There is no perfect fiber and each type has its pros and cons. Some fibers are environmentally friendly while some are resilient and can withstand wear and tear. There is a lot of false information being spread about fibers over the web.
Are you having a hard time picking a fabric between cotton and rayon?
Cotton and rayon are among the most widely used fabrics nowadays. These have a plethora of applications including clothing, textiles, bed linens, and more.
Cotton has been replaced by rayon in various applications as it is expensive. Rayon can be used in humid climate whereas cotton is suitable for use in warmer regions. Still, application of cotton spans over various industries. It is even used in the medical industry.
Wheat is the difference between rayon and cotton? These distinct materials come from different sources. Cotton is a natural fiber sourced from the cotton plant. Rayon is a semi-synthetic material produced from cellulose fibers. Rayon is more absorbent and non-insulating. Cotton is stronger and more durable. Both are light, airy, and popular.
There’s a lot more to know about both rayon and cotton.
This post will help you understand these fibers and determine which fiber is best for your needs. Understanding the subtle difference between cotton and rayon will help you make the best decision while using them for any of your projects.
All About Rayon
Rayon is a fiber made from cellulose fiber, especially wood pulp. It is considered a semi-synthetic material and is available in various grades.
This fiber can be made to mimic the texture and feel of linen, cotton, wool, and silk. A fine grade of rayon fabric known as viscose is typically referred to as artificial or imitation silk.
If you are a hardcore vegan and want a fabric that is as soft and luxurious as silk, then you can opt for this artificial silk. You will get all the features that you desire in a fabric without compromising with your ideals.
Despite not being considered a natural fiber, rayon exhibits all the properties of natural fibers. It is versatile and has the same texture and feel of silk, wool, cotton, and linen. It is also quite easy to dye rayon fibers in a wide range of colors.
Fabrics designed from rayon are absorbent, comfortable, soft, smooth, and even cool. As it cannot insulate body heat, it is most suitable for use in humid and hot climates. Rayon fabric has also become more common with a dramatic rise in cotton prices.
The downside is that it often has to be dry-cleaned if you want to cause minimal damage to its fibers. Some rayon types have to be washed in cold water. Care needs to be exercised and the manufacturer’s label has to be checked thoroughly for fabric washing instructions.
Rayon is flammable and melts easily. You can iron it only under a low-temperature setting. If you are looking for a fabric that needs to be washed and ironed frequently, then you need to consider some other fabric for your project.
The primary use of rayon is in the textile industry. You have probably handled this fabric often if you are into sewing. It is used for creating lightweight clothing that is easy to take care of and is of low cost.
The production process of this fiber is quite extensive. It is the most suitable fabric for designing dresses and evening gowns. If you have been planning to design a chic outfit for your niece’s prom, then you now know which fabric to go ahead with.
Rayon is also used as filler in sleeping pillows, furniture cushions, and for making stuffed toys. Its absorbent property has also resulted in it being used for making adult diapers and for making other hygiene products.
Characteristics of Rayon
Rayon is a biodegradable fiber despite being semi-synthetic. It undergoes tremendous processing and is prone to shrinkage and wrinkles. The fabric is also capable of holding the brightest hues pretty beautifully.
It is comfortable and pretty absorbent. It is smooth and soft and imitates the characteristics of silk or linen fabulously. The texture feels quite elegant and nice and you can dye it easily without any hassles.
Rayon has an elevated luster and a brilliant gloss. The fibers are generally used in the apparel industry for designing hats, suits, blouses, shirts, dresses, lingerie, jackets, and more. Some fibers are also used in furnishing and in filling zippo lighters.
Here are some of the basic properties of rayon:
- Versatile and soft
- Good absorbency, but not insulating
- Ideal for use in humid and hot climatic conditions
- Offers the comfort of natural fibers
- Can be made to imitate the texture and feel of wool, linen, cotton, and silk
- Easy to dye in a variety of colors (take dye well)
- Lower elastic recovery than any other fiber
- Prone to shrinking and wrinkles
- Can require more care
Is Rayon a Natural Fiber?
Rayon is neither entirely natural nor completely artificial. It is believed to be the first manmade fabric invented to be a cheap replacement of silk.
