Weighted blankets are no longer an unknown or new concept but a popular and widely used therapeutic accessory. The heavy weight of these products triggers the release of “happy hormones” which in turn alleviates stress, insomnia, and many other physiological and emotional disorders.
When buying a weighted product such as a blanket, the focus is largely on “weight”—and rightly so, as the blankets need to be the recommended weight to offer the best benefits. But there is another factor that can equally impact your comfort levels—the “fabric” of your blanket.
Weighted blankets can be compared to a sandwich with the top and bottom layers built of heavy fabric sealing the fillings (poly pellets or grains) inside. If you have shopped for weighted products before or are in the process of researching for the best ones, you know there are a variety of fabrics to choose from. These include cotton, linen, flannel, silk, polyester, and mixed fabrics.
Each fabric feels, costs, and lasts differently, and has its own pros and cons. In this article, we compare the two most popular fabrics used for weighted blankets—cotton and polyester. Read on to find out the advantages and disadvantages of each, and which amongst these two is a better choice in terms of comfort, pricing, variety, convenience, and more.
Cotton and Polyester weighted blankets—a 7-point comparison index
Fabric selection is perhaps the most important part of buying a weighted blanket. You need to be sure about its durability and safety in terms of allergies, heat absorption, tactile input, and other factors. The trick here is to weigh the pros and cons against multiple parameters and determine the one that suits you best.
We have put together an index of 7 core factors to compare cotton and polyester fabrics for weighted blankets. Let’s get started.
An obvious and critical parameter is a comfort since you will be using these blankets while sleeping and relaxing—so a fabric that is even remotely discomforting can adversely affect your quality of sleep. Cotton is regarded highly for its soft feel and natural comfort. It is a preferred choice for bedding, pillows, apparel, and sewing materials. Harvested from the cotton plant, the fabric is highly breathable and moisture-absorbent. The fabric feels soft against your skin, keeps the temperature levels regulated, and feels light against your skin.
Made with synthetic material, polyester is yet another popular fabric used for sewing weighted blankets. The material feels soft and smooth against the skin but is not as absorbent as cotton. It can leave the user feeling sweaty and hot. However, if added heat is not a concern then polyester blankets can feel quite comfortable too.
2. Thermostat/temperature regulation property
This is an important characteristic to consider when buying a blanket. Do you live in a tropical zone? Are the summers really hot? Or, is it a colder region? The answer to these questions can influence your choice of fabric.
Cotton has the ability to absorb moisture and reflect heat, therefore keeping the temperature stable. In simpler terms, a cotton blanket allows your skin to breathe and release body heat, keeping your body temperature regulated. This works great for people living in hotter areas, or even for children who have a tendency to run warm. A 100% cotton fabric will ensure you stay comfortable all through the night (and even during daytime napping).
Polyester works in a completely opposite manner. It is non-breathable and non-absorbent—which means that a polyester blanket will keep the heat trapped in it and can keep you warmer than normal. Obviously, this can be a good choice for people living in colder conditions and even older adults who tend to run cold.
Cotton is a natural fiber and hence less likely to irritate the skin. It feels soft and supple against the body and keeps you feeling cool. Cotton is non-allergenic which is why it is a preferred fabric for infant clothes, washcloths, undergarments, comforters, and quilts. When it comes to comfort coupled with safety, cotton is a universal choice.
Like all things synthetic, polyester has its drawbacks too. It isn’t water-absorbent or breathable, which can leave you feeling overly hot or sweaty. This, in turn, can aggravate skin problems and other allergies. Children with sensory disorders or those prone to allergies should avoid polyester and other synthetic fabrics which can aggravate their symptoms.
Cotton is all natural and highly absorbent. This makes it prone to shrinking and staining. Excessive exposure to sunlight or moisture can reduce the lifespan of cotton fabrics. The upkeep and maintenance of cotton blankets can be more challenging than polyester.
If you are looking for a sturdier and long-lasting fabric for your weighted blanket, polyester is your go-to material. Made with highly resilient synthetic fibers, the fabric can go through a lot of wear and tear and is easy to maintain. It is also quite a stain resistant and does not shrink with regular washing. An added advantage is that polyester dries quickly, a common concern in colder regions.
