Polyester Fabric Vs Cotton: What is the Difference?
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Polyester Fabric Vs Cotton: What is the Difference?

The advantages and disadvantages of polyester and cotton will be discussed in this article. Helping you make an informed choice for your next sewing project.

Cotton and polyester are two of the most dominant fibers in the textile world. Since ancient times, people have used cotton, a natural fiber made from the cotton plant’s seedpod. A chemical reaction involving petroleum, air, and water led to the creation of polyester, a synthetic fiber, in the 1940s.

However, these distinctions are only the beginning; to learn more about the special qualities of these fibers and how they are processed, let’s delve deeper.

What is Polyester?

Polyester is a petroleum-based synthetic material. It’s lighter and tougher than cotton and used for many of the same things. In the 1970s, polyester, a fabric created in the 20th century, was made available as a substitute for cotton in clothing.

Polyester is a strong, long-lasting material because of its artificial nature. Due to its moisture-wicking and quick-drying qualities, it is a popular fabric for outdoor and activity wear.


  • Durable
  • Lightweight
  • Easy to care for
  • Crease-resistant
  • Dries quickly
  • Moisture-wicking
Polyester Fabric Vs Cotton: What is the Difference?


  • Feels like plastic when worn
  • Can be cold next to the skin
  • Does not breathe
  • Melts under too much heat
  • Is not sustainable

What is Cotton?

Natural cotton is hypoallergenic, breathable, and comfortable to wear. All over the world, it has been employed for thousands of years in the manufacture of textiles.

Because of its adaptability, it is popular. Upholstery, clothing, bedding, and carpets can all be made of cotton. It continues to be a go-to material for clothing producers and home sewers because it is versatile, malleable, and simple to work with.

It is available in three fiber lengths that can be used in a variety of products. Short-staple fibers are used for carpets and low-quality items, medium-staple fibers are used for everyday wear, and long-staple fibers produce fabrics of the highest quality.


  • Breathable
  • Absorbs moisture
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Strong and durable
  • Versatile
  • Soft next to the skin


  • Does not dry quickly
  • Prone to wrinkles
  • Shrinks
  • Wears out over time
Polyester Fabric Vs Cotton: What is the Difference?

What’s the Difference Between Polyester and Cotton?

Although cotton and polyester are both popular fabrics, they are very different. You may be pondering which is cooler—polyester or cotton—given that they are both so prevalent. Does polyester have a similar texture to cotton? If compared to cotton, is polyester softer? Is polyester hotter than cotton? And is polyester like cotton?

We’ll provide you with all the information you need to know in the overview that follows.


Cotton is a very breathable material. The term breathable refers to the fabric’s capacity to allow moisture to escape from the body and air to circulate through the fibers. It’s one of the features that has made the fabric a staple part of garment-making for centuries. The ability to breathe makes cotton an ideal choice for the clothing worn next to the skin, particularly underwear.

Polyester is made of petroleum and is impermeable. In hot climates and during the summer, this can make clothing uncomfortable. The reason for this is moisture, or sweat, from the body is retained next to the skin. This could make the fabric clingy and wet, which would be uncomfortable for the wearer.


Cotton and polyester are both strong materials, albeit in different ways. The various weaves of cotton fabric are what give it its strength. Twill is one type of cotton fabric that is more resilient than others.

The density of the weave or the number of fibers per inch is responsible for this. The fabric’s durability increases with the weight of the cotton weave. Contrary to popular belief, cotton is toughest when wet, allowing it to withstand numerous hot water washes. Additionally soft and susceptible to damage is cotton. Again, this is down to the way it is woven. For instance, a cotton lawn won’t be as resilient as denim.

Polyester Fabric Vs Cotton: What is the Difference?

Extremely durable is polyester. The fibers are resistant to water, stains, and creases because they are made of plastic. They don’t degrade, making them robust and able to withstand a great deal of wear and tear. The durability of polyester can be a problem when it comes to disposal. It cannot be composted and, like all plastic, will rot in a landfill for a very long time.


Cotton comes in different weights and has a variation suitable for changing seasonal temperatures. Additionally, it makes a fantastic layering fabric. Even the lightest summer top can be worn in winter when it’s used as a layer under another garment.

