotton and muslin just continue to read our article. It is filled with the facts and differences between these cotton fiber options. Take a few minutes to get up to speed on this topic and see where you can use muslin in your sewing projects.

Is Muslin Cotton?


Technically, the answer would be yes. Muslin is usually made from cotton fibers and it is predominately used in clothing in the Middle East. The material is best used for hotter climates that do not experience a lot of moisture throughout the year.

Then, muslin has been around for thousands of years and it is first thought to be used in Bangladesh, or what is now the Bangladesh area. often this material is used as lining clothing and as quilting backing to keep the cost of both down.

There are muslin fabrics that may be made from silk, linen, and some synthetic fibers but they may not be as popular as the type that is made from cotton fibers. Sometimes muslin is made from 50% unbleached cotton and 50% polyester fibers making the material a little stronger and more colorfast.

What is Cotton Muslin?

This type of muslin is a very loosely woven fabric that may only have between 120 and 130 threads per inch. The thread count may not go much higher for better quality cotton muslin but lower qualities of this material have the thread count lower than that approximation.

Then cotton muslin loses its color fairly quickly,. It is not very colorfast and will fade on you after a few washings or after being hung in the sun. The biggest difference in muslin cotton quality is not the thread count but the higher or lower grade cotton fibers that are used to create the material.

In addition, cotton muslin is made with a plain weave so there is nothing fancy about its construction or look. The material’s application is often seen in photography backdrops and some surgery needs and other uses.

What is the Difference Between Cotton and Muslin?

To get a quick look at those differences, here is a comparison chart. It fits in with your schedule and makes sure you see those differences before you have to get going.

Category Cotton Muslin
origin the cotton plant the cotton plant or silk, linen and synthetic fibers
years of use thousands of years possibly thousands of years
breathability very good excellent
fabric styles can be thick or thin, light or heavy weight usually lightweight and thin
manufacturing can bleached or unbleached usually unbleached
care easy to care for, can shrink and wrinkle, easy to care for, can shrink and wrinkle
seasonal wear all seasons but more for warmer weather best for hot dry weather
cost affordable very affordable

Is Muslin or Cotton Cooler?


If you are just picking up two generic pieces of both fabrics, then generally muslin will be cooler than regular cotton. The reason for that is that muslin is made with a plain weave and has a very low thread count and a looser weave.

The looser weave the better it is for hot days and staying cooler. But if you pick up a lightweight almost sheer piece of cotton then the difference is not so noticeable. Both materials will have lots of room for you to breathe as you go about your day.

Muslin is certainly cooler than cotton canvas and other heavyweight cotton fabrics. It is also cooler than the medium weight cotton materials. When you are going out in the rain or the weather is slightly cooler than it was the day before, you would want to wear regular cotton over muslin materials.

Muslin vs Cotton for Baby

The key to using either fabric to comfort and protect your newborn baby will be the weather conditions outside as well as if you use air conditioning or not. When the weather or your home is warm then you would want to go with the muslin baby blanket.

It is very breathable, protects against overheating, provides great airflow, and is lightweight. At least lighter than regular cotton. Those are all good characteristics to have when you want your new child comfortable.

On the days it is cooler than normal or your home’s interior temperatures are kept low, then you may want to use cotton as it will keep your child warmer than muslin will. Both are made from natural fibers so you are not exposing your vulnerable child to harsh and possibly dangerous chemicals.

The final decision is up to you and make sure you do some good comparisons when you are at the store. Cotton may come in more colors and designs than muslin so that is a good factor to keep in mind.

Muslin vs Cotton Backdrop


The better comparison here would be between muslin and paper backdrops as cotton is as flexible, colorful, and versatile as muslin is when used as a backdrop. Muslin is perfect for those times you need a white color behind your subject.

Plus, since muslin is cotton, you can dye that unbleached white color and turn it into whatever color backdrop you need. Then muslin is probably tougher than most cotton backdrop options. Despite its loose weave, it can take the pounding working for a photographer to bring.

The key is not to fold the muslin material as it will crease on you and spoil the look you are going for. Instead, it is better to simply crumple it up and throw it in a corner until it is needed again.

