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Cotton vs. Polyester: A Great Comparison!

Shopping for clothes and household items such as bedding and curtains can be pretty exhausting by itself. You have to choose the style, size, color, and probably most confusing, you have to choose the right material. 

When shopping, we often read the label that says “100% cotton”, “70% polyester,” or anything in between. So, what does this mean for us, and what should we choose?

Key Takeaways

  • Cotton is organic, and polyester is synthetically made.
  • Cotton is more comfortable, and polyester is lighter.
  • Polyester is perfect for working out in because it dries very fast.
  • Both have an impact on the environment, so make sure to use organic or recycle.


Comparing: Cotton vs. Polyester

Let’s talk about polyester

Polyester is a synthetic fiber that was created in the 40s through a chemical reaction between petroleum, water, and air. It’s basically plastic.  Because plastic is pretty strong the fabric tends to keep its shape and size while remaining smooth and durable. This allows clothes made from polyester to feel very lightweight. Also, if you are looking for workout clothes or outfits for traveling, polyester is often your go-to material because it keeps you dry. With that being said, polyester is not very breathable, and some brands tend to retain odor, so be careful. Make sure to put on deodorant before you hit the gym in your new polyester workout tank top.

What about cotton?

Just as the name states, “Cotton” is an offspring of fibers that come from the cotton plant. It is easy to deal with and is used in a variety of industries. Cotton is very breathable and feels soft on your skin, making it the perfect fabric for clothes, bedding, towels, pillows, and so on. However, cotton fibers might be hydrophobic if they do not go through a purification process.

Let’s compare.

So, we already mentioned that cotton is a natural fiber and polyester is synthetically made. This means that, more often than not, polyester is heavier and denser than cotton, which is breathable and light. Polyester is more durable, on the other hand, because the cotton fabric can start to tear from washing after some time since it is organically made and therefore is a bit more fragile. Also, cotton fabrics tend to shrink if you wash them on the higher setting on the washing machine, while polyester does not. And last, cotton is better for your skin, while polyester can cause allergies.

Both are used in apparel and homewares and are easy to dye in any color. And the best part, there are on the cheaper side of the price range when it comes to fabric.

Is one better than the other?

Depending on what you are looking for, one can be better, but we can’t say that one is generally better than the other. Let us explain.

If you are looking for clothes that are durable yet light, perhaps workout clothes, you probably want to choose polyester since it keeps you dry. However, we already mentioned that some polyester fabrics contain the odor, so if you don’t want to smell bad at the gym, and let’s be honest, nobody does, don’t forget your deodorant. You don’t want to be working out in cotton clothes, on the other hand, because cotton retains water and you’ll be soaking wet in no time.

However, if you are looking to buy bedding, the best choice will be to go with cotton. The same goes for towels, pillows, stuffed toys, and so on. Also, cotton feels better on your skin, so if you want to feel cozy, polyester just won’t do it.

Both textiles are easy to maneuver and come in a variety of colors and styles. You should have no problem finding what you like made from cotton or polyester.

Does my choice impact the environment?

Every choice you make makes an impact on the environment in one way or another. You, as a consumer, have the responsibility to make an eco-friendlier choice whenever you purchase something.  As we mentioned, polyester is a synthetic petroleum-based fabric, so just like plastic, it’s not easily bio-degradable, and it causes pollution. Cotton, on the other hand, needs a lot of water to grow, and it’s sprayed with tons of pesticides and fertilizers that pollute the soil.

The best choice would be to pick organic cotton or recycled polyester. This may seem like a bother, but remember that we all have the responsibility to make better choices for the planet we live on. This is our home, and we need to do everything we can to try to help fight global issues such as pollution.

Can I wash them together?

The short answer is yes. Some items are made from a blend of polyester and cotton, so there is no way to wash them separately, leading us to believe that they are safe to be washed in the same setting on the washing machine. However, if you have items that are 100% cotton and others that are 100% polyester, maybe it is better to separate them. Usually, washing machines have a separate gentle setting for cotton that uses warm water instead of hot.  Polyester, on the other hand, is more durable when it comes to washing.


Cotton has been around for centuries, but polyester quickly caught on after its invention in the 40s. Today both materials are used in many industries across the world. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. Cotton is breathable, soft, and comfortable, but it tends to be heavier and prone to shrinking and wrinkling. Polyester, on the other hand, is lightweight, quick to dry, does not wrinkle or shrink, and feels smooth and silky, but it is less breathable, can irritate your skin, and some people don’t like the synthetic feel.

Polyester is basically plastic, so be careful around the fire because the fabric can melt if it gets too close to the heat. We hope that his article helped you have a better understanding of fabrics and their advantages and disadvantages. The final choice is, as always, completely up to you.

Further Reading

I bet you liked what you read so far, go on and find out if sewing a thread goes terribly. There’s also a blog that explains if 50% Cotton and 50% Polyester shrink.

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