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What is the Difference Between 50/50 vs. 100% Cotton?

Alyssa Mertes

Published: July 23rd, 2020

You wear t-shirts all the time. It may even be the casual look you rock every single day. Whether your tee is designed with a logo or is just plain and simple, it's likely made from either blended cotton or pure cotton.

Unless you're an expert on fabrics, a fabric factualist if you will, you probably don't know a whole lot about cotton blends and 100 cotton vs. 50/50. Here's what you need to know!

What is a 50/50 T-Shirt?

A shirt that's classified as a 50/50 blend is made from half cotton and half polyester. This breathable fabric is one of the most common, and most affordable, in the textile industry.

Do you want to customize your 50/50 t-shirt? You'll have the best results with screen printing! The texture of this fabric is able to easily hold onto the ink, even after repeated washes.

Recommended for:

Pros and Cons of 50/50 Cotton

Pros

  • Generally more affordable than 100% cotton
  • Less likely to shrink or wrinkle
  • It's generally easier to wash
  • Cotton blends are argued to be more environmentally-friendly

Cons

  • Perceived value isn't as high as 100% cotton
  • Colorful designs may not adhere as well to the fabric
  • A bit coarser and not as soft as 100% cotton
  • Typically more lightweight and not as durable

What is a 100% Cotton T-Shirt?

A shirt that's 100% cotton is made from natural cotton, which is a crop that requires a lot of water to grow. This material is soft to the touch and results in a high-end look.

Do you want to print a cool design on your 100% cotton tee? Try full color printing! You can use as many colors as you want without any extra charges, and the ink adheres better to cotton since it's less prone to any dye migration (aka bleeding ink).

Recommended for:

Pros and Cons of 100% Cotton

Pros

  • Feels a bit heavier and more durable
  • A higher perceived value than a 50/50 blend
  • Colorful designs are less likely to bleed or fade
  • Extremely soft and comfortable

Cons

  • Often more expensive than a 50/50 blend
  • May shrink or wrinkle when placed in the dryer or in a bag
  • More susceptible to staining; can be difficult to wash
  • Not as environmentally-friendly as a 50/50 t-shirt

What is a Cotton Blend?

What is a Cotton Blend?

What is a Cotton Blend?

A cotton blend is another way of referring to a shirt that's made from 80% cotton and 20% polyester, linen, or rayon. Cotton blend means your shirt will have the same feel as a cotton tee, but it's a little more lightweight and resistant to wrinkles.

There are also some t-shirts out there known as tri-blends. This is when your shirt contains a mixture of cotton, polyester, and rayon. Rayon is a little too thin on its own, but when combined with cotton and polyester, it results in a super soft, comfy tee that you can wear all day!

How Can You Tell If Fabric is 100% Cotton?

100% Cotton

How Can You Tell If Fabric is 100% Cotton?

It might sound crazy, but some sources recommend carefully doing a burn test to determine whether or not your t-shirt is made from pure cotton or a cotton blend fabric.

Here's how a fabric burn test works:

#1: Cut small pieces of the fabric you want to test.

#2: Place the fabric in a fireproof container and ignite one corner of the fabric.

#3: Do a sniff test to determine if it's cotton or a cotton blend.

  • Cotton: smells like burning paper and has an afterglow
  • Cotton Blend: smells like chemicals or burning plastic and emits a dark smoke

#4: Study the ashes.

  • Cotton - similar to dust
  • Cotton Blend - hard lumps

If the idea of burning your favorite t-shirt gives you anxiety*, consult the care tag or the manufacturer directly. Either one should give you an idea if you're working with 100% cotton or cotton blend material.

*DISCLAIMER: This test should be handled with care. Quality Logo Products® is not responsible for any damage caused by performing a fabric burn test. If you don't want to damage your clothing, or play with fire, contact the manufacturer to see if your shirt is made from a cotton blend or pure cotton.

What is the Difference Between Polyester vs. Cotton Socks?

Polyester vs. Cotton Socks

What is the Difference Between Polyester vs. Cotton Socks?

Are you shopping for new socks? You'll find pairs that are made from either a 50/50 blend or 100% cotton. The same pros and cons that apply to t-shirts also hold true for your socks.

The 50/50 blend socks will be more breathable and lightweight, so stick with this material if you have a lot of walking to do or are wearing gym shoes for the day. If you want to wear a pair with your boots, try 100% cotton socks since they're thicker and will keep your feet from sliding.

How to Wash a Custom Printed T-Shirt

Do you want to wear the same band tee you wore in high school twenty years from now? There are simple things you can do to make sure the design doesn't fade over time!

