5 Common Tote Bag Materials Explained: Knowing What Your Tote Bag is Made Of

When you’re browsing online for tote bags, it can sometimes be difficult to determine exactly what kind of material the tote bag is made from. Some manufacturers are vague about this aspect of their product, and images may not offer a clear explanation as to what kind of fabric your potential new tote bag is constructed from. If you’re looking into purchasing a new tote bag for yourself or as a gift to someone special, finding out about the materials that are used in different totes can be helpful when making a purchasing decision. Knowing the pros and cons of common materials used to make totes will also help you to narrow down the options and find the perfect bag for your needs.

person sewing a tote bag

Canvas Tote Bags

The most popular material for tote bags is canvas. Canvas totes are constructed from a durable cloth material that can often be recycled, but does not have any stretch or give to it. This means that you should plan your purchase accordingly; if you’re looking for a bag to carry heavy items in, then canvas may not be the best option. On the other hand, if you want a bag with a classic look and feel, then a canvas tote is perfect. Canvas is available in many different colors and prints; this allows you to wear your canvas bag as either an accessory or an everyday item without sacrificing style or function. Pros: Durable, versatile fabric colors and styles available Cons: Limited ability to carry heavy loads

Polyester Tote Bags

One of the most popular materials used to make totes is polyester. Polyester is a synthetic material that is often made from plastic, so it’s durable and easy to clean. If you’re looking for a more affordable option, a polyester tote may suit your needs. Polyester is also lightweight, making it great for people who carry their bags on their shoulder or in their arms. On the other hand, like any synthetic material, polyesters will never be able to achieve the same kind of softness as cotton can offer. A polyester bag can also be difficult to customize with embroidery or dye because of its smooth surface. However, if you’re looking for a practical bag that offers durability and affordability, polyester may be your best bet!

Nylon Tote Bags

Nylon tote bags are often considered to be of the highest quality and durability. They’re one of the most water-resistant materials on this list, which makes them a good option if you do a lot of outdoor shopping or if you live in an area that experiences heavy rainfall. They’re also lightweight and easy to clean, which make them popular choices among shoppers looking for a durable bag that will last for years. However, it’s worth noting that nylon totes can have a tendency to lose their shape over time. As they get older and more worn in, they can lose their firmness which causes them to sag and droop when filled with weighty items. It’s also worth noting that nylon is not always available in many colors. You might find some options available in navy blue or olive green, but otherwise the typical colors are black, white, or natural beige.

Leather Tote Bags

Leather tote bags are often the most expensive option, but they’re also one of the more durable. Leather is a natural material, which means it will wear and tear with use, but this also means that it can mold to your body over time as you use it. One downside of leather bags is that they can be difficult to clean. Leather requires special care when cleaning and needs to be dry cleaned or wiped down with a damp cloth to avoid damaging the material.

PU and PVC Tote Bags

A PVC tote bag is made from polyvinyl chloride, a type of plastic with health concerns. PVC is known to release dangerous fumes and in some cases, composition can contain lead and cadmium. You may also come across PU totes, which are typically made from polyurethane. These have the same health concerns as PVC bags and should not be used for food handling. PU or polyurethane totes are lightweight and waterproof, so they’re great for events like concerts where you need a more practical bag that will keep your belongings dry. However, if you want a more eco-friendly option that won’t release harmful toxins into the environment, consider an alternative material.


Tote bags come in a variety of materials. Which one do you need? What your tote bag is made of will depend on what you’ll be using it for. Whether you’re looking for a tote bag that’s durable, washable, or fashionable, understanding the various types of materials used in tote bags can help you find the perfect one for your needs.

The Importance of Quality When Buying Locally Made Tote Bag

What most people don’t realize is that when you buy a tote bag, you’re buying more than just the fabric. You are also buying the quality of the stitching and the type of threading that will be used to assemble the bag. For example, there are some companies that use polyester threading because it is cheaper and faster but it doesn’t last as long. If you buy a cheaper bag with polyester threading, it will eventually start to break down and show wear and tear which will cause it to become unusable. Cheap bags not only look bad but they also fail quickly which makes them an awful purchase in the first place. To avoid this, opt for a brand that uses cotton threading or even better yet linen threading if budget allows. Cotton is soft and durable which means your bag should last for years without any signs of wear or tear.

Tips for Finding the Perfect Tote Bag

Since tote bags are something you would use almost every day, it's really important to find something that has a good reputation and positive reviews. Talk to your friends and ask for recommendations. It's also important to read product reviews from customers to hear what they have to say and get a better understanding of what you're about to buy. 

One of the most important things that people forget to check when buying locally made tote bags is cleaning. It's safe to assume that tote bags made with fabric are machine washable, but this might not always be the case. Due to the material used, fabric tote bags can easily get dirty and start smelling bad. Having the option of being able to just throw it in the washer is a convenience you'd love to have in your locally made tote bag.