Choosing Cotton or Polyester For Your Apparel Printing Needs

Cotton vs  Polyester

One of the main considerations when choosing a garment is what type of fabric is it made from.  We are often asked “Which is better?”.  The answer is “It depends”.  We can’t say that cotton is better than polyester or polyester is better than cotton.  They are two different fabrics with different benefits and disadvantages.

We would like to inform you about some considerations or issues to consider when choosing a fabric for your custom garment.  Most manufacturers make similar shirts from either cotton or from polyester.

ATC F222 PTech Fleece Track Jacket Charcoal Heather Front View


This is a fabric that has been used by humans for hundreds and thousands of years.  It is a natural fibre.  The source is a cotton plant, which grows in temperate regions.  

Biodegradable – Cotton is not man made, it is a natural product.  Thus, it will break down over time.

Breathability – Since cotton is a natural product, it allows your skin to breathe.  The cotton will absorb moisture.  However, it does not “wick” moisture away in wintertime.  A better fabric for winter perspiration would be wool.

Drying time – Cotton fibres absorb water, so it takes time for a cotton garment to dry, whether it is air drying or time in a dryer.

Durability – The durability of cotton can be adjusted by the manufacturer.  It can be a light thread with a tight weave or it can be made much stronger with heavier thread to make cotton canvas for tote bags.  The durability can be adjusted depending upon the use.  In addition, manufacturers may add another material to the blend to increase the durability.

Dye – Cotton thread can be dyed easily and evenly.  It is affected by sunlight which can cause fading over time.  When the material receives abrasion, it may also fade.

Sensitivity on Skin – Light cotton, made with a super 30’s count, is incredibly soft against the skin.  It almost feels as if there is nothing there.  Heavier cotton, such as a tote bag is much rougher on the skin.

Shrinkage – Cotton used for garments is normally pre-washed and dried.  This preparation removes the initial shrinkage.  When the cotton is woven into a garment, then the shrinkage will be minimal.  There are some steps to ensure that shrinkage is minimal.  The most appropriate way to handle cotton garments is to cold or warm wash them.  Do not use a hot water wash.  As well, the wet garments can be hang dried or machine dried on a delicate setting.  These precautions will ensure the longevity of the garments and their colour intensities.  


Polyester is a man-made fabric constructed from synthetic materials.  Its threads can be made fine, to create a soft feel or can be woven into a heavier duty material for use in tote bags.

Biodegradable –  Polyester is not natural, so it takes a long time to break down.

Breathability –  As a general rule, polyester does not breathe.  However, technologies have advanced so that performance wear can be made from polyester, but it has improved breath ability.  Another method manufacturers use is to combine polyester with another material, such as cotton, to improve the breath ability of the finished product.

Drying time – Polyester dries very quickly.  It does not absorb water.ATC F222 PTech Fleece Track Jacket – Size Chart

Durability –  Since polyester is a man-made fabric, it has been formulated to be durable and resist wear and tear.  

Dye –  Polyester threads can be dyed in a wide variety of colours. The intensity of colour, its richness, is not as good as cotton.   Polyester does not fade when exposed to sunlight.  

Sensitivity on Skin –  Some people have a reaction to polyester material on their skin.

Shrinkage –  Polyester does not shrink, nor does it wrinkle.  As such it does not stretch or shrink, so it holds it original shape very well.