girl wearing blue jeans blank t shirt

Cotton vs. Polyester Shirts: The Pros and Cons

Aside from deciding what style of shirt to buy, selecting a fabric is the next most important priority. Cotton and polyester are two of the most common and popular options, and for good reason. Both are affordable and durable enough to withstand repeated washings. Depending on your specific needs, however, one option may be better than the other. If you are trying to decide between cotton and polyester shirts, keep reading to discover some of the pros and cons of each option.

Cotton Pros

Cotton has been used in apparel for hundreds of years and remains one of the most popular fabrics today. It is a naturally occurring product, and its affordability makes it an ideal choice for screen printers. It is softer than polyester and, if you choose ring-spun cotton as opposed to conventional, you will have some of the softest shirts on the market.

Cotton readily absorbs moisture and helps regulate your body temperature, so it’s good for year-round wear. Cotton fibers hold dye extremely well, so it is a good choice for tie-dying and similar projects. It is also biodegradable, so it will break down over time.

Because cotton shirts are soft and available in organic varieties that are produced without the use of chemicals, pesticides, or insecticides, they are also a good choice for those with sensitive skin. Cotton shirts are breathable and comfortable, making them the option that many swear by.

Cotton Cons

Because cotton is a commodity, it can fluctuate in price. While cotton is currently less expensive than polyester, that could change if there are changes in the marketplace. The natural fibers also tend to wear down a bit faster than the synthetic fibers that make up polyester, and cotton is more prone to shrinking.

Cotton may seem like the more environmentally friendly option because it is a sustainable, natural material. While this is true, cotton producers use more pesticides than the producers of any other commodity. This, of course, does not apply to organic cotton.

blue polyester sports fabricPolyester Pros

As a synthetic fiber, polyester is not prone to market fluctuations like cotton. This ensures a more consistent price. Its fibers are strong and do not wear down easily. This fabric is also more resistant to shrinking and wrinkles. It resists fading and holds up well to repeated washing and wearing. Because it is less absorbent than cotton, it is also less susceptible to stains. If you are looking for a moisture-wicking shirt, polyester shirts offers options that simply are not available with cotton. The material also helps keep the body warmer in cooler weather.

Polyester’s lower absorbency also means it dries faster. Polyester clothing requires a lot less time in the dryer than cotton. If your wardrobe contains mostly polyester clothing, you could save on your energy bills since you won’t need to use your dryer for as much time.

Polyester is popular among athlete’s due to its strength, lightweight feel, and moisture-wicking properties. This makes it an ideal option for jerseys and similar athletic apparel.

Polyester Cons

Though extremely durable, polyester is prone to runs and pulls. It is not as breathable as cotton, and it tends to stick to wet skin. The material is temperature sensitive, so if you are decorating shirts using a heat printer, special care must be taken to avoid melting or scorching.  Because polyester has a slightly rougher texture than cotton, it may not be ideal for people with sensitive skin.

closeup man black t shirtWhich Option Is Best?

Cotton and polyester are both good options, depending on your specific needs. Many people find, however, that choosing a cotton/polyester blend provides the best of both worlds. These blends combine the soft, natural feel of cotton with the strength and durability of polyester. For these reasons, 50/50 cotton/polyester blend shirts are some of the most popular among garment decorators. Shirts like Gildan DryBlend and Next Level T Shirts provide exceptional quality at an affordable price, and they are ideal for numerous applications.

50/50 polyester/cotton blend t shirts are ideal for low to medium impact activities, and they work well for polos and athletic wear. These shirts are not quite as breathable as 100% cotton, but they combine the absorbency of cotton with the moisture-wicking properties of polyester. Cotton/poly blends cost slightly more than cotton or polyester, but their versatility and durability still make them a great value.