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Polyester vs Cotton: 6 tips to help you choose

Polyester and Cotton are similar. Polyester is a synthetic fiber that repels water, does not breathe well, and is not sustainable. 

While, cotton is absorbent, breathable, natural, and sustainable. 

The more you try understanding polyester and cotton, the better you can select a fiber meeting your needs.


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1.What is Cotton?

Cotton grows on plants and is a natural product. It is popular among the two fabrics when taken into comparison. 

By its nature, cotton is breathable, and it means the flow of air is easy through this fabric. 

It allows sweating and evaporates quickly. It makes the clothing and linen to stay fresher for more time. 

The advantage of cotton is it is naturally hypoallergenic. It means even people having allergies may wear cotton material safely without fearing the reaction. 

It is also the key reason that the baby and children’s clothes are in cotton. The same goes for baby fabrics and bed linens.


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2.What is the procedure of Cotton processing?

Cotton processing is about the fabric in the clothes. The cotton clothes undergo two processes, spinning and weaves. 

The spinning process is when raw cotton transforms into cotton threads. The weaving process is when the cotton threads are woven into the fabric. 

The production of cotton is involved and lengthy. It starts with planting cotton seeds to picking the crop to process.

Cotton was earlier picked and separated using hands. Today the production of cotton begins with a cotton picker. 

The cotton pickers pick the cotton plant or use a cotton stripper to strip the cotton bolls from the plant. 

After the process of picking of cotton, it is baled and stored, before sending to the gins.

The cotton bales at the gins undergo cleaning and fluffing so that the material is separated from seeds, dirt, and lint. 

Cotton undergoes the process of gins, where the seeds and raw cotton is compressed separately and stored. 

After the cleaning and fluffing of cotton, it passes through a carding machine that cleans the material further and forms a long untwisted 

rope from the short fibers and becomes ready for spinning or weaving. 

Thus, it is ready to ship to textile mills so that the production of cotton fabric continues.


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3. What are the characteristics of cotton?

The characteristics of cotton are:

1. Breathable- Cotton is a natural fiber, and its best characteristic is that it allows your skin to breathe. 

This fabric absorbs moisture, and so your body temperature is stable. The fiber structure makes it breathable.


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2. Soft, but strong- Cotton gives a super soft feel, depending on the finish and its weaving. 

The cotton plant is fluffy and soft, resulting in a cotton fabric that has a soft feel. 

The cotton fabric is strong and soft because it is an absorbent fabric and has lots of space between the fibers of cotton.


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3. Great for sensitive skin- The cotton fiber structure is flat. It undergoes very little chemical processing and is the reason it is much softer. 

The raw cotton fiber is longer that it spins finer. The soft and fine textiles are from the long stapled cotton. The cotton fiber is robust. 

It has a few more properties that it is also useful in the medical field. It is hygienic as it is washed at high temperatures, making it suitable for sensitive skin. 

Cotton fabric binds your body sweat and moisture. Moreover, it is not electrostatic, and so no sparks emit, nor do you receive shocks.


4. Easy to dye- The cotton fibers incredibly hold the dye that it receives dye evenly, producing a deeper color. 

The absorbent nature of the cotton fabric ensures the dye is taken easily by the cotton fabric, transforming into a variety of colors.


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5. Biodegradable- Biodegradable quality in fabrics means it easily and speedily decomposes itself or on using microorganisms. 

Cotton does not decompose easily and is a natural fiber. Organic cotton takes nearly 1-5 months to biodegrade, and it is considered healthy for the environment. 

Organic cotton refers to the cotton produced without using pesticides, chemicals, or synthetic substances.


4.What is polyester?

Polyester fabric is less breathable and heavy. It has a manmade substance. Polyester resists shrinkage and is synthetic. 

Polyester is fabric, but does not fall in the category of natural. Polyester has the inclusion of man-made substances and chemicals. 

Polyester is denser and heavier than cotton.Polyester holds dirt and stains. It is not cool as it is not a breathable fabric. 

Polyester is more durable in comparison to cotton fabric owing to the chemical makeup of polyester. 

It requires manmade chemicals to produce polyester, while it clogs the landfills as it does not decompose.

Polyester is derived from Petroleum. It is a popular textile fabric used in different industrial and consumer applications. 

It has plant-based and synthetic polyester fibers made from petroleum constituent, ethylene. Some polyester forms are biodegradable, while most are not.


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5. Polyester Processing

Polyester is derived from coal, water, air, and petroleum, as synthetic fiber. 

The polyester fibers form due to acid and alcohol chemical reaction, where the molecules combine and become a large molecule.

