What's the Difference Between Cotton and Polyester for My Bean Bag Chair?

1 January 2019
cotton vs polyester

There are so many decisions to make when looking for your new bean bag chair, and the most important one is which material to choose. Cotton and polyester are two of the most affordable and widely used elements in making bean bag chairs. Just like a human body, the inside of any bean bag lounge cover looks pretty much the same. You have a big sealed bag of beans. The beans of the chair are PVC, polypropylene, polystyrene, or actual dried beans. However, the outside cover could be cotton, leather, suede, silk, vinyl, or polyester. Polyester and cotton are the most common, even though they are vastly different materials. For starters, cotton is a natural fibre, whereas polyester is a manufactured synthetic fibre. In this article, you learn how to decide between a cotton or polyester beanbag chair. Learn the difference between cotton and polyester, their manufacturing processes, and how each affects the function of your beanbag chair.

What's the Difference Between Cotton and Polyester?

Cotton and polyester are complimentary materials. They often blend in clothing, furniture, and more. Together, the fabric takes on properties that neither features on its own. By themselves, cotton and polyester offer various benefits to your bean bag chair. One of the main differences is in which environment the material is required. Cotton is moisture absorbent, whereas polyester is perfect for outdoor seating. But, how do you decide which bean bag chair is right for you? Start by looking at cotton and polyester separately.

What is Cotton?

Cotton is a plant that produces a fluffy, soft, fibrous mass around the seeds. Cotton fibre is, almost wholly, cellulose. Like a dandelion, the cotton fibres catch the wind and serve to carry the cottonseed. Cotton is one of the oldest plants that civilisations still widely harvest and cultivate worldwide. It is native to The Americas, as well as Africa and India. Cotton has a long history of domestication for agricultural use, and the United States exports more cotton than anywhere on earth.

How Cotton is Processed

Cotton is an annual plant, so farmers plant a new seed for each seasons harvest. The cellulose cotton fibres, at a microscopic scale, look like a straw. They have a hollow tube in the centre which collapses after the boll opens. The cotton fibre is naturally water-resistant as the threads develop a waxy coating. After harvesting, cotton is spun into yarn before wet processing. Wet processing removes the water-repellent wax, making the cotton soft and absorbent.

Properties and Features of Cotton

Absorbent cotton is great for wicking sweat away from your body while providing breathability. The cotton fibres are loosely separated from one another, which causes the fibres to allow the passage of air. An interesting property of cotton is its ability to increase strength when wet. When dry, wet-processed cellulose is flammable, but many commercial cotton products are treated with a flame-retardant. Cotton is one of the most popular fabrics for use in furniture and clothing. It is soft, comfortable, and affordable. Cotton is also biodegradable. However, the industrial cultivation of cotton is an unsustainable practice.

What is the Downside to Cotton?

The cultivation of cotton uses so many pesticides that the Organic Trade Association considers it the worlds dirtiest crop. Australia is a small producer of cotton compared to countries like the United States and China. But, Australia is the world's second-largest cotton exporter. In 2017, Australian farmers cotton production topped 3.8 million bales. That's enough cotton to make over 4.5 billion t-shirts. Cotton is farmed using a range of chemicals, three of which are the most dangerous insecticides that exist to humans. A mere drop will kill a person, and these are the chemicals widely used. A significant health risk exists in the groundwater around cotton farming. In the United States alone, over 12 million acres of land are solely dedicated to cotton farming. And 16 states in the US report chemical insecticides from cotton farming in their drinking water. Unfortunately for cotton producers, the crop is too high-maintenance to be a sustainable fabric source for much longer. It takes 20,000 litres of water to produce the cotton for a single t-shirt. Cotton is a heavy-feeder crop, which means that it uses more nutrients to grow than it distributes back into the land. Over 70 per cent of the world, freshwater usage comes from agriculture, and the world is approaching peak water. So, it won't be a surprise when the price of cotton skyrockets, along with cattle feed, corn, and bottled water.

What is Polyester?

