Sustainable Fashion

Nylon vs Cotton: Ultimate Material Comparison Guide

Learn about the differences between nylon and cotton

Fabric Comparison Featured

Nylon and cotton, which is best? Below we examine whether its the natural fibers of cotton or the synthetic fibers of nylon you should be choosing for your clothes and other uses.

Cotton has better moisture wicking and breathability than nylon, making it superior in hot weather. Cotton fabric also has superior color-fastness. However, nylon is cheaper, more durable, and has a better drape, making it popular in many fast fashion products. For sustainability, organic cotton is far superior to the synthetic materials used in nylon products.

Check out the comparison table below then read on for more information:

Nylon vs Cotton Comparison Table

Other Names
Made FromNylon is a synthetic polymer made from materials derived from petroleum.Fibers from cotton plant seeds
AdvantagesStrong, lightweight, and easy to care for.Cotton fiber has superior wet strength and is a natural insulator. Cotton also has natural anti-microbial properties
DisadvantagesSignificant environmental concern.Higher production costs than many other fabrics, particularly for organic cotton.
UsesUsed extensively in fashion to make a wide range of items.Cotton is widely used in clothing, including to produce popular woven fabrics such as denim, flannel, and canvas. Also used for bedsheets, towels, and upholstery.
Natural or SyntheticSyntheticNatural
Woven or KnittedEitherWoven
Thread Count100-1000+
WashingMachine washable in hot or cold water (check label for which one is best for your garment). May last longer if hand washed.Typically fine in washing machine (always check the label first)
DryingMay wrinkle if dried in a dryer at hot settings. Opt for cooler settings or air dry.Often fine in tumble dryer, although shrinkage can occur especially if 100% cotton (check the label first). If unsure, air dry.
IroningIron only on the lowest heat section without steam. Use a pressing cloth. Be careful because nylon can burn easily.Iron while damp (use a spray) on high heat
Wrinkle ResistanceDon’t tend to wrinkleWrinkles easily
Heat RetentionMediumMedium
Moisture WickingMediumGood
BreathabilityPoorVery Good
Flammability (untreated)Medium (tend to melt rather than burn)Very High
Water-Resistance (untreated)MediumPoor
StrengthExcellentGood, especially when wet (cotton gets stronger when wet)
Environmental Impact Score (A is best, E is worst)Virgin Nylon = E, Chemically Recycled Nylon = B, Mechanically Recycled Nylon = AConventional Cotton = E, Organic Cotton = B, Recycled Cotton = A
Sustainability IssuesNylon is a plastic. It does not degrade and requires significant energy, chemicals, and waste to create. We recommend only using recycled nylon products.Cotton growing can be pesticide and water intensive, leading to pollution. Less impact when grown organically.