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Blog / Style & trends / Polyester vs. Cotton Shirts—Pros, Cons, and Printing Options

Style & trends

Polyester vs. Cotton Shirts—Pros, Cons, and Printing Options

Polyester vs. Cotton Shirts—Pros, Cons, and Printing Options
Karlina Rozkalne

By Karlina Rozkalne

7 min read

Did you know the modern t-shirt was first created only in 1898? That’s just a little over 120 years ago. While the t-shirt history is brief, finding someone who doesn’t own one now is nearly impossible. In 2024, the t-shirt market revenue amounts to $45B, making t-shirts one of the world’s most popular pieces of clothing. 

And today, we’ll compare 2 of the most popular options—polyester vs. cotton shirts. It’s worth knowing the differences whether you’re looking to start a t-shirt business or just want to buy a tee for yourself.

Alright, let’s begin!

100% cotton t-shirts

Cotton, a fabric treasured for thousands of years, continues to reign supreme in the apparel industry due to its affordability, comfort, and versatility. This fabric is crafted from the natural fibers harvested from the boll of the cotton plant. These fibers are spun into yarn and woven or knitted into the soft, breathable fabric.

Cotton absorbs moisture well and regulates body temperature, so it’s suitable for all seasons. Plus, cotton fibers hold dye well. As a biodegradable, natural material, cotton is environmentally friendly, decomposing over time.

The advantages of cotton extend to health and comfort. Its softness and breathability make it a fantastic choice for daily wear. People with sensitive skin can opt for organic cotton shirts—organic cotton apparel is produced without harmful chemicals, pesticides, or insecticides, so it’s hypoallergenic, ensuring comfort without irritation.

Pros 

Breathable. 100% cotton shirts allow for excellent air circulation, making them cool and comfortable year-round.

Hypoallergenic. Organic cotton minimizes the risk of skin irritation and allergies, making it a safe choice for individuals with skin sensitivities.

Eco-friendly. Being a natural fiber, cotton is biodegradable, which means shirts made from 100% cotton will break down over time when discarded.

Cons

Absorbs moisture. Cotton absorbs the moisture from wet skin and retains it. That can lead to sweat stains over time.

May wear out faster. Because cotton is a natural fiber, it wears down with frequent or intense wash.

Wrinkles. Cotton wrinkles easily, which means you won’t be able to maintain a crisp, wrinkle-free look if you’re wearing cotton shirts.

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Customization methods at Printful

Here are the customization options you get for cotton shirts:

Best cotton t-shirts

Unisex Staple T-Shirt | Bella + Canvas 3001

The Bella Canvas 3001 tee is one of (if not the) most popular shirts we carry. It has a wonderful price-per-value ratio, comes in 59 colors, and sizes range from XS to 5XL. It’s soft to the touch and has a regular fit, which means it’ll look flattering for most body types. The breathable fabric is also pre-shrunk to ensure the tee doesn’t change its look or fit after washing.

a man with tattoos on his arm and arm around his neckSource: the Printful Catalog

Men’s Classic Tee | Gildan 5000

If you’re looking for a men’s shirt, the Gildan 5000 tee is one of Printful’s most popular options. It’s a bit more heavyweight than the unisex shirt, has a tubular construction (there are no side seams), and taped neck and shoulders, giving the shirt a clean, premium look. This tee comes in 24 colors, and sizes range from S to 5XL.

a man in a grey shirtSource: the Printful Catalog

Women’s Relaxed T-Shirt | Bella + Canvas 6400

For women’s cotton options, Bella Canvas 6400 is one of Printful’s strongest contenders. It has 17 beautiful colors and 6 sizes (S–3XL). This shirt has a relaxed fit, crew neck, and side-seamed construction. The fabric is super soft, pre-shrunk, and smooth, making it perfect for printing.

a woman smiling with a dog on her shirtSource: the Printful Catalog

100% polyester t-shirts

Polyester shirts are crafted from synthetic fibers and stand at the forefront of innovation in the apparel industry. These polyester garments are celebrated for their versatility and durability, making them a staple in both casual and athletic wear. 

The synthetic fabric used in polyester clothing is designed to offer superior moisture-wicking properties, ensuring that the wearer remains comfortable during intense activities or in humid environments. 

