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Cotton Vs Fleece Fabrics: Key Features and Best Uses Comparison (2024)

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cotton vs fleece differenceWhen outfitting yourself for the outdoors, choosing the right fabrics matters greatly.

To decide between cotton and fleece clothing, consider:

  • Warmth
  • Breathability
  • Water resistance
  • Sustainability

Understanding how the two compare in these key areas will lead you to pick the best material for your needs.

Fleece and cotton certainly have trade-offs, but focusing on your intended uses and climate will steer you right.

Key Takeaways

  • Fleece is warmer and more breathable, while cotton is more absorbent and durable.
  • Cotton takes much longer to dry than fleece and is prone to odors, while fleece dries quickly and resists odors.
  • Fleece is often made from recycled materials, while cotton relies on water and land for production.
  • Fleece is not biodegradable like cotton, but fleece scraps can be recycled.

Key Features of Fleece

Key Features of Fleece
Fleece is a synthetic fabric usually made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET) or other types of polyester.

The fibers are spun together to create a soft, fuzzy, and wool-like material that’s lightweight yet warm.

Fleece can be made through several different manufacturing processes, but the end result is a stretchy, breathable, and quick-drying fabric.

What is Fleece Made Of?

Usually, fleece is made from synthetic materials like polyethylene terephthalate or polyester.

  • Polyethylene terephthalate (PET)
  • Polyester
  • Nylon
  • Rayon
  • Acrylic

These synthetic materials allow fleece to have many desirable properties like softness, stretch, moisture wicking abilities, and insulation.

However, one downside is that fleece made from synthetics is generally less sustainable than natural fiber fabrics like cotton.

It’s important to consider the environmental impact of clothing when making purchases.

How is Fleece Made?

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The manufacturing process turns synthetic fibers into soft, fuzzy fleece.

These fibers go through a complex series of steps to produce the fleece fabric used in apparel and blankets.

Key aspects of fleece production involve technologies for bonding and brushing the synthetic materials to maximize softness and warmth.

The textile industry continues evolving new types of fleece to serve various consumer needs.

Key Features of Cotton

Key Features of Cotton
When choosing cotton fabrics, you’ll find they offer exceptional comfort suitable for year-round wear.

As a natural material, cotton is very absorbent yet remains a durable material that resists tearing.

One downside is that cotton can shrink easily when washed improperly or dried using high heat.

Comfortable Year-Round Fabric

While searching for year-round comfort inside your clothes, cotton delivers a reliably soft and pleasant feel against your skin in both warm and cool temperatures.

As a natural fiber, cotton offers exceptional breathability to keep you comfortable in heat while remaining soft and cozy during cooler weather.

Its ability to absorb moisture also helps regulate body temperature across seasons.

Whether layered under other materials or on its own, cotton’s temperature tolerance, comforting fabric feel, and moisture wicking capacity make it a conveniently comfy choice all year round.

Absorbent Yet Durable Material

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Often, you’ll find cotton is highly absorbent though extraordinarily durable: it will soak up moisture yet withstand constant use and washing.

As a natural fiber, cotton excels at moisture management while remaining quite sturdy over time.

This makes cotton well-suited for activewear and everyday apparel alike. With proper care, a cotton garment can last for years.

Soft But Shrinks Easily

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Although cotton is soft, it shrinks easily, so plan for some shrinkage.

To maintain cotton’s softness and size:

  • Wash in cold water and air dry.
  • Look for pre-shrunk cottons or sizes above your normal to allow for shrinkage.
  • Wrinkle-free cottons also help preserve shape.

Compared to fleece, cotton requires more care to retain its comfort, soft hand feel, and fit over time.

But with shrink solutions like cold water washing, you can enjoy durable softness.

Comparing Warmth and Breathability

Comparing Warmth and Breathability
When comparing warmth and breathability, fleece typically outperforms cotton.

Fleece fabrics excel at insulation due to their synthetic fiber structure, which effectively traps air.

In terms of breathability, though, both fleece and cotton score highly. Cotton’s natural absorbency allows moisture vapor and heat to pass through the material with ease. Fleece also offers impressive breathability thanks to its porous, open structure.

So while fleece is warmer, both fabrics permit airflow quite well.

