Polyester Vs Cotton: Difference Between Cotton and Polyester

Two popular fabrics go head to head. When you do comparisons it can be a little risky as some people might get turned off by any negatives mentioned about their favorite materials to use and wear. But that is a risk we are willing to take so you can choose the right material for your sewing projects.

The biggest difference is that polyester is a recent man-made fabric while cotton is a natural one that has been around since the beginning of time. Also, polyester comes from oil products and cotton is picked from a plant and no oil is not a natural product.

To learn more about the differences between these two fabrics, just continue to read our article. It lists those differences so you can make an intelligent decision when buying your next load of fabric.

Difference Between Cotton And Polyester

Here is a quick comparison chart to help you see the differences while you are in a hurry and just getting ready to move on to your next appointment.

Item Cotton Polyester
Summer wear Great for summer and all seasons Not so good for summer or hot days in other seasons
Construction All natural coming from the cotton plant Man made and comes from petroleum products
Durability Cotton is weaker in this area than polyester This is a very durable product
Colors While this fabric can come in many colors those colors can fade quickly The same goes for polyester except its colors are more fade resistant
Allergies Cotton is hypoallergenic and very good with people with sensitive skin This material may trigger some allergies due to the chemicals involved as well as those oil products
Breathability This material is very breathable Polyester does not breathe very well
Moisture absorbing Cotton absorbs ore moisture than polyester Polyester is water repellent so it doe snot absorb as much moisture as cotton
Cost Very affordable and easy on the budget Even cheaper than cotton in some places
Washing Can shrink, and get wrinkled Resists wrinkling and shrinking
Bedding Helps you stay cool and should prevent sweating May have you sleep hotter and may produce night sweats
Feel Comes with a nice soft natural feel to the cloth May have an artificial feel to the material although it too can be soft

Which One is Better Cotton or Polyester?


While both fabrics have their supporters and they both have distinct purposes it is easier to decide which one is better because their purposes cross over and tackle the same issues.

Polyester was made by a corporation to help people have an easier time doing their laundry. While cotton can shrink, wrinkle, and needs ironing polyester resists both removing the need to iron, saving women lots of time.

Also, polyester is stronger and more durable than cotton is and clothing made from that fabric can last for years. Cotton’s lifespan is not so fortunate but at least it is softer than polyester and can breathe a lot better than its competitor can.

Plus, cotton dyes a lot easier than polyester and you can easily change the color or cover bleach mistakes on cotton than you can with polyester. Then environmentally cotton stands out as the friendlier fabric for various reasons better left to another article.

When one compares all the elements involved with both fabrics, the point that tips the scales the most in cotton’s favor is that it is a natural fiber and it just feels better than polyester does.

Is Polyester Warmer Than Cotton?

In one sense yes it is. Polyester doe snot breath that well and moisture and body heat can get trapped between your body and the fabric. This doesn't allow for cooler air to make it all the way through to your skin.

But each fabric is made in several different types and you would have to compare each type against similar versions of the opposing fabric to make a definitive answer. When woven with other materials, polyester can be warmer than 100% cotton.

But blend cotton with those same materials and it might be a different story. Polyester is usually made with a tight weave and as they say, the tighter the weave the warmer and less breathable the fabric. While cotton can be woven in tight or loose weaves polyester should still be warmer as it is made for cold weather.

What's Softer Polyester or Cotton

This competition would go to cotton and there is a very good reason for this decision. Polyester is basically plastic and plastic is not as soft or softer than natural fibers. No matter how many chemicals are added to the construction of polyester you can’t beat that fact.

The exception to this rule would be when cotton is woven into some very thick and rough materials. But even here you may think that cotton is still softer even though it is rougher than polyester.

The reason for that statement is that polyester always seems to have an artificial feel to it. No matter how soft the fabric is, that artificial feel just makes the material seem fake and less soft than other fabrics like cotton.

In our minds, cotton wins this competition because natural fibers feel good, are very soft and when you boost their thread count, you get even more softness and comfort. Those factors play a large role in determining which fabric is softer than another.

Is Polyester or Cotton More Breathable?


One of the things you will find when you spend more time sewing and in fabrics, synthetic materials do not breathe that well. No matter how much manipulation is done to the fabric’s formula, breathing is something that is left up to natural fibers.

Of course, the tightness of the weave or lack thereof will have some synthetic materials breathing better than other man-made fabrics. But that difference still doe snot top natural fibers.

Cotton breathes better than polyester which is why the latter fabric is reserved more for winter than used in the summer. The high summer heat does not work well with polyester and wearing that fabric may make you very uncomfortable.

On the other hand, cotton helps get rid of moisture and heat so you stay more comfortable throughout all your appointments. Its only drawback is that it absorbs a lot of moisture and takes a long time to dry.

You may end up with some body odor issues if you wear cotton after sweating in it a lot.

Which is More Expensive Polyester Or Cotton?

Depending on the quality of both fabrics, generally polyester is cheaper than cotton although recycled polyester can end up being more expensive than that natural fabric. The price of the materials, both of them,. depend a lot on the cost of manufacturing, shipping, what other ingredients are used as well as the end-use of the fabrics.

That means you will find some cotton materials are cheaper than polyester while others are more expensive. On top of that, the quality of both fabrics plays a role in their costs as well. The lesser the quality, the lower the price which can make one fabric cheaper than the other.

If you are a business person, you will know that quantity plays a role in the price. How much you buy at one time will either lower your by the yard price or raise it. When you have lots of storage space, you can buy more of one fabric and make it cheaper than the other.

