Hemp vs. Cotton: Exploring the Pros and Cons of Nature’s Fibers

Find out the Difference Between Two Main Eco-Fashion Fibers

Cotton vs Hemp

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In this article, we will explore the differences and similarities between two natural fibers: hemp and cotton. Cotton makes up most of the global apparel and upholstery industry, as it is comfortable, inexpensive, and easily accessible. However, there is a growing concern about the environmental impact conventional cotton has on the planet. With hemp emerging as a miraculous plant, and a popular sustainable alternative to cotton, we start asking ourselves: Which is better and stronger, hemp or cotton? By exploring the distinct qualities of both, we will shed light on their durability, comfort, longevity, versatile usage, ecological impact, and overall sustainability.

We will reveal the remarkable benefits of hemp fiber while acknowledging the positive features of cotton. You will discover why hemp fiber is becoming a game-changer in the garment industry and why it’s a symbol of a conscious and responsible choice for a greener future.

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Hemp has been around for thousands of years. From its origins in ancient civilizations to its modern-day renaissance, hemp has played an important part in many cultures worldwide. This plant, known as Cannabis sativa, has been cultivated for its fibers, seeds, leaves, roots, and medicinal properties throughout history.

Records show that it was originally cultivated in China, where it was used for manufacturing textiles, paper, and fishing nets. The cultivation of hemp flourished and spread to regions such as North Africa, Europe, and eventually America. Later, it became essential in maritime exploration, as it was utilized as the main material for ropes and sails on exploration ships. Furthermore, it was greatly appreciated for its medicinal benefits. Today, hemp is used to make garments, textiles, paper, food, shoes, bioplastics, biofuel, and much more. This remarkable plant represents a symbol of sustainability, innovation, and rich history.
is hemp better than cotton


Durability & strength

When it comes to durability, cotton is softer but becomes thinner and degrades over time. On the other hand, hemp’s canvas softens over time and is much stronger. It is highly durable and sturdy and is not susceptible to shrinkage when washed in cold water. Another great feature of hemp is that it is highly resistant to pilling and minimally prone to wear and tear.

A typical cotton t-shirt is more prone to ripping and its average lifespan is about 10 years, while a hemp t-shirt can last twice as long. The reason for the increased hemp durability and strength is its tensile (textile) strength measuring almost double of the cotton’s strength. Furthermore, even after being laundered dozens of times, there will be no degradation of the garment.

The longevity of the product also translates into cost savings in the long run.

Comfort & softness

Cotton is famous for its softness; however, its fibers degrade and break down gradually, mainly from washing.

In contrast, hemp does not break down progressively by washing. Its long fibers soften and become stronger with every wash. And even though the initial comparison shows that cotton is softer, repeated washing will break its fiber down faster. Overall, hemp takes the lead in comfort.

Antibacterial and antimicrobial features

Hemp is famed for its remarkable antibacterial properties among other natural fibers, including cotton. This is due to the presence of cannabinoids which protect the skin. Another component, THC, is responsible for protection against fungi, bacteria, bugs, mold, and mildew.

Color retention and UV resistance

Textiles and clothes typically fade by being exposed to sunlight (UV radiation). Since hemp has high UV resistance naturally, the color of your clothes will not fade and will stay bright.

One of the most prominent features of hemp fiber is its absorbing power, meaning it requires less treatment. Hence, the process of dying is quick and simple and color retention level is high. Pure cotton has a tendency to bleed color in the beginning.

While cotton mostly occurs in white color, hemp fabrics can naturally come in several colors: creamy white, green, brown, black, or grey. Different colors are achieved by distinctive methods of fiber removal from the plant’s stalk.

Moisture absorbance & breathability

Cotton gained popularity over other materials due to its breathability features. It is known to remove body odors by effectively absorbing moisture; hence, it is a popular summer outfit choice.

Hemp is a fierce contender to cotton in absorbance and breathability. But there is a bonus feature too: not only will it absorb the moisture and cool you off during the summer, but it will keep you warm in the winter, due to its excellent insulating properties.


When it comes to sustainability, hemp outperforms conventional cotton in several areas, making it an eco-friendlier choice. Its lower water requirements, reduced pesticide use, positive impact on soil health, and lower carbon footprint make it an eco-friendly choice for those seeking to minimize their environmental impact and contribute to the preservation of our planet’s resources for future generations.
is hemp stronger than cotton

Hemp Uses Less Water

Compared to cotton, hemp needs significantly less water to grow and can flourish with minimal irrigation. Generally, it can be raised with rainwater only, thus conserving water and minimizing concerns for water scarcity. On the other hand, cotton is known for high water demands during cultivation. It is believed that one kilogram of cotton (about 2 lbs.) requires about 20,000 liters of water, while a kilogram of dry hemp can be produced using about 300- 500 liters only.

