Cotton vs. Polyester: Which is better and the differences between Cotton and Polyester

Choosing the fabric of your companies’ uniforms is a big decision and many factors go into choosing the right fabric that will work best for your employees’ uniform and business industry. Your employees will be wearing their uniforms every day, so ensuring the fabric of their uniforms is comfortable and suited for the industry is important for comfort and the needs the uniform must provide.

Cotton and polyester are the two most popular fabrics for uniforms, they both have pros and cons but the biggest defining factor which will go into choosing cotton or polyester for your businesses uniforms are will the right fabric keep your employees comfortable while working, does the fabric keep employees looking their best, does the fabric provide protection for your businesses specific industry, and will it last a long time.

What is Cotton?

Cotton has been around for a long time; it is a natural fiber is grown for a plethora of uses besides clothing and uniforms. Cotton makes up for around 70% of the clothing market, making it the most popular fabric worldwide. Cotton is hypoallergenic and can be worn by most people even if they have sensitive skin. It is one of the more breathable fabrics available, so employees working in hot and humid environments are more likely to stay comfortable, stabilize body temperature, and absorb moisture or sweat. Being both soft and versatile. Cotton can be used for any uniform clothing item, all the way down to socks.

Since cotton is a natural fiber is picked from around the cotton plant’s seedpods and woven into yarn, cotton is biodegradable. This makes cotton one of the more environmentally friendly fabrics you can use for your uniforms. Cotton is versatile and easy to manipulate, so you can easily use cotton to create uniforms match your company’s brand. However, since it absorbs water easily cotton is not suitable for wet weather and can put employees working in specific industries in danger. Cotton uniforms can shrink when washed unless the uniforms are pre-shrunk by their manufacturer and wrinkle easily, and color can fade over time with sun exposure.

Cotton Pros

  • Hypoallergenic
  • Breathable
  • Absorbs sweat and moisture
  • Comfortable
  • Affordable
  • Versatile
  • Bleachable

Cotton Cons

  • Dries slow when wet
  • Stains easily
  • Wrinkles
  • Shrinks if not pre-shrunk
  • Color fades over time

What is Polyester?

Polyester is a man-made synthetic fiber weaving into fibers or yarn. Polyester is made by combining terephthalic acid and ethylene glycol and is basically a type of plastic. Polyester was invented by John Whitefield in 1914. Polyester is a long-lasting and resilient fabric can withstand a lot of wear. It does not shrink regardless of how many times it is washed and dried.

Polyester does not wrinkle, which is why it became an extremely popular fabric in both the fashion industry and the uniform industry. Because it does not wrinkle, uniforms do not need to be ironed and look great no matter what. Because polyester fibers are woven extremely tight, polyester is stain resistant. This makes it harder for liquids to penetrate the fabric and create a stain, however, oil can penetrate the fabric, so polyester is not resistant to all oil stains. Because the fiber of polyester fabric is woven so tight, it can make it harder for detergents to penetrate the fabric and remove stains as well. Typically, a stain on polyester is very hard to remove due to the nature of the fabric.  Polyester dries quickly when wet, so jobs which require exposure to water are better off using polyester. Polyester can help employees stay cool longer if they are working in hot areas or performing a labor-intensive job. Lots of clothing companies have introduced “dri-fit” clothing options are made from polyester. Even though polyester can help employees stay cool, they may end up sweating more because polyester is a very breathable fabric due to its tight woven nature. Regardless, of extra perspiration, polyester is odor-resistant and even if employees tend to sweat more in their polyester uniforms, they hopefully will not smell as bad.

Polyester Pros

  • Long-lasting and durable
  • Lightweight
  • Moisture-wicking
  • Dries quick
  • Stain-resistant
  • Wrinkle-resistant
  • Does not shrink or stretch out
  • Color does not fade over time
  • Oder-resistant

Polyester Cons

  • Not as comfortable
  • Can easily irritate the skin
  • Not breathable
  • Synthetic
  • Limited fabric and color options

How to Choose the Right Uniform Fabric?

When choosing the right fabric for your uniforms, you do not have to choose one over the other. You can easily mix and match all types of fabric to create a uniform best suits your uniform needs. Choosing the best fabric will come down to what fabric is going to perform best within your company’s industry and the types of jobs your employees are performing. Cotton will allow you the versatility of uniform customization, it is comfortable and soft, and employees with sensitive skin will not have an issue wearing this hypoallergenic fabric all day, every day. If your cotton uniforms are properly laundered and taken care of, they will last a while and provide breathable comfort for years. Polyester can limit the options for designing your business’s uniforms, but they will not shrink, wrinkle, or smell. This fabric dries quickly so it is ideal for jobs which require being out in the rain and weather or around water. It will help keep employees cool throughout the day with its moister wicking ability and they last a long time.

Choosing cotton or polyester for your employee’s uniforms will determine how comfortable they are throughout the day and how well they can perform the duties their job requires while withstanding time. Asking your employees what fabric they would prefer and taking into consideration all the pros and cons of cotton and polyester will help you choose the right fabric for your uniforms.