Cotton and wool are both versatile natural fibers that can be used to make a wide range of clothing including jackets, sweaters, shirts, pants, socks, gloves, and more. Both fibers have their own benefits and drawbacks. The best type of fabric for your clothing depends on the weather conditions you expect, the type of activities you do, and your personal preference. This guide outlines the differences and lists the pros and cons of cotton vs wool. We’ll cover comfort, warmth, breathability, weight, dry time, cost, versatility, sustainability, and much more. Hopefully, this guide helps you choose the best fabric for your next garment, whether you’re making it yourself or buying it.
What is the Difference Between Cotton and Wool?
The main difference between cotton and wool is the material they’re made of. Cotton is made from plant fibers. Wool is made of animal hair. Most wool comes from sheep.
Cotton and wool also have different natural properties. These differences affect the performance of both fabrics in different weather conditions. Generally, wool performs better in cold and wet weather while cotton performs better in hot and dry weather.
Wool is a better insulator than cotton. It will keep you warmer. This is the case because wool is generally thicker, loftier, and heavier than cotton. It also offers better moisture-wicking properties and breathability. Wool is also quick-drying. In addition, wool has anti-microbial properties that keep odors down.
Cotton is typically lighter and softer to the touch than wool. It can keep you cool in the summer. It is also easier to care for. Cotton is machine washable. In addition, cotton is a breathable and moisture-wicking fabric but it dries slowly.
The processes used to manufacture cotton and wool fabric are also different. Another difference is the cost. Wool is significantly more expensive than cotton.
There are also a number of similarities between cotton and wool. They are both natural fibers. Both fibers have been used by humans to make clothing for millennia. Both fibers are environmentally friendly and bio-degradable. They are both used to make a wide variety of clothing.
What is Cotton?
Cotton fabric is made from the natural fibers of the cotton plant. The part of the plant that is used to make the cotton fabric is the fluffy top part that encases the seeds. This is called the boll. The natural function of the boll is to protect the plant’s seeds and help disperse the seeds in the wind.
A cotton picker or stripper is used to harvest the cotton bolls. After harvest, the cotton is run through a cotton gin. These machines remove the seeds. The resulting fiber is called lint. This lint is then cleaned and sorted. Next, it’s combed into ropes. This material is twisted into yarn. Looms weave the yarn into cotton fabric. The resulting fabric is made into clothing, bedding, and other cotton products.
Cotton plants grow natively in many tropical and subtropical regions around the world. They come from the genus Gossypium. Humans from all around the world have been using cotton to make textiles for thousands of years. Cotton was used in the Indus River Valley as far back as 3000 B.C. Today, cotton is, by far, the most common fabric in the world. Over 25 million tones of cotton are produced each year.
Chemically, cotton fibers are composed mostly of the insoluble organic compound cellulose. The fibers are soft and durable. Cotton is a staple fiber. This means that the fibers vary in length. This property helps the fibers bind when they’re spun into yarn.
There are four types of cotton: Pima cotton, Egyptian cotton, Upland cotton, and Organic cotton. Each has slightly different characteristics. Cotton also comes in different grades or qualities. The fibers also come in different lengths.
Cotton has a number of positive qualities that make it the ideal fiber for many applications. It is a soft, breathable, and durable fabric. It is also cheap to make, compared to other natural fibers such as wool. Cotton is also easy to dye into different colors. Many patterns, colors, and prints of cotton fabric are available.
Because cotton is durable and water absorbent, it can be easily washed and dried many times while maintaining size, structure, and shape. Cotton is machine washable and dryable. It is easy to care for. Cotton can shrink after the initial washings.
In addition, cotton can be woven into a wide range of fabrics with varying thicknesses, textures, and stiffnesses. For example, denim, flannel, corduroy, jersey, canvas, terry cloth, and velvet can all be made from cotton. Different types of cotton fabric have their own strengths and weaknesses.
Cotton can also be blended with other fibers such as synthetic fibers or wool. Blending fibers changes the properties of the finished fabric. For example, a t-shirt made from a cotton synthetic blend may be lighter, more wrinkle-resistant, or faster drying than a pure cotton t-shirt.
Cotton is one of the most versatile types of textiles. Products commonly made from cotton include shirts, pants, jackets, dresses, suits, socks, underwear, hats, blankets, bed sheets, curtains, and more.
What is Wool?
Wool is a natural fiber that comes from the hair of animals. Most wool comes from sheep. Wool can also come from other animals including goats, llamas, alpacas, camels, musk oxen, bison, rabbits, and a number of other species. Humans have used wool to make textiles for at least 6000 years.
Different types of animals produce different types of wool. For example, Merino wool comes from Merino sheep. Cashmere wool comes from Cashmere goats. Qiviut wool comes from musk oxen. If the type of wool is not specified on a garment’s tag, you can assume it’s sheep wool.
The wool grows out of hair follicles on the animal’s skin. Chemically, the fibers are composed mostly of the animal protein keratin. This is the same material that human hair is made from. Wool also contains some lipids.
Wool is harvested from animals through the process of shearing. Shearing does not harm the animal. The hair is simply cut off with blade shears or machine shears. These work similarly to clippers used to cut human hair. When the hair grows back, it is shorn again. Sheep are generally shorn once per year. Usually in the spring. The same sheep can produce wool for many years.
After shearing, the wool is cleaned to remove debris. Next, it is carded. This process untangles the fibers so that they are all running in the same direction. The fibers are then spun into yarn. Finally, the yarn is woven or knitted into wool fabric. This fabric is then used to make garments. Most commercially made wool fabric is woven.
Wool fabric is heavy and warm yet breathable. It absorbs and wicks moisture away from the skin and moves the moisture to the exterior. Wool can absorb up to 1/3 of its weight in water. It also offers anti-microbial qualities which makes it resistant to developing odors. Wool is also flame-retardant. In addition, it is easy to dye into different colors. Wool is an expensive material due to the high costs of farming animals. The manufacturing process is also fairly complex.
Some types of wool are more valued than others due to the natural properties of the animal’s hair. Where the animal came from and how it was treated can also play a role in the quality of the wool. Generally, wool made from finer hairs, such as merino and cashmere wool, is more valuable because it is softer. Wool made from thicker hair can have a rough and itchy texture, making it less desirable.
Wool can also be blended with other types of fibers such as cotton or synthetics. Blending in different fibers changes the properties of the wool. For example, Merino wool is sometimes blended with polyester to improve the strength and durability of the fabric.
Wool is a versatile fabric. It can be used to make a wide range of garments including shirts, base layers, sweaters, pants, suits, socks, underwear, hats, gloves, blankets, carpets, bags, and more. Merino wool is a popular material for high-end outdoor wear.
