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Flannel vs Cotton Fabric: 4 Notable Distinctions

Flannel vs Cotton Fabric

You may have heard of the term “Cotton Flannel” and assumed that all flannels are made from cotton. However, that’s not always the case. While cotton fabric is always made from cotton fibers, flannel doesn’t necessarily have to be made from cotton. Let’s delve deeper into the Flannel vs cotton comparison.

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1. Understanding Flannel and Cotton Fabric

In the world of textiles, both flannel and cotton fabrics are widely used for various purposes. Each fabric has distinct characteristics and versatile applications, providing different experiences when used. Let’s explore the definitions, origins, as well as the features and applications of flannel and cotton fabrics.

1.1. Definition of Flannel Fabric


Flannel fabric is a type of fabric crafted from cotton, wool, or synthetic fibers through a process called napping. The napping process is crucial in the production of flannel, creating a soft and warm surface. Flannel is commonly used to make shirts with plaid patterns, also known as thin fleece or thin pile. Besides its use in the fashion industry, flannel is also employed in making interior decoration products, bed sheets, and more.

Notably, flannel fabric offers a wide range of patterns suitable for youthful and ageless clothing alike. Designers have the freedom to unleash their creativity to craft unique products from flannel. With all its remarkable advantages, flannel has become an attractive and popular choice, just like wool.

1.2. Characteristics of Cotton Fabric

Pros and cons of jersey cotton fabric

Cotton fabric is one of the most common and widely used fabrics in the textile industry. Originating from the cotton plant, cotton fabric is produced from the white fiber of the cotton boll, which is harvested and processed into yarn. With its natural elasticity and softness, cotton fabric is breathable, capable of absorbing moisture, and provides a cool sensation on contact with the skin.

Cotton fabric comes in a variety of materials and types, ranging from soft and thin fabrics like cotton and sateen to thicker and more durable fabrics like twill and percale. Due to its versatility and breathable properties, cotton fabric is suitable for various seasons and has extensive applications, from everyday clothing, bed sheets, drapes, to clothing and interior products.

Though both belong to the category of natural fabrics, flannel and cotton fabrics offer different usage experiences and cater to the diverse needs of consumers in creating comfortable and cozy spaces.

2. The difference in the production process – Flannel vs Cotton

Flannel Fabric

Flannel fabric is made from various raw materials such as brushed cotton, wool, or synthetic fibers.

The manufacturing process of flannel begins with the selection of natural fibers like cotton or wool, or synthetic fibers to form yarn.

Next, the crucial napping process is carried out to create the flannel fabric.

Through the napping stage, the fabric’s surface is carefully brushed on both sides, resulting in small and fuzzy cotton fibers.

Cotton Fabric

Cotton fabric is made from the cotton plant, with the white cotton bolls harvested and processed into yarn.

The manufacturing process of cotton fabric starts with harvesting the cotton bolls from the plant.

The cotton fibers are then processed through various stages to create long and soft yarn.

These cotton fibers are then woven into cotton fabric.

Thanks to these distinctive manufacturing processes, both flannel and cotton fabrics have unique characteristics and cater to different usage needs of consumers.


3. Sensations When Using: Flannel vs Cotton fabric

3.1. Warmth Factor – Flannel vs cotton

When using flannel fabric, you’ll immediately feel a sense of comfort and softness upon the first touch. The special napping process gives flannel its enhanced softness and elasticity, creating a cozy and warm surface.

When making the bed with flannel sheets, you’ll experience instant warmth and gentle coziness on chilly days. The soft and warm feeling of flannel makes it an excellent choice for the cold winter months.

On the other hand, cotton sheets often have a smoother texture, providing a cool and breathable sensation.

Winner: Flannel

3.2. Cooling Effect – Flannel vs cotton 

Some people prefer a warm and snug feeling, while others enjoy a refreshing coolness. There’s nothing quite like sliding into cotton sheets to relish that cool sensation.

Natural cotton fibers have excellent moisture-wicking properties, keeping you feeling cool and dry throughout use. Although flannel is often made from cotton, its thin structure provides warmth due to the insulating air pockets.

