T-shirts are no longer scorned as a fashion item. They may be worn to the office or a formal function paired with a smart jacket or worn to the gym. When selecting fabrics, you need to consider the pattern or design, sizes, how the t-shirt will be worn, and whether it will have a print or embellishment.
These are important qualities to consider when reviewing our list of top 13 T-shirt fabric types:
- Soft to the touch
Ring-spun Cotton is one of the most favored fabrics, with polyester blends coming a very close second. Hemp, bamboo, and viscose have become increasingly popular for their eco-friendly properties.
If you are uncertain whether a T-shirt made from natural, synthetic, or man-made fabrics is best for you, then read on. This article will highlight some properties of fabrics from natural to man-made, the positive and negative points, including a short explanation on fabric care.
Best Natural Fabrics For T-Shirts
Natural fabrics such as cotton, linen, wool, etc., are popular choices for T-shirts.
A more comprehensive guide to natural fabrics’ advantages and disadvantages is listed below.
1. Cotton Fabric For T-shirts
Cotton is the most preferred of all the fabric types chosen for T-shirts. Cotton is also sustainable, renewable, and biodegradable, except the cotton fabric is comfortable, absorbent, and antimicrobial. This makes a 100% cotton T-shirt a good choice as an environmentally friendly product.
Pure cotton T-shirts are an essential part of a race car drivers uniform. Like other natural fibers, cotton is flame-resistant, ideal for those in high-risk work or sports situations. For this reason, many new parents choose cotton T-shirts for their growing children.
Ring-spun cotton is made differently than regular cotton. Ring-spun cotton t-shirts are more durable, softer, and tend to last longer than their regular cotton tees. Ringspun cotton t-shirts like the Bella Canvas 3001 or the Next Level 3600 t-shirt are softer and a little bit more expensive than regular cotton t-shirts.
2. Combed Cotton T-shirts
Combed cotton is a textile manufacturing process that involves removing impurities and short, irregular strands. This additional process increases the T-shirt’s softness breathability and, therefore, is better than regular cotton T-shirts. Because the fibers are combed, the fabric is stronger and not prone to fraying or tearing.
3. Organic Cotton T-Shirts
The term “organic” refers to no chemical fertilizers or pesticides were used to grow cotton. Cotton farmers ensure no chemicals wash into the lakes and oceans during production.
Farmers of organic cotton use organic fertilizers, compost, beneficial insects, or choose human labor for weed control.
If you require a T-shirt that is not harmful to the environment, sustainable, and biodegradable, then opt for an organic cotton T-shirt.
4. Pima Cotton T-Shirts
Pima cotton is known to be cotton of the highest quality. Pima cotton is suitable for T-shirts because it is resistant to pilling, fading, and stretching. The extra-long fibers guarantee this T-shirt fabric is soft and durable.
5. Slub Cotton T-Shirts
The strands of cotton fibers are twisted to create bumps. The slubs or irregular bumps on the fabric are created before the weaving process. These bumps give this fabric its unique look, feel, and texture.
Slub cotton T-shirts are lightweight, airy, and do not adhere to the body. Due to the textured appearance of the fabric, the T-shirt does not require pressing.
Like other natural fabrics, slub cotton does shrink. So if you are planning on making a T-shirt of slub cotton fabric, adjust your pattern to allow for a 1-3% shrinkage allowance.
Advantages Of Cotton T-shirts
A few benefits of cotton T-shirts have already been mentioned, but in case you missed them, here are a few more.
1. Fabric Dyeing Of Cotton T-Shirts
Because cotton is a dense fabric, it absorbs inks and dyes quickly. Therefore, cotton T-shirts display a higher quality print or design, giving the design or logo a more precise, sharper image.
2. Adapts To Environmental Changes
Cotton fabric is an excellent heat conductor and, therefore, unlike other fabrics, is comfortable through any season. Cotton T-shirts keep you cool over the hot summer months and warm during winter.
3. Cotton T-shirts Are Hypoallergenic
Cotton t-shirts’ hypoallergenic properties make them a popular choice for those with problems or sensitive skins.
Disadvantages Of Cotton T-Shirts
1. Cotton T-shirts are more expensive.
2. Cotton being a natural fiber, the garment is more prone to pilling and tearing easily.
3. Cotton T-shirts have a higher shrinkage percentage than synthetic fabrics.
6. Hemp Fabric For T-Shirts
Hemp fiber is harvested from the stalks of the Cannabis Sativa plant. Hemp fabric is known to be three times stronger than cotton!
Although hemp fabric has recently gained popularity, it has been used for garments for thousands of years. Hemp is easier to grow, less maintenance, and sustainable. Therefore a better natural fiber than cotton.
