Polyester vs. Cotton: What’s the best wadding for kitchen items | An in-depth analysis

Both, polyester and cotton, are widely used as filling material for kitchen articles such as oven-gloves and potholders. They both provide insulation while picking up hot utensils, but both have their advantages and disadvantages. In this article, we will compare the properties of both of these, and conclude which is better.

We will compare both materials on the following parameters:

  1. Thermal Properties (Heat Insulation)
  2. Dimensional Stability
  3. Colour Fastness
  4. Feel
  5. Health-Related Properties
  6. Cost

We are comparing the following two specifications:

  1. Cotton Wadding: 450 gms, 3-layered
  2. Polyester Wadding: 250-300 GSM


1. Thermal Properties (Heat Insulation)

Given that the primary use of oven-gloves and potholders is to insulate the hands while picking up hot articles in the kitchen, heat insulation is one of the most important characteristics.

This property is measureable using British Standards’ BS 6526:1998. Under this test, the 3rd party testing laboratory measures the rate at which heat is transferred between the outer and inner linings of the article within a 10 sec time period.

Based on testing conducted by Suraaj Linens at TUV Labs, we found the following results:


Wadding Type Permissible increase in temperature in 10 secs Observed increase in temperature in 10 secs (3 tests)
Polyester Wadding <30 °C 13-15 °C
Cotton Wadding <30 °C 17-21 °C


Even though both styles of wadding pass the test, it can be clearly observed that the heat transfer using polyester wadding is better than cotton wadding.

Winner: Polyester Wadding


2. Dimensional Stability

Kitchen articles like oven-gloves and potholders undergo heavy use, and since they’re used with food, have to often be washed. It is important for customers that the articles maintain their overall size and appearance after repeated washes.

To test the effect of wadding on the dimensional stability (shrinkage) of these articles, we had several samples with both materials tested at TUV labs. The results were as follows:


Wadding Type Permissible shrinkage Observed Warp Dimensional Change Observed Weft Dimensional Change
Polyester Wadding ± 5% – 4-5 % – 4-5 %
Cotton Wadding ± 5% – 6-8 % – 5-6 %


Again, the shrinkage levels of unprepared wadding types shows that Polyester wadding performs better.

Important Note: Both Polyester and Cotton wadding’s shrinkage performance can be improved by performing certain processes prior to the quilting. We have tested basic wadding without these processes.

Winner: Polyester Wadding
3. Colour Fastness

Due to the nature of the articles, washing is inevitable, and care must be taken to ensure that the products are colour fastness. Since the outer fabric, which is printed or dyed, is common to both wadding types, its colour fastness is not relevant.

The only relevant property is Self Staining. This test measures the staining the wadding causes on the fabric. Typically, if both styles of wadding were completely fresh and cleaned, they would be white/colourless and have absolutely no effect on self-staining.

However, due to the higher costs of fresh cotton wadding, the cotton that is used for filling is typically made up of unspinnable waste cotton, mainly from droppings and sweeping waste during the spinning process. This can have a range of impurities including broken cotton seeds, cotton oil, machine oil, dirt, etc. These can get released during washing and cause staining on the outer fabric.

Polyester fibre used in wadding is always clean fibre and does not release any discolourant during washing.


Wadding Type Permissible Self Staining Observed Self Staining
Polyester Wadding 3-4 4-5
Cotton Wadding 3-4 3


Note: Cleaner cotton can be used that has better self staining results (and is used by Suraaj Linens), however, this report aims to reflect what we have observed in the industry

Winner: Polyester Wadding
4. Feel

The feel one gets when handling an oven-glove or potholder is obviously an important aspect of the product. It is difficult to measure scientifically, but the feel has the following characteristics:


Cotton Wadding Polyester Wadding
  • Natural feel
  • More rigid and less bounce
  • Solid feel
  • Less natural feel
  • Greater bounce
  • Softer feel


Feel is a matter of personal preference, but we’ve noticed that more people tend to like the feel of a cotton wadding product. Effort can be made to improve the feel of polyester wadding also.

Winner: Cotton Wadding
5. Health-Related Properties (most important)

Oven-gloves and potholders are used in a kitchen and typically used to handle food utensils. It is important to reflect on any health-related implications that the choice of wadding might have, if any.

While fresh versions of both cotton and polyester should not have any long-term negative  health implications, it is important to be wary of any cotton filling that is made up of waste cotton. It is difficult to track the exact contents of this waste cotton, since it has many impurities. This can develop fungal/bacterial growings if left wet, including mold and mildew,  which can harm the food in utensils that it comes in contact with, or cause allergic reactions in users. We believe Polyester Wadding is a safer option on this aspect

Winner: Polyester Wadding


6. Cost

Cost is one of the most important aspects when a retailer decides what to stock. The cotton and polyester that have been compared in this article have very similar cost levels, at present. This may fluctuate over time as both cotton and polyester prices go up and down.

Polyester wadding is much cheaper if compared to wadding made using fresh cotton. (This comparison has been made with wadding made using waste cotton, which is what is predominantly used.)

Winner: Draw



Based on the number of areas we’ve studied, here are our results:


Property Winner
Thermal Properties (Heat Insulation) Polyester Wadding
Dimensional Stability Polyester Wadding
Colour Fastness Polyester Wadding
Feel Cotton Wadding
Health-Related Properties Polyester Wadding
Cost Draw


As can be clearly seen, polyester wadding outperforms cotton on some of the most important functional aspects. The only one where cotton wadding stands out is also a subjective test of ‘feel’.

We believe that polyester wadding is a more suitable as a wadding material in oven-gloves and potholders, and this is being recognised and most customers are shifting to use of polyester for all their filling needs.