Pros and Cons of Cotton
- Breathable- Sweat and moisture can vent out easily.
- More comfortable- Cotton feels smooth and soft against the skin. It also moves with you.
- Easier to care for- Cotton is machine washable and dryable.
- Good for hot and dry weather- Cotton helps you stay cool.
- Affordable- Cotton garments are cheaper than wool.
- Versatile- Cotton can be used to make a wide range of fabrics, garments, and household goods.
- Ethical- Cotton comes from plants. It’s vegan.
- Environmentally friendly- Cotton decomposes quickly.
- Hypoallergenic- Cotton doesn’t cause irritation.
- Looks- Cotton can look formal or casual.
- Not as warm- Coton doesn’t provide as much protection from the cold, wind, or rain.
- Not as durable- Cotton fibers break down more easily than wool.
- Nonwicking- Cotton doesn’t wick moisture. Instead, it absorbs moisture.
- Cotton wrinkles- You’ll have to iron your cotton clothes more often.
- Odors- Cotton clothing has to be washed after every wear or it will smell.
- Stains easily- If you spill wine or coffee on your cotton shirt, it will stain.
- Cotton kills- Cotton won’t keep you warm when wet. It takes a long time to dry out.
- Less sun protection- You can get a sunburn through cotton.
Pros and Cons of Wool
- Warmer- Wool provides more insulation than cotton.
- Breathable- Air and moisture can pass through.
- More durable- Wool fibers can bend more before they break.
- Moisture wicking- Wool pulls moisture away from your skin, keeping you dryer.
- Odor-resistant- Wool clothing can be worn multiple times before it starts to smell.
- Good for cold and wet weather- Wool keeps you warm and dry.
- Wrinkle-resistant- Wool can be packed and folded and doesn’t need to be ironed.
- Fire-resistant- You’re less likely to burn holes in your cotton clothing while sitting around a campfire.
- Stain resistant- Wool’s lanolin coating repels stains.
- Environmentally friendly- Wool degrades quickly when it’s discarded.
- Protection from the sun- Wool blocks harmful UV rays.
- Looks- Wool looks a bit more formal and stylish, in general.
- Less comfortable- Wool can feel rough and itchy. It’s also stiffer.
- Harder to care for- Wool must be hand washed and air dried.
- Expensive- Wool garments cost much more than cotton.
- Less ethical- Wool is an animal product. Most comes from sheep.
- Less versatile- Wool is mostly used for making clothes.
- Allergies- Some people are allergic to wool. Wool can also irritate sensitive skin.
Cotton Vs Wool
Cotton and wool are both quality natural materials. There is no winner when it comes to cotton vs wool. The best fabric really depends on the conditions you plan to wear it in. For some applications, cotton is the better choice. For others, wool is the better choice. In this section, I’ll outline the pros and cons of cotton vs wool to help you decide which material is better for your use case.
Both wool and cotton provide insulation by trapping air in tiny pockets between the fibers. Air is an excellent thermal insulator. As your body heat radiates away from you, it warms the trapped air. This insulating layer slows the transfer of heat away from your body and into the atmosphere. This keeps you warmer.
Wool is warmer than cotton. There are a few reasons for this. First, wool is a better insulator. In fact, wool is the second-best natural insulator in existence, after down. Wool insulates better than cotton because the fabric creates more air pockets. Wool fibers also have tiny scales that help to trap air. The fibers also have a natural crimp to them. This gives the material more loft. Wool retains heat better as a result. The structure allows wool to keep you warmer in cold weather.
The density of wool fabric also helps to provide protection from the elements. Particularly when the wool is felted (the proteins are bound together to increase the density of the wool). Wind and rain can’t get through the dense fabric as easily.
Wool is also more water-resistant than cotton. It doesn’t absorb moisture as quickly or easily. Even when damp, wool retains loft and still provides insulation. The structure remains. Cotton doesn’t insulate when wet because the air pockets fill with water.
Most fabrics only insulate. Some types of wool, such as Merino wool, can actually generate their own heat. This helps you stay much warmer. This heat generation is possible thanks to a chemical process called adsorption. When wool fibers absorb water, the water must pass through tiny pores. This causes the hydrogen bonds of the water molecules to break down. This chemical reaction creates heat.
According to this interesting article. “Experiments have found through this process, one kilogram of merino wool can produce as much heat over eight hours as an electric blanket.” To read more about adsorption, check out this article.
Cotton also provides insulation. It just doesn’t perform nearly as well as wool. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, cotton is more absorbent than wool. The tiny air pockets fill with moisture more easily. This moisture could come from the environment or your perspiration. Even when the weather is dry, cotton can absorb whatever moisture is in the air. When cotton gets wet, it stops providing insulation.
Cotton also allows air and moisture to pass through more easily because it is less dense. It doesn’t provide as much protection from wind or rain. Cotton also does not generate its own heat. It only traps the body heat that you produce. For these reasons, cotton does not keep you as warm as wool in cold and wet weather.
Winner: Wool is warmer than cotton.
Cotton and wool are both breathable fabrics. This means that the fibers allow air and moisture to freely pass through.
The benefit of breathability is that perspiration and moisture can easily vent out and evaporate away. This keeps you and your clothes dryer. Dry clothes provide more insulation.
In addition, breathability helps your body cool down more quickly through the process of evaporative cooling. As your sweat evaporates away, it removes heat away from your skin.
When your clothing is breathable, you’ll stay cooler in hot weather and warmer in cold weather. You’ll stay dryer in all conditions.
Even though both fabrics are very breathable, they feel different to wear in different conditions.
Wool keeps you feeling dryer than cotton. This is the case because wool fibers do a better job of pulling moisture away from your skin. Wool wicks moisture.
Wool also absorbs water more slowly than cotton and dries out faster. When wool absorbs water, the structure of the fabric remains intact. In other words, the air pockets remain. This allows a wool garment to continue providing insulation, even when wet.
Cotton feels less breathable than wool. Particularly in damp weather. This is because cotton is much more absorbent than wool. It absorbs water and becomes saturated faster.
Moisture fills the internal structure of the fabric. In other words, the air pockets fill with water. This reduces insulation. Moisture can’t evaporate away as quickly as it accumulates. Cotton also dries slowly.
In addition, cotton doesn’t wick moisture quite as well as wool. Air still passes through the fabric but cotton feels less breathable when it’s wet.
Cotton is a great choice for hot summer days. It breathes well, allowing for cooling airflow. Wool is better for cooler and wetter weather that you might encounter in the spring, winter, or fall due to its wicking qualities.
Some types of cotton and wool fabrics are more breathable than others. Thinner and more loosely woven fabrics are more breathable than thick and densely woven fabrics. For example, a lightweight cotton t-shirt offers much better breathability than a thick pair of jeans. A merino wool base layer offers better breathability than a thick wool sweater
Winner: It’s a draw. Both materials are known for their breathability. Wool keeps you feeling dryer in damp weather. Cotton keeps you feeling cooler in hot weather.
Wool is more durable than cotton. Wool fibers can bend around 20,000 times before they start to break down while cotton fibers can only bend around 3,000 times before they start to break down.
This means that wool clothes can handle more repetitive movements, folds, packing, and compression before the fibers start to break and holes start to develop. Wool maintains its shape well. It doesn’t stretch out or start to sag. Wool garments typically last longer than cotton. This durability is particularly important with socks.
Another feature of wool is that it is more fire-resistant than cotton. You don’t have to worry as much about sparks from your campfire burning holes in your wool clothing. Cotton burns at much lower temperatures.
Wool is also stain-resistant due to the natural lanolin coating of the wool fibers. If you spill something on a pair of wool pants, it will be easy to wash out.
In addition, wool has anti-microbial properties. This makes it resistant to developing mold and mildew. Your wool clothing won’t get that musty smell if it’s packed when damp.
That said, wool isn’t always the more durable material. Some types of wool are pretty delicate. This is the case with Merino wool. It tends to tear easily. This is because the fibers are so fine. If your merino shirt gets caught on a tree branch while hiking, there is a good chance that you’ll tear a hole in it. With heavy use, a 100% merino wool base layer may only last a few months before holes start to develop.
Many companies blend synthetic fibers such as polyester with Merino wool. A blend gives you the benefits of both fabrics with little drawback. You get the durability of synthetic fibers while maintaining most of the moisture-wicking, odor resistance, and insulation properties of wool. If you choose to go with Merino blend clothing rather than pure Merino, look for fabric with 60-80% Merino. This seems to be the sweet spot.
Another durability issue is pilling. Wool and cotton can both pill easily. Pilling happens when fibers break and tangle together into knots. These knots look like little balls or ‘pills.’ This is normal wear and tear. Pilling makes clothes look old. You can remove pills to renew your clothing. Check out this guide for more info on pilling.
One major benefit of cotton clothing is that it can be washed and dried in a machine with regular detergent. It can also be washed at high temperatures. Cotton tends to keep its shape.
A drawback of wool is that it needs to be washed and dried carefully so it doesn’t shrink or lose its shape. Most wool clothing should be hand-washed. I’ll talk more about maintenance and washing later on.
One interesting fact about cotton is that it becomes stronger when it’s wet. Wool becomes weaker when it’s wet. Wool does tend to stay dryer due to its natural properties.
Winner: Wool is more durable than cotton. For real-world use, cotton is often the more durable material. Both materials can take a beating. They can stand up to the abuse of hiking, travel, and day-to-day life.
Softness and Comfort
Cotton is softer and more comfortable to wear than wool. This is because cotton fibers are naturally smoother than wool fibers. The cellulose fibers that make up cotton are smoother than animal hair.
This softness is why most socks, underwear, and t-shirts are made from cotton. Cotton doesn’t itch or chafe. It feels smooth and soft against the skin. Cotton also becomes softer over time as you wash and wear it.
In addition, cotton fibers are thin, lightweight, and flexible. They move easily with you. Cotton doesn’t restrict your movement or weigh you down. It drapes nicely over your body. It’s comfy to wear.
Wool can feel itchy, rough, and uncomfortable against the skin. This is because wool has a scaled structure. The proteins that make up wool form in scales that overlap one another along each fiber. These scales can catch on your skin or body hair. They can also catch on one another. This can cause your wool clothing to feel itchy when it sits directly against your skin. You may need to wear a soft cotton or synthetic undershirt under an itchy wool sweater to stay comfortable.
The thickness of wool fibers also affects your comfort. Some types of wool are thick and coarse while others are thin and flexible. Coarse wool fibers don’t have as much crimp as thinner wool fibers. Wool with less crimp tends to feel rougher against the skin. It can also feel itchy. Coarse wool is also less flexible. It doesn’t drape as nicely over your body. It can also restrict your movement because it doesn’t offer as much stretch. Manufacturers can use treatments to smoothen and soften wool and make it more comfortable to wear.
Some types of wool are more comfortable than others. The comfort of a wool garment really depends on the quality of the wool it’s made of. Merino wool and Cashmere wool are some of the most comfortable types of wool. Both have very thin fibers. These thin fibers feel soft against the skin. Merino wool is a popular base layer material. Merino and Cashmere wool are also lighter and more flexible because the fibers are less coarse than regular sheep wool.
Cotton becomes uncomfortable to wear when it’s wet. It feels clammy and it sticks to your body. If you’ve worn a wet t-shirt, you know this feeling. It’s not pleasant. The weight of the water can also cause the fabric to sag.
Even when soaked, wool remains relatively comfortable to wear. Wool can absorb a surprising amount of water and still remain dry to the touch. It doesn’t stick to your skin or sag when wet.
Winner: Cotton is softer and more comfortable to wear than wool because the fibers are smoother and less coarse. Wool can feel itchy and rough against the skin. High-quality wool, such as Merino wool, is extremely soft and comfortable. Cotton is less comfortable when wet.
Moisture Wicking Properties
Fabric with moisture-wicking properties pulls moisture, such as sweat, away from your skin. The moisture passes through the fibers of the fabric through capillary action. Moisture moves from your skin toward the outside of the garment. It then evaporates away.
Clothing that wicks moisture helps you stay warmer by removing moisture more quickly and keeping your skin dryer. More water evaporates than the fibers absorb.\
Wicking also helps you stay cooler by facilitating evaporation. It’s easier for moisture to evaporate from the outside of your garment than from your skin. The process of evaporative cooling also helps to cool your skin.
In addition, bacteria doesn’t multiply as quickly when you and your clothing stay dry. This helps to reduce odors.
Wool wicks moisture more effectively than cotton. The fibers naturally attract moisture and pull it away from your skin and into the fabric where it can evaporate away. Wool can absorb up to 30% of its weight in water and still feel dry to the touch.
Wool can release moisture from the empty spaces between the fibers as well as from the fibers themselves. This allows wool to release water more quickly than cotton.
The outside of wool fibers is hydrophobic (it repels water) thanks to the lanolin coating. The inside of the fibers is hygroscopic (attracts water). This unique property prevents wool from quickly becoming saturated. It absorbs water slowly.
Cotton, on the other hand, doesn’t wick moisture nearly as well. The main reason is that cotton is more absorbent than wool. It also absorbs moisture much more quickly.
