Different Types of Tote Bag Materials

Alyssa Mertes

Kyrsten Ledger

Promo Expert

Published: January 28th, 2019

Updated: April 4th, 2019

It’s fun to go shopping for clothes and furniture, especially when they’re on sale or have a design you love. Your decision to purchase a specific t-shirt or table might also be based on the material used to make it. For example, you may buy that adorable sweater because it’s soft or a leather sofa because it’s easy to clean. The same goes for tote bags! Whether you want a water-resistant material or one that’s safe in the washer, there’s a fabric out there for you.

Check out the most popular materials used for making tote bags:

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

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

What Are the Different Types of Tote Bags?

Before we dive into the pros and cons of different tote bags, it’s important to learn a little bit about each material and how they differ from each other.

Polypropylene Source: www.preferredplastics.com

Polypropylene
This is a type of plastic that’s melted and strung together to make sheets of fabric. It’s mostly used for its water-resistant qualities.

Cotton

Cotton

Not only is this fiber a natural resource, but it’s also sustainable. That means growing cotton causes little to no damage to the environment and can continue to be regrown over time without running out.

Polyester https:netdna-ssl.com

Polyester

While this synthetic fiber is often blended with cotton, it also works fine on its own. Made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic, polyester tends to feel slippery and silky to touch.

Canvas Source: encrypted-tbn0.gstatic.com

Canvas

The word ‘canvas’ is actually derived from a Latin word meaning ‘hemp’ and was used for thousands of years before it was replaced with cotton. Although canvas is made from cotton, it’s layered into a much heavier fabric, so it can withstand wear and tear.

Nylon Source: sites.create-cdn.net

Nylon

Most people associate the term nylon with women’s stockings. However, it’s used to make a wide variety of items, including umbrellas, toothbrush bristles, and tents.

Jute

Jute

This is a natural fiber made entirely from plant material, and is commonly known for making burlap and rope. Jute is completely biodegradable and is also called “The Golden Fiber” because of its color.

PVC Source: www.duletai.com

PVC

Back in the 90s, PVC clothing was made popular by the Spice Girls and other musicians like Britney Spears and Shania Twain. Although it can be colored, it’s mostly used as a see-through material.

Polyurethane Source: www.leather-fabrics.com

Polyurethane

Polyurethane is primarily known for making spandex and faux leather. Overall, this material can withstand long periods of heat and moisture, which means it lasts for a long time.

Breakdown of the Different Materials

While every tote bag can be useful, each type of material has distinctive characteristics that set them apart from one another. If you plan on using your bags to carry clothes to and from the laundromat every week, you’ll want a tote that’s durable and won’t lock in smelly odors. On the other hand, if you rarely use your tote bags, it might be best to pick one that’s easy to store away without fear of wrinkles.

It’s also important to note, even though tote bags are eco-friendly, different materials may be manufactured in non-eco-friendly processes. Regardless, no matter what material you choose, it’s still more beneficial to the environment to use totes over plastic bags. Ultimately, your reason for choosing the tote bag will determine which type of material you should use.

Not sure which material to choose? Check out the advantages and disadvantages of the different tote materials in this handy chart!

 

Polypropylene

Polypropylene

Pros:

  • Durable
  • Easy to wipe clean
  • Flexible and sturdy
  • Lightweight
  • Moisture-resistant

Cons:

  • Not biodegradable
  • Hand-wash only
  • Needs regular washing
  • Highly flammable

Cotton

Cotton

Pros:

  • Biodegradable
  • Durable
  • Machine-washable
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Comfortable and soft
  • Made from natural resources

Cons:

  • Some crops are treated with pesticides
  • Heavy and bulky
  • Can shrink when washed
  • Needs regular washing
  • Fibers can fall apart easily with wear and tear

Polyester

Polyester

Pros:

  • Strong
  • Easy to wipe clean
  • Compacts easily
  • Wrinkle-resistant

Cons:

  • Highly flammable
  • Hand-wash only
  • Not biodegradable

Nylon

Nylon

Pros:

  • Durable
  • Compacts easily
  • Flexible
  • Lightweight
  • Moisture-resistant

Cons:

  • Not biodegradable
  • Needs regular washing
  • Prone to fading

Canvas

Canvas

Pros:

  • Durable
  • Machine-washable
  • Stretches easily
  • Hypoallergenic

Cons:

  • Needs regular washing
  • Heavy material
  • Costly

Jute

Jute

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • Biodegradable
  • Made from natural resources
  • Durable

Cons:

  • Grainy texture
  • Not moisture-resistant
  • Need regular washing

PVC

PVC

Pros:

  • Durable
  • See-through material

Cons:

  • Spot-clean only
  • Creases easily

Polyurethane

Polyurethane

Pros:

  • Durable
  • Affordable
  • Easy to wipe clean

Cons:

