What’s the difference between a Cotton bag and a Canvas bag?

“What’s the difference between the cotton bag and the canvas bag and How to choose?” As an eco bag wholesaler and manufacturer, we often come across such moments that the buyers are confused about the fabric when purchasing bags. Some suppliers just declare them as the same material since the raw material of canvas is also made from pure cotton, sustainable and friendly to the environment. And some online store owners simply advertises them as the same too on their site.

Is it really true? Definitely not, Then what are the differences between the two Materials and how to choose from them? This is key important, especially you are trying to invest in the wholesale tote bags or new eco bag business.

This article will give you a better understanding of the difference between cotton and canvas, and guide you to choosing the correct fabric to customize your eco bag for your business.

What is a cotton bag?

A cotton bag is a kind of eco-friendly bag made from cotton fabric. The material of the cotton bag is 100% cotton. Cotton Fabrics is a kind of woven fabric made of cotton yarn. It has a broad range, but normally the cotton fabric is woven with a single Warp and weft yarn. So it looks fine and smooth. Plain weave and Twill Weave are the two different weaving methods in making cotton fabric.

What is canvas bag?

A canvas bag is a kind of eco-friendly bag made from canvas, The material of the Canvas bag is made from a thicker cotton fabric or hemp fabric, or mixed with a percentage of polyesters. It is woven with more than 2 warp and weft yarns so that it looks thicker than the ordinary cotton yarn.

As early as in the eighth century, the Europeans used it to make sails on the ship and then named it “canvas”.

As the raw material of hemp is relatively limited in China, we generally think that it is cotton canvas. Normally canvas is plain weaving.

How to distinguish between cotton bags and canvas bags?

Generally speaking, you can distinguish by comparing the thickness, finesse, and weaving method.


The thickness for cotton bags and canvas bags can be calculated by different ounces (also called Ann, English: ounce, 1 ounce = 28.35 grams), starting from 4oz, 6oz, 8oz, 10oz, 12oz, 14oz, 16oz, and above, those ounces can change into GSM, for example,10oz=10X28.35=283.5, for details, please click and check the fabric weight chart here.

For bags more than 8 oz, you can call it canvas bags (cotton canvas bags, that is, cotton cags in the broad sense).canvas is generally thicker than cotton, but sometimes the difference in thickness is not very obvious, for example, there is a 4 oz canvas, the thickness is not much higher than cotton, sometimes it’s not enough judging by thickness.


Cotton bags are fine and smooth, canvas bags are rougher. From the exposed yarn at the edge of both bags, you will see the difference clearly. On the other side, the textured surface of cotton is also denser than on the canvas bag.

Weaving method:

 Cotton bags are plain weaved or twill weaved, while most canvas bags are just plain weaved.

In fact, not all canvas bags are 100% cotton, In fact, what we call “CANVAS”  in China usually means polyester-cotton canvas bags, it contains 60-70% polyester.

Thus it’s more durable, making the it stiffer and wrinkle-resistant, less prone to shrinkage, improving the shortcomings of cotton, easy to print, and making bags more beautiful.

Please do specify well what material you want to make when talking to a China Supplier, 100% cotton canvas, polyester-cotton canvas, or all-polyester canvas. The price is also different,

Let me give you some methods to identify

1. Simple Eye observation: you can see black spots which are the cotton seeds on the 100% cotton bags, but nothing on polyester-cotton.

2. Touching method: Cotton cloth bag is soft, polyester-cotton feel more thick and tight in weaving.

3. Burning method: If you burn a small corner of 100% cotton fabric, the flame is yellow, the burning smell likes when you are burning the paper, and the burning edge is soft, with little gray-black flocculent ashes left there.

But a Polyester-cotton cloth is totally different, the flame will first shrink and then melt, black smoke, emit a poor quality aromatic smell. Then the burning edge will be solid no ashes.

