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Modal vs Cotton: Which one is Better? What are the Facts?

modal vs cotton

Cotton and modal fabric, both highly versatile materials, are regularly contrasted against one another in terms of various qualities. Because of their suppleness and ability to allow air to pass through, these textiles are frequently used for personal garments like underwear and household items like bedsheets. Despite their similarities, they are significantly distinct. In addition, we will examine the primary distinctions between modal vs cotton in this piece and evaluate which of the two materials is superior to the other.


Are Modal and Cotton the Same Fabric?


modal vs cottonLet’s get one thing out of the way first: modal fabric and cotton fabric are two different types of materials. The misconception that modal is a more luxurious alternative to cotton is widespread. However, there are situations where one can be used instead of the other. Everything depends on what you want the cloth to do for you.


If you are looking for something comfortable and money is not a concern, then you can choose either modal fabric or cotton fabric as acceptable replacements for one another. On the other hand, cotton is an excellent material to determine if you’re searching for something that will keep you warm but won’t break the bank. As we go through the various distinctions between cotton and modal materials, you’ll have a better idea of which one meets your requirements more closely due to our conversation.


What Exactly is Cotton?


Cotton, which is incredibly common and utilized worldwide, is something that everyone is familiar with. Cotton, as a material, goes back approximately 5000 BC and has had an extraordinarily complex and intricate history.


modal vs cottonHowever, even in modern times, cotton continues to be a widely used fabric due to its versatility of the material. Cotton is an all-natural fiber that vegans can safely wear. It does not require complicated processing steps during production and is completely biodegradable. Despite this, it isn’t exactly the most environmentally friendly cloth, which we’ll discuss in greater detail in a little while.


What is the Process of Making Cotton?


modal vs cottonThe harvest is the first step in the production of cotton. After this step, the cotton is cleaned by having the seeds and leaves removed from it first. The cotton must be cleansed of any remaining impurities during this process stage. After that, the cotton is taken to a facility where it will be processed and carded. The raw cotton goes through a process called carding, in which it is transformed into long fibers that can then be used for yarn spinning.


modal vs cottonWhen finished, the yarn can be used to color the same cotton in its unprocessed state. Cotton that is not processed in any way, including dying or bleaching, is typically considered to have a lower environmental impact. The weaving process occurs next, after coloring. Cotton is available in a dizzying array of different cuts and styles. Depending on the purpose for which the fabric is going to be put to use, it can either have a strained weave or even a loose weave. The type of weave also plays a role in the breathability and durability of the fabric.


What Material Does Cotton Have?


Cotton is a fabric that you can use in a variety of ways. T-shirts, denim pants, bathrobes, blankets, and many other types of clothes and home goods contain this material in one form or another. Its versatility of it contributes, in part, to its vast applicability as well as its popularity. To begin, cotton is a fabric known for its high comfort level. Because it allows air circulation and absorbs a fair amount of liquid, it is suitable for various uses.


In addition, clothes made of high-quality cotton tend to be more long-lasting so that you can wear them not in just one season but multiple times. However, Cotton has some drawbacks, which will become more apparent when contrasted with modal. Modal fabric is a more durable and breathable fabric than cotton.


What Exactly is Modal?


modal vs cottonWithin the past century, modal fabric emerged as a popular alternative to silk and has since gained widespread use. This fabric is produced by subjecting beech trees to several chemical processes to obtain modal fibers. Modal, like cotton, is a versatile fabric that can be incorporated into various garments and other products. You may get modal bedding, modal underwear, modal socks, and even modal activewear. Modal is used in all of these products. Modal can be utilized in the textile and apparel industries in an extremely wide variety of different ways that are also eco friendly.


Why is Modal a Semi-Synthetic Fabric?


Both the cotton plant and beech trees are examples of plants, correct? Why, then, do we believe modal is a material to be a form of semi-synthetic material? The method of production is the most critical factor. We cannot classify modal as a natural fiber even though it is theoretically made from other types of fibers.


Far too many chemicals are used in the production process for modal clothes for it ever to be referred to as a natural process. It is characterized by using numerous poisonous and hazardous substances, which undermine the natural-made concept.


How Do They Make Modal Fabric?


Let’s discuss the modal’s construction to explore why we consider it semi-synthetic. To make modal, wood chips taken from beech trees are first processed. Sodium cellulose xanthate begins life as a chemical solution of wood pulp. Chemicals are added to the cellulose before it is put through a spinneret. The chemical treatment of the wood is intended to produce a material that can be drawn into tiny threads for yarn.