Polyester is manufactured following many methods. The four basic forms are filament, staple, tow, and fiberfill.


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1) The filament form has each polyester fiber strand to stay continuous in length, such that it is a smooth-surfaced fabric.

2) The staple form has cut and short filaments, as required in predetermined lengths. It is easy to blend with other fibers.

3) The tow form appears as continuous filaments loosely drawn together.

4) Fiberfill form is voluminous and is useful in manufacturing pillows, quilts, and outerwear.

 

Manufacturing filament yarn 

Polymerization

1) Dimethyl terephthalate reacts first with ethylene glycol to form polyester with a catalyst presence at 302-410°F temperature.

2) The chemical resulting is monomer alcohol. It is in combination with terephthalic acid and 472°F temperature it is raised. 

Polyester, newly formed is molten and clear, squeezed out to form long ribbons.


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Drying

1) The polyester comes out from polymerization. It is the long molten ribbons that cool and become brittle. It is cut into small chips and dried to ensure consistency.


Melt spinning

1) Polymer chips form a syrup-like solution on melting at 500-518°F. 

This solution is stored in a metal container, spinneret, and it is forced through round-shaped tiny holes, that are round. It may be any shape producing fibers. 

The spinneret holes determine the yarn size and form a single strand.

2) During the spinning stage, chemicals are added to make the material antistatic, retardant, or easy to die.


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Fiber Drawing

1) As polyester forms using the spinneret, it is easy to elongate nearly five times more than its original length, and it is soft. 

The forces stretching are the random molecules of polyester, aligning to form a parallel formation. 

Thus, the tenacity, strength, and resilience increase of the fiber. The filaments dry, and the fibers turn into strong and solid fibers.

2) The fibers drawn are in varying lengths and diameter, relying on the finished fiber characteristics. 

The fibers may be twisted or textured, creating duller or softer fabrics.


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Winding

1) After drawing the polyester yarn, it is flat-wound packages or on large bobbins, woven into the material.


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Staple fiber manufacturing

For stable fiber polyester manufacturing, the above procedures from polymerization to melt spinning are the same for filament yarn manufacturing. 

Nevertheless, the spinneret with holes produces staple fiber in the melt spinning process. Polyester in rope-like bundles emerges known as Tow.


How to draw Tow

The Tow newly form cools quickly in cans and collects as thick fibers. Tow lengths are drawn three to four times on heated rollers.


Crimping

The Tow drawn is fed into compression boxes, forcing the fibers to crimp at 9-15 inches/per 3-6cm, and this process helps fiber to hold in the manufacturing stages.


Setting

After Tow crimping, to dry the fibers, it is heated, and the crimp is set. Some crimp is pulled out of the fibers in the process as below:

1) Cutting- Tow is cut in shorter lengths after heat setting. Polyester blends with cotton, cut in pieces of 1.25-1.50 inches, and 2-inch lengths for rayon blends. 

For heavier fabrics such as polyester filaments and carpet, it is cut in 6-inch lengths.

 

6.What are the characteristics of Polyester?

The characteristics of Polyester are:


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1. Long-lasting- A manmade fiber is a polyester. It is resilient, and it withstands wear and tear to a great extent. 

The filaments of polyester are continuous fibers, and they produce soft and smooth fabrics.


2. Less fading- Polyester does not fade as it holds the dyes well. Especially, the high-quality polyester retains the fabric shape very well. 

It does not shrink. The coating on the polyester fabric does not lose color. The polyester material is treated using a chemical. 

It is fade-resistant, and safeguards from chemical and environmental fading applications.


3. Dries quickly- The fabric of polyester is manmade, and it is not absorbent. The regain of moisture is low in polyester, which ranges between 0.2 to 0.8%. 

The polyester fabric does not possess the wicking ability. Wicking is a process carrying the moisture to the fiber surface without absorption. 

Thus, it is light and dries quickly. Polyester absorbs only 0.4% of weight in moisture, and so it dries fast. The fibers are durable and can be knit into thin fabrics.

4. Less wrinkling- Polyester is resistant to wrinkles. The polyester melting point is very close to polyamide, that ranges from 250 to 300-degree C. 

The fibers of polyester melt and shrink from a flame, leaving a black hard residue. The fabric burns with a pungent, strong odor. 

Polyester fibers heat setting stabilizes shape and size, while it enhances the fibers wrinkle resistance.


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5. Nonbreathing- Polyester does not allow your skin to breathe, and it results in feeling sweaty or humidity feel causing discomfort. 

The moisture absorption is low in polyester, and it is hydrophobic. Polyester does not absorb perspiration, or fluids giving a clammy feel to the wearer. 