For the ultimate in lightweight, breathable warmth, many outdoor apparel brands now offer fleece made partly from American-grown cotton or even bamboo fleece, which blends the best qualities of both fibers.

How Absorbent Are Cotton and Fleece?

How Absorbent Are Cotton and Fleece
Cotton is far more absorbent than fleece.

Cotton can soak up moisture, while fleece tends to repel liquid.

Cotton rapidly absorbs sweat and other liquids, while fleece causes moisture to bead on the surface.

Damp cotton garments cling uncomfortably, while fleece stays lightweight.

Thoroughly wrung-out cotton items take hours to fully dry, whereas moisture easily rolls off fleece.

Cotton’s exceptional moisture absorption makes it prone to odors that fleeces resist.

Essentially, cotton’s absorbent cellulose fibers quickly soak up moisture through capillary action.

Contrastingly, fleece’s synthetic makeup repels water at the fiber level deep inside the material.

If caught in a sudden rainstorm, cotton chills while soaked, whereas a fleece jacket retains valuable insulating capacity despite some exterior dampness.

Still, cotton’s unrivaled breathability makes it excel in hot, humid conditions where moisture absorption aids evaporative cooling critical for comfort.

Ultimately, cotton or a cotton-blend works better for moisture management in apparel touching the skin, yet a synthetic fleece outer layer makes sense for retaining warmth even when moderately wet outdoors.

Durability and Ease of Care

Durability and Ease of Care
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Sustainability Comparison

Sustainability Comparison
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  • Fleece is often made from recycled PET, while cotton is a renewable, biodegradable fiber.
  • Fleece production utilizes plastic bottles that may otherwise end up in landfills or oceans, while cotton relies on ample water and land resources.
  • Factories take steps to recycle fleece scraps, while cotton can fully biodegrade when disposed.
  • Choosing organic cotton limits pesticide use.

In the end, fleece recycles existing plastics, but cotton utilizes renewable inputs.

Cost Comparison

Cost Comparison
When comparing fleece and cotton on cost, you’ll find neither fabric is inherently more expensive than the other.

Both cotton and fleece can be quite affordable textile choices.

For budget-friendly picks, fleece is often used to line jackets and make casual wear due to its insulating abilities, while basic cotton t-shirts and sheets remain wardrobe staples for their breathability.

With wise shopping, blanks made of either material can fit most wardrobes.

For finished products, well-made cotton may have a slight edge in longevity over fleece over time.

But fleece’s resilience resists pilling and holds its loft.

As you evaluate pieces containing these fabrics, consider how they align with your lifestyle.

Will a fuzzy fleece hoodie simply lounge around the house?

Then even an inexpensive one may suffice.

Or will that organic cotton button-down withstand years of wear?

View each potential purchase through the lens of cost per use.

With some forethought into wardrobe needs and care, both cotton and fleece can prove friendly picks for your budget.

Best Uses for Fleece

Best Uses for Fleece
Because of its warmth, water resistance, and breathability, fleece works well for you in cold weather activities like skiing, winter hiking, and camping.

As an insulating fabric that dries quickly, fleece keeps you warm and comfortable when engaging in outdoor winter sports or sleeping outside in frigid temps.

Fleece also makes cozy home blankets and travel blankets thanks to its soft, plush feel.

The material’s moisture-wicking properties mean fleece athletic wear keeps you dry during vigorous workouts too.

From sweatpants to hoodies, fleece travel and loungewear ensure comfort en route.

While not as breathable as cotton, fleece sheets, pajamas, and the best blankets for snuggling retain warmth, making fleece well-suited to freezing conditions.

So reach for fleece when cold temperatures demand insulation.

Best Uses for Cotton

Best Uses for Cotton
You’ll enjoy cotton’s breathability and easy care when choosing it for warm-weather adventures or relaxing at home.

Outdoor Activities:

  • Cotton shirts, shorts, and pants keep you cool and comfortable for summer hiking, camping, boating, and more.
  • The fabric allows sweat to evaporate while protecting skin from harmful UV rays with UPF 50+ options.

Home Decor:

  • From lightweight curtains to comfy bedding, cotton’s a phenomenal choice for home goods.
  • Its breathability suits warm climates while softness ensures cozy downtime.
  • Opt for hypoallergenic cotton to minimize reactions.