This absorbent property of cotton is desirable for towels and dishcloths but not for clothing. More moisture needs to evaporate away from the cotton fabric for you to stay dry.
When cotton fabric becomes saturated with moisture, it takes a long time to dry out. Water gets ‘stuck’ in the fabric. Cotton is a slow-drying material.
Wool’s sweat-wicking ability makes it a great choice for base layers as well as socks and underwear. Particularly for active individuals and those who sweat a lot. It will keep your skin feeling dry and comfortable all day.
Cotton, on the other hand, feels wet to the touch when it absorbs moisture. This makes it less comfortable against your skin. There’s nothing worse than wearing a soggy t-shirt or a sweaty pair of socks.
Winner: Wool wicks moisture better than cotton.
Ease of Care: Washing Wool Vs Cotton
Cotton is much easier to wash and care for than wool. When it’s dirty, you can just throw it in your laundry basket with the rest of your laundry. Cotton can be machine washed and dried using regular washing cycles. You can wash cotton in hot or cold water. You don’t need to use special detergent. Cotton can handle harsher detergents than wool. White cotton t-shirts and socks can be bleached.
Wool, on the other hand, is harder to care for. Most wool garments should be hand washed to avoid damage. Some wool garments can be machine washed. In this case, you should use the wool cycle or gentle cycle. Wool should be washed in cool or lukewarm water. Some wool garments, such as suits, must be dry cleaned.
When washing wool, you must also use a special detergent that is designed for wool. Regular laundry detergent is too harsh. This Wool & Cashmere Shampoo from The Laundress New York would work well. You also should never use bleach when washing wool.
Wool also requires extra care when drying. After washing wool clothing, don’t wring it out. This can stretch and break the fibers. Instead, squeeze excess water out. To dry wool clothing, it’s best to lay it out flat on a drying rack. This helps to preserve the shape of the garment. Don’t hang wool clothing to dry. The weight of the water can stretch wool clothing out. Avoid exposing wool to direct sunlight while it’s drying. The sun can bleach the fibers and turn them a yellowish color.
You shouldn’t put wool garments in the dryer. The agitation from the dryer can cause wool clothing to felt or shrink. Wool shrinks when the protein scales catch on one another and bind together. Felting happens when proteins bind together and make the wool denser. Cotton can also shrink during the first couple of washing. After that, it maintains its size and shape.
It’s important to note that not all wool requires special care. Some wool garments can be washed in the washing machine with the rest of your laundry. This is often the case with clothing made from wool blends.
Before washing your wool garments, read the washing instructions on the label. Following the instructions and washing the wool properly will prolong its life. For more tips for washing wool, check out this great guide.
One major benefit to wool clothing is that you don’t have to wash it as frequently as cotton. This is possible thanks to the anti-microbial properties of wool. A natural oil called lanolin coats the wool. This chemical helps to repel dirt and moisture and prevent microbes from multiplying.
Wool doesn’t get soiled and develop odors as quickly as cotton. Wool is an odor-resistant fabric. You can wear the same wool shirt for multiple days before it starts to smell. Most cotton clothing needs to be washed after every wear. This makes caring for wool clothing a bit easier.
Winner: Cotton is much easier to wash than wool.
Use in Different Climate Conditions
When choosing between cotton and wool clothing, it’s important to consider the type of climate you’ll be wearing them in. In general, wool performs better in cold and wet climates. Cotton performs better in hot and dry climates.
Wool has a hydrophobic coating called lanolin. This natural lipid coating repels water and can’t be removed in the wash. The inner core of wool fibers is highly absorbent. The lanolin coating prevents the wool fibers from quickly becoming saturated with water.
This allows the fabric to absorb moisture slowly. Wool can absorb up to 30% of its weight in water. Water molecules get trapped in the porous fibers of the wool. In other words, the fibers themselves absorb moisture. As a result, wool stays dry to the touch when damp.
The natural crimp of the fibers also prevents wool from losing its loft when wet. The structure of the fabric remains intact. These natural properties allow wool to maintain its insulating air pockets, even when wet.
Wool retains about 80% of its insulation quality when wet. Water does not permeate the fabric. This makes wool an excellent choice for hiking, camping, or cycling in wet conditions. It will keep you warm, even if it gets damp.
You may have heard the saying ‘cotton kills’. This is because cotton cannot insulate when it gets wet. When cotton gets wet, the spaces between the fibers get saturated with water. There are no air pockets to trap body heat and provide insulation. Cotton is also a slow-drying fabric. When cotton gets wet, it stays wet.
If your cotton sweatshirt gets wet from rain or perspiration, you will get cold. Evaporative cooling will chill your wet skin. If you have no way of drying out and warming up, hypothermia is a concern. This is how cotton kills. For this reason, it is best to avoid wearing cotton for outdoor activities such as hiking, cycling, camping, running, etc. Particularly if you expect cold weather. It can’t keep you warm in wet conditions or if your sweat wets the fabric.
Cotton performs well in hot and dry climates. It absorbs sweat quickly and breaths well. In dry heat, any sweat that accumulates will evaporate away quickly. The process of evaporative cooling helps keep you cool. Cotton allows for plenty of airflow. It’s breathable.
Winner: Wool performs much better in wet or cold conditions. Cotton performs better in hot or dry conditions.
Cotton is much less expensive than wool. There are several reasons for this. First, there is a much larger supply of cotton. This is because cotton can be grown in many countries around the world. In some climates, it can be grown year-round with multiple harvests per year. Most wool-producing animals can only be sheared once per year. This greatly limits the supply of wool.
Cotton also requires less land and fewer resources to produce than wool. Raising farm animals, such as sheep, requires lots of land and resources. Animals require food, water, shelter, and veterinary care. It’s expensive to keep livestock.
Cotton is also faster and cheaper to process. Much of the process is automated. Wool requires more treatment and processing to turn it into fabric. More hours of labor are required. This also adds to the cost.
The difference in price is pretty significant. Wool clothing is 3-4 times more expensive than cotton. For example, you can buy a nice cotton sweatshirt for around $40-$50. A similar sweatshirt made from merino wool may cost over $100. Basic cotton t-shirts cost $10-$25 each. Merino wool t-shirts cost $50-$80. You can buy a 6 pack of cotton underwear for around $20. A single pair of merino wool underwear costs around $25. A 6 pack of cotton socks costs around $20. For that same $20, you could only get 1-2 pairs of wool socks.
There are some premium types of cotton that can be expensive, such as Pima and Egyptian cotton. These high-end varieties are still cheaper than merino wool, cashmere wool, or alpaca wool. Wool is always more expensive than cotton.