Advantages Of Hemp Fabric
- T-shirts produced of hemp have the following benefits
- Durability, breathability, and comfort
- Hemp fabric is more susceptible to dyes
- Hemp T-shirts last longer
- Hemp T-shirts grow softer with each wash
- They are highly resistant to pilling, mildew, and mold
- Colors do not fade as easily
Disadvantages Of Hemp Fabric
Unlike other natural fabrics, with hemp, the pros outweigh the cons. The main disadvantages to this fabric for T-shirts are as follows,
- To produce hemp fabric is more expensive than the production of cotton or other natural fabric.
- Hemp fabric T-shirts wrinkle more easily. However, over time and with washing, the fabric becomes softer.
7. Merino Wool For T-Shirts
Although an expensive T-shirt choice, merino wool is gaining popularity amongst fashionistas. Merino wool is much more refined and softer than regular wool. It is harvested from Merino sheep of the highlands of Australia and New Zealand.
Merino wool is widely recognized for being a natural fiber that is sustainable and environmentally friendly.
Merino Wool T-shirts are great for extreme weather conditions. It provides an extra layer of comfort, warmth, and softness.
Advantages Of Merino Wool Fabric
T-shirts made from Merino wool offer the following advantages.
- They look stylish for any occasion.
- Antibacterial and has a moisture-wicking ability.
- Merino T-shirts stay clean and odor-free.
- They are breathable and regulate body temperature.
- Unlike other natural fabrics, merino fabrics do not wrinkle easily.
Disadvantages Of Merino Wool T-shirts
- Merino Wool T-shirts are far more expensive.
- Extra care and maintenance are required.
Man-Made Fabrics For T-Shirts
There are many types of man-made fabrics used in the manufacture of T-shirts. I will take two examples and discuss why they are suitable for T-shirts.
8. Bamboo Fabric For T-shirts
Bamboo fabric is an artificial fiber from a natural resource. It is eco-friendly and sustainable.
Advantages Of Bamboo Fabric
- Bamboo fabric has a high UV resistance.
- It is antibacterial, antifungal, and hypoallergenic.
- Because of its water-resistant properties, it is anti-wrinkle.
- Bamboo fabric is highly absorbent.
- It is also biodegradable.
Disadvantages Of Bamboo Fabric
- Here are a few disadvantages to using this fabric for T-shirts as green as bamboo fabric is.
- Bamboo T-shirts are more prone to shrinkage.
- They are also slow to dry.
- Bamboo fabric is more expensive to produce than cotton
- Bamboo T-shirts require more maintenance than regular cotton or polyester T-shirts.
An important point to remember with Bamboo T-shirts is ALWAYS to follow the wash care instructions given on the labels.
9. Modal Fabric For T-Shirts
Modal fabric is manufactured from the fiber of beech trees. It is manufactured through a closed-loop process. The chemicals utilized during the manufacturing process are re-used, reducing wastage and avoiding harmful chemicals damaging the environment.
Advantages For Modal T-shirt Fabric
- There are a few advantages to using modal fabric for T-shirts. Some are listed below.
- Modal fabric is more sustainable than fabrics such as polyester.
- It is also biodegradable.
- Modal T-shirts are easy to care for.
- They are less likely to shrink or wrinkle.
Disadvantage Of Modal Fabric
- Modal fabric has a few down points as relatively new and underdeveloped fabric.
- As a T-shirt fabric, modal does not retain moisture and heat like other natural fabrics.
- It is not as durable as some other fabrics.
- Modal fabrics are not as hypoallergenic as other natural or synthetic fabrics are.
- T-shirts manufactured from modal fabric need to be dry cleaned.
- Deforestation is also associated with the production of modal fabric.
10. Rayon For T-Shirts
Also known as viscose, rayon is made by breaking down wood pulp into cellulose fiber. The regenerated fibers are then further processed to give the desired fabric properties, such as a knit for T-shirts.
As a fabric, rayon is soft, with a natural cotton-like feel. Rayon is ideal for T-shirts because it is lightweight, making it an excellent choice for travelers and sportswear!
Advantages Of Rayon Fabric
- Being a man-made fabric, rayon has more advantages than natural fabrics. Some are mentioned below.
- Rayon T-shirts are easy to care for.
- They are also lightweight, easy to handle, and drape well.
- These rayon T-shirts keep the wearer cool over the summer months and warm during cooler climates.
- Being artificial, rayon is moth and wrinkle resistant.
- Rayon fabrics are susceptible to dyes.
Disadvantages Of Rayon Fabric
- Rayon is vulnerable to permanent stains from alcohol, perfume, hairspray, etc. They leave an unsightly splotch on the T-shirt, which does not wash away easily.
- Prolonged sun exposure fades the fabric.
- Rayon T-shirts require ironing on the wrong side to avoid fabric damage.
Synthetic Fabrics For T-shirts
Synthetic fibers are created in factories through chemical processes. The fibers are further processed into threads knitted to form fabrics suitable for T-shirts. Due to the essence of the production process, synthetic fabrics are not biodegradable, thereby having a significant impact on the environment.
