Chef whites: Cotton or poly/cotton?
Which is better and why? Is it just a personal preference?
You can get stains out of cotton more easily than out of poly or poly blends. Poly is made from petroleum and attracts and holds other oils, the most common cooking stain base. Your poly clothes (of whatever color) will have grease spots that are hard to remove and that are set by the heat of the dryer.
If you are wearing cotton whites, they can occasionally be bleached. Not all the time as bleach destroys fabric. You cannot use chlorine bleach on poly and non-chlorine bleaches aren't that effective anyway. Neither type of bleach makes any difference on oil. Bleach only removes color.
You have to use a surfectant to remove oil from fabric. One of the best surfectants is simple dishwashing liquid applied full strength, directly to a spot before laundering - on cotton or poly.
Another disadvantage of poly is that it "pills" in areas where it is rubbed often. This is just because of the way the fibres are wound. Cotton fibres are different.
There are expensive and cheap versions of both fabrics but both have the same problems with attracting and holding oil stains and pilling.
I disagree with Sam on this one. If they pay, you 'wear what they give you. If you pay, buy cotton. You'll get longer wear, more comfort, and look better. Not like you've been in food fight.
I cannot abide the feel of most synthetics on my skin, and poly/cotton is the worst since those nylon shirts my mom used to buy me. If I'm going to sweat into something I want it to be as absorbent as possible; I don't even like poly/cotton aprons! Now, I'm not a chef, and I consider wearing chef's gear around one's own kitchen to be a silly affectation, but I know what I like in work clothes of any kind, and that always includes 100% cotton fabric.
In the long run, I think cotton is LESS expensive, because you stay far more comfortable. Cotton breathes better, and Poly/anything retains heat when you're in a hot environment and cold when you're in a cold environment. Plus, the stains are easier to remove from cotton. I only wear all cotton chef apparel. but then, I don't weary polyester anything, if I can help it!