Finally, supply and demand influence the price, and cotton is very popular. That is one reason why it is priced higher than polyester at times. More people want that over its competitor.

Polyester vs Cotton Weight

Generally, this would be viewed as a tie as both fabrics come in a variety of weights and are fairly equal to each other. The qualities that make either fabric superior to the other would still be a factor in this category.

When comparing weighted blankets though, you should notice their comfort levels, how well they regulate temperatures, hypoallergenic properties, durability, the designs they come in, their therapeutic abilities, and their cost.

Since each blanket is different and sold in different qualities as well as markets, this is something you would have to compare yourselves. Your standards may be different than ours and we would pick cotton every time over polyester.

The health reason alone is enough to tip the scales in cotton’s favor and polyester is full of harsh chemicals and plastic which may burn easier than cotton would. 100% cotton is fine and you do not need to pay the extra money for 100% organic cotton. You are not getting much for the extra cost.

Which is Cooler Cotton or Polyester


Cotton is almost always cooler than polyester. There may be some very lightweight polyester fabrics on sale but when compared to similar lightweight cotton fabrics, cotton still breathes better.

Even when you put cotton sheets on your bed, you will stay cooler than if you placed polyester sheets on your mattress. This is good only when the nights are hot, humid, or really warm. Polyester would be the better choice for the late autumn and winter months.

That fabric will keep you warm while you wait for the warmer weather to return. As previous sections have shown, how cool you remain wearing cotton or polyester depends on several factors including the thickness and weight of the fabrics.

The thicker the cotton, the warmer it will be and if cotton is woven in a tight weave then do not expect that material to keep you cool. Breathability depends on loose weaves and lighter-weight materials.

Does Polyester or Cotton Shrink More

Cotton will shrink more. There is no real contest here as polyester was designed to resist shrinking. Of course, cotton can be treated with chemicals to help it avoid shrinking but that doesn’t mean it won’t.

The good news about cotton shrinking is that it usually only does this once. When that act is done, you can launder cotton worry-free. If you could control the shrink rate, you could pick the larger size with ease and let the washer and dryer make the clothing item fit.

Only if this was a perfect world would that take place. Polyester may shrink as it is only shrink-resistant. The same principle applies to this fabric as it does to cotton. Being shrink resistant only means that it is harder to shrink, not that it will never shrink.

Then there is that shrinkage problem that has nothing to do with how the material was washed or dried. Diet and exercise are the only items that will solve that problem and get the clothing to fit again no matter if they are made from cotton or polyester.

Are Polyester or Cotton Sheets Better?

We are a little biased here as we prefer natural fibers over the man-made ones. Healthwise, polyester sheets can trigger allergies and asthma. That fact overshadows the positive points that come with polyester, for example keeping you warm and lasting along time.

For durability sake, polyester is better than cotton and when winter comes, cotton sheets are a little too cool for the cooler temperatures. If you turn the heat up at night so the room stays warmer, you may want to use cotton sheets then so you do not sweat throughout the night.

For color and designs, both fabrics come in a large variety so you can match your room’s decor with ease. Cost-wise, polyester may win this aspect as polyester is usually cheaper than cotton can be.

As to which one is better, it will boil down to your preference and how you do your laundry. Polyester sheets should not wrinkle or shrink on you when you wash them.

Polyester Shirt vs Cotton


For durability, the points go to polyester. This is a plastic fabric that lasts along time. In fact, if you toss out a good polyester shirt and it reaches the landfill, it may still be there by the time your grandchildren became adults.

The artificial feel and plastic-like quality are points against this fabric but they do save you on laundry and ironing time. Cotton may take more work to clean and have look great but you can’t beat that natural softness and feel.

Both shirts come in a variety of designs and colors so you have no trouble displaying your fashion sense to friends and strangers. If you like natural fibers go cotton, that is a great material that helps you look professional.

Polyester vs Cotton For Baby

A lot will depend on your preferences and budget. Both fabrics have good and bad points when it comes to clothing your baby or providing them with bedding. Cotton is obviously softer, and better against your baby’s skin, plus it is healthier material to have next to sensitive children.

Polyester may be disqualified because it is made from petroleum products and a lot of harsh chemicals. Also, its artificial feel may make babies feel more uncomfortable than if they were wearing cotton clothing and sleeping under a cotton blanket.

In the end, you are the one who needs to make the right decision for your child and natural fibers are always better than fake ones. Even if the latter last longer and can handle the child’s treatment better.

Polyester vs Cotton Hoodie

If cost is important to you, like it is for so many people, then you would probably want to buy the polyester hoodie over the 100% cotton one. The latter clothing item is about 2 to 3 times more expensive than the former one. That cost is a little prohibitive for some budgets.

Polyester hoodies are also stronger than cotton ones and should last a lot longer. Then if you leave the garment out in the sun, the cotton version may fade a lot faster than the polyester option.

There is no real decision to make here as many manufactures and stores make and stock either 100% rayon, 100% polyester, or an 80% polyester to 20% cotton blend. In other words, you may not find a cotton hoodie outside of a thrift store. Even then you are pushing your luck.

If you can find a 100% cotton hoodie go with that over polyester. The difference is eating a homemade apple pie made by your grandmother and eating one made by McDonald's.

Some Final Words

When you stack up all the facts, polyester has some good points that make it a worthwhile fabric to use in your sewing projects or have in your wardrobe. Yet, all its good points do not beat 100% natural cotton.

Real material is better next to your skin than plastic.

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