Silk vs Cotton: A Comprehensive Comparison

Silk and cotton are both the most popular materials when it comes to the textile industry. You might have worn clothes or accessories made of them, but the difference between silk and cotton can still remain uncertain. Through this comprehensive comparison between silk and cotton, you will learn about manifold aspects, from characteristics and durability to care and cost. Now, begin reading and dive into the world of silk and cotton.

What Makes Silk and Cotton Special

Silk is a naturally grown fiber made from the insect named cocoon. Due to the fibrous structure, its surface is always present in a smooth and glossy condition. Therefore, silk, in most cases, is used to make ostentatious garments. Despite being a decoration, silk also plays a practical role.

Cotton, a frequently used raw material for making clothes, can be made into various kinds of fabrics. It can be applied to clothes from lightweight daily dresses to rather heavy industrial overalls. Cotton is always made of a mixture of cellulose, water, wax, and so on.

Silk vs Cotton: Which Is More Comfortable?

Different textures may affect how you feel when you wear clothes made of silk or cotton.

Being protein-based, silk is mild on your skin. And you can feel the slightly smooth when you wear clothes made of silk. While being soft, cotton-made clothes have a bit of weight in comparison. You can feel the cotton contacting with your skin.

Therefore, in terms of comfort, silk may be a better choice. Silk, its presence is hardly perceived, offers a light and cozy feeling to its wearer. Cotton, on the other hand, provides the wearer with pressure when it is worn.

Silk vs Cotton: Breathability & Absorbency

Due to the different materials, silk and cotton also have distinct performance in breathability and absorbency.

For breathability, the difference between silk and cotton lies in the amount and rate of airflow. Silk, whose structure contains numerous tiny pores, determines that air passes through in a small and slow way. This breathability of silk makes it more suitable for summer. Instead, cotton has larger and denser pores, allowing more air to pass through in a short period.

For absorbency, silk is capable of maintaining moisture naturally. Although cotton can also absorb moisture, its overly strong absorption capacity can sometimes lead to clothes being saturated.

Overall, in terms of breathability and absorbency, it’s the process that distinguishes between silk and cotton. Silk allows air and moisture to flow more naturally, while cotton allows a more significant amount of air and moisture to pass through, absorbing or even carrying them at the same time.

Silk vs Cotton: Durability & Longevity

When it comes to durability and longevity, there are at least two factors that should be considered: strength and frequency.

Silk, belonging to the firm kind of fiber, has a renowned tensile quality of around 500 MPa. This level of strength makes it steady when facing high pressure. Meanwhile, the tensile strength of cotton is rather unstable, ascribed to moisture. Its tensile strength could reach 600 MPa when it’s wet. But the number drops to 400 MPa when the moisture decreases.

Despite the strength, laundry frequency also contributes a lot. Because laundry also means wear and tear on clothing. If properly cared for, silk, which is resistant to dust, can be washed sparingly.

Cotton, due to its strong absorbency, will absorb your sweat, resulting in the growth of bacteria. That’s why you need to wash your clothes made of cotton frequently.

For the reasons above, silk performs rather better in durability and longevity.

Silk vs Cotton: Maintenance & Care

Different attention should be paid when caring for silk and cotton.

You can find a tag saying “dry clean only” on most clothes made of silk. The best way to care for your silk is to dry clean them instead of using a washing machine. After cleaning, you should also carefully air dry the silk in a cool and dry place. These complex requirements are also considered to be the disadvantages of silk.

Cotton, on the contrary, is easy to care for. Whether washing or dying, the only thing to alert you is the heat, which makes your cotton-made clothes shrink. You should avoid using hot water to wash your cotton-made clothes. When drying your clothes, sunlight should also be prevented.

Silk vs Cotton: How About the Cost?

The difference concerning cost is ascribed to manufacture and production.

Why is silk so expensive? To make silk, several necessary processes, including breeding silkworms, weaving the fabric, dying the products, and so on, must be included. It requires a professional craftsman to design and make a fine silk product. Plenty of time invested, the price will be costly for sure. The average price of silk can differ from $15 to $80 per yard.

The price of cotton products is instead a cost-effective choice. Because of the modernized and advanced production process, cotton is regarded as a cheap type of raw material for making clothes. The average price for cotton is stable between 70¢ and 80¢ per pound.

However, silk may be a wiser investment choice. Although the cost is relatively expensive, silk products can often be marked up to a higher price, which means a more considerable profit margin.

Silk vs Cotton: Environmental Sustainability

Silk farming is a model of agroecology recognized by the Food and Agriculture Organization. The production of silk requires the cultivation of silkworms. So, Mulberry trees, as their homes and the origins of the food, become the first link in this green ecological environment. Grown silkworms are not only used to make silk, but they are also an ingredient in some delicious dishes. Silk farming is, therefore, a sustainable economic model.

Cotton, on the other hand, can hardly support an entire cycle of production. And because it is grown in arid areas, it uses a lot of water and chemicals. In addition, there is a massive difference in the amount of CO2 emissions between the two: while silk production emits about 34 kg of CO2 per tonne, cotton production requires nearly 27,680 kg of CO2, which is a staggering 814 times more than silk.

Considering its environmental friendliness, silk with considerable sustainability apparently has a more beneficial impact on the environment.


With these specific comparisons of silk and cotton on manifold aspects, you should now have your own understanding of the differences between silk and cotton. When it comes to mass production of garments, silk is considered a much wiser investment, both in terms of performance and profitability. If you have the need to manufacture silk, feel free to contact Sinosilk at any time.

More Resources:

Viscose vs Silk – Source: Sinosilk

Polyester vs Silk – Source: Sinosilk

Silk vs Cotton Sheets – Source: Sinosilk

Polyester vs Cotton – Source: Sinosilk

Does Silk Shrink for Washing or Drying – Source: Sinosilk

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