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Key Difference – Cotton vs Rayon

Cotton and rayon are two types of fabrics that are used in textile industry. Cotton is sometimes replaced by rayon in some fabrics due to the high prices of cotton. However, the key difference between cotton and rayon is their source; cotton is a natural fiber that is obtained from the cotton plant whereas rayon is considered to be a semi-synthetic fiber.

What is Cotton?

Cotton is a soft fluffy fibrous substance that surrounds the seeds of the cotton plant. This substance is made into textile fiber and thread. Fabric made from this material is also called cotton. Cotton fiber is mostly made of pure cellulose. This plant is native to tropical and subtropical regions, including India, African and the Americas. The use of cotton dates back to prehistoric times.

Cotton fabric is a soft and breathable fabric. Cotton is primarily used in the textile industry. This fabric is used to make various products such as shirts, bed sheets, dresses, socks, towels, robes, underwear, diapers, etc. Cotton is sometimes blended with other materials in order to get the maximum benefits out of both materials. Fabrics such as corduroy, denim, terry cloth, etc. are also made from cotton.

In fact, cotton is the most used natural fiber used in clothing. Clothes made from cotton are light and cool, and can be worn in warm climates. However, cotton cloths tend to shrink and wrinkle over time, especially if not maintained properly. Another important feature of cotton is the wet strength of cotton fiber; the strength of the cotton fibers increase when they are wet. This is why cotton is used to clean and absorb bodily fluids such as blood.

Difference Between Cotton and Rayon

What is Rayon?

Rayon is an artificially manufactured cellulose fiber, which is made from purified cellulose. Since it is produced from naturally occurring polymers, it is considered as a semi-synthetic fiber. Viscose, lyocell and modal are different types of rayon which differ from each other due to differences in manufacturing processes and other properties.

Although it is a semi-synthetic fiber, it is considered to have all the properties of natural fibers. It is a versatile fiber, which can give the same feel and texture of linen, cotton, wool and silk. Rayon fibers can be easily dyed in a wide range of colors. Fabrics made from rayon are cool, smooth, soft, comfortable and absorbent. Since rayon does not insulate heat of the body, it is ideal for use in humid and hot climates.

Key Difference - Cotton vs Rayon

What is the difference between Cotton and Rayon?

Type of Fiber:

Cotton: Cotton is a natural fiber.

Rayon: Rayon is a semi-synthetic fiber.


Cotton: Cotton fiber is stronger than rayon fiber.

Rayon: Rayon is less strong than cotton fiber.

Wet Strength:

Cotton: Cotton increases in strength when wet.

Rayon: Rayon loses its strength when wet.

Medical Applications:

Cotton: Cotton is used as a medical product to clean, and absorb body fluids.

Rayon: Rayon is not used as a medical product.

 Image Courtesy:

“Blue Cotton Fabric Texture Free Creative Commons (6962342861)” By Pink Sherbet Photography from Utah, USA – Blue Cotton Fabric Texture Free Creative Commons (CC BY 2.0) via Commons Wikimedia

“Rayon closeup 2”  Digitalgadget~commonswiki assumed (based on copyright claims). – Own work assumed (based on copyright claims) (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia