How to choose a promotional tote bag: materials

Part One in our “How to Choose a Promotional Tote Bag” series focuses on materials.

Tote bags can be made from all kinds of materials, from recycled plastic to organic cotton, and in a variety of weights from thin non-woven to sturdy thick canvas. The best material for your tote bag will depend on your budget, your intended recipients, and the intended purpose for the promotional tote bag.


polypropylene promotional tote bagsPolypropylene is a man-made plastic that is useful for all kinds of applications, from food containers to t-shirts to tote bags.  Available in the full rainbow of colors, inexpensive, and sturdy, polypropylene is a great budget option for your promotional tote bag.  Polypropylene does not absorb water, and it floats, so it’s a great option for a tote bag that will be used outside.

80 gram vs 100 -160 gram  thickness

The thickness of polypropylene is indicated by the weight: 80 gram, 100 gram, or 130 gram.  80 gram is a thinner, lighter material.  We recommend 100 or 130 gram weight as it is much thicker and sturdier, which makes for a much longer-lasting bag (and you want your brand associated with high quality!).  80-gram non-woven bags are useful when you have a very tight budget, or need a reusable tote to hold lighter weight items.  160 gram tote bags are on the opposite end of the spectrum and make for very sturdy and long-lasting bags that are ideal for carrying heavy loads such as books or heavy groceries.

laminated versus non-laminated

Laminated tote bags have a stiffer, crisper finish than non-laminated bags, and are water-resistant.  Lamination is ideal when you want a higher-end finish on a budget. The water-resistance makes laminated tote bags a great choice for shopping or grocery bags, or for rainy locations.  Polypropylene itself does not absorb water. The tiny holes within the nonwoven material can allow water to pass through. Lamination covers the majority of those holes, making the bag itself highly water-resistant.


eco friendly promotional tote bagsAll polypropylene is recyclable, since it is made from #5 plastic. When the tote bag reaches the end of its life, it can easily be recycled anywhere that accepts #5 plastics.

Reusable tote bags can be made from newly manufactured or recycled polypropylene. If you’re looking for a recycled tote bag, we recommend looking for one that is made from primarily post-consumer waste.



cotton - promotional tote bags

woven vs. canvas

All cotton bags are woven, in contrast to non-woven polypropylene.  The thickness of a cotton tote bag is determined by the ounce weight of the fabric.  The higher the fabric weight, the thicker and sturdier the fabric. Lighter-weight bags are usually made from a 4oz -5oz cotton fabric. Heavier weight cotton canvas starts at 8oz weight, and is great for sturdier tote bags.

For very sturdy applications, such as boat totes or bags intended for carrying very heavy loads (think carry on bags, heavy convention totes), consider heavy-duty cotton canvas tote bags made from 24oz weight fabric.

natural or colored

Cotton tote bags come in either natural unbleached, or a rainbow of dyed colors.  The natural unbleached cotton makes a beautiful neutral background for any color imprint.  The colorful dyed cotton tote bags are bright and stand out.


If you’re looking for a particularly eco-friendly or green-conscious tote bag, consider choosing organic cotton as your material.  While all cotton is naturally produced, organic cottons are grown using sustainable methods that are better for the environment long-term. Organic cotton tote bags are perfect for any organization or brand with an emphasis on sustainability or environmentally conscious client base

 Polyester, PVC, and Jute

polyester and jute promotional tote bags


Polyester is a stronger alternative to non-woven polypropylene.  The thickness and sturdiness of polyester is determined by its denier, or weight.  Thick 600D polyester is a sturdy bag ideal for trade shows or as a giveway tote bag intended to be used frequently.


If you’re looking for a tote bag that is clear, look for a tote bag made from PVC.  These bags are usually reinforced with polyester or nylon bottoms and handles.


Jute is a natural material that is a lovely alternative to cotton. Jute tote bags are ideal for brands that have a natural focus, or cater to customers that prefer earthier or more natural materials than polyester, nylon, or polypropylene.

We’re always happy to help you find the perfect tote bag for your next promotional tote bag. Browse our tote bag selection, check out our tote bag Pinterest board or contact us.

2 thoughts on “How to choose a promotional tote bag: materials”

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