The Difference Between Rayon and Cotton Update 07/2022

It’s likely that your summer wardrobe consists of a lot of sundresses, t-shirts, and comfortable, breathable shorts and slacks! As a result of the summer heat, some of my favorite dresses and shirts end up clinging and sweaty. For summer, I found myself wondering, “What is the difference between rayon and cotton?”

When it comes to textiles, rayon and cotton are two very different materials. Both rayon and cotton have a smooth sensation, but cotton is softer and more breathable. It’s possible to find both cotton and rayon sundresses and shirts that are light enough for the summer months.

You’ll learn about the origins of rayon and cotton in this article. There are many similarities and distinctions between these well-known materials. Finally, you’ll learn about the advantages and disadvantages of cotton and rayon.

Rayon vs Cotton What is the Difference

Rayon vs Cotton: Key Points

Despite the fact that rayon and cotton have many of the same applications, their textures and looks are vastly different. The primary distinctions between these two types of fabrics can be summarized in this short review.

OriginCotton plantsChemically processed wood pulp
StrengthStrong tensile strength, though this depends on the quality of the staplesWeak when wet
DurabilityWill last many years, but does stretch out and pill over timeHolds its shape very well and will last many years with proper care
SoftnessOne of the softest kinds of fabricSofter than many synthetic fabrics
ElasticitySomewhat elastic, especially when made into knit fabricNot elastic unless blended with spandex
AbsorbencyHighly absorbent, but does not dry quicklyEven more absorbent than cotton, but can stretch when wet
PillingPills over timeDoes not pill over time
WrinklingWrinkles easilyDoes not wrinkle easily
SustainabilityRenewable plant resource but not eco-friendly productionProduction requires lots of harmful chemicals, but is more eco-friendly than most synthetic fabrics
Easy CareMachine washable, though dryer use is not recommendedOften requires drycleaning
CostMore expensive than synthetic fabricsLess expensive than real silk, but more costly than most synthetic fabrics
UsesEverything from clothing to bedding to medical bandagesLightweight clothing for hot weathe

What is Rayon?

What is Rayon Fabric

Rayon fabric was first developed in the late 1800s as a silk alternative and is created from wood or bamboo processed cellulose. Semisynthetic, biosynthetic, or regenerative materials are commonly referred to because they begin as natural materials but undergo extensive chemical processing that modifies their physical state.

This silky, luxurious textile is made from wood pulp? That’s incredible! The majority of rayon fabric has a silky appearance and feel to it. This garment drapes well over your body and is comfortable against your skin.

Is rayon, then, a high-quality material? The answer is contingent upon your personal preferences when it comes to textiles in general. Check out where rayon comes from and what kinds of rayon you’ll find in garments to help you pick.

How is Rayon Made?

Wood pulp from bamboo, beech, or pine trees is the raw material for rayon. Sodium hydroxide is used to breakdown the wood pulp. The wood pulp undergoes a chemical transformation into alkali cellulose as a result of this process.

An additional step is required for the alkali cellulose, and this time it is bathed in carbon disulfide. The result undergoes still another chemical transformation, this time producing cellulose xanthate.

The cellulose xanthate is now being extruded as filaments by factory machinery known as spinnerets.

Finally, the fibers are spun into tiny, silky threads by another set of machinery.

It is possible for manufacturers to weave rayon in a variety of ways. Depending on the type of weave, each piece of cloth is unique.

It will look like a well knitted sweater consisting of loops rather than threads crisscrossing one another. A satin weave produces a shiny, smooth surface, while a chiffon weave produces a somewhat puckered, rough silk appearance.

For this reason, rayon fabric can have a slightly different appearance depending on the type of weave used. However, it is virtually always light and smooth. It has a nice drape and keeps its shape beautifully when ruffled or pleated. In addition to being dye-resistant, rayon clothes can be found in a wide variety of styles.

Types of Rayon

For this reason, rayon fabric can have a slightly different appearance depending on the type of weave used. However, it is virtually always light and smooth. It has a nice drape and keeps its shape beautifully when ruffled or pleated. In addition to being dye-resistant, rayon clothes can be found in a wide variety of styles.