Athletic Wear:

  • Sweat-wicking cotton tees and bottoms keep you cool, comfy, and chafe-free even during high-intensity training.
  • The moisture absorption helps avoid slippery gear for confident movement.

Bedding Choices:

  • Soft, breathable sheets ensure sound slumber without causing night sweats.
  • Choose high thread counts for exceptional smoothness against skin alongside durable construction.

Cotton guarantees breathability across uses – summer adventures, relaxing home life, or strenuous training. UPF clothing, durable bedding, and moisture-wicking activewear are just a few assets for unmatched comfort.

Should I Choose Fleece or Cotton?

Should I Choose Fleece or Cotton
When deciding between cotton and fleece fabrics for your needs, you should compare factors like:

  • Warmth
  • Breathability
  • Water resistance
  • Sustainability

Fleece tends to provide better insulation and repel moisture more effectively, while cotton offers superior airflow and breathability in hot weather.

Both have certain sustainability advantages and disadvantages as well.

Evaluating these key performance features and intended uses will allow you to determine whether cotton or fleece is the best choice for your specific application.

Warmth Versus Breathability

As you consider warmth versus breathability, fleece far outperforms cotton in insulation, while both fabrics have good airflow.

Fabric Insulation Breathability



When selecting apparel textiles for variable weather, fleece excels in cold climates needing insulation.

Both fabrics have roles depending on the intended use and climate.

Water Resistance Differences

When deciding between cotton and fleece, you’ll want to compare their water resistance capabilities.

Fleece repels liquid better, while cotton absorbs it readily.

For wet weather activities, fleece works well to keep you dry and comfortable. Its synthetic fibers don’t absorb much moisture.

Cotton, however, soaks up any liquid. It’s fine for sunny hikes but not ideal for rainy adventures.

Consider moisture management and water repellency when selecting the right fabrics for the conditions.

Fleece resists saturation; cotton pulls in the dampness.

Sustainability Comparisons

Depending on whether you’re prioritizing natural materials or durability, you’d likely choose cotton over fleece or vice versa regarding sustainability.

Consider factors like:

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How do fleece and cotton feel on sensitive skin?

When it comes to sensitive skin, cotton will likely irritate less than fleece.

Cotton breathes and feels soft against the skin.

Meanwhile, synthetic fabrics like fleece can provoke reactions, prickling sensations, or overheating.

So if your skin is easily aggravated, cotton may provide better comfort.

What are some pros and cons of using fleece or cotton for bedding?

Think about it, which feels softer on sensitive skin – the silky cotton or fuzzy fleece?

While both work for bedding, cotton is breathable, absorbent, and can shrink.

Fleece is insulating, moisture-wicking, and durable.

Choose based on climate, comfort, and care needs.

What fabrics are fleece and cotton commonly blended with?

Fleece is often blended with nylon or spandex for strength and stretch.

Cotton may be blended with polyester or modal for durability and softness.

Look for fabric content labels listing percentages of each fiber.

Blending adds beneficial properties like wicking, versatility, and longevity to basic materials.

How do I wash new fleece or cotton clothing for the first time?

Check the care label.

For fleece, use cold water and cycle for delicates.

For cotton, use warm water and full wash cycle.

Line dry or tumble dry on low.

Turn garments inside out to protect them.

Separate colors and wash new dark items separately first in case they bleed dye.

Are there organic or fair trade options for fleece and cotton fabrics?

Yes, there are organic and fair trade options for both fleece and cotton fabrics.

Seek out brands that use organic cotton or recycled polyester fleece to reduce your environmental impact.

Fair trade certifications help ensure ethical working conditions.

You can make a difference with eco-conscious choices.


As you stand at the fork in the trail,

fleece beckons you down the path of synthetic efficiency,

while cotton calls to mind natural softness and comfort.

Choosing between them means weighing your needs for warmth, breathability, and care

against environmental impact and budget.

Let your priorities guide whether the technical performance of fleece

or the beloved feel of cotton best suits your outdoor pursuits and climate.

Their differences equip each fabric for distinct adventures.

Avatar for Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim is the founder and editor-in-chief of, a site dedicated to those passionate about crafting. With years of experience and research under his belt, he sought to create a platform where he could share his knowledge and skills with others who shared his interests.