Polyester is a polymer that includes both natural and synthetic chemicals. Polyester consists of the naturally occurring cutin that comes from plant cuticles. One of the prominent synthetics in polyester is polybutyrate. Polyester comes as natural, natural and synthetic, or purely synthetic. Natural polyesters are biodegradable, whereas synthetic polyesters are not. Most polyester for clothing or furniture is thermoplastic so that it can be reshaped by heat. But is polyester recyclable?

How Polyester is Manufactured

Polyester is manufactured from small pellets or chips. Polyester pellets are a petroleum-based product. When heated, the pellets are malleable to force through tiny holes, out of which come polyester fibres. Polyester fibres can be made to a range of dimensions, depending on the size of the hole the pellets are squeezed through. Unlike cotton, polyester produces solid fibres, through which air and moisture do not pass.

Properties and Features of Polyester

Polyester is an oil product, so it is naturally water-resistant. Unlike cotton, polyester does not absorb moisture, which makes it mix well with cotton. The process of synthesising polyester allows for the fibres to be of any length. The polyester can resemble a long spool of fishing line or weave into a thread for textiles. Depending on how much the fibres are stretched in manufacturing, polyester clothing and fabric have a widely varying elasticity level. Polyester retains a moderate strength for thin fibres and a heavy-duty strength for thick fibres. The higher the strength of the fibre, the more durable and strong the polyester fabric is.

What is the Downside to Polyester?

The biggest drawback to polyester is that the material is inherently non-biodegradable. Polyester is a finite resource from oil, so it is just about as unsustainable as it gets. In the United Kingdom, Plymouth University released a study on the effects of washing machines on synthetic materials. The study finds that polyester releases about 500,000 fibres as it goes through the wash. These non-biodegradable fibres are a significant contributor to the microplastic pollution in the world's oceans. On a functional level, polyester is non-wicking. Bodily moisture, like sweat, remains against your body, which causes discomfort and irritation.

Cotton and Polyester: What's the Difference for My Beanbag Chair?

Cotton fabric gives your bean bag chair a soft, cozy feeling. The fabric breathes well, so your back and arms stay nice and dry. And cotton bean bag chairs are among the most affordable on the market. Though it is only moderately durable, cotton is easy to mend with a thread and needle. Cotton, however, is not a water-resistant material, and it takes a while for the material to dry. For this reason, it also is easy to stain. Polyester, on the other hand, is stain resistant and water-proof. The fabric is strong and tear-resistant, which makes it perfect for the outdoors. And, like cotton, polyester is an inexpensive choice for your bean bag chair.

Other Types of Bean Bag Chairs

Bean bag chairs come in all shapes, sizes, and materials. If cotton and polyester seem like the wrong fit, check out a different type of beanbag. Leather bean bag chairs look great indoors and offer a luxurious aesthetic to the room. Leather bean bag chairs and couches offer elegance, comfort, and style. The downside to a leather chair is the price. Typically, leather is more expensive than most other materials. Silk beats leather for the most expensive bean bag chair material. Silk is solid, luxuriously soft, and impressive to look at, but it is not cheap. A good middle ground is to go with faux leather. Faux leather is water-resistant, durable, and looks just like real leather. The downside is that faux leather is more rigid, which makes it less comfortable to sit on. If comfort is what you are after, microsuede fabric offers a plush cloud of bean bag chair happiness. Microsuede material is leather with a fuzzy, soft exterior. But, microsuede bean bag chairs are not for outdoor use and require specialised cleaning tools. Nylon is a great bean bag chair material for comfort, style, and cost. Nylon runs a bit higher in price than cotton and polyester, but it is great for indoor and outdoor use. It is easy to clean and the strongest of any bean bag chair material.

Final Thoughts

The most significant decision to make is whether you want to use your beanbag chair indoors or outdoors. For an inexpensive indoor bean bag chair, choose cotton. For an inexpensive outdoor bean bag chair, choose polyester. Subscribe to the newsletter for more resources on different types of bean bag chairs. Thanks for reading!

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