The debate over cotton versus polyester is one that will likely go on for decades to come. Many people like the look and feel of cotton but dislike the fact that it shrinks and wrinkles. Those who like the qualities of polyester tout its easy to care for, wrinkle free style that is easy to wash and wear.
Until less than 100 years ago, we had only fabrics that were derived from natural sources. These included cotton, linen, silk, and wool. Now we have several man-made fabrics to choose from, including polyester, rayon, nylon, and acrylic.
Still, cotton remains the most popular fabric in the world. Even with its drawbacks, people throughout the world. It can retain and absorb up to 27 times its weight when soaked in water and is easy to wash. It can be boiled and sterilized because it retains its shape in extremely high water temperatures. In hot, humid weather cotton will breathe so that perspiration can easily be released to the surface. In cold weather the cotton fibers help absorb body heat.
Cotton fabrics should be washed frequently because they absorb moisture and dirt easily. They can be laundered in water of all temperatures, but cotton will shrink more in hot water than in cold.
During the 1950’s and 1960’s polyester was popular because of its drip-dry quality, but in the past twenty years all cotton garments have become a symbol of prestige and class among people all over the world. Many designers began to use all cotton or a blend of 95% cotton and 5% lycra, a stretchy man-made fabric, in their most popular and trendy designs. These clothing items are high in quality and will last for years if cared for properly.
The final compromise might be the cotton/polyester blend that is popular today. When combined in the right proportions, with slightly more cotton than polyester, the result is a smooth, soft fabric that does not wrinkle, retains its shape after washing, and does not shrink.