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Top Benefits of Cotton Over Polyester

Cotton–everyone’s favorite, right? From soft cotton shirts to breathable cotton suits for summer to airy and light cotton sheets, cotton is as versatile as they come. It’s used in textiles for all sorts of items. There are many varieties of cotton, too: Egyptian and Peruvian Pima cotton (widely regarded as the best of the best), cotton-wool blends, combed cotton, denim, and more. How does it compare to polyester? 

Polyester is a synthetic fiber, also used in many textiles like cotton–in clothing, suits and dresses, sheets, pillowcases, and tablecloths. It’s a relatively new kid on the block (cotton has been used since the ancient Egyptians since 2000 BC) but it’s utilized roughly the same amount as cotton in the 21st century, sometimes used in cotton-polyester blends. So now that we’ve introduced these two materials, let’s show you the advantages cotton has over polyester. 

It’s Natural

Like we said before, polyester is a synthetic fiber (like nylon, acrylic, viscose). Cotton is natural, and grown in fields all over the world, where the fluffy cotton is harvested, cleaned, and then extruded to make fibers, which will be woven into textile products. It requires lots of warm weather and sunlight, which is why it’s usually grown closer to the Equator like Latin America, the American South, Asia, and the Mediterranean region. 

Since it is natural, it doesn’t require petroleum chemicals and plastics like polyester and other synthetic fibers do. It’s easier on the environment and is a more sustainable material. It’s also much easier to recycle cotton: old cotton can be shredded and cleaned and then re-extruded and reused (synthetic fibers can be too, though they must be melted and re-spun). Cotton is also a biodegradable material too, but polyester is not. 

And Naturally Hypoallergenic 

In case you didn’t read the paragraph above, cotton is a natural material. Besides being nicer on the environment, it’s also nicer on your skin. This is because it’s less likely to trigger an allergic reaction; this is not the case for polyester fabrics, which might be irritating to some others’ skin, even in a cotton-polyester blend. This makes cotton (and other natural fabrics like wool) the superior choice for people with allergies, sensitive skin, and dermatitis. 

It’s Lighter and More Breathable

If you’re chronically cold, you should move to the next one because this might not be a benefit to you. But cotton is a lighter material, and more porous than synthetic fibers. This permits greater airflow than polyester, and is the reason it’s an ideal material for lighter summer clothes, or airier sheets and blankets. It also makes cotton a great option for performance and sports clothing, too. 

Polyester and synthetic fabrics are in general not as porous and conductive of air, so they’re more insulating. That’s why they tend to be used in winter wear like ski jackets and gloves. In general, cotton clothing and textiles are more comfortable to wear because they’re lighter and more breathable. 

Cotton Handles Moisture Better

This is a part of why cotton is lighter and easier on the skin–it absorbs water and moisture, rather than repelling ang trapping it against your body like polyester. This wicks away moisture and sweat when used in socks and clothing, and makes cotton superior in hotter weather and for performance clothing. 

Since polyester clothing is more impervious to water, it makes you sweatier and your skin more irritable. But this same property also makes polyester more ideal for rain jackets, tents, and gloves so they don’t become waterlogged.  

Cotton is More Resistant to Bacteria and Odors

This one might vary a little bit depending on the textile maker and your own sense of smell, but research has shown that natural cotton products are more resistant to bacteria and odors compared to synthetic polyester textiles. Cotton does not hold onto odors as much as polyester, nor does it harbor as much bacteria in between washings. 

It’s believed that this is due to cotton’s breathability, which prevents bacteria from taking up residence and ventilates away malodors. Everyone’s nose is a little different, and you should still wash your clothes no matter what fabric they’re made of, but cotton should smell a little bit cleaner in the long run. 


At the end of the day, both cotton and polyester are widely used fabrics for good reason–they’re both very versatile and have different properties that come in handy for different occasions. That said, cotton is superior to synthetic polyester. It’s better for the environment since it’s sustainable, recyclable, and biodegradable. It’s also much lighter and more breathable, which makes it more comfortable for many to wear. And it tends to be more odor-resistant. Hence, it’s the superior fabric.

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