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What Are the Different Types of Tote Bag Materials?

Alyssa Mertes

Published: January 6th, 2022

Tote bags are useful for library books, groceries, beach trips, and so much more! No matter what you need it for, you should be on the hunt for a bag that's built to last. It should be durable enough to withstand heavy items without breaking.

While shopping, you should know all of the fabrics that are used to make tote bags. Below you'll find a full list of the different materials.

  • Polypropylene
  • Cotton
  • Polyester
  • Canvas
  • Nylon
  • Jute
  • PVC
  • Polyurethane

How strong are tote bags? What are the pros and cons of the different materials? Let's take a look at the different tote bag materials and their unique qualities.

What Material Are Tote Bags Made Out Of?

3 tote bags

Most tote bags are made from canvas, but they can also be made from natural materials like cotton, linen, or jute. You can also buy tote bags made from different types of plastic like polypropylene and PVC.

Polypropylene

A Full List of Different Tote Bag Materials

Get ready to find the tote bag of your dreams! These reusable bags are made from a variety of different materials. Here's the full list of the fabrics!

Canvas Tote Bag

Canvas Tote Bags

While the word "canvas" is derived from a Latin word that translates to "hemp," it's actually just layered cotton. Canvas tote bags are made from a thick material, so they can withstand a lot of wear and tear. They also stretch easily to accommodate bulkier items like books or canned foods.

fabric canvas Tote Bag

Cotton Tote Bags

Not only is cotton a natural resource, but it's also sustainable. As a result, cotton tote bags are much less damaging to make than other materials. Cotton also happens to be very soft and comfortable, making it a great choice if you need to carry the bag all day.

jute tote bag

Jute Tote Bags

There's a reason why "jute" rhymes with "cute!" Jute tote bags are not only pretty, but they're also entirely made from plants. You'll often hear this eco-friendly material referred to as "The Golden Fiber" because of its attractive color.

fabric leather tote bag

Leather Tote Bags

Real leather is made from animal skin, namely cows, buffalos, goats, and even snakes and alligators. Leather tote bags, on the other hand, are made from faux leather derived from plastic treated with waxes or dyes. Fashionistas will love carrying these stylish totes.

fabric linen tote bag

Linen Tote Bags

You can think of linen as the dainty grandmother of the fabric world. It may not be as strong as cotton or as durable as canvas, but it's still very elegant and breathable. Linen is made from flax seed, so it's also just as eco-friendly as cotton or jute.

Nylon Tote Bags

Nylon Tote Bags

Does your mind immediately jump to women's stockings when you think of nylon? Well, it turns out this material is used to make a ton of items including umbrellas, toothbrush bristles, and of course, tote bags. Nylon is lightweight and flexible, which means it can stretch to fit any item.

fabric polyester

Polyester Tote Bags

Polyester is often blended with cotton, but it's just as durable on its own. Tote bags made from this popular material can hold bulkier items, and as a bonus, you can easily fold them down for storage.

fabric polypropylene

Polypropylene Tote Bags

In order to make polypropylene, factories need to melt down bits of plastic and string them together into sheets of fabric. It's worth the effort since polypropylene tote bags are water-resistant, easy to clean, and extremely flexible and sturdy.

fabric polyurethane Tote Bags

Polyurethane Tote Bags

Have you ever held a squishy stress ball in your hand? If so, you're familiar with a stretchy type of plastic known as polyurethane. This material is great for tote bags since it's affordable and easy to wipe clean.

fabric pvc tote bags

PVC Tote Bags

Back in the 90s, PVC clothing was all the rage with pop stars like the Spice Girls, Britney Spears, and Shania Twain. Now clear tote bags made from PVC are commonly used to get through security checks at amusement parks, concerts, and airports.

fabric twill tote bags

Twill Tote Bags

Your dad's pants might be made from twill, but it's also commonly used to make tote bags. This fabric is a heavyweight champion since it's known for its durability and strength. You can put just about anything inside of twill tote bags without worrying about them tearing apart.

While it may be easy to choose tote bags based on color or a cool print on front, it's worth thinking about the fabric as well. The material makes all the difference when it comes to quality!

What is the Best Fabric to Use for Tote Bags?

Every fabric is a bit different, but canvas, cotton, polyester, and twill are best for tote bags. These materials are not only durable, but they're also easy to clean and comfortable to carry.

Not sure which tote bag material to choose? Check out the pros and cons of the different fabrics in this chart!

