Cotton vs Polyester Underwear (Which to choose?)

Cotton vs Polyester Underwear
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Do you have a die-hard preference when it comes to cotton vs polyester underwear? 

Odds are you’re somewhere in the middle and have come here to figure out where you stand between the two. 

Because cotton underwear is a man-made material and is often softer and more high-quality, you would think that cotton underwear would always win this debate. 

However, cotton is not the better choice for every scenario. 

Keep reading to find out who wins the debate.

Does Underwear Fabric Really Matter?

Before we get into the debate of polyester vs cotton, we must ask the question – does underwear fabric really matter? Or does it just come down to a matter of preference? 

The answer to this question is yes, underwear fabric does matter, as it may make a difference to your overall health, not to mention your athletic performance. 

How can something as simple as your choice of underwear make a difference to your health? 

Well, first of all, choosing the right underwear can prevent down-south issues like jock itch, as a breathable material such as cotton allows for breathability, as well as an ability to absorb moisture. 

It also makes a difference if your underwear is clean, new, and well-fitting.

If you’re an athlete, then you’ll also find that your underwear is going to make a difference to you, as polyester can more effectively keep you dry, even if cotton does absorb moisture more effectively. 

This can result in improved athletic performance as well as an increase in comfort. 

Cotton Underwear

Box of Cotton underwear

Because cotton is a natural fiber, it is the preferred choice for many when it comes to both clothing and undergarments. 

A Global Consumer Benchmarking study conducted in 2017 indicated that the type of fabric used for 76% of respondents was important in their clothing purchase decisions, with 81% confirming that consumers were more familiar with cotton than other leading fabrics, such as polyester, rayon, and modal. 

Plus, the factors that consumers reported that were most important to them when purchasing clothing were also the factors that we consider most associated with cotton, being comfort, value, and durability. 

So, while stats tend to back up that cotton is the most preferred choice over polyester, what other factors contribute to our love of cotton underwear? 

Well, there’s the way it’s made for one. Cotton is environmentally friendly and biodegradable, so you know that your underwear will break down over time and that it will not just sit in a landfill until the end of time. 

Plus, organic cotton underwear is produced without pesticides or other chemicals, which is the preferred choice if you suffer from sensitive skin.

Looking for more benefits? Cotton underwear helps regulate your body temperature due to its breathability. 

It can withstand heat, detergents, and bleach, has exceptional hypoallergenic properties and doesn’t cause irritation in your most sensitive areas.

Of course, cotton underwear also has its downsides too, most notably the following:

  • 100% cotton underwear does not stretch
  • Less likely to stay dry due to its highly absorbent nature
  • Will shrink unless treated
  • Wrinkles easily
  • Can be damaged by prolonged exposure to sunlight
  • Not ideal for wearing during physical activity

Polyester Underwear

Now, let’s take a look at polyester underwear. 

Even though cotton underwear is generally the preferred choice, that doesn’t apply to everyone and in every situation. 

For example, polyester underwear is often the preferred choice for athletes or anyone who regularly partakes in physical activity. 

This is because polyester can withstand tough, athletic movements more effectively than cotton underwear can, without its synthetic fiber breaking down. 

Plus, polyester underwear can wick away moisture and sweat instead of simply absorbing it, which is a common issue with cotton underwear.

One of the major downsides of polyester underwear is, of course, how it’s made. Polyester is an entirely synthetic material and is made from a chemical reaction involving air, petroleum, and water. 

Therefore, purchasing polyester underwear is never a good choice for those looking for a sustainable and biodegradable product. 

Of course, there is recycled polyester or rPET, which is created by melting down existing plastic and then re-spinning it into new polyester fiber. 

While this is a great way to make polyester more sustainable, you would surely run into the same issues again when it comes time to dispose of your underwear.

Having said all of this, polyester fibers are strong, so your underwear will not break down easily. 

Unlike cotton, it is resistant to shrinking and wrinkles and also resists fading, so you may find that you can get more use out of polyester underwear in the long run. 

This brings us to our next question.

Does Cotton Last Longer Than Polyester?

worn out underwear

The answer to this question highly depends on how you treat your underwear, but in general, polyester is less prone to shrinking, fading, and wrinkling and is more durable. 

However, polyester is more susceptible to runs and pulls than cotton is. You may also find yourself ditching your polyester underwear quickly if you are prone to sensitive skin, in which case, cotton will most definitely last you longer than polyester.

Is Polyester Breathable for Underwear?

Polyester has plenty of good points when used in underwear, including the fact that it absorbs moisture and sweat while remaining dry, keeping you fresh and comfortable. 

But even though polyester seems to keep you cooler due to the fact that it is lightweight and water repellant, it is not considered a breathable fabric. 

Is Polyester Good for Underwear?

All in all, polyester is not the best choice for everyday underwear. 

However, we would recommend polyester underwear over cotton underwear when engaging in physical activity for long periods, as it will keep you much drier and cooler than cotton underwear when it comes to absorbing sweat. 

Continuously purchasing polyester underwear is also bad for the environment, whereas keeping a supply of cotton underwear as an everyday choice will prove to be much more sustainable. 

Best Breathable Fabric for Underwear

At the end of the day, cotton will always be the best choice for breathable underwear. 

You’ll notice plenty of boxer briefs on the market that are marketed as “exercise underwear” due to their highly absorbent nature, but this doesn’t mean that they are at all breathable. 

Nine times out of ten, they are made out of almost entirely polyester or nylon. 

MicroModal, known for its premium softness, is a sustainable fiber derived from beech trees and is becoming more commonly used in undergarments. 

This is one of the most breathable sweat-wicking fabrics that you can find on the market today and takes the best qualities of both cotton and polyester. 

Check out these Ultra Soft Micro Modal Boxer Briefs by David Archy!

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, we stand with cotton underwear all the way for everyday use. 

Still, we recommend keeping a couple pairs of polyester underwear on hand for long workouts and particularly active days. 

It’s important to remember that the fabric of your underwear absolutely does matter and can make a difference to your health in the long run. 

Consider MicroModal fabric as an alternative to both cotton and polyester if you’re looking for a fabric that breathes well and has moisture-wicking properties!

If you’re not a big fan of wearing underwear or just want to try something different, check this post on going commando.

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