To help you understand more clearly,I made a comparison chart for some main features:

Materialnormally 100% cottonnormally 35%cotton or hemp,65%polyester (can also be 100% cotton)
Weaving Yarnsingle Warp and weft yarnMore than 2 Warp and weft yarn, looks thicker
Weaving MethodPlain or Twill WeaveMostly Plain Weave
Fabric Texturesmall spots on the surface which is actually the natural seedsNo spots, rougher than cotton
Weight:From thin 4 oz to thick 16 oz, lightweight better choose cottonabove 8oz, for the same thickness, the canvas is cheaper, also can load more weight
Feature 1More sustainable and 100% biodegradablesustainable, but not full biodegradable
Feature 2can be coated with waterproof, can be semi bleached or full bleachedNot waterproof if not laminated,can be semi bleached or full bleached
Feature 3Soft and Good air permeabilityMore durable,resistance to wrinkles, Suitable for stereotyped bags
Feature 4for heat transfer printing not as good as the canvasAlmost friendly to all printing methods, the design will show up beautifully
Feature 5will shrink from 2% to 5% after washingShrink less than 100%. Cotton
Feature 6easy to wrinkle and deformation, easy to stick hairEasy to get dirty, deformation,
Application:small sized drawstring cotton bag, produce bag, food packaging bag, lightweight cotton totes,etcshopping bag, grocery bag, heavy-duty ba, canvas tote bag, sports bag, daily bag,etc

How to choose a cotton bag or canvas bag?

  There is a big market share on these eco bags since more and more countries over the world start to forbid plastics and advocate an eco life. Both cotton bags and canvas bags are eco friendly, durable, and flexible in customization, they can be customized into cotton tote bags, canvas tote bags, cheap tote bags, canvas pouch, shopping bags, school bags for carrying books, gym bags for fitness, gifts bag for holidays, and they are extremely comfortable when you are using them. They share similar features. The choice of the materials usually depends on your purposes and the occasion you want to use.

I listed several occasions and purposes for your reference.

  1. If you want the most eco friendly and natural feeling, light weight, then prior to the 100% cotton bag without bleached. The color is natural beige with some black cotton seeds on it. If you print your logo on the cotton bag , when people carry the bag, they will promote a eco friendly image of your company, and it’s a just a free moving advertisement.
  • If you just have low budget with small sized drawstring bags(below 20X30CM,quantity below 500 pieces), better go with drawstring cotton bag, it’s cheaper when adding the freight cost. If quantity above 500 pieces, then it’s better go with drawstring canvas bag.
  • If you want to pack the food such as bread, fruit, vegetable, then go with cotton bag or even organic cotton bag. They are more friendly and natural.
  • If you want to make cheap tote bags or complicated affordable bags, priority is for canvas tote bags, It’s more thick and durable, easy to print, and cheaper when comparing to the same thickness of 100% cotton tote bags. for thickness below 8oz, you can still consider to make a cotton tote bag.
  • If you have a high expectation on printing complicated pattern, then go with canvas bag,
  • For Personalized and DIY purposes, then go with the DIY canvas tote bag or just plain canvas bag, it’s more flexible and nice in painting or printing logo or patterns on the surface.
  • For laundry purposes, go with canvas is better. Canvas bag especially heavy duty canvas bag is more durable and can last for more years and

In Conclusion:

To choose the material for making an eco-bag depends on your own requests such as bag size, budget, and functionality. As recommended, canvas bags are more suitable for large-size tote bags, backpacks, canvas messenger bags. Cotton bags are more suitable for small size drawstring bags, backpack bags, jewelry bags, etc. But you can definitely change according to your own usage.

Notes: For more designs and shapes of cotton and canvas bags, you can contact the eco bag manufacturer. when communicating with the supplier, inform him of the right material you want to use: 100% cotton, organic cotton, or polyester-cotton canvas, all-polyester canvas.

If you have a sample bag on hand, you can also send it to the manufacturer, then they will find the corresponding material with the sample you provide.

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