As a result, the appearance of rayon fabric might vary depending on the type of weave employed. Because of its lightness, though, it is often described as “silky.” When ruffled or pleated, this fabric keeps its shape and drapes beautifully. Rayon clothing can be found in dozens of different designs, and they are also dye-resistant.

A rayon-like drape and silky texture can be achieved with viscose. Drycleaning is generally required, despite its many advantages, such as the ability to absorb moisture. When wet, it has a low “wet strength,” making it prone to stretching and shrinking in unexpected places.

Modal, a kind of rayon known for its softness and comfort, is becoming increasingly popular in the fashion industry. Stretchy and soft, it’s made from beech-tree pulp and often combined with spandex. Modal is sometimes referred to as “the underwear fabric” for this same reason.

Lyocell has a similar appearance and feel to modal, however the manufacturing method is slightly different and does not employ as many toxic chemicals. If you’re concerned about the impact your clothing has on the environment, lyocell might be the better option for you.

What is Cotton?

What is Cotton

There are two types of cotton: natural and man-made. Before being spun into thread, these cloud-like balls of white fiber undergo various processes.

Cotton has been around for thousands of years, and it’s a staple in many cultures around the world. Because of its softness and robustness, it immediately became popular in many countries throughout the world.

Britain rose to prominence as the world’s leading manufacturer of this material during the Industrial Revolution. Factories and rapidly developing new technology made it possible to mass-produce fabric on a huge scale for the first time ever.

Additional to this, a U.S. technology made it possible for cotton farmers to quickly and efficiently separate the seeds from the fluff. In both the United States and numerous British-governed territories, the need for cotton played a role in the horrific practice of enslaving people.

How is Cotton Made?

How is Cotton Made

Cotton’s growth necessitates a lot of attention and water. Until recently, growers had to select each and every boll by hand. Cotton picker machines are now used for this purpose!

The fibers are fluffed by a gin, which removes them from any seeds that could be sticking to them. It is cleaned, pressed, and sent to a manufacturer for additional processing.

In order to prepare it for spinning, cotton normally requires carding at this phase. After that, factory machinery turn the fibers into big spools of thread known as skeins by spinning them together. These spools of cotton yarn can be used to make a wide range of cotton fabrics, from t-shirt jersey knit to the plush percale weave found in fine bedsheets.

Types of Cotton

Pima, Egyptian, upland, and organic cotton are the most commonly utilized types of cotton today.

The “cheap” version of cotton is upland cotton. Staple or fiber: It has the shortest length This implies that it twists into threads that are a little harsher and doesn’t produce as pliable a product. The state of Texas, in particular, is a major producer of this cultivar in the United States.

When it comes to fiber length and quality, Pima cotton is a clear winner. It’s a high-end material that can cost a lot of money. Several South American countries are home to this species.

Despite the fact that Egyptian cotton is native to Egypt, Pima cotton is actually the same plant. They are both known for their fine-stretched and long-lasting staples that produce soft and sturdy fabric.

Finally, organic cotton simply indicates that the cotton plants were not treated with pesticides or genetically modified.

What is the Difference Between Rayon and Cotton?

Because rayon is a man-made product, it is distinct from cotton in that the fibers in cotton are grown by a plant. You may be asking if this results in a more comfortable garment when wearing one material over the other.

If you tend to become hot easily, rayon can be a better choice for you. Cotton, on the other hand, is softer than synthetic fibers, making it a better option for people with sensitive skin.

Here’s a quick glance at the main differences between rayon and cotton.


Cotton has a higher tensile strength than rayon, although there are many variables that can influence the tensile strength of any material. When it comes to everyday wear, like t-shirts or dresses, either fabric will do. Consider the material’s durability for long-term wear, even in apparel!

To give an example, dry rayon has an excellent tensile strength; it is used in a wide range of industrial applications as well! However, when rayon is wet, its wet strength is poor. As a result, moisture can easily cause it to shrink, warp, or even tear!

When it comes to cotton, its tensile strength varies with the length and quality of the fibers. The higher the grade of the cotton, the more durable it is.


