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How To Tell If Batting Is Cotton or Polyester

Batting is a versatile fabric used for everything from quilting to backing oven gloves and tea cozies.

Polyester and cotton backings are significantly different and may be distinguished by various tests, including a burn test, the feel and texture of the fabric, and the fabric’s durability. If the cloth is polyester, the burn test will result in it melting.

In this post, I’ll explain the distinctions between cotton and polyester, as well as how to tell them apart.

Cotton vs. Polyester Batting: What’s the Difference?

Cotton and polyester are two materials that come up frequently when it comes to batting. Many quilters prefer one over the other, and knowing which to select might be difficult at times.

Here’s a breakdown of the differences between Cotton and Polyester batting:


This item is composed of natural fibers and is known for its comfort and delicate feel. Cotton’s light and airy natural fiber give it a thick flannel feel when you handle it.

Quilting cotton by hand is difficult; thus, quilting cotton with a machine is preferable. It has the highest weight of all the batting materials, which is a matter to consider depending on the job you want to perform with it.

Cotton does not pill when washed. However, depending on the mix and amount of cotton in the fiber, it may shrink somewhat. The higher the percentage of cotton in a cloth, the more likely it may shrink.

Although shrinking is regarded as a defect, it does have a positive aspect. If the batting shrinks after the first wash, it softens the quilt and gives it an antique or softer look, depending on your preferences. Cotton softens and matures nicely in most cases.

Cotton is insulating, soft, and breathable in general. Unless you have a certain appearance in mind, you should be aware of shrinking and remember to preshrink. Cotton is also often heavier and more costly than polyester.


Although this is a lightweight fabric, it is nevertheless quite durable. It’s great for hand quilting since you don’t have to quilt them as close together as cotton does. This is especially true for the material’s low loft variants.

On the other hand, the higher loft option is ideal if you want your quilting to stand out from the crowd. We recommend the highest loft polyester batting if you want a thicker quilt because it is easiest to tie.

Polyester batting choices can provide a lot of great insulation without adding any extra weight. However, there are a few things to keep in mind while using polyester batting.

The first is that if you don’t quilt it tightly enough, it may move. The polyester fibers moving through the fabric to the outside of the quilt, sometimes referred to as a beard is another result of not quilting it carefully.

Polyester is warm, non-allergic, lightweight, less costly, has a wide range of lofts, and is simple to the needle. Polyester is not breathable, which might be a problem.

How To Tell If Batting Is Cotton Or Polyester


Cotton batting is generally more costly than polyester batting of the same size. This should be your first indicator of whether the batting is made of cotton or polyester.

Texture and Feel

You can tell what kind of cloth it is just by touching it. The texture of cotton is softer than that of polyester.

Polyester batting also holds its form better than other materials, such as cotton. Polyester fibers are commonly used in bedding and cribs.

Burn Test on Fabric

Setting a piece of cloth on fire, watching how the flame burns, and checking the ashes are all ways to conduct a burn test. This test should only be performed outside and on a windless day.

Keep a safe distance from children, pets, and combustible materials in a well-ventilated environment.

Items for the Test

  • A flame-resistant container with walls. You can use a large ashtray and set it in a container with easy access to water, such as the sink.
  • Fabric to test
  • If you’re not testing in a sink, use a pitcher of water to put out the flame.
  • Long matches or other tiny flame sources
  • Long tweezers or a hemostat

Steps for Carrying out a Burn Test

  • Cut the fabrics you wish to test into 2-inch squares.
  • Set fire to one of the edges of the piece of fabric in a fireproof container.
  • Please pay attention to the color of the smoke since it will influence the fabric’s substance. Keep an eye out for the following: 1) The scent of burning paper indicates that it is cotton, and there is an afterglow after the burn; 2) The fabric is polyester or a cotton/polyester blend if there is a darkish plume of smoke that smells like burning plastic or chemicals.
  • Please wait until the ashes have formed after it has completed burning. Look at them to see if they have the following: 1) Cotton fabric is indicated by soft and delicate ashes. It should turn to dust when you touch it; 2) The remnants of melted synthetic fibers such as polyester are hard and lumpy ashes.
  • You may go one step farther and be completely assured. Take some thread clumps from a small section of the cloth.
  • Hold the clump over a flameproof container with tweezers and carefully move a tiny flame to the cluster. Keep the following in mind: 1) Cotton is the fabric that ignites when you bring the flame close to it; 2) If the fiber coils and melts away from the heat, it’s a synthetic fiber like polyester.