We all love cotton because it is cheap and has a comfortable fit that feels soft against the skin. But if you are choosing cotton for your winter wardrobe, and specifically, a cotton sweater, you may be wondering how effective the garment will be at keeping you warm. Are cotton sweaters warm and a good choice for cold weather?
The thickness of the cotton sweater will greatly impact the amount of warmth it traps. In general, most types of cotton sweaters are more appropriate for mild weather. For more severe cold, you will want a warmer material that is better at insulating the body than cotton. These are the types of materials that are considered to be warmer than cotton.
In this article let’s take a closer look at the warmth of cotton sweaters, and what makes them a poor choice for extreme winter weather. Let’s also discuss several alternatives that are warmer than cotton.
Are Cotton Sweaters Warm?
High-quality cotton sweaters are comfortable and easy to maintain. But when it comes to freezing cold weather, we need our clothing to be more than just comfortable and easy to care for. We need these garments to be effective at trapping heat.
Unfortunately, cotton is not as effective at trapping heat as other types of materials. Therefore, that cotton sweater you love may be best used for more mild temperatures.
As we discussed earlier, the thickness of the cotton sweater will also impact how much warmth it can retain. Still, there are better materials if you are facing moderate to severe winter weather (see those options).
There are a couple important reasons why cotton isn’t the best winter material.
The biggest downside to cotton fibers is that they don’t do a good job of retaining heat. In fact, cotton is actually often considered to be a ‘cooling’ material because it’s highly breathable.
That said, the texture of the cotton sweater is what determines how much warmth it can provide. So, for example, if your sweater has a thin, fine finish, it won’t be able to trap in much heat, if any at all.
The type of cotton will also make a difference on the amount of warmth that a sweater provides. For example, cotton flannel and cotton fleece are warmer than other types of cotton due to their tight weave, and therefore these types of cottons fabrics will provide more warmth.
However, most cotton sweaters are not made with the type of fabric needed to adequately retain heat.
No Water Protection
Cotton is one of the most absorbent fibers on the market. It is not waterproof or even water-resistant. That means if you wear your sweater on a cool, rainy day you can expect it to get wet.
Wool, on the other hand, is naturally water-resistant, which means it can provide protection against light precipitation. Wool is also known to retain its insulating qualities even when it gets damp. Cashmere is also another moisture-wicking material.
Types of Sweaters that are Warmer Than Cotton Sweaters
The first thing many people look at when buying a sweater is the material. After all, the whole point of getting a sweater is to keep you protected from the harsh, cold temperatures of the winter season.
Check out these four sweater materials listed in order from the warmest to the least warm.
Wool has some amazing physical properties that make it one of the best materials for winter clothing, including sweaters.
- Traps Heat – Wool fibers have natural bends and twists that actually help trap and contain the heat released by your body. Most other materials don’t trap heat near as effectively as wool.
- Doesn’t Absorb Heat – Yikes, this almost sound bad, right? But believe me, it’s not. One strength of wool is it doesn’t absorb heat like other types of materials. This means you retain your body heat and the wool doesn’t absorb it away from your skin.
- Moisture Wicking – Wool is a moisture wicking material. Why is this important? Well, this means if you get warm and sweaty inside your sweater, the wool fabric is designed to wick sweat away, preventing the sweater from getting sweat-soaked.
- Naturally Water-Resistant – Wool is also naturally water-resistant, meaning if you are outside in winter wet weather, wool helps shed light precipitation.
- Insulates When Damp – One great quality about premium wool is it has the ability to hold its insulating properties even when it gets damp. This can be particularly important in nasty winter weather.
There are, of course, many types of wool. Regular wool can be thick, and some versions can be a bit itchy. Some companies may incorporate other fabrics into the material to create a wool fabric blend, which isn’t quite as warm, but is more comfortable to wear. Merino wool is another comfortable option popular in sweaters.
Alpaca wool is one of the warmest and softest types of wool available. It’s also non-itchy and typically tends to hold up better than sheep’s wool.
Also, most people consider it to be more durable and wear-resistant than even cashmere. The reason is that cashmere fibers are 1.5 inches long, whereas alpaca wool fibers can be between 3–5 inches long.
This means that alpaca sweaters are better at handling frequent use, as well as the constant wear and tear of regular washing.
In addition, alpaca garments are less prone to the pilling effect than other types of material, mostly cotton and polyester. The main problem with alpaca wool is that it’s expensive and much harder to find than cotton.
Cashmere is known for its ability to provide adequate heat retention and warmth. Plus, it has a super soft and delicate feel. In addition, this timeless material can hold up pretty well even with frequent use.
The one downside to this luxurious material is that it costs significantly more than other types of sweater materials. Its high price is due to the unique structure of its fibers and its intricate manufacturing process.
So, to lower costs and drive sales, many manufacturers like to blend cashmere with wool. Together, these two materials offer the best of both worlds: high-quality sweaters that provide exceptional warmth and a comfortable, plush feel.
Most of today’s sweaters are made from a cheap polyester blend type of fabric that often includes low-quality cotton fibers. That’s why they’re extremely affordable and low-maintenance compared to most other materials. Plus, they’re available year-round in almost all shops and online stores.
However, not all polyester blends are good insulators. Many lack the ability to retain heat or wick moisture.
Still, there are bulky fleece sweaters made of polyester that do provide some level of warmth. Yet, it’s pretty minimal compared to that of wool sweaters because of the polyester’s physical structure of its fibers.
Another drawback is they’re not resistant to wear or wrinkling. In addition, polyester sweaters easily lose their shape, particularly after going through several wash-and-dry cycles in the machine. They’re also more prone to pilling than other materials.