The tensile strength of cotton and rayon is rated as “medium.” Talking about a fabric’s durability usually refers to how well it holds up against regular use and abuse.

Cotton’s cellular structure is robust, allowing it to withstand a lot of wear and tear. For example, it won’t fall apart after years of washing. Cotton, on the other hand, will stretch, soften, and pill over time.

If you’re looking for a fabric that won’t get wrinkled or fade, rayon is your best bet. For that matter, the incorrect kind of heat or moisture could ruin it! Rayon is a delicate material that requires special care and washing, and it is prone to damage.


When it comes to fabric, cotton is typically referred to as the most luxurious. Even while it has a great sheen and silkiness to it, rayon lacks the inherent softness of a fabric like cotton.

Is there a secret behind cotton’s suppleness? Moreover, it has fibers that are naturally malleable, soft and absorbent. A greater thread count and longer, finer stapes, on top of that, can have an effect on the suppleness of cotton. High-end upland cotton, on the other hand, will be even softer than usual.

In comparison to polyester, rayon is a more pliable material. A lightweight, silky-smooth texture makes it easy to drape, almost like silk. The chemically changed fibers, on the other hand, lack the suppleness of fluffy cotton strands.


Cotton is naturally more elastic than rayon, but manufacturers often combine the two to make a genuinely stretchy fabric.

Three to five percent of the length of cotton fibers can be stretched by their inherent properties. Rayon fibers have no inherent stretch. Typically, these textiles are made stretchy by adding a little quantity of spandex to the mix.

There are also a number of knit cotton and knit rayon garments to choose from. Most t-shirts are constructed of jersey knit, which is made of cotton. Because of the way the threads loop together, this type of knitted fabric has a lot of elasticity.

Finally, rayon’s absorbent properties allow it to stretch quite a bit when wet.


Cotton and rayon are both excellent absorbents, however rayon has a little advantage!

Cotton fibers are capable of absorbing some of the moisture in the air. There are gaps between the threads of cotton that allow it to retain moisture. Even after a thorough drying process, the material will retain some moisture. This means that it will continue to feel damp and sticky for a lengthy period of time.

Rayon has a surprising amount of absorption power for a fiber of its size. Unlike most synthetic materials, rayon does not have any moisture-resistance. As a result, you may see it in athletic apparel designed for hot conditions that is designed to be lightweight.


When it comes to pilling, rayon tends to hold up far better than cotton. While cotton can last for years without pilling, rayon can if it isn’t treated properly.

Turning your clothing cyanide out before washing can typically prevent pilling on any material, so keep that in mind. Your washing machine’s agitation movement can cause pilling if you use a gentle cycle.

Consider air drying your items if you can spare the time. Both cotton and rayon will have fewer problems with pilling, shrinking, and wrinkles if they are allowed to air dry.


Rayon resists wrinkling very well, whereas cotton wrinkles very easily. If you scrunch up a handful of rayon, for example, it will rapidly return to its pre-scrunched state. This is true of most synthetic textiles. Instead of losing its wrinkled appearance, cotton will maintain its new look for much longer.

Wrinkles can occur on any type of fabric under certain conditions. When you unpack a rolled-up rayon dress that’s been in your baggage for a week, you’ll discover wrinkles!

During the production process, some cotton varieties are subjected to chemical treatments that make them wrinkle-resistant. There is a lot of pollution created and harmful chemicals applied to things that you will sleep on or wear as a result of the process, but the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks.

Sustainable Production

There’s a lot of debate over whether rayon or cotton is a more environmentally friendly fabric.

Depending on how rayon is created, it can be significantly more environmentally friendly than many synthetic materials. Although it has the potential to induce deforestation, the chemicals used in its production necessitate careful disposal.

Cotton, as a natural and renewable resource, would be expected to be more environmentally friendly. Contrary to popular belief, the cultivation of cotton has a significant negative impact on the environment. Many chemicals are used in the manufacturing process, which utilizes a lot of water and requires a lot of water treatment.

Easy Care

Cotton is far more user-friendly in terms of maintenance than rayon. In contrast to cotton, many rayon clothing necessitate drycleaning.

