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Which Is Better - Cotton vs Polyester?

By Shirtspace | May 12, 2016 |  Updated Nov 30, 2020

Aside from the age-old question “What is the best shirt to get?” the second most frequent question we hear is, “Which is better- cotton or polyester?”

Below we've provided some general information regarding the 2 different types of fabrics, including pros and cons, so that you can choose which option is the best for you.

What is Cotton?

Cotton has been around for hundreds of years and it’s popularity in the apparel industry is not waning. Not only is it naturally occurring, it is also a softer option than polyester garments. What’s more, ringspun VS conventional cotton is the softest option of all and is wildly popular among screenprinters and decorators.

Additional pros for opting for cotton is that it’s breathable (not to be confused with moisture wicking), comfortable, and is currently the more affordable option (for now). Cotton is a commodity and can fluctuate in price, but it currently beats polyester in price. Cotton is also a great option for those with sensitive skin, as organic cotton is made without the use of insecticides, pesticides, and chemicals. For many, the upsides to using cotton far outweigh the downsides.

What is Polyester?

Having been created in the 1940’s, polyester has been around for more than half a century. Like cotton, it is an increasingly popular option in the apparel industry. Polyester apparel is more wrinkle resistant than cotton, fades less, and is long lasting and durable. It is a great option for a restaurant worker who needs a tough shirt to withstand lots of wearing and washing, and because polyester is less absorbent than cotton, it is more stain resistant too. There are multiple moisture wicking options available for performance and athletic wear, that simply aren’t available in 100% cotton. On the flipside, polyester is more likely to have runs and pulls, but in terms of durability, it is optimal.

Which is Best: Cotton VS Polyester

Some say the best of both worlds is a blend of 50% cotton and 50% polyester. These 50/50 blend shirts are generally less expensive than 100% cotton, yet still have the softness that you find in 100% cotton apparel. Even better, because these shirts are 50% polyester, you will find increased durability and a longer lasting garment.

If you’ll be selecting apparel for your screen printing needs, one thing to keep in mind is what type of ink will be used. Not all inks are created equal, and as such, you need to determine whether your ink is compatible with your apparel.

A good rule of thumb is that 100% cotton shirts can be printed using most textile inks (ie., waterbased and plastisol). But, if you’ll be printing on polyester or polyester blends you will need to check with the manufacturer of your ink or your screen print supplier to make sure you’re good to go in the ink department.

In the End, Is it Cotton vs Polyester?

Ultimately, there is not one right answer when it comes to what is the “best” material for apparel. There are multiple pros and cons to each type of garment, so it’s a matter of weighing what’s most important to you and going from there. Make a note of what you like and dislike about a particular garment and brand to keep track of what works and what doesn’t!

In the world of blank apparel and it’s infinite options, having a general understanding of the differences between cotton and polyester will save you many headaches in the future.


Moe - Jul 23, 2021

Problem with 100 cotton it fades and looks like used . Better 80 cotton and 20 polyster

Shammy P - May 14, 2021

You got me when you say that a blend of 50% cotton and 50% polyester is generally less expensive but still has a softness that you can find in 100% cotton. This is something that I will share with my supervisor at work since he is thinking of ordering workwear and PPE uniforms that would secure our safety while working. Since he considers the budget well, I will share this with him.

Diana Rodriguez-Amador - Oct 24, 2020

Is it sweater material of shirt material I bough one it was like silky

Abdul Hameed - Jun 02, 2020

Hi. I hope that you & the family are all well and healthy. Thank you for the information. I'm a man who lives in Miami/ FL and tired in this city that I never could help to make the ends meet! I decided to start a T-Shirt business so I bought two Heat Press machines and some tools I may need. I'm asking for a life favor if you plesse, can send me an e-mail to contact you. I o LY have few question to guide me. Thanks a lot...

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