This artificially manufactured fiber is made from purified cellulose (especially from wood pulp). As it is made from naturally occurring polymers, it is categorized as semi-synthetic fiber.
Rayon is also more of a blanket term used for addressing regenerated fibers. Even plant-based fibers such as cactus fibers, banana silk fibers, and lotus fibers are categorized as rayon. The fibers get the name from the process used for creating the fibers and also depending on the plants used.
If you are into sustainable textiles and fashion, then you will likely have heard of regenerated fibers. These are made from liquefaction of wood pulp but this doesn’t make them entirely natural. Certain chemicals and a chemical process are used to transform wood pulp into a rayon fiber.
Modal, Lyocell, and viscose are different kinds of rayon. These differ from each other due to slight differences in the manufacturing process and as well as due to properties.
Viscose is actually a fiber manufacturing system. The fabric that is created with the system is referred to as viscose rayon. Tencel, which is also referred to as Lyocell, is likewise named for the Lyocell method which makes it.
All About Cotton
Cotton is extracted from seed pods of the cotton plant, making it a natural fiber. It is simply pure cellulose.
The use of cotton dates back to centuries. This soft, fluffy fibrous substance surrounds the seeds of the plant and is made into fiber and finally into thread. The plant is native to tropical and subtropical regions of America, Africa, and India.
Cotton fabric is breathable and soft. It finds primary applications in the textile industry and is used for making various products such as bed sheets, shirts, socks, dresses, towels, diapers, undergarments, and more.
Cotton is sometimes blended with other materials for improving its properties and for deriving maximum benefit from it for certain applications. For instance, fabrics such as terry cloth, denim, corduroy, and more are made from cotton, typically blended with other stretchier materials.
Cotton is the most widely used natural fiber in the clothing industry.
Apparel designed from cotton is cool, light, and breathable. Cotton is especially suitable for being worn in warm climates. However, cotton clothes tend to wrinkle and shrink over time if they are not taken care of appropriately.
Another vital feature of this fiber is that strength of cotton fibers increases when they are wet. This is the reason why cotton is used for cleaning and absorbing bodily fluids, such as in baby diapers. This universally adopted fabric is suitable for everyone and is ideal for individuals who have sensitive skin.
Cotton has excellent resistance to degradation by heat. It starts turning yellow only after being exposed to heat at about 250ºF for several hours. It ignites easily and burns readily in air.
Cotton is durable and demonstrates little loss of strength if you have cared for your product well. A good cotton shirt can last you for years and still be in great shape, although it can pill. You can keep it stacked for years without any change. However, you need to be careful while storing it in damp areas as it can grow mildew.
Characteristics of Cotton
As we’ve said, cotton helps you stay cool in summers by consistently drawing sweat away from your skin. This is the reason why the fabrics feel lighter and cooler.
It is durable and is widely used for its strength. You need to iron it every time before wearing it as it is prone to wrinkling and shrinking. This fabric is biodegradable and is soft to feel.
Let’s sum up some of the other many characteristics of cotton:
- Comfortable to wear: breathes and absorbs moisture
- Becomes 20 percent stronger when wet
- Resists static electricity buildup
- Wrinkles easily and shrinks
- Durable; withstands heat and also detergents
- Can be damaged by mildew and with prolonged exposure to sunlight
- Is machine washable and dryable
- Has good color retention
- Drapes a little, and holds shape well
- Can be used to design any kind of garment
- Easy to sew and handle
- Can be blended with other fabrics such as rayon and polyester for designing fabrics with different applications
- Popular in textiles
Cotton Vs Rayon
While comparing cotton with rayon, you will notice that both the fabrics have almost the same applications except in the medical industry.
Generally, cotton is blended with other fibers for deriving maximum benefits – especially for reducing the cost of production. However, cotton tends to shrink and wrinkle with washes.
Cotton is a breathable fabric and also has natural anti-viral and anti-microbial properties. It is also hypoallergenic and hence is ideal for individuals with sensitive skin.