You may want to factor in the longevity of your clothing when deciding between cotton and wool. Wool garments tend to last a bit longer than cotton if they’re taken care of. For example, you might get 5 seasons of use out of a quality wool sweater if you take care of it. A comparable cotton sweater may only last 4 seasons. You’ll have to replace the cotton sweater a bit more often. This longevity brings down the cost per wear of a wool garment. Cotton still costs less in the long run, even though it doesn’t last as long.
Winner: Cotton is far cheaper than wool.
Cotton clothing is usually lighter than wool clothing. The reason is that wool garments are usually more densely woven than cotton. Cotton fibers are also thinner and lighter than most types of wool fibers.
Wool fibers vary in size based on the animal they came from. Some types of wool, such as merino and cashmere, have thin and lightweight fibers. Merino wool clothing is comparable in weight to cotton clothing.
The manufacturing method can also affect the weight. Manufacturers can spin the fibers into different yarn sizes. They can weave or knit the yarn into different fabric weights (thicknesses), densities, and textures. This plays a big role in the weight of the finished product. Generally, wool clothing ends up weighing more than cotton.
Because wool provides insulation, manufacturers tend to use it more often for making thick, cold-weather clothing. Manufacturers choose materials based on their strengths. They might choose wool to make a thick winter sweater and choose cotton to make lightweight summer shirts.
Wool clothing also tends to be bulkier than cotton clothing for these reasons. It takes up more volume when packed.
The weight and size are important considerations if you’re buying clothing for travel. Wool clothing takes up more space in your luggage because it’s bulkier. Cotton is lighter and more compact. You can get away with packing fewer items of clothing when you go with wool because you don’t have to wash wool as frequently. You also don’t have to pack as many layers if you go with wool because it’s warmer. In addition, you can pack lighter if you go with wool.
Winner: Cotton is lighter than wool.
Both cotton and wool are environmentally friendly materials. They are natural fibers. Few chemicals are used in the manufacturing process. The fibers can biodegrade. If buried in the ground, wool biodegrades in 3-4 months. Cotton is one of the fastest fabrics to decompose. 100% cotton can degrade in 2-4 months.
Cotton and wool are both considered renewable resources. Cotton plants can be grown an infinite number of times. Wool-producing animals can reproduce quickly and infinitely.
Of course, there is some environmental impact of producing both cotton and wool. Cotton requires a lot of water to grow and process. It also requires lots of land.
Livestock farming wool-producing animals emits greenhouse gasses. The animals also require water, feed, and land. There is some environmental impact.
Cotton and wool are both much more environmentally friendly than synthetics such as polyester, nylon, or rayon. Synthetics are made from petroleum products. They can also release microplastics into the environment. It’s best to avoid synthetic fabrics when possible.
Winner: Both cotton and wool are environmentally friendly materials.
Some people find the use of animal products to be unethical and exploitative. Wool is an animal product. It is not vegan. Whether or not wool is ethical to wear is up to you to decide. There are two sides to the argument.
On one hand, sheep are domesticated animals that have been selectively bred to produce wool. The animals are not harmed during shearing. Farmers simply cut the hair off. Sheep must be shorn or they will suffer health issues and reduced mobility. They eventually die.
On the other hand mistreatment of animals does exist in the wool industry. There are also some potentially unethical practices in the industry such as tail docking, castration, and winter lambing. Sheep are also killed after their wool begins to degrade due to old age. You can read more about the treatment of wool-producing animals here.
Ethical wool or Cruelty-free wool also exists. Ethical wool has been sourced from sheep that have been treated humanely. It is often certified by organizations such as the Responsible Wool Standard (RWS), the Global Animal Partnership, and others. There are a number of brands that sell ethical wool, including Patagonia, Fjallraven, PrAna, Icebreaker, and Smartwool.
Ethical wool is often more expensive than conventional wool, but many consumers feel that it is worth the extra cost knowing that the animals have been treated well. Ethical wool is also often seen as being of higher quality than conventional wool, as the animals are less likely to be stressed, which can lead to a finer fiber. For more info on ethical wool, check out this great guide.
Cotton comes from a plant. This means it is a vegan material. No animals are harmed in cotton production. No animal byproducts are used to make cotton.
Winner: Cotton may be considered more ethical than wool.
Cotton has many more applications than wool. Cotton is used to make a wide range of garments including shirts, socks, underwear, pants, hats, gloves, and jeans. It is used to make household goods such as towels, bed sheets, blankets, bathrobes, upholstery, curtains, and other home décor. Some common fabrics made from cotton include flannel, denim, corduroy, oxford, jersey knit, canvas, poplin, chambray, chenille, gingham, and many more. Cotton fabric can also be dyed into any color. Manufacturers can also print designs on it.
Cotton can be used for purposes other than textiles. For example, it is sometimes used to make coffee filters, book bindings, and gauze fabric that is used in medicine. Cotton can also be used to make tents. Canvas tents are popular due to their ability to absorb water. This nearly eliminates condensation. Most hot tents are made from canvas.
Wool doesn’t have quite as many uses. Most wool is used to make clothing. It can also be used to make blankets, horse rugs, insulation, carpeting, and a handful of other products. Wool is not as widely used as cotton. Mostly due to the cost.
Winner: Cotton is slightly more versatile than wool.
When it comes to odor resistance, wool is the clear winner. Wool is naturally odor-resistant thanks to its natural lanolin coating. Lanolin is a greasy substance that repels water and reduces bacteria growth. In addition, wool is a sweat-wicking material, which means it quickly draws moisture away from the skin. This helps keep the skin dry and prevents bacteria from multiplying, further reducing the risk of odors. You can wear the same wool shirt for multiple days before it starts to smell. This is a major benefit for people who sweat a lot as well as active people
Cotton, on the other hand, does not have the same natural resistance to odors as wool. Bacteria can multiply quickly. This is the source of body odor. As a result, cotton shirts can start to smell after just a day of wear. So if you’re looking for a fabric that will keep you feeling fresh all day long, wool is the way to go.
Winner: Wool is odor resistant. You can wear the same wool garment multiple times.
Protection from UV Rays
Cotton and wool both provide protection from harmful UV rays. Wool offers much more protection. Merino wool has a UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Rating) of around 30-50 while cotton has a UPF of 5-7.
You’re less likely to suffer sunburn or skin damage while wearing wool. You can get a sunburn through a cotton shirt. If you need to spend long hours in the sun, wear lightweight long-sleeved wool clothing for maximum protection.
Winner: Wool provides more protection from harmful UV rays.