Winner: Cotton

3.3. Durability – Flannel vs cotton

For cotton, durability is measured by the number of fibers per square inch of fabric. A higher thread count usually indicates a tighter weave and better resistance to wear and tear.

However, it’s essential to note that a higher thread count doesn’t always translate to higher quality, as the type of weave and cotton used also impact the fabric’s durability.

For flannel, durability is measured by weight in ounces per square yard. Flannel with a weight of 5 to 6 ounces is considered good quality.

While weight is a crucial factor, the structure and materials used also play an important role in determining the durability of flannel fabric.

Overall, both flannel and cotton fabrics can be quite durable and reliable, but careful consideration of factors such as weave, materials, and weight is essential to select the fabric that suits your needs and ensures long-lasting durability.

Winner: Tie

3.4. Breathability of Flannel vs Cotton Fabric

Both fabrics have excellent breathability, allowing air to pass through easily and maintaining breathability during use. However, the napping process during flannel production also plays a significant role in its breathability.

With flannel, the soft texture resulting from the napping process also retains warm air. This means that even though flannel has a looser weave than cotton, it has a natural ability to retain warmth.

On the other hand, cotton fabric has a smoother structure and lacks the napping process found in flannel. Therefore, cotton tends to be more breathable, providing a cool sensation upon contact and gradually warming up according to your body temperature.

Winner: Cotton

>>> Read more: PP Cotton vs Recycled Polyester: Unraveling the Differences

4. Compare the advantages and limitations of Flannel vs cotton fabric

Flannel Fabric


Flannel fabric boasts remarkable advantages when used in cold and chilly environments. Thanks to the napping process, flannel provides a soft and warm sensation, offering comfort for a good night’s sleep during the freezing winter days.

The insulating properties of the air pockets in the fabric help retain body heat, making sleeping in cold conditions more pleasant.

However, this advantage can also be a limitation for those who easily get hot, as flannel fabric may retain heat excessively, causing discomfort and overheating on warmer days.

Cotton Fabric


With its breathable nature and a variety of materials, cotton fabric is a popular choice for many people throughout the year. Made from natural cotton fibers, the fabric is soft and comfortable.

The breathability of cotton allows for excellent air circulation, ensuring a cool and effective moisture-wicking effect. With various types of cotton, such as Upland cotton, Pima cotton, and Egyptian cotton, users can easily choose a fabric that suits their needs and personal preferences.

However, some types of cotton fabric may not provide the same level of warmth as flannel, making it feel cool and less comfortable to use in cold weather.

5. Flannel vs Cotton: Frequently Asked Questions About Care

After obtaining detailed information about flannel and cotton fabrics, let’s answer some common questions about how to care for them.

Does flannel require different care compared to cotton?

Although there are some exceptions (always read the care labels!), both flannel and cotton fabrics need to be machine-washed and dried regularly, and remember to fold them when not in use.

How should I wash flannel and cotton fabrics?

Caring for both flannel and cotton fabrics is straightforward. Wash them in the warmest setting allowed by the care instructions, as warm water helps eliminate bacteria and dust mites. You can occasionally perform additional steps like whitening the fabric if necessary.

How often should I wash flannel and cotton fabrics?

Considering the amount of sweat humans produce on the bed each year, good hygiene practices suggest washing the fabrics about once a week.

Should I use mattress pads?

Mattress pads can help promote a cleaner bedding set and a healthier sleeping environment.

How to prevent wrinkles on the fabric?

High-quality fabrics are designed to resist wrinkles, but you can keep the fabric in good condition by washing and drying it correctly and folding it neatly after laundering.

6. Final Thoughts

Through the comparison of flannel vs cotton fabric, we can observe their distinct advantages and limitations. Flannel is suitable for cold weather with its warm and cozy feel, though it may retain heat excessively.

On the other hand, cotton fabric is breathable, versatile in material, and suitable for various seasons throughout the year, but it may not provide the same level of warmth as flannel. Users need to carefully consider these advantages and limitations to choose the fabric that best suits their needs and preferences.

>>> Natural Color Cotton vs Organic Cotton: What Sets Them Apart?

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