Polyester vs. Cotton Socks

Here's how to wash a custom t-shirt to make the print last:

  • Wash your t-shirt inside out. This helps keep the design from getting destroyed by harsh detergents.
  • Use bleach sparingly. You should use little to no bleach on a white tee with a colorful design. If you use too much, the design may end up bleeding and getting ruined.
  • Hot water can be way too harsh on a custom t-shirt. Go with cold water instead.
  • Don't use too much detergent or fabric softener. It ultimately makes your custom tees way less comfy. Try a mixture of ½ detergent and ½ baking soda and wash on a "gentle" setting.
  • Store your custom printed t-shirts in airtight containers You can rotate the ones that are sitting on hangers, but make sure they’re never in direct sunlight.
  • Try not to fall asleep in your custom tee. You might move around a lot when you sleep, which will stretch out the shirt and may even crack the imprint.
  • Air dry. You should never throw your tees in the dryer if you want to preserve the graphic. Air drying keeps the fabric in good condition and prevents any shrinkage.


The process of cleaning your custom t-shirts isn’t too time-consuming. Just be diligent in following all of the tips above, and you will get rid of any stains, while still keeping your tees in good condition. Now go get that laundry done!

Did you know?

An autograph will preserve better on a 100% cotton tee than on a 50/50 blend. You can make the signature last even longer by placing a clean cotton cloth on top and pressing down with a dry iron for at least one minute.

What Are Some Other Tips for Washing T-Shirts?

Now that your design is in mint condition, there are a few more things to keep in mind. You can keep your t-shirts looking new with these helpful tips:

Wash zippers separately

Wash zippers separately

Does your tee have a zipper on the front? Wash it separately so it doesn’t snag on other items in the machine.

Separate by fabric type

Separate by fabric type

You already know that you should separate dark and light loads. Did you know, though, that you should also separate your wash by the type of fabric? With that in mind, cotton blend shirts and 100% cotton should be washed separately.

Don't wear it too much

Don't wear it too much

Even the best t-shirt gets tired eventually. Give yours a break every now and then so it doesn’t get worn out and faded.

Make breathing room

Make breathing room

Your closet may be tiny, but that’s no excuse to overpack it with too many t-shirts. A cluster of fabric is a breeding ground for moths and rodents.

Say

Say "no" to yellow

Remove any gross yellowing from your white tees by mixing 4 tablespoons of baking soda with a quarter cup of water and scrubbing the solution onto the stain.

Is that t-shirt too big? Shrink it down to size with the tips from this video!

Why Do We Love T-Shirts?

It doesn’t matter if it’s made from a cotton blend or authentic cotton. T-shirts have a fascinating history and have long been a favorite for everyone, from dock workers to Hollywood superstars. You should add as many as you can to your wardrobe!

Why Do We Love T-Shirts?

The Bottom Line

Ultimately, 100% cotton or a cotton blend is only one of the many choices you’ll make when it comes to t-shirts. There are so many different styles out there! Take care of every tee, and you’ll have something cool to wear for years to come.

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

Sweet Orr. (2016, July 5). 100% Cotton Vs. Polyester Blends. Retrieved May 21, 2019, from
https://www.sweet-orr.com/benefits-of-wearing-100-cotton-vs-polyester-blends/

Clothed with Truth. (2015, July 29). How to Make Your T-Shirts Last Longer. Retrieved May 23, 2019, from
https://clothedwithtruth.com/blogs/news/53581891-how-to-make-your-t-shirts-last-longer

Shirtmax. (2018, June 29). Cotton Care 101: How to Make Your Cotton T-shirts Last Longer. Retrieved May 23, 2019, from
https://www.shirtmax.com/blog/cotton-care-101-make-cotton-t-shirts-last-longer/

Illuminati, C. (2014). 5 Ways to Make a T-Shirt Last Longer. Retrieved May 23, 2019, from
https://brobible.com/guyism/article/way-make-t-shirt-last-longer/

Wardrobe Advice. (2008, August 22). How to Make a Print on a T-shirt Last Longer. Retrieved May 23, 2019, from
http://wardrobeadvice.com/how-to-make-the-print-on-a-t-shirt-last-longer/

Numi. (2019). How to Get Rid of and Prevent Yellow Underarm Stains. Retrieved May 24, 2019, from
https://wearnumi.com/pages/how-to-get-yellow-stains-out-of-white-shirts-women

Leverette, M. (2019, March 3). How to Preserve an Autograph on a Shirt or Hat. Retrieved May 24, 2019, from
https://www.thespruce.com/preserve-an-autograph-2146210

Difference Between. (2017, January 1). Difference Between Cotton and Cotton Blend. Retrieved from, https://www.differencebetween.com/difference-between-cotton-and-vs-cotton-blend/

Harris, W. (2019, June 13). What Exactly is a Tri-Blend? Retrieved from, https://www.realthread.com/blog/what-exactly-is-a-triblend-2019-06-13

Wickell, J. (2019, September 20). How to Do a Fabric Burn Test to Identify Fabrics. Retrieved from, https://www.thesprucecrafts.com/fabric-burn-test-to-identify-fibers-2821302