In cooler climates, it is the perfect choice because it can be worn in layers. Due to the fabric’s breathability, air can move freely between the layers, resulting in tiny insulation pockets. You’ll be very warm if you wear undergarments, a t-shirt, a shirt, and possibly a sweater.

The inability of polyester to breathe prevents it from acting as an insulating material. Additionally, it shouldn’t be used next to the skin because it can make you perspire. In colder climates, moisture next to the skin is harmful to your body. You’ll freeze as a result of it lowering your body temperature.

You can keep warm in the fabric up to a point. Well-known materials used in jackets and hoodies include fleece, a polyester fabric. Although it does keep heat close to your body, fleece is not a very effective insulator by itself.


Because cotton is derived from the cotton plant’s fluffy fibers, it is already soft. Cotton clothing, especially when it’s made entirely of cotton, is soft to the touch and even softer to wear due to this softness.

However, not all cotton is created to be fluffy and soft. Numerous different types of fabric are referred to as cotton. The weave you select will affect the level of softness you get, ranging from a lightweight cotton voile to a heavy-weight twill.

Polyester Fabric Vs Cotton: What is the Difference?

Polyester is a synthetic fabric created from man-made fibers. It can have a somewhat plastic-like feel because it is petroleum-based. It doesn’t have the same softness qualities as a natural fiber. Over time, however, the fabric has changed. In order to make polyester more comfortable to wear, modern technology has made great strides in this area.


Depending on the weave of the fabric and the product it is intended for, cotton and polyester both come in a variety of thicknesses. Although they may have different qualities, both materials are used to create a variety of products, from lightweight to heavy-duty. Although the two fabrics have a similar thread count, they differ in terms of weight. Thicker polyester fabric is going to feel lighter than heavy-weight cotton fabric.

Although the thread count of a polyester fabric could be high, this only makes the weave thicker and the fabric more durable. A heavy-weight polyester will feel lighter than the thickest denim, though the weight will differ slightly.


Some of the best fabrics for wicking away moisture are natural fibers. Cotton and polyester are exceptions to this rule. Of the two, polyester is better at moisture-wicking than cotton, which is strange as it’s a synthetic material. It is the perfect addition to activewear due to its capacity to permit sweat to evaporate.

Cotton cannot wick away moisture. It absorbs it. In some ways, this is better than having moisture wicked away. You can stay cool because the absorption of liquid causes it to leave the body more quickly.


Polyester and cotton both take dye well and retain the color. Cotton produces a richer, deeper color than polyester because it is a natural fiber. The colors of cotton, however, fade quickly and are susceptible to sun damage. It tends to shrink too. This may result in your garment being one size smaller because dyeing calls for washing and drying.

Polyester Fabric Vs Cotton: What is the Difference?

Polyester may start with a less vibrant reaction to dyes, but it can hold on to the color for longer. Your favorite pink shirt will maintain its color throughout its lifespan due to its resistance to fading and shrinking.


Polyester resists shrinking because of its synthetic qualities. Consequently, it has become a go-to material for items that require frequent washing. However, a hot wash is not something it enjoys. Heat and polyester don’t mix well. As it’s essentially plastic, it can melt.

Cotton is renowned for having a tendency to shrink. Always, the first wash and dry results in the greatest shrinkage. This is especially true of denim, which is the reason why people used to buy jeans one size larger in the past to account for shrinkage.

These days cotton fabric shrinkage isn’t so much of an issue. Modern techniques and the addition of stretch fibers or polyester to cotton fabrics have lessened the nightmare of shrinkage.


There are many different weights and qualities of cotton. The cost you pay is influenced by the various weaves and cotton types used. The more expensive the fabric, the better the quality, durability, and weave of the fibers used.

The most expensive types of cotton are typically those with long staples. The long fibers create a high-quality, fine, and durable fabric ideal for bedding and expensive garments. Egyptian and Pima cotton are two varieties of long-fibered cotton that are both regarded as high-end products.

