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Polyester, Nylon, Cotton - What is the Difference in Flag Fabric?

Purchasing a flag sounds pretty easy. Then you go to your local store, or hop online, and see SOOOOO MANY CHOICES. Polyester? Cotton? Nylon? But what brand? What is 2-ply? What is aniline dyed? Mercerized?

It is easy to get paralyzed by the offerings out there.  Here is a simple breakdown of the chief flag fabrics and their pros and cons so that you can choose what flag best meets your needs.


Nylon is favored for its ability to fly beautifully in very light breezes. It is lightweight, durable, and dries quickly. This is a definite advantage, as water is major adversary to flag life.  If you live in an area that gets a lot of rain, nylon is a great choice because drying quickly will reduce strain on the grommets and opportunities for mildew.  Flags that dry quickly are also able to fly better.

Not all nylons are made the same. Look for a 200-denier nylon. "Denier" refers to the weight, not the strength, so going higher will not do you any favors - it will negate the advantage of being lightweight and quick drying.
Aniline-dyed is another important feature for nylon fabric, as the synthetic dyeing process allows the colors to be brighter and more colorfast.

Another important feature of nylon is being treated for fading. Nylon's bright colors can fade fast if not treated, so UV resistance is necessary to maintain its vibrant appearance.

PROS: Lightweight, flies in light breeze, great for rainy areas, more durable than cotton
CONS: Less durable than polyester, tends to fray faster
LOOK FOR: 200-denier nylon bunting, aniline-dyed, fade resistance
RECOMMENDED: Endura-Nylon, Perma-Nyl


Polyester has long been a favorite for its durability making it ideal for high wind areas and larger commercial application. It is heavier than nylon, which makes it a slightly more reluctant flier in lighter breezes.  However, quality polyester has a more majestic look when flying, and has a beautiful drape when still.

Polyester flags are available everywhere, but, like the nylon, not all are made the same. Cheaper flags are typically made out of a single ply polyester that is NOT durable, or a polycotton blend that is ill-suited for outdoor use. A 2-ply, 100% polyester will give you a more durable, longer lasting flag.

High quality polyester flags will come with reinforced fly stitching. Polyester flags typically show wear at the fly end first, so reinforced stitching can lengthen flag life by preventing fraying and tears.

Modern advances in flag fabric production have produced new lines of open-weave and mesh varieties of polyester flags. These are a great feature.  Open weave constructions reduce wind resistance and water retention, which increases durability even more.

PROS: Most durable material, ideal for high wind, ideal for larger flags
CONS: Doesn't fly in light breezes, colors are sometimes not as vibrant as polyester
LOOK FOR: 2 ply, 100% polyester, open-weave, reinforced stitching
RECOMMENDED: Poly-Max, Tough Tex, Hercules


Cotton is a traditional fabric for flags, combining a classic look with vibrant colors and a beautiful drape. However, it is not nearly as durable for outdoor use as nylon or polyester, and is more susceptible to weather related wear from water, sun, and wind. If you chose to use cotton outside, purchase a heavyweight 2-ply mercerized cotton. Mercerisation is a textile finishing treatment to increase luster, and adds a great polished look to the flag.

PROS: Classic look, vibrant colors, lovely drape
CONS: Not durable for outdoor use
LOOK FOR: 2-ply, heavyweight, mercerized cotton
RECOMMENDED: Bulldog, Best Cotton

Make sure to check out all our US Flag offerings here. Also, if you still aren't sure what flag is best for you, contact us - our team is happy to help you get your flag flying!