Even so, cotton has naturally occurring fibers that can stretch and fade over time, as well as pill. It is not as durable as polyester, which is a synthetic substance. High thread count cotton is more durable than cheap, loosely woven cotton.

When wet, rayon becomes brittle. When it is washed, this could cause it to expand out a great deal. In order to preserve the fabric’s sheen, manufacturers frequently recommend drycleaning rayon.


Based on the quality of the materials, rayon and cotton prices might vary greatly. Egyptian cotton, for example, is far more expensive than upland cotton. Modal is more expensive than viscose rayon, yet it’s still less expensive than silk!

You can’t just remark that rayon costs more than cotton or the other way around. No doubt about it: the jersey-knit cotton tee is cheaper, but the rayon blouse is likely to cost a little more. Cotton sheets, on the other hand, are usually always more expensive than rayon sheets!

Natural fabrics, on the other hand, tend to be more expensive than their synthetic counterparts. Because of its unique semi-synthetic production technique, rayon is extremely expensive to produce.

Bottom line: Fabric costs are determined by the manufacturing method and the type of material that goes into its production.


Even though cotton has a broader range of applications than rayon, the two materials can be used interchangeably. Summer apparel is often made of both rayon and cotton. Athletic clothing designed for hot conditions can also be found in both types of materials.

Towels and bedsheets are only two examples of the many ways cotton can be used in the home. It can also be used in other industries, such as bandaging for medicinal reasons. T-shirts made of cotton are still one of the most widely worn clothing items in the world!

The history of rayon is much shorter than that of cotton, and it is mostly used in the apparel industry. Because it is less expensive than silk, it can be used to create gorgeous, draping garments in a wide variety of patterns and motifs that are both functional and visually appealing. Cotton, on the other hand, has a much broader reach and is far more versatile.

Pros and Cons of Rayon

Fabric Merchants Rayon Challis Floral Fabric by The Yard, Gray/Pink 3 Yards

Because rayon looks like silk, but costs far less, it is the most advantageous material. In order to keep it from shrinking, it demands a lot of care and attention. The environmental impact of rayon manufacture could also be argued as an additional negative.


  • The fabric is lightweight, silky smooth, and extremely drapable. Because it’s made of natural fibers, it’s less likely to irritate your skin.
  • Using rayon instead of silk can save you money because it’s cheaper to produce than silk.
  • Because it takes dye well, it’s available in a kaleidoscope of patterns and hues.
  • The ability to retain its shape and resist wrinkles.


  • When exposed to heat and moisture, this material is susceptible to stretching or shrinking. Drycleaning is required for most rayon clothes.
  • Intricately crafted using a chemical process that “regenerates” its cells. But even while this procedure utilizes fewer chemicals than producing polyester, it can still have an impact on the environment.

Additionally, hair specialists have found that silky synthetic textiles like rayon are excellent for styling hair. Because they don’t produce friction when your hair meets them, these slippery materials help preserve your hair in good condition and reduce tactic electricity.

A drawback to rayon is that it might induce allergic reactions in some people due of the chemicals used in its production.

Pros and Cons of Cotton

MasterFAB Cotton Fabric by The Yard for Sewing DIY Crafting Fashion Design Printed Floral Washable Cloth Bundles Voile;Full Width cuttable39 x 55inches (100x140cm) (3 Colors Stars on Navy)

Cotton’s supreme softness and renewable nature are only two of its many advantages over other materials. Cotton’s greatest drawbacks include its high production and processing expenses, as well as the potential harm it does to the environment.


  • Because of its all-natural, fluffy fibers, it is extremely soft. Depending on the thread count and the grade of cotton staples used in the threads, it can be even softer.
  • Useful in anything from t-shirts to bed linens and even medical dressings, it’s versatile.
  • Because of its porous fibers and loose weave, it is extremely breathable.
  • Although it’s easy to care for, it will eventually soften and wear out over time due to the fact that it wrinkles easily.


  • Because it takes a lot of time and effort to grow and prepare, it is more expensive than most synthetic fabrics.
  • An environmental risk, given how much water it consumes during manufacture.

What is Cotton Rayon Fabric?