  • Not biodegradable
  • Susceptible to cracking
  • Prone to reshaping if not stored properly
Material Pros Cons
Polypropylene
Polypropylene
  • Durable
  • Easy to wipe clean
  • Flexible and sturdy
  • Lightweight
  • Moisture-resistant
  • Not biodegradable
  • Hand-wash only
  • Needs regular washing
  • Highly flammable
Cotton
Cotton
  • Biodegradable
  • Durable
  • Machine-washable
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Comfortable and soft
  • Made from natural resources
  • Some crops are treated with pesticides
  • Heavy and bulky
  • Can shrink when washed
  • Needs regular washing
  • Fibers can fall apart easily with wear and tear
Polyester
Polyester
  • Strong
  • Easy to wipe clean
  • Compacts easily
  • Wrinkle-resistant
  • Highly flammable
  • Hand-wash only
  • Not biodegradable
Nylon
Nylon
  • Durable
  • Compacts easily
  • Flexible
  • Lightweight
  • Moisture-resistant
  • Not biodegradable
  • Needs regular washing
  • Prone to fading
Canvas
Canvas
  • Durable
  • Machine-washable
  • Stretches easily
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Needs regular washing
  • Heavy material
  • Costly
Jute
Jute
  • Affordable
  • Biodegradable
  • Made from natural resources
  • Durable
  • Grainy texture
  • Not moisture-resistant
  • Need regular washing
PVC
PVC
  • Durable
  • See-through material
  • Spot-clean only
  • Creases easily
Polyurethane
Polyurethane
  • Durable
  • Affordable
  • Easy to wipe clean
  • Not biodegradable
  • Susceptible to cracking
  • Prone to reshaping if not stored properly

How Strong Are Tote Bags?

While our tote bags don’t spend hours at the gym lifting weights, they’re surprisingly tougher than they look. A good tote bag is able to be jam-packed with groceries, stacks of library books, or even a few bowling balls without breaking.

Don’t just take our word for it! Check out how strong custom tote bags are in this exclusive video.

Advertising with Tote Bags

Tote bags aren’t just heavy-weight champs, they’re also great for advertising your brand! Since tote bags can be reused, they’re safer for the planet and make helpful gifts for your customers. No matter what kind of company you own, you can’t go wrong printing your logo on custom tote bags.

How Are Tote Bags Customized with a Logo?
The printing process will depend on which tote bag material you pick and may vary from one manufacturer to the other. The most common printing methods for tote bags are screen printing and heat transfer, but other processes like pad printing and embroidery may be used as well. No matter what printing method is used, your design is sure to look fabulous!

Advertising with Tote Bags
Advertising with Tote Bags

Why it Costs More to Print on Both Sides

Regardless of material or printing process, when it comes to adding your logo, you will have the option to print on one or both sides. Typically, tote bags only come with one side printed with the logo; however, you can definitely decorate both sides for an additional cost.

Why it Costs More to Print on Both Sides

Remember back in the day when you couldn’t print on both sides of your paper because your printer wasn’t compatible? Without this function, you’d have to print out page 1, make sure the ink was dry, flip the paper over, and run it back through the printer a second time to print out page 2 on the other side. The same concept goes for personalized tote bags and many other promotional products. That’s why you’re getting charged an additional fee for printing on both sides.

The machines used for printing logos on tote bags aren’t able to print on both sides simultaneously. Since the printing machine has to be set up twice, most companies charge a second setup fee for running the machine again and another fee for the additional ink needed.

In general, tote bags usually have larger imprint areas compared to other promotional products. However, having too much information or artwork isn’t a good idea. Overdoing it will make your tote bags look crowded and possibly illegible. If you have a logo, artwork, and contact info to add to your custom tote bags, it’s recommended you print on both sides. No matter what, people will be able to see your brand from any angle!

How Else Can I Use My Tote Bag?

Tote bags make great promotional giveaways as well as reusable grocery bags. With so many different ways to reuse your favorite tote bag, you shouldn’t limit yourself to only using yours to shop at the local supermarket.

Try these other ways to get the most out of your tote bags!

Go to the Beach

Go to the Beach

Best Materials to Use:
Polypropylene, Cotton, Polyester, Nylon, and Polyurethane

Use as a Custom Diaper Bag https://akidsboutique.com/

Use as a Custom Diaper Bag

Best Materials to Use:
Polypropylene, Cotton, Polyester, Nylon, and Canvas

Take to the Gym https://d2a2wjuuf1c30f.cloudfront.net/

Take to the Gym

Best Materials to Use:
Polypropylene, Cotton, Nylon, and Canvas

Haul Books from the Library https://s3.amazonaws.com

Haul Books from the Library

Best Materials to Use:
Polypropylene, Cotton, Polyester, Nylon, Canvas, Jute, PVC, and Polyurethane

Bring as an Overnight Bag https://cdn.shopify.com/

Bring as an Overnight Bag

Best Materials to Use:
Polypropylene, Polyester, Nylon, Canvas, and PVC

Make Throw Pillows https://damasklove.com/

Make Throw Pillows

Best Materials to Use:
Cotton and Canvas

Store Arts and Crafts Supplies https://farm6.staticflickr.com/

Store Arts and Crafts Supplies

Best Materials to Use:
Polypropylene, Cotton, Polyester, Canvas, and Polyurethane

Fill with Puppies or Kittens https://i.pinimg.com/

Fill with Puppies or Kittens

Best Materials to Use:
Polypropylene, Cotton, Polyester, Nylon, Canvas, Jute, PVC, and Polyurethane

The Bottom Line

From trade show giveaways to grocery bags, a high-quality tote is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. They’re stylish and practical items that can be used time and time again. In other words, tote bags are a great way to add weight to your branding.

Kyrsten Ledger

Kyrsten Ledger

Kyrsten’s vast knowledge of promotional giveaways and marketing has led to several hit articles. She has also published work for PPB Magazine, a publication from the Promotional Products Association International.