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Resource Center » Does Blended (50/50) vs. (100%) Cotton Really Matter? Which Shrinks Less?

When you’re ordering custom printed fabric items, is it better to choose a product that’s 100% cotton or one that’s made from a cotton blend? Let’s take a look at the differences.

How do you know when to use 100% cotton and when to use 50/50 blended cotton for your promotional t-shirts, towels, and other fabric items? Well, you could just flip a coin – or you can make an educated decision with the help of your fine friends at Quality Logo Products.

Your choice of fabric should depend on the budget you have available, the uses you have in mind for each item, and the decoration technique that your product requires. In particular, screen printing results can vary from material to material, so you should know which fabric best suits your needs before making a purchase.

Mixing It Up with a 50/50 Cotton Blend

When we talk about items made from a 50/50 cotton blend (which we do all the time because of the industry we work in, and not just because we lack topics for conversation), we’re most often talking about items that are half cotton, half polyester. This combination of a breathable, natural fabric with an affordable, industrially made one is one of the most common in the textile industry.

When it comes to printing your design, some designers claim that they get the best screen printing results using 50/50 cotton, though not everyone agrees. If your item can be printed with digital sublimation printing (a process used for full color imprints), it works best with polyester. Digital sublimation printing involves printing an image onto a high-release paper substrate and transferring the image with heat and pressure. The transferred ink adheres better to polyester than to cotton, which is why even a cotton blend isn’t as good for digital sublimation as 100% polyester.

So why would anyone purchase an imprinted t-shirt made with a 50/50 cotton blend? Plenty of reasons!

  • Polyester is generally more affordable than cotton, making a 50/50 blend a good compromise between polyester’s price and cotton’s feel.
  • A shirt made from a cotton blend is easy to care for. It’s less likely to shrink or wrinkle than a shirt made from pure cotton, and it’s often easier to clean.
  • Some people argue that cotton blends are more environmentally friendly, because they use less cotton, which is a crop that requires a lot of water to grow.

And then, because we are talking about custom printed garments, we have to go back to the look of the imprint. Cotton is soft, but cotton blends are durable. Some t-shirt designers caution against using 100% ringspun cotton because the texture can lead to a fuzzy imprint after numerous washes.  

Going All In with 100% Cotton

Yet cotton remains the favorite for many consumers for reasons we completely understand. Items made with 100% cotton are not only soft but also generally heavier than 50/50 cotton blend items, giving them a high-quality feel. Plus, many items are made using organic cotton these days, a plus for consumers worried about the environmental impact of their fabric choices.

And then there are the imprints. While plain ringspun 100% cotton might not be the best choice for the digital sublimation process, it’s an excellent choice for digital four-color printing. As mentioned before, cotton is a heavier, denser fabric, so it absorbs the inks from digital printers well and provides a clear imprint right from the start.

Similarly, while 50/50 cotton garments work well for screen printing, 100% cotton garments are great for it. Pure cotton items are less susceptible to dye migration (commonly referred to as bleeding) and are generally considered easier to work with than garments made from cotton blends. Because cotton is a natural fiber with texture (as opposed to smooth, manufactured polyester), it can easily hold on to ink that’s applied to it through a screen, helping your design retain its original appearance.

No matter whether you choose 100% cotton or a cotton blend, there’s a way to print your logo on it. Whichever type of cotton you prefer, though, make sure that you understand the pros and cons of each fabric. Contact a professional promotional products distributor or a custom printer if you're not sure which blend would be best for your project! We’ll point you in the best direction. It’s pretty much what we’re here for.

Article By Jill Tooley
Jill Tooley

Jill has been obsessed with words since her fingers could turn the pages of a book. She’s a hopeless bibliophile who recently purchased a Kindle after almost 6 years of radical opposition, and she loves stumbling upon new music on Pandora. Random interests include (but are not limited to) bookstores, movie memorabilia, and adorable rodents. In addition to managing the QLP blog, Jill also manages the content development team, assists with the company’s social media accounts, and writes like a fiend whenever given the chance. You can connect with Jill on Google+.

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