Hemp Does not Need Pesticides or Herbicides to Grow

Hemp is naturally resistant to pests and insects, which is a highly beneficial property, as it allows farmers to grow it without any harmful pesticides. At the same time, cultivation of cotton requires lots of pesticides and herbicides to fight weeds and pests. It is believed that about 10% of all agrochemicals stem from the cotton industry. Cotton farming uses 4.7% of the world's pesticides and 10% of insecticides. Its production pollutes the environment and poses risks to people and ecosystems.

Hemp Enriches the Soil

Hemp cultivation is highly beneficial for biodiversity, as its plants have deep roots which aerate the soil, help prevent erosion, and provide increased microbial activity. Additionally, its foliage and fast growth naturally stop weeds, thus eradicating the need for herbicides. Conversely, cotton depletes the soil on top of increasing the risk of erosion.

Hemp Is a Carbon-Negative Plant

The cultivation of hemp is carbon negative, which means that the plant absorbs and locks in more carbon dioxide during their growth cycle, than it is emitted by the equipment used to cultivate the crop.  Overall, hemp cultivation helps mitigate climate change. Furthermore, it needs less energy-intensive processes, such as irrigation or fertilizers production.

Certified organic cotton is a far better option than conventional cotton. Organic cotton is cultivated without pesticides and herbicides from non-GMO seeds. It does not need as much water as conventional cotton, contributing to resource preservation practices. By selecting hemp or organic cotton over conventional cotton products, consumers encourage sustainable and chemical-free agricultural practices and a greener future.


To summarize, we will list the pros and cons of both plants.

Hemp Plant Advantages

  • More than 20,000 uses
  • Strong and durable fiber
  • Natural moisture wicking
  • Does not require pesticides or chemicals to grow
  • Minimal water requirements
  • Eco-friendly and biodegradable
  • Reduces tree deforestation
  • Destroys weeds naturally
  • Enriches the soil
  • Effective carbon absorbing
  • High nutritional value
  • Can be cultivated almost anywhere


  • Constrained supply (it is not legal everywhere)
  • Products can be pricier, as they are harder to obtain
  • Hemp fabric can be prone to wrinkling

Cotton Plant Advantages

  • Biodegradable and natural
  • Breathable and flexible fibers
  • A wide range of applications
  • Soft and comfortable fabrics
  • Easily accessible
  • Affordable prices


  • Requires huge amount of water to grow
  • High CO2 emissions
  • Needs lots of land for cultivation
  • Not environmentally friendly plant
  • Pesticide-intensive crop
  • Human health impact (chemical exposure)
  • Soil depletion



  • Fashion industry (t-shirts, dresses, trousers, underwear, shoes)
  • Home textiles (bedding, linens, curtains, napkins, tablecloths)
  • Medical & Hygiene products (masks, gowns, bandages, sanitary pads, diapers)
  • Industrial (filters, ropes, tents)
  • Paper and stationery (writing paper, envelopes, printing paper)


  • Apparel & accessories (t-shirts, pants, jackets, dresses, shoes, backpacks)
  • Home textiles (towels, curtains, rugs, upholstery, napkins)
  • Industrial (insulation, ropes, cords, bioplastics, building materials)
  • Packaging & paper (cardboard, envelopes, newsprints)
  • Personal care (lotions, creams, balms, soaps, shampoos)
  • Health & Wellness (oils, tinctures, topical ointments?)
  • Nutrition (including animal feed)
  • Ecological restoration


  • Long-lasting shape retention
  • Softens with time
  • Extra durable and strong
  • Moisture absorption
  • Antibacterial and antimicrobial resistance
  • Hypoallergenic properties
  • Resistant to pilling and abrasion
  • UV resistance
  • Thermal regulation
  • Eco-consciousness
  • Better color retention


Hemp and cotton have lots of similarities. They have been around for thousands of years and are used mostly in textile and fabric manufacturing. However, hemp outshines conventional cotton in several key areas, like durability, strength, and eco-friendliness.

Hemp has clearly proven to be one of the most sustainable and versatile fabrics. Its health and environmental benefits are unmatched; hence, we see an increase in its cultivation and production.