There are numerous designs and customizations available for both cotton and polyester. You can take your pick of colors from nudes to brighter shades, kid-friendly patterns, simple classic designs, and more.
On the outset, cotton produces deeper colors when dyed and stretches well. But the sheen can diminish over time, making the fabric appear dull. With polyester, fading is not an issue so your fabric will look the same even after prolonged use. However, there are users who swear by 100% cotton for its soft feel and appearance, while many others prefer plush fabrics which are mostly polyester.
Organic cotton is hypoallergenic, smooth, and keeps the body temperature regulated. Given such benefits, the cost of pure organic cotton is quite high. You can find conventional and organic varieties in cotton. While 100% organic is expensive, a mix of conventional and organic cotton can be more affordable. Check with the manufacturer on the type of cotton used for sewing the blankets.
Polyester has multiple varieties, including the plush Minky varieties used for baby blankets. Depending on the type of material you choose, the cost of polyester blankets can vary. In general, Minky fabrics are the most popular and as such more expensive than other varieties.
If you are on a budget, a conventional cotton blanket might work out to be more cost-effective than the plush polyester options. However, there are cheaper polyester blends available too—but they come with their own set of drawbacks, as discussed in this article above.
7. Curative value
Whether you choose cotton or polyester, the real therapeutic benefit of a weighted blanket lies in its weight and the way it has been distributed throughout the fabric. Of course, the fabric cover makes a distinct impact on the overall feel of the blanket.
For sensory processing disorders or kids with autism, a pure organic cotton cover is recommended. It doesn’t feel harsh against the skin and can keep your kid comfortably warm without getting too hot (or cold). However, if you suffer from hot flashes, then the extra absorbent power of a cotton fabric might make your symptoms worse. Your occupational therapist can also help you determine the fabric that will work best for you.
In terms of availability, both cotton and polyester are widely used and easily available. Weighing your options against the above factors can definitely guide you in picking the right fabric.
Weighted blanket basics
A better understanding of what goes into the making of a weighted blanket can also be useful when buying one for your needs. So, here’s a quick peek into the process!
Weighted blankets are different from the regular comforters and are therefore customized in a completely different manner too. They are created to mimic the benefits of deep touch pressure therapy (DPT)—a form of gentle but deep massage that offers proprioceptive input to the whole body. This is similar to a firm handshake, a warm hug, or cuddle that initiates feelings of security and comfort.
So how does a blanket offer these benefits? Weighted blankets use fillers such as poly pellets, glass beads, or grains that are evenly woven together all through the fabric. The safest and most recommended fillers are the plastic poly pellets or glass beads that are non-allergenic and convenient to maintain.
These add to the weight of the blanket and massage the sensory points across the body triggering the release of serotonin and melatonin. These are neurotransmitters that assist with promoting better sleep, soothing the nervous system, and alleviating stress.
Ideally, weighted blankets should be 10% plus a pound or two of the user’s body weight—any more or less can impact the quality of benefits it offers. There are many brands that manufacture weighted blankets, lap pads and other products customized as per different needs and sizes. If you would like a more personalized touch, you can make your own weighted blanket from scratch. There are a variety of DIY videos that can assist you with this.
From occupational therapists to mental health care clinics, weighted blankets are widely used and recommended. These are especially beneficial for disorders such as insomnia, restlessness and anxiety, autism, Alzheimer’s and even painful conditions such as restless leg syndrome and fibromyalgia. A lot of users claim to use weighted blankets as a comforting tool throughout the day to help them stay calm and focused.
If we had to choose, we would probably go for a blended version—taking the best of both fabrics. Combining the softness and breathability of cotton with the sturdiness and versatility of polyester can give us the perfect version. Together they can produce a superior quality fabric, but individually both have their own benefits and disadvantages.
In comparison, cotton proves to be a safer and softer alternative for a therapeutic product like a weighted blanket. There is no risk of allergies or overheating when using a cotton fabric for your blankets and comforters. It is also the most widely used and manufactured fabric in the range of weighted products. It reflects the temperature of your room so can be safely used in most seasons, whereas polyester can make your summers miserable. Synthetic fibers also have the associated risk of causing skin sensitivities and not a great option for kids with sensory disorders.
The final choice would definitely depend on the user’s preference and of course, the recommendation of your health practitioner—but upon weighing all the pros and cons, we consider “cotton” as the king.