Tote bag materials pros and cons mobile

Canvas Tote Bags

Pros:

  • Durable
  • Machine-washable
  • Stretches easily
  • Hypoallergenic

Cons:

  • Heavy
  • Not eco-friendly
  • More expensive than other materials
  • Wrinkles easily

Cotton Tote Bags

Pros:

  • Eco-friendly
  • Machine-washable
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Comfortable and soft

Cons:

  • May shrink when washed
  • Fibers can fall apart with wear and tear
  • Wrinkles easily
  • Color fades over time

Jute Tote Bags

Pros:

  • Stylish appearance
  • Eco-friendly
  • Structured
  • Hypoallergenic

Cons:

  • Doesn't fold for easy storage
  • Not easy to clean
  • Less durable than other materials
  • Itchy if held against bare skin

Leather Tote Bags

Pros:

  • Stylish appearance
  • Extremely durable
  • Doesn't retain odors
  • Structured

Cons:

  • More expensive than other materials
  • Prone to cracks and stains
  • Not machine-washable
  • Color fades in the sun

Linen Tote Bags

Pros:

  • Moisture-resistant
  • Lightweight
  • Bacteria doesn't easily grow inside
  • Eco-friendly

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Not as durable as other materials
  • Wrinkles easily
  • May shrink when washed

Nylon Tote Bags

Pros:

  • Durable
  • Folds down easily
  • Flexible
  • Water-resistant

Cons:

  • Not eco-friendly
  • Color is prone to fading
  • Heat sensitive
  • Wrinkles easily

Polyester Tote Bags

Pros:

  • Durable
  • Easy to wipe clean
  • Water-resistant
  • Able to hold bulky items

Cons:

  • Hand-wash only
  • Not eco-friendly
  • Flammable
  • Not as lightweight as other materials

Polypropylene Tote Bags

Pros:

  • Durable
  • Flexible and sturdy
  • Lightweight
  • Moisture-resistant

Cons:

  • Not eco-friendly
  • Hand-wash only
  • Wrinkles easily
  • Flammable

Polyurethane Tote Bags

Pros:

  • Durable
  • Affordable
  • Easy to wipe clean
  • Flexible

Cons:

  • Not eco-friendly
  • May crack over time
  • Color fades in the sun
  • More expensive than other materials

PVC Tote Bags

Pros:

  • Durable
  • Easy to wipe clean
  • See-through for security checks
  • Water-resistant

Cons:

  • Creases easily
  • Not as durable as other materials
  • May fall apart with wear and tear
  • Doesn't fold down for easy storage

Twill Tote Bags

Pros:

  • Wrinkle-resistant
  • Stylish appearance
  • Doesn't show dirt or stains
  • Strong

Cons:

  • Heavy
  • More expensive than other materials
  • Not flexible
  • Difficult to clean


Ask yourself: Why do I need a new tote bag? If you plan on using it to carry clothes to and from the laundromat, you'll want something that won't lock in smelly odors. On the other hand, if you rarely use your tote bag, it might be best to pick one that's easy to store away without fear of wrinkles.

How Strong is a Tote Bag?

Green tote bag mobile

A good tote bag is able to be jam-packed with groceries, stacks of library books, or even a bowling ball without breaking. In fact, the best bags are strong enough to comfortably hold between 6 to 15 pounds.

Green tote bag desktop

Tote bags are insanely strong. Check out this video!

How Can I Use a Tote Bag?

Since tote bags are built to last, you can use them for a variety of activities. Here are all the ways you can use a tote bag!

Grocery bag

Grocery Shopping

Whether you're getting watermelons for a picnic or canned veggies for the apocalypse, you can hold it all in reusable grocery bags. You should have a few at home since these are a lot better for the environment than plastic or paper bags.

Beach

Beach Trips

You have to pack a lot for a trip to the beach – snacks, beach toys, a good book, and heavy bottles of sunscreen. For that reason, a durable beach tote should be your new best friend! Bring it along every time you enjoy a day by the ocean.

diapers

Diapers & Baby Items

Babies are cute, but they can also be a handful! If you're a parent, you should carry diapers, toys, onesies, and wipes in a zippered tote bag. It can handle a lot more weight than a purse or fanny pack.

Gym

Gyms & Fitness Centers

Do you want to make it easier to squeeze exercise into your day? Pack a gym tote bag the night before with all your essentials – water bottle, sweat towel, change of clothes, and running shoes. Now all you have to do is grab the bag and go!