Here are the basic characteristics of cotton and rayon:
|Natural fiber||Semi-synthetic fiber|
|From the cotton plant||Manufactured from cellulose especially from wood pulp|
|Increases in strength when wet||Gets out of shape when damp|
|Used as a medical product in cleaning and absorbing bodily fluids||Is used in designing bandages and surgical dressing|
|Can be easily washed with hot water||Should be washed with cold water|
|Is not impact even in high heat setting in an iron||Can be ironed only in a specific heat temperature|
|Doesn’t require much care while washing||Should be hand washing and air dried (or dry cleaned)|
|Fibers weaken upon prolonged exposure to sunlight||Fibers somewhat more resistant sunlight|
Abrasion resistance is the ability of the material to not wear down upon rubbing. This is a desirable attribute for places such as armpits and legs where there is a lot of friction and rubbing.
If you don’t want the leggings that you are designing for your daughter to wear out easily, then you should consider the abrasion resistance before settling for any fabric.
Cotton has slightly better abrasion resistance in comparison to viscose rayon. Cotton is also more durable in general.
If you are designing swim gear or sportswear, then cotton would be a better choice than rayon as cotton fibers tend to become stronger when wet.
Rayon is used more for delicate or fashionable items that are more suited to simple everyday activities, the office, or somewhat dressier occasions. It is also popular in soft linens, curtains, etc. It is not overly fragile, but it is hardly up for major wear and tear.
Both rayon and cotton are considered very comfortable. They are both breathable, lightweight, and absorbent.
Absorbency refers to the ability of the fiber to absorb water both from the air and when submerged in water. Hydrophilic fibers have good absorbing properties. Fibers with good absorbency have lower rates of static cling.
Cotton and rayon both perform well when it comes to absorbency. Moreover, there isn’t much difference in their breathability as well. Rayon is a flexible fabric and is drapey. Rayon scores over cotton in terms of flexibility.
Neither cotton nor rayon stretches much. If you want a little stretch in your clothes, then you should opt for rayon or cotton that have been blended with a stretchier material, such as spandex, nylon, or lycra.
Both fabrics are lightweight. Rayon has much more drape than cotton and generally looks softer (although cotton is still quite soft to the touch.
Cotton retains its shape and structure better, although some thinner cottons with looser weave can have a little drape. It has slightly more stretch to it, though not much.
If you are looking for a resilient fabric, then you try cotton, but the truth is neither of these fabrics is considered very resilient. It will also help to opt for a knitted rather than woven fabric if you are hoping to use one of these materials. Knit fabrics (cotton or not) have better resiliency in comparison to woven fabrics.
Care and Maintenance
Both rayon and cotton can be laundered at home pretty easily, but cotton is overall more durable.
It’s best to wash rayon cold, by hand if it is especially delicate, and it should definitely be air dried. Cotton will last longer if treated the same way, but it still won’t break down or wear out too quickly if you machine wash and dry it.
Cotton and rayon fibers are both susceptible to mildew. This is because of their capacity to absorb moisture and the fact that they are plant-based materials. Keeping them clean will reduce the likelihood of mildew growing, however.
Despite various similarities, both rayon and cotton fibers are quite distinct, made of different plant materials with different manufacturing processes.
Still, rayon and cotton are very popular.
Both fabrics perform tremendously well when used in various applications. These keep you fresh and cool all day long. You need to study the features of both to determine their suitability.
Both cotton and rayon have some good and undesirable properties. Cotton is preferred for its versatility, natural comfort, and performance. Its absorbency and strength makes it ideal for use in designing clothing and homeware. It is also used in designing industrial products such as tents, tarpaulins, army uniforms, coffee filters, and more.
Rayon has its own set of applications and has become a popular choice, especially owing to its low cost. It is used in making trendy apparel and in making furnishings such as bed sheets, blankets, curtains, and more. It is also used for making carpets and in the medical field for making surgical dressing and bandages.
So what’s better to use, rayon or cotton? In the end, it all boils down to what you are looking for in the fabric for your next sewing project.
The purpose plays a crucial role in decision making. Both of these make excellent fabrics for making apparel, bed linens, socks, towels, and more. You need to keep the upkeep, expense, and uses before taking any final decision.
Up Next: How To Shrink And Unshrink Viscose