Advantages and Disadvantages of Cotton and Polyester Fabrics

Filed in Customizable Apparel and Goods by on October 23, 2017
advantages and disadvantages of cotton and polyester fabrics

Cotton vs. Polyester Fabrics

It’s important to us that garment decorators know the advantages and disadvantages of cotton and polyester fabrics, and of course the cotton/polyester blended fabrics. There are pros and cons to both types. Knowing those facts will help you narrow down which fabric type is best for your clients.

Cotton is the most widely used natural fabric for apparel manufacturing across the world. Being a natural fiber, cotton is a renewable resource and is biodegradable. Natural fibers, as opposed to synthetic like polyester, tend to be more expensive and isn’t the best option when trying to keep costs down for promotional items.

The greatest advantages of cotton is it’s breathability. In hot weather, it’s a great option for keeping your body cool. Even though it may hold moisture longer than polyester, in hot weather, this actually becomes a way to keep your body cool.

When choosing this fabric for your next order, keep in mind the end use of  the apparel. Are you decorating for athletes who need a breathable, flexible fabric? Or are you decorating for electricians or welders who need a fabric that will not melt to their skin if it comes in contact with sparks? You will find that cotton is the best option for these professions.

As we mentioned, Cotton can hold it’s fair share of moisture, which can be a problem for heat-applied transfers. The reason is because that moisture is released as steam as the heat press raises it to a high temperature. Not removing enough of the moisture will cause the adhesive to not attach to the fabric fibers properly. Your solution is to pre-press your fabric a little longer than normal to ensure all moisture is removed from the fabric before applying your transfer.

Advantages of Cotton

  • Natural fibers free of chemicals
  • Breathable – Great option for hot weather
  • Hypoallergenic and does not irritate skin
  • Burns as opposed to melts like polyester

Disadvantages of Cotton

  • Expensive
  • Natural fibers wear down faster
  • Holds moisture longer (can be an advantage in hot weather)
  • Prone to shrinking

Polyester, being a synthetic fiber, is a less expensive option and has many benefits that cotton does not. It has strong fibers that do not wear down as quickly, while being flexible and resistant to wrinkles and shrinking. Unlike cotton, polyester dries quickly which makes it perfect for colder weather and sports where you don’t want moist fabric against your skin.

Polyester is very popular among athletes for it’s moisture-wicking properties, strong fibers, and light weight feel. For heat printers, taking precaution when decorating polyester is a must. It is usually temperature sensitive, so low temperature heat transfers like Elasti Prints are needed to reduce or prevent scorching. Polyester also has a tendency to cause dye migration between the fabric dye and the decoration.

Advantages of Polyester

  • Strong
  • Flexible
  • Dries quickly
  • Resists wrinkles and shrinking
  • Inexpensive

Disadvantages of Polyester

  • Tends to stick to perspiring skin
  • Not as breathable
  • Temperature sensitive
  • Subject to dye migration

So what is the answer? Cotton or poly?  Cotton/Polyester blends are the best of both worlds. Take the breathability and natural feel of cotton and mix it with the strong, flexible and more cost effective properties of polyester. No wonder a 50/50 shirt is the most popular choice among garment decorators. A nice 50/50 cotton/poly shirt like Port & Company Core Blend Tee PC55 or Gildan DryBlend 50/50 t-shirt 8000 will offer you a great quality t-shirt with the benefits of both cotton and polyester fabrics.

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