Plus, polyester fibers are inherently wrinkle-resistant. Polyester shirts are well-suited for outdoor activities, daily wear, and professional settings.

Pros

Durability. Polyester fibers are strong, don’t wear down quickly, and resist shrinking and stretching, ensuring that polyester garments maintain their look over time.

Moisture-wicking properties. These shirts are excellent at moving sweat away from the body to the outer layer of the fabric, making them ideal for athletic wear and hot climates. Because the fabric doesn’t absorb moisture, it’s less prone to stain.

Wrinkle-resistant. Polyester clothing is great at keeping wrinkles at bay, eliminating the need for ironing.

Cons

Can irritate sensitive skin. Polyester might cause irritation because it’s not as soft or gentle as natural fibers.

Holds onto odors. Despite stellar at wicking moisture, these shirts can trap odors more than natural fabrics.

​​Customization methods at Printful

Here are the customization options you get for 100% polyester shirts:

Best polyester t-shirts

Unisex Sports Jersey | SOL’S 11939

SOL’S Jersey is made from 100% breathable polyester mesh and provides ventilation and comfort during physical activities. This jersey has a relaxed fit and extra length for extra coverage, while the binding on the collar ensures long-lasting durability and a polished look. The polyester fabric has a lightweight feel and is extremely durable. This jersey comes in 7 colors, and sizes range from S to 2XL).

a man and woman wearing sports jerseysSource: the Printful Catalog

While SOL’S Unisex Sports Jersey is the only 100% polyester shirt in the Printful Catalog, here are polyester blend shirts you can get:

All of these t-shirts are fulfilled with the all-over print technique, which means you can cover the entire shirt with your design. We’ll then print your design on a blank fabric, cut it out, and sew it together.

Cotton-polyester blend t-shirts

Cotton-polyester blend t-shirts are the perfect middle ground of cotton and polyester fabrics. This hybrid offers the softness and breathability of cotton with the durability and quick-drying properties of polyester. This shirt is well-suited for daily wear, physical activity, or work because it withstands frequent washing without wearing down or losing shape.

Pros

Low maintenance. Cotton-polyester t-shirts resist wrinkling and shrinking, making them easy to care for and ideal for busy lifestyles.

Best of both materials. Polyester and cotton mix provides comfort, breathability, and higher absorbency thanks to cotton and durability, lightness, and less wrinkling thanks to polyester.

Cons

May irritate sensitive skin. This blend may be more irritating to sensitive skin than 100% cotton. 

Not as durable as 100% polyester. Mixed fabric shirts aren’t as long-lasting as pure polyester, showing wear more quickly.

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Create and sell custom products online
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Customization methods at Printful

Here are the customization options you get for cotton-polyester blend shirts:

Best cotton-polyester blend t-shirts

Unisex Tri-Blend T-Shirt | Bella + Canvas 3413

This tee is an absolute crowd-pleaser. It’s unisex, has a broad size range (XS–4XL), and comes in 23 colors. The fabric’s composition is 50% polyester, 25% combed ring-spun cotton, 25% rayon. Our customers praise this tee for being lightweight, flattering, and super soft.

a woman holding a cameraSource: the Printful Catalog

Polyester vs. cotton shirts: which should you choose

Short answer: it comes down to your needs and preferences.

Need a comfy, soft, breathable tee and don’t mind the wrinkles? Go for the cotton tee.

Looking for a lightweight, moisture-wicking, durable t-shirt for physical activities? A 100% polyester shirt is what you need.

Maybe you want the best of both worlds. The blend t-shirt it is.

If you want to start a clothing brand with print-on-demand, check out the FAQ section. You’ll find information about t-shirt printing, t-shirt design ideas, and a list of best-quality t-shirts for printing.

If you have any questions about fabric or personalization options for custom t-shirts, drop them in the comments below.

Frequently asked questions

author

By Karlina Rozkalne on Mar 21, 2024

Karlina Rozkalne

SEO Content Writer

Karlina is an SEO Content Writer specialist at Printful. As a firm believer in attitude over aptitude, Karlina gives her 100% whenever she works on something new. Karlina spends her free time reading, traveling, and doing yoga.

Karlina is an SEO Content Writer specialist at Printful. As a firm believer in attitude over aptitude, Karlina gives her 100% whenever she works on something new. Karlina spends her free time reading, traveling, and doing yoga.