The manufacturing modal follows a procedure not dissimilar to that of its forerunner, viscose rayon. After being spun into yarn, the modal can be woven into fabric and put together in whatever way the designer pleases. The modal is frequently blended with other fabrics, such as cotton or flexible materials like spandex, to increase its durability and improve its qualities.


What Material Does Modal Have?


To some extent, modal is like cotton because it has many of the same qualities. It is also a lightweight and breathable fabric. However, it comes in different kinds. Modal is renowned for its luxurious softness and exceptional drape. This is why it is commonly used in garments.


Modal is widely used for swimwear and athletic apparel due to its good absorbency and relatively high levels of both stretch and recovery. If you choose not to use absorbent fabrics, some varieties of modals will wick moisture away instead. As a bonus, the modal requires less maintenance than other rayon forms. Because of its high moist modulus rayon structure, it does not lose its form after being washed. It doesn’t pill, and it keeps its color very well.


Cotton and Modal – Which Fabric is More Sustainable?


Considering the substantial environmental costs of these absorbent materials, determining which is more sustainable is challenging. Although cotton grown using conventional methods is a natural fiber, that doesn’t make it an exceptionally eco-friendly or attractive material. Water is used extensively throughout cotton production, from planting to harvesting and industrial washing.


Moreover, a lot of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides are used in the cultivation of cotton. Therefore, it is not sustainable despite being a comfortable and biodegradable cloth. In the United States, cotton cultivation is one of the top three reasons for the widespread usage of pesticides. Keep in mind that the environmental implications of cotton production are often rather evident because of the sheer magnitude of the industry.


Due to the strong global demand, we must be selective about where we purchase our cotton bed linens, cotton t-shirts, and denim. Organic cotton is preferable since it uses less water and fewer pesticides in its production. Compared to commercially produced shirts, those made from organic cotton can save as much as 2,000 gallons of water. In contrast, modal has a different impact on the natural world. As was discussed before, the production of modal necessitates the use of numerous chemicals that are incredibly harmful to ecosystems.


If the waste from production isn’t properly managed, it can seep into local water supplies. Some manufacturers, fortunately, are succeeding admirably in this field. For instance, the Lenzing modal uses renewable resources like recycled solvents and beech tree pulp in its production. If you wonder how modal and sustainability relate, this is your resource. Which fabric is much more eco-friendly depends on a wide variety of criteria. If you insist on using cotton, try to stick with organic or recycled varieties, as they are less harmful to the environment. To minimize your environmental impact while shopping for modal fabric, stick to well-known brands that source from companies like Lenzing.


Is Cotton More Breathable Compared to Modal?


Both cotton and modal are highly regarded for their breathability. The consensus is that cotton, in its purest form, is still the most breathable option. Synthetic fibers are typically less breathable than natural plant fibers. Although modal is not a true synthetic material, it may have this quality. The difference between modal and cotton lies in the weaving; modal is usually fashioned into a tight weave, whereas cotton is woven loosely.


This isn’t always the case, though. However, Modal doesn’t always have a breathable, looser weave. Furthermore, modal can be woven in various ways, allowing for a wide range of air permeability and wear resistance. Conversely, cotton is almost always guaranteed more breathability than modal underwear, assuming we’re talking about the two fabrics in their standard forms.


How Durable is Modal Compared to Cotton?


There is general agreement that modal is much more long-lasting than cotton due to its tighter weave. There is a good chance that your modal pajamas will outlast your typical cotton ones. Modal doesn’t develop a pile and maintains its shape after several washings. However, cotton tends to often pill at the top and lose color after a few washes. There is a wide range of cotton varieties and weights available.


After all, high-quality cotton types of denim can last practically a lifetime with proper care, whereas a stack of soft cotton tees won’t last even a season. In other words, there is no universally applicable definition of cotton’s durability because it varies depending on the circumstances. However, the modal fabric will almost certainly last longer if you look at modal sheets versus cotton sheets. To be safe, go for a modal if longevity is your primary concern while shopping for garments.


Which Has Better Absorbency: Modal or Cotton?


Cotton has a high absorption rate and is thus useful in damp environments. To counter this, modal fabric has greater absorbency than cotton. Famous for its absorbency, modal clothing can store up to nearly 50% more liquid than cotton. The high-water absorption rate of the modal is unusual for a semi-artificial fabric. Regardless, modal can also absorb sweat and keep you dry.