Silky rayon is combined with the comforting properties of cotton in a fabric combination. Something called a fabric blend results from this process. In order to create materials with the best properties of many types of fabrics, manufacturers sometimes twist two or three different fibers together into yarns.

Cotton and rayon are frequently combined with other materials. Modal is an excellent example of a rayon that works nicely with spandex.

Stretchy leggings and tank tops are made possible by combining cotton with spandex or polyester for a more cost-effective blend.

Is Rayon Good for Summer?

Fine, smooth strands give Rayon a lightweight weave that is ideal for summer wear. An added feature of this material is that it doesn’t stick to you like second skin when you’re hot and sweaty!

Because of this, rayon is frequently used in summer blouses and dresses. Tank tops and other summer sporting gear are perfect for knit rayon.

Despite its smooth texture and airy properties, rayon does not offer as much moisture-wicking as polyester or nylon. As a result, it may not be able to withstand the amount of sweat that synthetic textiles can.

Despite its fine threads and absorbent fibers, rayon does not offer the same level of breathability as cotton. Cotton is a good option if you prefer light, breathable clothing during hot weather.

Rayon vs Cotton vs Polyester

Despite their widespread use, each of rayon, cotton, and polyester has its advantages and disadvantages when it comes to apparel. It’s like comparing apples, oranges, and pears when comparing three different types of fabric! There are advantages and disadvantages to each type.

For instance, rayon drapes far better than polyester does. Polyester outlasts rayon and cotton in terms of toughness. Polyester is also far less expensive than the alternatives. Cotton’s incredible softness comes with a high expense.

You could easily become bogged down in a never-ending search for the perfect cloth! Look at this summary of each fabric’s main properties instead.

  • When it comes to elegant dresses and summer blouses, rayon is a great choice because of its silky texture. It is vulnerable to water damage, so it must be dry cleaned or taken care of in a unique way. However, it’s a lot less expensive than actual silk!
  • Cotton has a long history of being one of the most cuddly materials ever created. Because it is more expensive to develop and make than synthetic fabrics, natural fabrics tend to command a higher premium. Even though cotton degrades more quickly than polyester, high-quality cotton will continue to function well for many years.
  • Polyester is a man-made product that is derived from petroleum. Due to its low production costs, it has become a dominant force in the global garment market. It is incredibly strong and long-lasting, yet it is also really simple to maintain.

T-shirts, skirts, and blouses can all be made from rayon and cotton, two common fabrics in the apparel industry. The fact remains that while rayon is increasingly popular, cotton remains the fabric of choice due to its greater adaptability and persistence in the market.

Cotton, on the other hand, has a wider range of applications in home products and other areas, such as the medical field.

Get a sense of the variety of garments manufactured from these materials by reading some product reviews!

Casual Short Sleeve Dresses

There are thirty various colors and patterns available for this casual, flowy summer dress! It has a crewneck, pockets, and a slightly gathered waist..

With a pair of heels and a floppy hat, you could go out on the town in style!

At 95%, this dress is made up of rayon and 5% of spandex. Using rayon and spandex gives you both the silky and free feel of rayon, as well as a little more flexibility!

Women’s 100% Cotton Short-Sleeve Crewneck T-Shirt

Everyone should have a few basic, solid tees that they can wear with leggings, a blazer, and whatever else they can think of! It has a loose, casual fit and a rounded crewneck in this pair of 100% cotton shirts Fourteen color and pattern combinations are available for you to choose from.

These shirts are made of jersey-knit cotton, which has a bouncy, slightly flexible feel, like most t-shirts.

Lightweight yet not acid-washed, the fabric will hold up well to washing in the dishwasher.


Cotton is made from plant-based materials, whereas rayon is made from chemically regenerated wood pulp and is therefore non-renewable. For the fashion industry, rayon stands out as a silky, shining replacement for real silk because of its silky, shiny finish.

Lightweight cotton and rayon apparel, like t-shirts, skirts, and blouses, are both popular. The combination of cotton and rayon is particularly ideal for summer clothing!

Have you ever worn both cotton and rayon at the same time in the same outfit? Which one was your favorite? Let us know what you think by leaving a comment below!

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