Laundry bag

Laundry

It's time to tackle that dirty pile of clothes! Store it all in a laundry tote bag, so you can easily haul it to the nearest laundromat. This is much easier to carry than a hamper or basket, especially for those living in apartments or college dorms.

School bag

Books & School Supplies

Your old backpack is an MVP, but it's time for it to retire. Pack your books, pens, binders, and other school supplies in a durable tote bag instead. Maybe you'll start a new trend on your campus! Libraries can also hand out promotional tote bags at book fairs and annual sales.

fashion

Fashion Accessories

Some tote bags are stylish enough to be on the runway! If you have one that just needs to be shown off, use it instead of your purse. You'll love having more room for everything you need for a busy day.

Woman with map

Road Trips

Who wants to lug around a heavy suitcase on a short road trip? Leave it at home, and bring along a roomy tote bag instead. You'll have enough space for whatever you need for a weekend getaway.

Gift tote

Gifts

Instead of gift bags, you should put holiday or birthday gifts inside of cute tote bags. Are you handing out a bunch of gifts to your employees or students? You can order cheap tote bags in bulk and basically give everyone two gifts in one!

party favors

Wedding & Party Favors

Are you having a destination wedding? Bring welcome tote bags to the hotel so the concierge can hand one to every guest. You can also put them together for other wedding events like bachelorette parties and bridal showers. And don't forget to make one for the baby shower that's happening later!

Trade Show

Trade Show Giveaways

A trade show visitor will see 100+ booths and displays at the average convention hall. Since almost every table has swag and other promotional materials, they'll need a way to carry everything throughout the expo. Be sure to hand out custom tote bags at registration.

Fundraisers

Why Are Tote Bags Popular?

You always have errands to run and things to bring to and from wherever you're going. This is what makes tote bags so popular. They're easy to store away until you need them, and with so many great styles, colors, and sizes, they're also fashionable to carry.

That isn't counting the environmental impact of tote bags! The more people that carry reusable tote bags, the less plastic bags in landfills. It's a win for you, and it's a win for the planet!

The Bottom Line

You can find a way to use a tote bag no matter who you are and what you like to do. The key is to make sure you buy one that's built to last. It also doesn't hurt if it's customized with a cool design on front!

Quality Logo Products are experts on all things printed and promotional. Let our team of awesome, incredibly good looking, and fun promo nerds help you select awesome promotional swag today!

4 random promtional products 4 random promotional products tablet
Alyssa Mertes

Alyssa Mertes

Alyssa is the Lead Copywriter at Quality Logo Products. As a promo expert, she's uncovered the world's first custom tote bag, interviewed the guy behind rock band ACDC's logo, and had a piece published by the Advertising Specialty Institute, a leader in the promotional products industry.

References

16 Facts About Cotton That You Don't Know. (2018, September 19). Retrieved from https://barnhardtcotton.net/blog/16-facts-about-cotton-that-you-dont-know/

American Chemistry Council. (n.d.). Introduction to Polyurethanes: Polyurethane for Apparel. Retrieved from https://www.americanchemistry.com/industry-groups/center-for-the-polyurethanes-industry-cpi/applications-benefits

Fabric 101: Canvas vs. Duck. (2017, June 06). Retrieved from https://www.fabric.com/blog/fabric-101-canvas-vs-duck/

Geiger, O. (2010, October 9). Physical Properties of Polypropylene Bags. Retrieved from https://naturalbuildingblog.com/physical-properties-of-polypropylene-bags/

KeyColour. (2017, March 20). All You Ever Wanted to Know About Jute. Retrieved from http://www.keycolour.net/blog/ever-wanted-know-jute/

Miller, R. (2011, June 09). What Is Polyurethane Fabric? Retrieved from https://www.hunker.com/13403985/what-is-polyurethane-fabric

NY Fashion Center. (n.d.). Nylon Fabric Information. Retrieved from https://www.nyfashioncenterfabrics.com/pages/nylon-fabric-information

C. (2017, January 26). What Is Polyester? A Closer Look into this "Love it or Hate it" Fabric. Retrieved from https://www.contrado.co.uk/blog/what-is-polyester-a-closer-look-into-this-love-it-or-hate-it-fabric/

Marroquin, N. (2020, November 25). Pros and Cons of Linen Upholstery Fabric. Retrieved from, https://www.worldlinen.com/blog/pros-and-cons-of-linen-upholstery-fabric

Kevian. Pros and Cons of Using Leather Upholstery. Retrieved from, https://www.kevianclean.com/blogs/news/pros-and-cons-of-using-a-leather-upholstery