Synthetic fabrics have more stretch than natural or man-made fabrics. This is why many T-shirts are manufactured with synthetic instead of natural or man-made fabrics. Synthetic fabrics’ natural ability to easily mold the body’s shape makes it an excellent choice for sports T-shirts and activewear.
A few examples of the best synthetic fabrics for T-shirts are given below.
11. Lycra Fabric For T-shirts
Lycra, also known by the trade name of Spandex, was developed by the DuPont Company in 1958. It is a highly elastic fabric which makes Lycra a good choice for T-shirts. The elastane in the fabric allows for ease of movement and comfort.
12. Nylon For T-shirts
Nylon, another fabric developed by DuPont in the 1930s, was first used for women’s stockings. Its popularity grew during the war, and nylon has found its way into many garments manufactured today.
Nylon fabric is available in varying weights suitable for T-shirts where light to medium weight fabrics are required. Nylon fabric is incredibly strong with fantastic elastic recovery. This means it will not stretch out of shape over many washes and wearing. These two are good enough reasons for choosing nylon fabric for T-shirts.
13. Polyester Fabric For T-Shirts
Polyester, a blend of nylon, acetate, and acrylic, is another fabric with a high stretch. You can find polyester T-shirts from light to medium weights.
Polyester imitates the properties of natural fabrics. It is oftentimes added to natural fabrics to improve the qualities of the natural fibers. Polycotton, for example, contains a blend of cotton and polyester. It has the look of a natural fabric but the strength and durability of the polyester.
Advantages of Synthetic Fabrics For T-Shirts
- Synthetic fabrics retain their shape without stretching or shrinking.
- They are heat, water, tear, and wrinkle resistant.
- Synthetic fabrics are highly elastic, allowing ease of movement and comfort.
- Synthetic fabrics are quick drying and easy to care for.
- For T-shirts, they are light and airy.
Disadvantages Of Synthetic Fabrics
- Synthetic fabrics are not breathable.
- It is not environmentally friendly.
- Plastic microfibers released when washing may cause water pollution.
Choosing The Right Fabric For T-Shirts
Customers buy t-shirts for many reasons. While t-shirts are not considered a “consumable”, many people own a good number of t-shirts, and will buy more depending on need, or the desire to show off an expressive message or brand.
1. T-Shirts For Giveaways Or Trade Shows
If you or a customer requires a large volume of T-shirts for a giveaway or a trade show to promote their products, select an inexpensive medium-weight cotton T-shirt.
2. T-Shirts For Sporting Events
Again due to the high volume required, you need an inexpensive T-shirt. However, as the host of a sporting event and if athletes wear the T-shirts, you may opt for a light to medium weight polyester blend.
Since the end-user will, in all probability, use the T-shirt well after the event, you need to promote a good impression of your brand.
3. T-Shirts For Retail
If you intend to sell your design T-shirts with a unique logo or embellishment, it would be beneficial to select more trendy and fashionable fabrics. Lightweight organic cotton or a blend of poly/cotton and rayon is best suited for this purpose.
4. T-Shirts For Children
Childrens’ wear needs to be somewhat heavier to accommodate their rough activities. For this purpose, a slightly heavier fabric such as 5+ oz. cotton, or poly/cotton is ideal for children.
Poly/cotton T-shirts are most resistant to wear, tear, and stains.
Wash Care Instructions For T-Shirts
Every fabric type has its own set of wash and cares instructions. We are all familiar with separating whites from colors but with certain fabrics such as bamboo, which requires hand washing, following further instructions.
|Basin||-signifies washing -basin with a number shows the water temperature limit, in Degree Celsius, which ranges between 30-60℃. -hand in the basin denotes hand washing|
|Triangle||-represents bleaching, and whether to bleach|
|Square||-represents drying instructions. -straight horizontal lines represents garment to dry flat -vertical lines mean drip dry the T-shirt. -curved line means line dry.|
|Iron||-the iron symbol is self-explanatory. -a line through the iron means no ironing is required. -dots represent the temperature the garment should be ironed at.|
|Circle||– this symbol means dry cleaning is required.|
T-shirts are available in a wide range of natural, synthetic to man-made fabrics. Each fabric category has positive and negative points, depending on cost, use, and sustainability. Ultimately the choice depends on you and what is best suited to your needs.
Bryan E. Robinson is the former owner of TshirtGrowth. He has sold t-shirts since 2006 through dropshipping, screen printing, vinyl printing, DTG, Print on Demand, and more. Bryan has created his own t-shirt designs through Photoshop, Canva, and other platforms, as well as worked with freelancers to create many of his designs. Besides t-shirts, Bryan has over 18 years of experience in online marketing with eCommerce, B2B SaaS, B2C products, and more.