While its absorbent characteristic might lead you to expect the opposite, several modal varieties are designed to control condensation. Fabrics made from modal are popular in the athletic wear industry because of their ability to wick moisture away from the skin and keep the wearer dry during strenuous exercise. The cellulose fibers’ tiny filaments control the fabric’s ability to absorb and wick moisture. However, cotton lacks moisture-regulating, making it less than ideal for workout clothes. A modal is a great option if you’re looking for a sweat-wicking fabric.


Which Fabric is Softer: Modal vs Cotton


Despite and perhaps because of the chemical processing, modal fabrics have a luxuriously smooth and soft hand. The fabric’s exceptional quality and suitability for the haute couture market result from the manufacturing procedure. However, this does not negate cotton’s softness. Interestingly, with the proper treatment, cotton softens with time. As a result, your well-loved cotton tees will feel gradually more at ease with each washing.


While some people may value a fabric’s propensity to soften with repeated washings, others may prioritize a fabric’s ability to withstand repeated washings. A modal is an excellent option for intimates and bedsheets due to its silky feel, making it a good alternative for texture-conscious people. Modal is usually softer than cotton, but this is not always the case. As with the other distinctions, this one lacks a clear pro or con. It is all about your preference when choosing a fabric.


Modal versus Cotton: Which will cost you more?


More frequently than not, cotton is utilized since it is more affordable than modal. Modal is considered a high-end fabric and commands a greater price tag than regular clothing. Still, some varieties of cotton may be more costly than others. You should choose organic or recycled cotton if you’re strapped for cash and can’t go for the more expensive Lenzing modal. But if money is no object, then modal and Pima cotton are wonderful choices.


Which of the Two is the Better Choice?


There are certain parallels between the two textiles, but ultimately it comes down to personal preference. Select modal if you’re looking for a plusher fabric. Conversely, cotton is the way to choose if you’re looking for a basic t-shirt to wear around the house. Although organic cotton’s natural fibers are why we love it so much, there are times when the modal serves a purpose better.


There’s no denying that the two materials both have their advantages and disadvantages. Choosing the right cloth requires looking at the big picture and thinking about how your decision will affect the world beyond your immediate sphere of influence.


Which is Better for Winter?


As for thermal efficiency, cotton is unrivaled. Since these materials are more effective for cooling goods like running shirts, underwear, and bedding, they do not typically rank well in winter apparel categories. While modal has a more open weave and allows more heat to escape, cotton has a thicker weave, which traps more body heat. For this reason, cotton could be a good option for winter undergarments.


Are Modal and Cotton Environmentally Friendly?


The primary benefit of the modal is that it does not contribute to the emission of greenhouse gases; it also needs less area per ton to be cultivated than cotton fibers need, and its water consumption is ten to twenty times smaller than that of cotton. As a result, numerous companies view modal as an environmentally responsible option.


We at Cruelty Free Belts are leaders in providing the best sustainable and kindly produced vegan belts.  Some offerings may have Cotton and/or Modal materials included but many are of differing fabrics.  We curated a collection of the best cruelty free belts online including Vegan Leather BeltsCork BeltsCanvas Belts, and Recycled Material Belts.  We also have a number of well-written blog posts.  If you’d like to continue reading more of our blog posts, we recommend you read: The Best Online Vegan Cooking Classes Taught by Vegan Chefs“, “What is Vegan Leather? How is it Made?  Better Alternative?“, “The Best Ever Recycled Material Vegan Belts by Jelt Belt“, “High Quality Vegan Belts and Shoes by Wills Vegan Store“, “Best Reasons Why Cork Belts are Great for Animals“, “Klik Belts Strong Indestructible Vegan Belts are the Best“, and “The Best Sustainable Vegan Rash Guards to buy in 2022“.


Frequently Asked Questions


Why is modal more expensive than cotton?


When wet, its strength, durability, and flexibility all increase. However, the cost of the modal is more than that of cotton. Manufacturing also requires more energy than is needed when working with natural fibers.


Is cotton a great option during hot seasons?


Cotton is an excellent choice for warm weather. Due to its high thermal conductivity, cotton clothing is refreshingly cool on the body. Cotton is ideal for walking in hot weather since it absorbs moisture and dries slowly. The process is straightforward yet effective: when temperatures rise, perspiration rises, and the sweat is transported to the fabric surface, where it evaporates and cools the body.


Is modal good for the winter seasons?


When it comes to colder months, a modal is a fantastic option. It’s great for wearing as an underlayer because of its softness, breathability, and comfort. In addition, it can be easily washed in the machine and will not wrinkle.

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