Which Burns Faster & Why: Cotton or Polyester Blend?

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Which Burns Faster & Why: Cotton or Polyester Blend?
Cotton is a natural fibre grown in fields. (Chris Stein/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Cotton and polyester blend fibres are frequently used to make clothing. Cotton is a natural fibre, unlike polyester, which is a synthetic fibre. Both cotton and polyester blend fabrics are flammable. Because they are made out of two different materials, they burn differently and at different rates.

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Cotton

Cotton is a form of cellulosic fibre. Other cellulosic fibres are linen, acetate and rayon. Like cotton, linen is natural, but acetate and rayon are manufactured. Cotton can burn quickly and will usually produce a yellow flame. Cotton burns very hot and leaves burning embers even after the flames are gone.

Polyester Blend

Synthetic fibres such as polyester will ignite quickly. They generally do not burn as long as natural fibres do and are more likely to melt. A polyester blend will take on different characteristics than just plain polyester. A 50/50 blend of polyester and cotton will burn longer than either of these fibres alone.

Burn Time

In one experiment, a 6.5-inch by 6.5-inch piece fabric of each type was ignited. It took about 56 seconds for the cotton piece of fabric to fully burn. It only took about 42 seconds for the polyester-cotton blend to completely burn.

Why Polyester Blend Burns Faster

The reason that a polyester blend will burn faster is because of the mix of heat, melting fibres and fast-burning material. Cotton burns fast and hot, but polyester melts and expands its burning area. The two combined make it one of the fastest-burning fibres.

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