The comparison of cotton clothes to those made of polyester is a common one for those looking for particular characteristics in their clothes they wear. The easiest way to make a comparison is to know the nature of the fibers in question. Cotton is a natural fabric that is grow and then processed into a fiber before it is woven. Polyester is made of chemicals that are blended together to make a fiber. In essence cotton is natural while polyester is artificial.
If you were to ignore the fact of how the fabrics come into being and only the comfort of the material, then cotton is generally the preferred option. To the skin it is considered softer and has the ability to absorb moisture. On a warm day this moisture absorbed by the cotton acts as a cooling agent to assist in keeping a person cooler when wearing it and sweating. The manufacturers of polyester claim this makes cotton have the foul smell of perspiration when worn. For those that desire to wear cotton, this predicament can be prevented with the simple application of deodorant or antiperspirant.
One of the reasons cotton is so comfortable is that small portions of the fiber do extend out from the cloth over time. This helps it to create the barrier that makes the wearer cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. Polyester does not do this which allows the fabric to rest against the skin. While some do appreciate the lack of fraying of the material and feel it makes polyester cloths look better over time, a level of comfort is lost because of that.
Because polyester is made from chemicals just like most carpeting, there is a problem with static and static cling. This small electrical charge causes the polyester cloth to cling to your body in an unnatural way. If a person is also on polyester carpeting, the charge can build up to a shocking but nonhazardous experience. The discharge of the electrons will occur when you come in contact with an object or person who is not charged giving a shock to both parties. This can be particularly upsetting at a romantic moment. Cotton is resistant to the accumulation of an electrical charge and is rarely if ever experienced by a person wearing only cotton.
The washing aspect of cotton and polyester does favor the latter. Polyester does dry faster and with fewer wrinkles than cotton does if both are allowed to completely dry before taking out of the dryer. This is due to the inherent characteristic of cotton to absorb moisture. The advantage of cotton in this process is when ironing is required. Cotton is very durable and can be easily be ironed. Polyester requires a low setting to prevent the fabric from being melted.
There are good and bad characteristics with both cotton and polyester fabrics. For most the inconvenience of having to wait for cotton to dry and ironing the cloths is worth the level of comfort it provides for the wearer.