Polyester tends to be cheaper than most cotton, although its actual price is determined by the current popularity of the fabric and that of cotton. It has high points and lows but on the whole, costs less when compared to its natural fiber cousin. The easy-care, crease-resistant properties of polyester make it a popular choice. Polyester is a cost-effective alternative to the price of good cotton.

Polyester Fabric Vs Cotton: What is the Difference?

Care and Maintenance

Polyester is more practical than cotton in terms of cleaning. Polyester is crease-resistant and dries quickly. Water is repelled by it, and it is also difficult to stain. Another benefit of polyester, it doesn’t need ironing before wearing and can air-dry in no time. Reducing time in a dryer and time spent ironing will save you money on your electric bill.

Contrarily, cotton creases and requires ironing after each wash. It doesn’t dry quickly, which means either a lengthy stay in the dryer or a day out on the line. The fabric is easily stained, which may necessitate using stain removers or even soaking it for a long time.


One of the key differences between cotton and polyester is how they are made. Cotton is a natural fiber made from plant seeds. Petroleum is used to make polyester. Unfortunately, polyester is not thought to be very sustainable because it is an oil-based product at its core. Even though the manufacturing process doesn’t use a lot of water, it depends heavily on a different, rapidly depleting natural resource. Petroleum is necessary to produce polyester.

Contrarily, cotton is more sustainable than polyester, if not by a significant margin. It is a naturally occurring fiber that is obtained from the cotton plant. 100% cotton fibers are completely biodegradable and can be composted after disintegration. The fibers can also be reused to make new clothes or other items, like paper bags.


There are similar applications for cotton and polyester. Even though fabric is the most well-known application of both, they both have a place in the manufacture of clothing. However, some applications are more suitable for one or the other.

Polyester is used to create an artificial stuffing material for pillows and comforters. Polyester padding is used even on sofas. There is more to it than that. The fibers are utilized to create plastic bottles, hoses, balloons, and even ropes with high tensile strength. If you are a musician, the premium wood of your guitar or piano may have a polyester coating applied to it.

Cotton is one of those materials where every part gets used. Although cotton’s primary use may be as a fabric for clothing, there are some other uses for cotton that you probably weren’t aware of.

Polyester Fabric Vs Cotton: What is the Difference?

Which is Better: Cotton Vs Polyester?

When it comes to polyester and cotton, determining which fabric is superior is a challenging question to answer. They each have their good and bad points. Because of this, they are both popular choices when it comes to fabric.

Due to its durability and crease-resistant qualities, polyester tends to be less expensive, water-resistant, and better suited for constant wear. Cotton is a superior fabric for clothing worn next to the skin than polyester because it is soft, cool, and comfortable. Personal preference determines which is superior to the other. It also depends on the project you’re working on and the requirements for the fabric.

Cotton and Polyester: Similarities

  • Both are easy to manipulate – they both withstand heat, bleaching, and detergents.
  • All colors are dyeable on both.
  • Both materials have a wide range of uses, from clothing to housewares.
  • Both fall in the lower price range of fabrics.

Conclusion: Polyester Fabric Vs Cotton

We have contrasted these two fibers’ likenesses and dissimilarities. They have very different qualities and are frequently combined because of this. Natural, breathable, absorbent, and sustainable cotton is all of these. Contrarily, polyester is a synthetic fiber that doesn’t breathe well, repels water, and isn’t environmentally friendly.


Is Polyester Comfortable?

The fact that polyester clothing is made of synthetic fibers should be taken into account when making a decision. Polyester can irritate sensitive skin because it is not a natural substance. To most people’s surprise, polyester is a great material for athletic clothing and is both comfortable and practical.

Is Cotton Or Polyester Better for Summer?

Cotton clothing is often cooler and more comfortable in summer. It is supple, permeable, and strong. Because it dries quickly, polyester, like nylon and elastane, is a technical fabric that is frequently used in athletic apparel. The summer season’s non-active clothing is a great time to use cotton.

Is Polyester a Good Quality Fabric?

Polyester fibers are incredibly strong, meaning they don’t tear, stretch, or pill easily like cotton and other natural fibers. Because of this durability, polyester clothing doesn’t need to be handled carefully and can withstand abrasion from machine washing.

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