Polyester vs cotton: what’s the difference?

You often see clothes and upholstery made of polyester or cotton. That’s not surprising: both are extremely popular fabrics. People often think they are the same material. But nothing could be further from the truth: polyester and cotton have very different properties. Polyester vs. cotton: at House of U, we would love to tell you all you want to know about these fabrics!

What is polyester?

Let’s start at the beginning: what are polyester and cotton? We all wear polyester from time to time, often without even realizing it. You may recognize polyester from the label in your sportswear. It is the fine, lightweight fabric that your running shirt is made of. But what exactly is polyester?

Polyester is a type of synthetic fiber. This means that it is not a natural raw material. Polyester is also the collective name for various types of textile, that consist of polyester yarn.

How is polyester made?

Polyester is made from two raw materials: petroleum and natural gas. Under high temperatures, some other substances are added, making the whole thing a viscous mass. This mass is pressed through a cap with very small holes, creating long threads. These threads are cut into small pieces called fibers. 

Good to know: 100% polyester does exist, but it is not all that common. For example, for clothing usually, a mix of polyester and cotton is used. And are you curious about recycled polyester vs polyester? In a nutshell, recycled polyester is polyester, but being sustainably reused. It is made from recycled PET bottles and packaging, and is also called polyester PET.

Pros and cons of polyester

By now, you may be wondering: does polyester breathe? Yes, it does! Polyester has many advantages:

  • it is breathable;
  • polyester is color-fast;
  • the fabric is crease-resistant;
  • and polyester is very durable.

Polyester also comes with some disadvantages. Clothing with a high percentage of polyester, is somewhat less suitable to wear during summers. Pure polyester can feel a bit sweaty, and it does not absorb moisture. And do you wear a coat in the winter with a lot of polyesters? Then you might encounter some static electricity, because the fabric becomes static due to the cold.

Fabric type: Polyester canvas

What is cotton?

Want to know more about cotton fabric? Let us tell you everything about this fabric! Cotton comes from the cotton plant and is therefore a natural product. The seed pods of this plant are the so-called cotton fibers. From these fibers threads are spun, of which cotton is the final product. Cotton is very versatile: it is used for clothing, curtains, pillows, towels, and bedding, among other things.

Pros and cons of cotton

Cotton is a very popular fabric. And we can understand that, because the material comes with many advantages:

  • cotton absorbs moisture;
  • the fabric feels soft;
  • it is breathable and light;
  • and cotton is inexpensive.

Beyond these advantages, the fabric also has some disadvantages:

  • cotton is not form-fitting;
  • the fabric can shrink;
  • sometimes cotton becomes faded after washing;
  • and cotton is prone to wrinkling.

Despite these disadvantages, cotton is easy to maintain. Just throw the fabric in the washer or dryer for a few minutes, and you’re done!

cotton room divider

Design by: Hil Driessen en Toon van Deyne

What’s the difference between cotton and polyester?

Although cotton and polyester are both popular fabrics, they are very different. Since they are both so common, you might be wondering: what’s cooler: polyester or cotton? Does polyester feel like cotton? Is polyester softer than cotton? Polyester vs cotton warmth: is polyester hotter than cotton? And is polyester like cotton?

With the overview below, we’ll give you all the answers to your questions at a simple glance.

Polyester Cotton
Polyester is somewhat denser and heavier than cotton. The fabric is popular for outdoor and activity wear because of its moisture-wicking and quick-drying characteristics. 

Cotton is breathable and lightweight. It absorbs moisture through its hollow fiber and therefore has a higher wearing comfort. Thus, cotton feels cool in the summer and warm in the winter due to the insulating properties of the hollow fiber.

Polyester can be allergenic. For some people it can cause skin irritation.

Cotton is very skin-friendly. When you touch it, it feels very soft which will make your skin very happy.

Polyester is dimensionally stable and durable. Even after many washings, the color of the fabric is retained, it is very hard wearing and ironing is also not necessary.

For cotton, shrinkage may take place. It also is a bit less durable compared to polyester. So be somewhat  careful when washing this type of material.

Due to the manufacturing process, polyester is a synthetic fabric. In fact, chemicals and other man-made substances are used.

Because cotton comes from the cotton plant, it is classified as a natural substance.

Which is better for designing clothing: polyester or cotton?

You may be wondering: which is better, cotton or polyester? We only talk about polyester vs cotton, but did you know that the fabrics are often used together? Cotton and polyester are often blended together to produce fabrics that have the best qualities of both fabrics combined.

So, what to pick when you design your own fabric? Polyester, compared to cotton, is more durable, but cotton is more skin-friendly. Each fabric has its own advantages and disadvantages. Once you are aware of the pros and cons, you can make the best choice when selecting a fiber for your project.

Getting started with cotton or polyester

House of U has a wide range of fabrics that are perfect for your new project. For example, all U-circular fabrics from House of U are made from 100% recycled polyester. House of U offers both sustainable cotton and sustainable polyester. Organic and eco-friendly!

House of U helps you put your print on product. Just upload your pattern to our design generator, select either cotton or polyester, and we’ll do the rest.

Inspiration and advice

Do you want to know even more about polyester vs cotton? Or are you looking for advice or inspiration? You can always take a look at our blog or contact us. House of U is here to help!

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