What’s the Difference Between Cotton and Polyester?

What's the difference between cotton and polyester

What’s the Difference Between Cotton and Polyester?

Cotton and polyester are two of the most common fibres used in the safety workwear industry, from t-shirts to jackets, vests, trousers and more. As most people know, cotton is a natural fibre, while polyester is a synthetic fibre derived from petroleum. However, in order to choose the right garment, there is more to know about these two famous fibres. Today we are going to explore their differences in detail, and we are going to answer a very common question: what’s the difference between cotton and polyester?


Cotton is harvested from plants that grow yearly and is composed of pure cellulose. It is a water repellent fabric – its fibres are naturally covered in wax – however it becomes absorbent after a purification process that removes all the inherent oils and waxes. Cotton is known for its breathability, comfort, and hypoallergenic properties, while its strength varies from 3.0-5.0 grams/denier when dry and 3.3-6.0 grams/denier when wet. It is also important to mention that it is sustainable, recyclable and biodegradable.


As previously mentioned, polyester is made from a chemical reaction involving petroleum. Polyester is known for being extremely hydrophobic, meaning that it does not absorb perspiration nor any fluid. Compared to cotton, it is stronger – its strength ranges from 2.5 grams/denier to 9.5 grams/denier – making it easier to stretch. From an environmental perspective, as it is man-made and takes hundreds of years to degrade, it is not considered to be sustainable.

What's the difference between cotton and polyester
Petrel 100% Cotton Poloshirt
What's the difference between cotton and polyester
65% Polyester / 35% Cotton Shirt


Now that we have seen their peculiarities, let’s compare them to underline both their similarities and differences.


Both fabrics can be dyed any color, are easy to manipulate and they are not very expensive.


We can summarise the differences between the two fabrics as follows:

  • Polyester is stronger and easier to stretch;
  • Cotton is more breathable than polyester;
  • Cotton is hypoallergenic, while polyester can be irritating for sensitive skin;
  • Polyester is hydrophobic, meaning that it dries quicker than cotton;
  • Unlike polyester, cotton shrinks after washing.

As they have so many different properties, cotton and polyester are often blended together to create a fabric that embeds all their advantages, like our hi vis polo shirts, vests and trousers.

Now that you know the difference between cotton and polyester, explore our extensive collection of Workwear and find the best option for your needs!

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