Cotton VS Polyester. What to Choose?

A brief comparison of the two most popular fabrics

Written by Camilla Moln. Updated on Can You Bleach Polyester

How many times we were standing in front of the clothing section in a store being unable to choose: a cotton t-shirt or a polyester one?

If you recognize yourself in this situation, then it is definitely the time to figure out what makes these materials distinct.

What Makes Cotton Our Favorite

Let’s agree: everyone loves natural fabrics for their, well, naturality. Materials made of natural fibers are very pleasant to the skin, they don’t cause allergic reactions or skin irritation, and of course, they are perfect for any season.

Cotton, in particular, is produced of the plant with the same name, and it undergoes two stages before turning into a fabric: spinning and then weaving. It is one of the oldest fabrics known in our world. Its history dates back to prehistoric times: the remnants of it were discovered in Peru and dated back to 6000 BC.

Since these natural fibers are hollow, the items made of it are soft and light, cool, and well-ventilated, and besides, cotton is known for its high absorbency since such fibers are able to hold water 24-27 times their weight. In addition, cotton items are strong and durable being abrasion and heat-resistant.

In terms of this, it is often more preferable compared to some artificial materials like nylon or polyester. They are durable and handy due to the shrinkage-resistance, but heat-sensitivity and artificial origin definitely make them less harmless to our skin. 

Of course, a wide range of clothing items that can be made from this material is another great benefit of cotton. This fiber is truly versatile: it can be used for creating anything from socks and underwear to blankets and jeans!

Polyester. Benefits Of Synthetics

What Makes Cotton Our Favorite
Photo by Denny Müller

On the other hand, there is polyester, an artificial man-made material that people assume to be very useful.

Its ability to retain shape and return to the initial size no matter how hard it was pulled or stretched placed this artificial textile among the favorite materials for the sportswear. And since polyester stretches poorly, it has deserved fame of durable material.

Nevertheless, due to the process of manufacturing, this fiber is very close to plastic which affects its appearance and the way it is felt on the skin. If not blended with any natural fibers, pure polyester (or its blends with other synthetics) feels somewhat unnatural and sturdy.

In terms of this, it is often beaten by elastane  that is softer, smoother, and way more pleasant to the touch. Besides, it’s super stretchy and elastic which allows this material to restore its shape after each deformation.

Polyester. Benefits Of Synthetics
Photo by S L

However, polyester, of course, has certain prerogatives.

  • durability
  • shrinkage-resistance
  • abrasion-resistance
  • a light weight
  • simple maintenance

The only thing that can make people refuse to buy it is probably the artificial origin and use of chemicals during the process.

Cotton vs Polyester

Cotton vs Poly vs 50/50 vs Tri-blends: The T-Shirt Test Part 1Cotton vs Poly vs 50/50 vs Tri-blends: The T-Shirt Test Part 1

Does it make sense to compare these two materials? Well, in some way, it doesn’t. One is natural whilst another is man-made with the use of chemical components which gives it certain prerogatives. 

Nevertheless, comparing their qualities would be handy for clarifying how to tell the difference between the two and choose which one exactly you need.

Polyester Cotton
Origin synthetic natural
Durability more durable  less durable 
Comfort keeps shape, but often pills. Generates static electricity. May cause skin allergy. Hypoallergenic. Tends to lightly shrinkage, softens with time, absorbs moisture
Breathable or not not breathable enough, tends to keep moisture well-ventilated, breathes well

Each has pros and cons, but cotton, even though being partly less handy that polyester, is more preferable option due to its safety and natural origin.

Frequently Asked Questions

⭐ Which is more expensive cotton or polyester?

Pure cotton is usually less expensive since it doesn’t need a complicated manufacturing process and chemicals for making the fabric.

⭐ What is the disadvantage of cotton?

It is predisposed to mildew damage, it pills easily, and it’s not colorfast (the dye fades in a washing machine/dryer).

⭐ Is polyester or cotton better for summer?

Cotton is better since it’s a cool and breathable material.

⭐ What are the negatives of polyester?

The use of chemicals for producing it which may result in the skin irritations.

⭐ What are the pros and cons of polyester?

Among the pros are: wrinkle/abrasion-resistance, strength, lightweight, simple maintenance. As for the cons, it can be harmful to the skin and it doesn’t wick moisture well enough.

⭐ Does cotton last longer than polyester?

Polyester is more long-lasting since its durability is higher.

⭐ Will 50% cotton and 50% polyester shrink?

Such a blend is shrinkage-resistant since cotton used for it was not pre-shrunk thus it’s prone to it.

Written by
Camilla is an experienced Consultant with more than 20 years of preparing professional articles for numerous online resources. She has done a tremendous job and has learned a lot during her career. Camilla will advise you on the latest trends and give amazing tips on how to decorate a house.
Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here.
Cotton vs Poly vs 50/50 vs Tri-blends: The T-Shirt Test Part 2Cotton vs Poly vs 50/50 vs Tri-blends: The T-Shirt Test Part 2