This material is also non-reflective making it better for photography than most regular cotton options. If you want to dye the backdrop, muslin soaks up the dye in unique ways making the back as interesting to shoot as the front.

The major drawback to this material for this specific purpose is its cost. Muslin in this situation may be more expensive to buy than regular cotton. But the pros outweigh the cons here and if you have the money you may find muslin better to work with as it will help your creativity.

Muslin vs Cotton Sleep Sack

If you are not sure what a sleep sack is, this item is made for babies to sleep in instead of using a blanket. The baby clothing item was designed to help cut down the number of SIDs incidents as it helps the baby’s young body breathe easier.

That is the key element in the muslin sleep sack over the cotton version. The muslin option has great airflow, breathes better, and helps prevent overheating. While cotton is good in those categories as well, it may not prevent overheating.

Since it is made from cotton, muslin sleep sacks will get softer the more you wash it. that helps your little baby sleep and rest a lot more comfortably. Both materials are easy to care for, just watch out for any shrinking that may take place.

muslin options may be a bit cheaper than cotton but their cost depends on who is selling them, how much of a demand there is, and what geographical location you reside.

Muslin vs Cotton Face Cloth


Which one you use here will depend on the purpose of the face cloth. If you are going to be doing a lot of exfoliation then you may want to go with the muslin face cloth over the cotton one.

If you are merely washing your face or do other clean-up duties then you may want to go with the cotton option. The feel of the muslin cloth is placed somewhere between a dryer sheet and a regular face cloth. That gives you the idea of its texture and softness.

The key to using a muslin face cloth is your skin type. Sensitive skin people need to be more gentle and not over scrub. if they do, then you may cause some skin irritation which is never any fun.

Ultimately, the use of either face cloth will boil down to your personal preference and your hygiene regime. Some experts say that everyone would benefit from using a muslin face cloth when cleaning their skin but you be the judge. You know your skin better than anyone and use the right one for you.

Muslin vs Cotton Produce Bags


In this comparison, the key is going to be the size of the food items you are going to buy. When your shopping is only for large, packaged items, then either produce bag will do. Or if you are going for large fruits and vegetables only, there really is no difference either. Both types of bags will handle the responsibility quite well.

But, if you are buying small-sized items like rice, seeds, nuts, and so on, then you may want a muslin bag to hold those smaller items. There are no holes in muslin which mean those small items will not escape.

Mesh cotton or polyester bags will let those smaller items slip through and you end up with less food than you thought. The other key to using produce bags is the temperature. If you are buying fruits and vegetables that need to stay cool at all times, then neither bag will be that good.

You have a possible 2-hour window before things start to spoil on you. As for strength, cotton is probably better. Muslin may be better at keeping items cooler because it has a looser weave and breaths better.

The Many Uses of Muslin Fabric

Muslin is a lot like cotton. It can be used in a variety of ways to help make life a little easier to live.

  • 1. Fashion designing - it is a cheap cloth to buy so it makes sense to get the bugs out of your design using this material instead of more expensive fabrics.
  • 2. Theater & photography - it is a great backdrop material that lends itself to your creative efforts.
  • 3. Quilting - its undyed look makes it perfect for quilting backing. Plus, if you want to use it for the quilt itself, the material can easily be dyed.
  • 4. Baby blankets - whatever your baby needs are, muslin is a nice soft breathable fabric that covers your child and your body well. It is also good to cover your baby’s stroller and keep the sun off your new child.
  • 5. Clothing - when the weather gets really hot, then reach for clothing items made from this material. its loose weave should help keep you cooler throughout the day.
  • 6. Furniture - if you want to lighten the room’s look or even accent different parts of antique furniture, muslin is a good material to use.
  • 7. Home decor - the material can be dyed to just about any color you want and placed in strategic locations to make your home look better. Or use the material as a ribbon to wrap gifts and upgrade their look.
  • 8. Cooking - muslin is a great replacement for cheesecloth or use it in food preparation, etc.

Some Final Words

Muslin is a form of cotton so you will not find a lot of differences between the two fabrics. it is a good alternative fabric when you want to save a little money while still have top-notch performance that cotton provides.

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