Sensitive Skin and Allergies
Cotton is the better material for those with sensitive skin or allergies. It feels incredibly soft against the skin. Cotton does not itch or cause irritation. Cotton is also hypoallergenic. In fact, cotton is so hypoallergenic that it is used to make medical supplies such as gauze fabric and bandages. These are used by medical professionals around the world. Cotton allergies exist but are extremely rare.
Wool, on the other hand, can feel itchy and uncomfortable. Particularly if you have sensitive skin. Low-quality wool made from thick, coarse fibers can feel itchy on regular skin. The solution to this is to wear a soft base layer between your skin and the wool layer.
Some types of wool are extremely soft and do not cause itchiness or irritation. Merino and cashmere wool are particularly soft because the fibers are very fine and flexible.
Some people are allergic to wool. More specifically, they are allergic to the natural lanolin coating on the wool. A wool allergy can cause skin irritation and itchiness. This is a rare condition. If you have a wool allergy, you might try wearing alpaca wool, which doesn’t have lanolin. The lack of lanolin makes alpaca wool less likely to hold dust and other allergens as well.
Winner: Cotton is better for people with sensitive skin and allergies. Wool can cause itchy skin and irritation. Some people are allergic to wool.
Wool is a naturally wrinkle-resistant fabric. If your wool clothing gets a bit wrinkled, you can dampen it and hang it up and the wrinkles will release. Alternatively, you can hang it in the bathroom while showering and the steam from the shower will help the wrinkles release. This wrinkle resistance makes wool popular for travelers who regularly pack their clothing.
Cotton, on the other hand, does wrinkle. Sometimes the only way to get the wrinkles out is to iron your clothing. This is a time-consuming task. If you travel, you have to be careful about how you pack your cotton clothing to avoid wrinkles.
Winner: Wool wrinkles less than cotton.
When it comes to stain resistance, wool is superior to cotton. Wool fibers are coated with a natural protein that makes them resistant to liquids. Wool also absorbs liquids slowly. Cotton absorbs liquids quickly. As a result, wool is less likely to show stains than cotton.
It’s important to note that wool is a very absorbent material. If you spill wine or coffee on a wool garment, you should clean it off as quickly as possible before the wool has the chance to absorb the liquid. If you leave it, a stain will form and it will be very difficult to get it out.
Winner: Wool is more stain resistant than cotton.
In general, wool looks a bit more formal than cotton. You could wear a nice wool sweater to work, to a nice restaurant, or to a dinner party during the winter. You may not want to wear a cotton sweatshirt in those situations. Many high-end suits are also made from wool.
Cotton tends to be a bit less formal. Cotton hoodies, jeans, t-shirts, flannel shirts, etc. are made for casual situations. That said, you can buy more formal clothing that is made from cotton. Cotton suits and shirts are common. It is an incredibly versatile material.
Winner: It depends on the situation. In general, wool is more formal and cotton is more casual. Formal and casual clothing can be made from both materials.
Cotton Vs Wool for Different Types of Clothing
In this section, I’ll outline the ideal fabric choice for sweaters, pants, socks, and underwear.
Wool Vs Cotton Sweater
When choosing a sweater, consider the weather conditions you plan to wear it in and the activities you like to do. If you live in a cold or wet climate and participate in lots of outdoor activities, wool is the better choice. If you live in a warmer climate and spend most of your time in the city, cotton is the better choice.
Wool provides more protection from the elements. It can keep you warmer because wool provides more insulation than cotton. A wool sweater will also keep you dryer. Wool is sweat-wicking, breathable, and quick-drying. Best of all, a wool sweater can still keep you warm when wet. This is an important feature if you spend time in the great outdoors hiking or camping. If you get caught in the rain, wool keeps you warm. Wool sweaters also last longer. Many people also prefer the look of wool. It’s a bit more sophisticated.
There are drawbacks. Wool sweaters are significantly more expensive. You could buy three cotton sweaters for the price of a quality wool sweater. Wool sweaters can also be itchy. You may need to wear a soft base layer underneath.
Cotton sweaters are better for more mild conditions such as the late spring or early fall. You can throw on a cotton sweater during the chilly mornings and evenings then take it off when the weather warms up. Cotton sweaters are cheap and comfortable to wear. They are also extremely comfortable and versatile.
Cotton sweaters do not perform well in extremely cold or wet weather. When cotton gets wet, it loses its insulation qualities. Even humid weather or a skiff of snow can significantly reduce the warmth of cotton. Cotton sweaters also take a long time to dry out. They also wear out quicker. Cotton pills easily
Wool Vs Cotton Socks
Cotton and wool socks have different use cases. Most people fill their sock drawer with cotton socks and a few pairs of wool socks.
Cotton socks are ideal for everyday wear. They are soft, breathable, comfortable, and pretty durable. Cotton socks are also cheap. You can fill your sock drawer for $30. In addition, cotton socks are easy to wash. Just throw them in the washing machine with the rest of your clothes. If they’re white, bleach them once in a while.
There are plenty of drawbacks to cotton socks. They develop holes faster than wool socks. This is because socks experience a lot of friction from rubbing against the inside of your shoes. In addition, cotton socks won’t keep your feet as warm as wool socks because cotton doesn’t provide as much insulation. Cotton socks also won’t keep your feet as dry as wool. They absorb sweat faster and eventually become saturated. They also dry out slowly. If your feet get wet, they’ll stay wet until you change your socks. Cotton socks also develop an odor easily. Your feet will stink after a long day.
Wool socks are ideal for hiking, walking, running, and travel. They are also better for cold weather use. Wool socks are more durable than cotton socks. Friction will cause pilling and felting but holes take a long time to form. Wool socks last longer than cotton. Wool socks also keep your feet warmer than cotton socks because wool is a better insulator. They’ll also keep your feet dryer by wicking sweat away. Wool is absorbent, breathable, and quick drying. You’re less likely to develop blisters when your feet are dry. Best of all, wool socks are odor-resistant. Your feet won’t smell when you remove your shoes after a long day on your feet.
For most people, wool socks aren’t practical for everyday wear due to the high cost and maintenance. A single pair of wool socks can cost $10-$25. You can buy a 6 pack of cotton socks for that same amount of money. Wool socks are also a hassle to wash. Many require hand washing. Most people don’t want to bother with that. Wool socks can also make your feet itchy. You can deal with this by wearing a thin pair of socks underneath.
Wool Vs Cotton Dress Pants
Wool pants are generally more formal than cotton pants. They’re often part of a suit. Cotton pants are more commonly worn as chinos or business casual trousers.
Wool is a very durable fabric. Wool pants will usually last longer than cotton pants. However, wool is more expensive than cotton. It’s also warmer. Some people find it to be uncomfortably hot. Particularly if you live in a hot climate. One benefit of wool pants is that they don’t wrinkle as easily. You usually don’t have to iron them.