The fibers of polyester have low wicking level, but it can stretch and is stronger.

 


7.Polyester Vs Cotton: what are the differences?

1. Performance and Composition

Polyester Vs Cotton, the fabrics are different in their composition. Cotton is organic and natural as a fabric and requires processing to be ready for textile usage. 

Polyester is synthetic and needs chemical reactions in the processing to get produced. 

Cotton is superior in softness and comfortable to polyester, even when wet, during unavoidable instances when you are drenched completely. 

It is because cotton wickers moisture better from your body, and as it is breathable, it lets air in to dry. Polyester is unable to dry and tends to cling to your wet body. 

Polyester is also efficient at wicking moisture, and it is the reason it is used for athletic clothing.
It wears and performs better. Besides, polyester maintains its shape. It is not prone to shrinking or wrinkling, while cotton is famous for both wrinkling and shrinking.


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2. Weather Resistance

Polyester has an upper hand in weather resistance. The fibers of polyester are oleophilic that makes them hydrophobic. 

It means it does not absorb water or allow it to pass through. Thus, polyester is considered better than cotton in weather resistance. 

Cotton fibers are absorbent and hold to water for a long time. It also takes a considerably long time to dry than polyester that quickly dries. 

Cotton is good for regular office or house works. However, for adventures, you need rugged and water-resistant fabric calling for polyester. 

It is the right choice for backpacks, jackets, pants, and hoodies. Polyester keeps you warm, dry, and comfortable. 

It dries quickly and does not retain moisture. The material creates are suitable for outdoor gear, including insulation to thermal underwear. 

Thus, people going out may choose polyester for outdoor gear. However, paying attention to blends and fabrics is helpful. 

Look for nylon and polyester, avoid cotton as outer clothes.


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3. Durability

Polyester takes the lead in comparison to Polyester Vs Cotton. The fibers are durable and strong. 

Their flexibility helps in maintaining shape for a longer time. Polyester is durable and less prone to shrinking, fading, and wrinkling. 

It is also comfortable with pulls and runs. The polyester durability offers a clear advantage such that it is easy to wash and can go through harsh detergents. 

Nevertheless, cotton fabrics of heavier weight, such as jeans, last for a longer time and are durable.

Polycotton products blended with cotton ensure polyester durability. They keep the color and shape intact. 

They do not shrink or wrinkle, even on washing with hot or warm water. 

The cotton component has more comfortable products than polyester only products. However, the blended products last longer and cost less than the cotton 100% fabric.


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4. Sustainability

Cotton is a more sustainable choice of fabric as it is plant-based. But the cost is more than polyester, which is affordable cost-wise. 

Polyester washes better, hold colors and does not shrink.Cotton in the first wash shrinks and needs more care with drying and washing. 

It tolerates higher temperatures than polyester. Cotton is best to handle high ironing temperatures. 

Polyester in high temperatures will melt if you try ironing. However, as polyester does not crease or wrinkle, ironing is not necessary. 

Polyester is prone to odors and oil-based stains, but cotton easily stains. 

It may be cleaned, yet with cotton stains, there is a need to include numerous washes, and to get it completely out of the fabric there is a need for stain-removal treatments.


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8. Which fabric is the best?

Polyester Vs Cotton both have their pros and cons. Considering a mix of cotton and polyester offers the best results.

The best qualities are that both can be weaved together as a fabric. It is an ideal choice for home décor and apparel.



Polyester does not breathe. It sticks to the skin as you start sweating. Polyester is an elastic fiber and is tear-resistant. 

Nevertheless, it does not tend to be as cotton canvas, as abrasion-resistant. 

Polyester does not rely on nature’s forces for a harvest, making it less expensive than cotton, which is organic and pure 100% cotton.

Fabrics as poly-cotton offer the combination of two fibers strengths. 

These garments are tear-resistant, breathable, and allows them to be fashioned like canvas, as they are abrasion-resistant fabrics. 

It is not inexpensive as it has cotton in combination but is less costly than other 100% cotton garments. Besides, the mix as poly-cotton provides more comfort. 

The 65/35 cotton and polyester blend is useful as work garments, because of durability, price, and a large selection of color choices. 

Cotton fabric in hot climates is the right choice, even if you work in outdoor settings. 

Before deciding, ensure to take into consideration the environmental factors. Ecologically speaking, polyester and cotton have their drawbacks. 

Polyester is made from petroleum, offering a slight edge. Cotton is a pesticide-dependent crop, using nearly one-fourth of pesticides. 

It is a water-intensive crop. However, both fabrics require copious amounts of water, toxic chemicals, and energy in the manufacturing process.


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