< Back to blog

Is "Breathable Cotton" Really Breathable?

Whether you’re working out at the gym, commuting to work, or catching up on household chores, you’re going to sweat. And few things feel less icky than perspiration on your skin that’s trapped under your clothes. Blame your gene pool for gifting you with overactive sweat glands if you want (thanks, Grandpa Harvey!), but your clothing choices probably have more to do with the way you’re feeling.

We all consider size and style when we’re shopping for clothes, but it’s also important to consider your fabric and fit choices before making your purchase. If you want to avoid trapping that sweat, cotton is a great choice. It’s an all-natural breathable fabric and can be the perfect option to keep you cool and dry.

What Makes Cotton Breathable?

Cotton’s absorbent properties let it wick moisture away from your body, and allow air to circulate through the weave of the fabric. This creates an all-natural system allowing heat to escape from your body quickly. It’s almost like having a built-in air conditioner in your clothes — and a great option for those hot summer days. To stay cool when it’s hot and you’re working hard, keep a few rules in mind:

  1. Steer clear of tightly-knitted fabrics
  2. Avoid materials that tend to hold moisture in, such as polyester or rayon
  3. Opt for a looser fit to avoid direct contact between the fabric and your skin

There’s a good reason we love using cotton towels – they remove moisture from the skin quickly and their thick, durable fibers can absorb buckets of moisture. According to The International Forum for Cotton Promotion, cotton can absorb water up to 27 times its own weight. You can’t wear a towel to work, but clothes made with cotton are naturally soft and absorbent, so they’ll feel gentle on your skin while they’re keeping you cool.

How Do Other Fabrics Compare to Cotton?

  • Cotton vs. Polyester: Polyester is a good choice for inexpensive fabrics – but not so great for clothing. Polyester is a man-made fabric, so it doesn’t have the same natural abilities to absorb moisture like cotton.  Moisture gets trapped but not absorbed, and resulting in zero. If it’s summertime, then the livin’ will be, well – just plain hot and sticky. Choose clothing that will keep you feeling and looking cool instead.
  • Cotton vs. Denim: Before rocking your favorite skinny jeans on a 90 degree day, keep in mind that denim is restrictive – and woven tight. That tight weave means it won’t be as breathable as other cotton fabrics. Remember the three rules and opt for a pair of cotton joggers or cotton capris!
  • Cotton vs. Rayon: Rayon is featured in a lot of clothing these days, but it performs very similarly to polyester. Instead of absorbing moisture, rayon repels it, which means sweat pooling in all the wrong spots. (Think back and legs - yuck!)

When you’re on the hunt for breathable clothing, always be sure to check labels. Clothing may feel soft and lightweight, but breathability all comes down to what it’s made of. Cotton and polyester might feel similar, but understanding their performance qualities will help you avoid sticky, sweaty situations. 100% cotton labels in loose weaves and fits will ensure you always feel dry, breezy, and comfortable during those hot, sticky months.

At HomeGrown Cotton, we scientifically verify that the cotton products that bear our name are made with 100% American-grown cotton on our family farms. Choosing HomeGrown Cotton means you’ll feel cool and comfortable all season long – and feel good about where your cotton comes from.


Whether you’re a manufacturer looking to enhance your cotton products or a customer just wanting to know a bit more, we’d love to hear from you.

Learn More
Thank You For Supporting America's Farmers
American Flag Icon