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Cotton vs. Flannel: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on January 19, 2024
Cotton is a natural fiber obtained from the cotton plant, used in various textiles; flannel is a soft woven fabric, typically made from wool, cotton, or synthetic fibers, known for its warmth.

Key Differences

Cotton is a natural, soft fiber that grows around the seeds of the cotton plant, used extensively in the textile industry. Flannel, on the other hand, is a fabric known for its softness and warmth, often made by loosely weaving cotton, wool, or synthetic fibers.
The cotton fiber is known for its versatility and breathability, making it a popular choice for a wide range of clothing. Flannel is characterized by its slightly raised texture, which is achieved through a process called 'napping', providing extra warmth.
Cotton fabrics are lightweight and comfortable, suitable for warm weather and everyday wear. Flannel is heavier and warmer, making it ideal for cold weather clothing and bedding.
Cotton is used in its natural color or dyed in various colors, while flannel is often recognized by its plaid or tartan patterns, although it can come in solid colors too.
Cotton is valued for its durability and easy maintenance, widely used in casual wear, home textiles, and medical products. Flannel, with its brushed surface, requires more gentle care to maintain its softness and prevent pilling.

Comparison Chart

Material Source

Natural fiber from the cotton plant.
Woven fabric, typically from cotton, wool, or synthetics.


Smooth and light.
Soft and slightly raised ('napped').

Ideal Use

Suitable for warm weather and a variety of uses.
Preferred for cold weather due to warmth.

Common Patterns

Plain, dyed in various colors.
Often plaid or tartan, can also be solid colored.


Generally durable and easy to care for.
Requires gentle care to avoid pilling.

Cotton and Flannel Definitions


Known for its durability and absorbency, widely used in the textile industry.
Cotton towels are preferred for their high absorbency and softness.


Characterized by a napped surface on one or both sides.
The flannel blanket provided extra warmth with its brushed texture.


A versatile natural fiber used in clothing, bedding, and various textile products.
She preferred cotton dresses for their natural feel and ease of maintenance.


A soft woven fabric, typically made from wool, cotton, or synthetic fiber.
He wore a flannel shirt to keep warm during the winter hike.


A soft, fluffy staple fiber growing in a boll around the seeds of cotton plants.
The cotton t-shirt was lightweight and comfortable in the summer heat.


Commonly used in bedding, sleepwear, and winter garments.
Flannel bed sheets are a favorite for chilly winter nights.


The fiber is most often spun into thread or yarn for making breathable textiles.
Cotton bed sheets are popular for their comfort and breathability.


Known for its softness and warmth, often used in cold-weather clothing.
Flannel pajamas are popular for their warmth and comfort in cold nights.


Plant-based fiber, commonly used in eco-friendly and sustainable fashion.
Organic cotton is gaining popularity for its sustainability and eco-friendly cultivation.


Often features plaid or tartan patterns, but available in solid colors too.
His favorite flannel shirt had a classic red and black plaid pattern.


Any of various shrubby plants of the genus Gossypium, having showy flowers and grown for the soft white downy fibers surrounding oil-rich seeds.


A soft woven cloth of wool or a blend of wool and cotton or synthetics.


The fiber of any of these plants, used in making textiles and other products.


What makes flannel unique?

Flannel's uniqueness lies in its softness and warmth, achieved by napping the fabric.

Are there different types of flannel?

Yes, there are various types of flannel, differing in weight, texture, and fiber content.

Is flannel always made from cotton?

No, flannel can also be made from wool or synthetic fibers, not just cotton.

Can cotton be used for winter clothing?

Yes, cotton can be used for winter clothing, but it's less insulating than flannel.

Can flannel shrink?

Yes, flannel can shrink, especially if it's made from natural fibers like cotton or wool.

What is cotton?

Cotton is a natural fiber obtained from the seeds of the cotton plant, used in textiles.

How is cotton harvested?

Cotton is harvested from the bolls of the cotton plant, which contain the fluffy fibers.

Is cotton hypoallergenic?

Cotton is generally considered hypoallergenic, making it suitable for sensitive skin.

What is brushed flannel?

Brushed flannel is a type of flannel that has been brushed to create an extra soft surface.

What is flannel?

Flannel is a soft, woven fabric often made from cotton, wool, or synthetic fibers.

Can cotton be organic?

Yes, cotton can be grown organically without the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers.

What is the difference between cotton flannel and wool flannel?

Cotton flannel is softer and lighter, while wool flannel is warmer and more insulating.

What are the environmental impacts of cotton production?

Cotton production can have significant environmental impacts, including water usage and pesticide use.

Why is cotton popular in summer clothing?

Cotton is breathable and absorbs sweat, making it ideal for summer clothing.

Is flannel suitable for outdoor wear?

Yes, flannel is suitable for outdoor wear, particularly in cold weather due to its warmth.

Are flannel sheets good for winter?

Yes, flannel sheets are excellent for winter due to their warmth and softness.

How should flannel be cared for?

Flannel should be washed gently and air-dried to prevent pilling and maintain softness.

What are the uses of cotton in home textiles?

Cotton is widely used in home textiles like bed linens, towels, and upholstery.

How is cotton fabric made?

Cotton fabric is made by spinning cotton fibers into yarn and then weaving or knitting the yarn.

Can cotton be dyed easily?

Yes, cotton can be easily dyed in a wide range of colors.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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