Cotton pants are usually more comfortable than wool pants and they’re better suited for warm weather. Cotton is also a cheaper fabric than wool. This makes cotton pants a more affordable option. However, cotton isn’t as durable as wool. It also wrinkles more easily. You’ll have to iron your cotton pants before wearing them.
The better material for dress pants really depends on the occasion and your personal preferences. If you need a pair of formal trousers for a suit, wool is the better option. If you’re looking for something more comfortable and affordable for business casual or chinos, go with cotton.
Cotton Vs Wool T-Shirts
Both types of t-shirts have their own distinct benefits that make them ideal for different situations. Both wool and cotton are breathable fabrics, but wool has the added benefit of being quick-drying and odor resistant. Wool is also durable and insulating. This makes wool t-shirts ideal for activities where you will be sweating, such as hiking or running. Wool is also wrinkle-resistant, making it a good choice for travel.
Cotton t-shirts are more affordable than wool t-shirts. They are also very soft and comfortable against the skin. They’re great for everyday wear. However, cotton shirts tend to hold on to sweat and wrinkles more than wool shirts.
Overall, wool t-shirts are a better choice for activewear, while cotton t-shirts are a better choice for everyday wear.
Wool Vs Cotton Underwear
For daily wear, cotton is the better material for underwear. Cotton underwear are affordable. You can buy a 6 pack for around $20. Cotton underwear also feel soft and comfortable against your skin. In addition, they are easy to wash and dry. Just throw them in the machine.
Merino wool underwear are an excellent choice for active people, such as hikers and travelers. Wool is also breathable and quick drying. It also blocks odors. You can wear a pair of merino wool underwear for more than one day. However, wool underwear are more expensive than cotton. A single pair of merino underwear can cost $20 or more.
Cotton Vs Wool for Travel Clothes
Wool is generally the better option for travel. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, wool clothes don’t need to be washed as frequently due to their anti-odor properties. 2 or 3 wool shirts will last you a whole week if you’re okay with wearing the same thing for multiple days. Wool also dries quickly. You can handwash your wool clothes in the sink in your hotel room and then wear them later in the day. In addition, wool doesn’t wrinkle as badly in your suitcase.
Cotton fabrics are lighter than wool. They can take up a bit less space in your suitcase. You may have to pack more clothes when you go with cotton because cotton develops odors easily. You’ll have to change your cotton shirt daily and do laundry frequently. Cotton can also wrinkle in your suitcase. You’ll have to do some ironing.
For these reasons, wool is the superior option for travel clothing.
Different Types of Cotton and Wool Compared
Several different types of cotton and wool exist. In this section, I’ll compare a few of the more popular types of each fabric.
Pima Cotton Vs Merino Wool
These are both premium materials. Pima cotton is considered to be the best type of cotton. Merino wool is often considered to be the best type of wool. Peruvian Pima cotton is often compared to merino wool, but the two fabrics are actually quite different.
Pima cotton originated in Peru. Today, most Pima cotton in produced in the United States. Pima cotton is made from the longest and strongest cotton fibers, which makes it extremely soft and durable. It’s almost satin-like in texture. Pima cotton is also extremely absorbent. Pima cotton is used just like any other type of cotton. It can be used for t-shirts, sweatshirts, sheets, towels, and more.
In contrast, merino wool is made from the fleece of a special type of sheep that is native to Spain. Today, Australia and New Zealand produce most of the world’s merino. Garments made from merino feel soft and luxurious. This is because the merino fibers are particularly fine. Over time, merino garments can become even softer.
Merino wool performs incredibly well. It offers moisture-wicking, breathable, quick-drying, odor-resistant, and wrinkle-resistant properties. Merino wool base layers are popular for these reasons. Merino is great for outdoor enthusiasts, such as fishermen, hikers, and campers.
Pima Vs Egyptian Cotton
There are a few different types of cotton that are used to make clothing and other fabric items. Two of the most popular choices are Pima cotton and Egyptian cotton. Both Pima and Egyptian cotton are known for being extremely soft and smooth, making them very comfortable to wear. They are also both absorbent and breathable, which helps to keep the skin dry and cool. Both are considered premium cotton. So, what’s the difference between these two types of cotton?
Pima cotton is a type of extra-long staple cotton. It is grown in warm climates, such as Peru, Australia, and the southwestern United States. Pima cotton is prized for its long fibers, which results in a higher quality fabric that is less likely to pill or tear. It is also very absorbent.
Egyptian cotton is another type of extra-long staple cotton. It is grown in hot climates, such as Egypt (specifically the Nile River Delta) and India. Egyptian cotton is also prized for its long fibers, but it is also known for its resistance to pilling and tearing. In addition, Egyptian cotton is often considered to be the softest type of cotton available.
So, which type of cotton is better? That really depends on your personal preferences. Both Pima and Egyptian cotton are extremely soft and comfortable. Both are great choices for clothing and other fabric items.
Merino Vs Cashmere Wool
Merino and Cashmere wools both come from animals. Both are both extremely soft and warm, making them ideal for winter clothing. There are some key differences between the two types of wool.
Merino wool is sourced from Merino sheep. It is more durable and longer lasting than Cashmere wool. It is less likely to pill or stretch over time.
Cashmere wool is sourced from the Cashmere goat. It is warmer and softer than Merino wool. It also does not contain lanolin, which makes it hypoallergenic. However, Cashmere wool is also more delicate. Because it is less durable, it is also more delicate and needs to be handled with care.
When choosing between Merino wool and Cashmere wool, consider how you will be using the item of clothing and what is most important to you: durability or luxury. Merino wool is a better choice for garments that will be worn frequently. Cashmere wool is a better choice for garments that will be worn for special occasions. Both are great for cold weather.
Wool Vs Cotton FAQ
In this section, I’ll answer some frequently asked questions about wool and cotton.
Is it Better to Wear Cotton or Wool in the Winter?
Wool and cotton are both great fabrics for winter wear. But which one is better? When it comes to warmth, wool is the clear winner. Wool is an excellent insulator, trapping heat and helping to keep your body temperature stable. Cotton, on the other hand, is not as good at trapping heat. Wool is the way to go if you’re looking for fabric that will help you stay warm in the winter.
When it comes to wet weather, wool is also the better choice. Wool repels water. When wool gets wet, it still insulates. It also dries quickly. Cotton absorbs water, so it won’t keep you as dry in a downpour. It also dries slowly. If you’re caught in a rainstorm, you’ll be more comfortable in wool.
Cotton still has its place in winter. A cotton hoodie can keep you warm and cozy when you’re at home. Cotton can also work well for layering. A cotton sweatshirt can be a great mid-layer under your winter jacket.
Ultimately, the choice between wool and cotton depends on your personal preferences and needs. If you’re looking for a warm and fuzzy fabric to snuggle up in on a cold winter day, cotton is the way to go. But if you need a warm and breathable fabric for winter activities, wool is the better choice.
Is it Better to Wear Cotton or Wool in the Summer?
When it comes to summer apparel, cotton is definitely the fabric of choice. Not only is it breathable and cool, but it also has the ability to absorb sweat and keep the body dry, even when the temperatures are soaring.
There is one type of wool that may be worth considering for summerwear: merino wool. This special variety of wool is renowned for its lightweight properties, making it much cooler and more comfortable to wear in the summer heat. It does a great job of regulating body temperature.
If you’re looking for the best fabric to keep you cool and dry this summer, cotton is the way to go. Wool is still an option.
Is Wool Itchy?
Wool is often thought to be itchy and uncomfortable to wear, but this is not necessarily the case. The itchiness of wool depends on the quality of the wool and the type of wool. Lower-quality woolen products are more likely to be itchy because they’re made from thicker and coarser fibers. Higher-quality woolen products are less likely to be itchy because they are made from thinner and softer fibers.
People with sensitive skin are more likely to find wool itchy. Temperature and moisture can also affect the itchiness.
There are some types of wool that are naturally soft and non-irritating, such as merino wool and cashmere wool. These both have a soft and fluffy texture that feels great against the skin.
Why is Wool So Expensive?
Wool is a natural fiber that is obtained mostly from sheep. It is expensive for a number of reasons. First, wool is an animal product, and the cost of raising and caring for animals is high. Farmers need to buy feed and pay for veterinary care. It also takes quite a bit of land to raise sheep.
In addition, wool requires a lot of processing to turn it into usable fabric. It needs to be cleaned, spun into yarn, then woven into fabric. This is a time-consuming and labor-intensive task.
The demand for wool is also relatively high, which drives up the price. Wool is not a very common material, so the supply is limited. There are only so many farmers producing wool. All of these factors combine to make wool one of the most expensive fabrics available on the market.
Does Wool Make You Sweat?
No, wool doesn’t make you sweat. Sweating is the body’s natural way of cooling itself down. When it’s hot, the body’s sweat glands are activated in order to release moisture onto the skin. As the sweat evaporates, it helps to lower the body’s temperature.
Wool is often used in winter clothing because it is a great insulator. It is able to trap heat, which means it can help to keep you warm in cold weather. However, this also means that wool can make you sweat if you wear it in warm weather. The fiber will trap heat and make it difficult for your skin to cool down. As a result, you’ll want to avoid heavy wool clothing in warm weather.
Lightweight wool clothing, such as merino is a great choice for warm weather. It wicks sweat and helps you stay cool.
When to Choose Cotton
Cotton is ideal for warm and dry weather due to its lightweight and breathability. In hot weather, cotton clothing can help keep you cool and comfortable. Cotton can also be a great choice for cool weather. It’s a highly versatile fabric that can be used to create a variety of different styles of clothing. Cotton t-shirts, hoodies, and jeans are staples that everyone should have in their closet.
If you’re looking for soft and comfortable clothing, cotton is also a great choice. Cotton hoodies, t-shirts, socks, underwear, sweatpants, and pajamas are great for lounging around. As cotton wears, it becomes even softer.
Cotton is also ideal if you’re looking for clothing that is easy to care for. You can simply wash and dry it in the machine. Because cotton is so affordable, it’s a great option if you’re on a budget.
Cotton is also a great choice for household goods. For example, cotton is a great choice for towels due to its absorbency. Cotton sheets are popular due to their soft texture. Cotton is also a great material for rugs, curtains, and blankets.
When to Choose Wool
Wool is a wonderful fabric to wear year-round. It is breathable and able to regulate body temperature, keeping you warm in cooler temperatures and cool in warmer temperatures. Wool is also an excellent insulator.
Wool is moisture-wicking. It will help keep you dry when sweating or if you get caught in the rain. In addition, wool is quick-drying, so it will not hold moisture next to your skin like other fabrics can. These properties make wool an excellent choice for outdoor activities such as hiking, camping, cycling, fishing, hunting, etc.
Wool is also a great material for travelers. It is naturally wrinkle-resistant. You can pack it in your suitcase then take it out and wear it without having to iron it. Wool is also odor resistant. You can wear the same wool clothing for days without having to wash it.
My Choice: Wool Vs Cotton
I wear a mix of cotton, wool, and synthetic clothing. Each material has its benefits and drawbacks. Generally, I find that merino wool and synthetics perform best for my use case.
I spend much of my time traveling and living as a digital nomad. In the past, I mostly wore cotton clothes because cotton clothing is cheap. Recently, I’ve been transitioning my travel clothing to merino wool.
The main reason I prefer merino for travel is the odor resistance. I can wear the same t-shirt for 4-5 days before it starts to smell. After a long day of sightseeing and walking, my wool socks have no odor. I can even wear merino underwear for multiple days. This may sound offputting to some, but it works.
The main benefit for me is that I don’t have to carry as many clothes. I can pack lighter and fit everything into a piece of carry-on luggage. Wool clothing also doesn’t get as wrinkled in my backpack as cotton clothing. I can roll my merino shirts and place them in my packing cubes and they stay wrinkle-free.
While traveling, I often wash my clothes in the sink so the hand wash requirement of wool doesn’t really affect me. I also appreciate the quick dry time of wool. I can wash my clothes and wear them just a few hours later. When I traveled with cotton clothes, I would have to wait a day or more for them to dry out.
Of course, cotton still has its place. When I’m not traveling, I mostly wear cotton clothing due to the low cost, comfort, and ease of care. I have plenty of cotton t-shirts, sweatshirts, and jeans in my closet at home. Most days, I wear cotton clothing. I save my wool clothes for when I’m traveling, hiking, or camping.
Final Thoughts About Cotton Vs Wool
Both cotton and wool have their place in any wardrobe. They each have desirable qualities for different uses. Wool is ideal for cold and wet climates. It is also an excellent material for outdoor wear and activewear. Cotton performs well in warm and dry climates. It’s also great for casual day-to-day wear.
Wool is moisture-wicking, breathable, quick-drying, odor-resistant, and durable. Cotton is comfortable, breathable, low cost, and low maintenance. Whichever material you choose for your next sweater, shirt, socks, or underwear, I hope this guide has helped you decide.
Do you prefer wearing cotton or wool clothing? Share your experience in the comments below!
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