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Thermal Fabrics: Keep Hot Hot and Cold Cold

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Years ago the Thermos® company had the slogan, "Keeps hot things hot and cold things cold." You can't say it much better than that. Did you know there are fabrics that help you do the same thing? These aren't the heavy industrial materials that keep steelworkers, astronauts, and firefighters safe, but honest-to-goodness fabrics you can actually sew with. 

Thermal fabrics are useful for all kinds of projects where you want to keep hot stuff hot and cold stuff cold, such as pot holders and oven mitts, table pads, lunch carriers, shopping totes, ironing board pads, outdoor stadium cushions, tea cozies, and many other items.

The options fall into three basic categories: 

  • Thermal Batting, which has insulating properties.
  • Thermal Fabric, which can withstand high temperatures without scorching.
  • Thermal Interfacing, which is a lighter weight insulating option.

An important note about microwaving: The materials listed below that have a metallic layer specifically say, "Do not microwave." None of the rest actually state they are safe to microwave either. So for any kind of thermal fabric, unless it specifically says it's microwavable, we recommend you don't risk it. One exception, described at the end of this page, is Wrap-N-Zap by Pellon, which is specifically designed to be microwaved.

Thermal Batting


The most versatile thermal batting product we found (and use quite often here at S4H) is Insul-Bright from The Warm Company. It's made with hollow, polyester fibers that have been needle-punched through a nonwoven substrate, and then through a reflective metalized poly film. The needled material is breathable. The hollow fibers insulate by resisting conduction. And the metalized poly film resists radiant energy by reflecting it back to its source.

Insul-Bright is machine washable, easy to cut to size, and apart from being just a bit slippery, is quite nice to work with. Most sources offer it by the yard in 22" and 45" widths, and a few outlets offer 36" x 45" pre-cuts. 

Even though we've listed this material in the 'batting' category, The Warm Company does suggest you layer Insul-Bright with a standard cotton batting if you are using it for a high-heat application.

A number of sources offer Insul-Bright online, including Jo-Ann and Fabric.com. It's also readily available at many local fabric and craft stores.


This space-age thermal batting from The Warm Company was originally designed for insulating air conditioning ducts or wrapping your hot water heater. But Insul-Shine is actually quite sewable.

You can make something simple, like a reflective visor for your car or to put in your RV windows to prevent sun damage. If you're looking for a mod metallic look, you could also use it to cover a headboard, throw pillows, or make a budding astronaut very happy with some rocket wall art.

Insul-Shine has two layers, reflective material and insulating polyester batting. It is washable, but doing this may dull the reflective side. Sold in 22" and 45" widths.

You can find it at HomeSew.com and Fabric.com among others.


Also made by The Warm Company, this thermal batting is very similar to Insul-Shine, but Insul-FAB has an additional layer of white lining-style fabric. It's a good solution when you want a smoother and more comfortable finish on the interior of your project. 

It's also machine washable. We found Insul-FAB by the yard in a 22" width at CreateForLess.com and Fabric.com.

Thermal Fabric

Iron Quick

Iron Quick is a specialty fabric made of 100% aluminum with 100% cotton backing. It's designed to protect from heat (up to 399˚), but does not have any insulating properties. Sold by the yard, it's 45" wide and machine washable.

When you need insulating as well as heat protection, Iron Quick also comes as a quilted material. This is simply the regular Iron Quick fabric with a 100% cotton backing, polyester batting, and polyester/cotton backing. This doesn't afford a huge amount of insulation, but you could use more than one layer. It is only 42" wide.

Neither Iron Quick products should ever be used in the microwave.

They can be machine washed but should be air dried. You can also use a damp cloth to wipe clean.

Nancy's Notions carries both types of Iron Quick products by the yard.

Therma Flec

Therma Flec is a lightweight, heat resistant cloth similar to the Iron Quick but made from 80% cotton/20% polyester. It is scorch-proof to 390˚, and like the Iron Quick cloth, does not provide insulation. But also like the Iron Quick, you can find it in a quilted version for items such as hot pads, oven mitts or ironing board pads. Both the flat cloth and the quilted option are available in two colors: silver and light gold, all in a 43-44" width. Again, don't put this product in the microwave.

We found Therma Flec, in both colors, several places online, including Fabric.com and OnlineFabricStore.

Thermal Interfacing


Back in the 1980s, the 3M Company introduced an amazing new insulating material called Thinsulate. Ounce for ounce it had one and a half times the warmth of down and twice the warmth of other high-loft insulation materials. It meant you could get cool looking ski gloves that were just as warm as giant, puffy mittens.

A quarter century later, Thinsulate is still amazing. Made from microfibers that are only a tenth the size of of other synthetic insulation, it's much more effective at reflecting back heat. And Thinsulate absorbs less than 1% of its weight in water, allowing it to retain its insulating ability even in damp conditions. You can use it in any kind of project where you want to keep warm but don't want a lot of bulk, such as jackets and blankets.

Thinsulate is machine washable and dry cleanable once you have sewn it inside your project. It is a bit tough to find as yardage, but we did locate Thinsulate online at Vogue Fabric Store. It's available by the yard, 60" wide.



Pellon makes a 100% polyester interfacing called Thermolam, which is a needle-punched, sew-in fleece with a protective scrim that can provide some warmth. It's available by the yard at a 45" width and is machine washable. It's considered a heavy-weight in the general world of interfacing, however, it doesn't have any loft, so it isn't a choice for projects that call for true insulating and/or padded properties.

There's no microwave warning for this fabric, but then again, I couldn't find anything that said it was okay to use either. Maybe you should just forget the microwave, huh?

Fabric.com offers a good price on Thermolam by the yard as does JoAnn.com.


Wrap-N-Zap by Pellon is the only thermal product mentioned on this page that we can safely declare to be microwave safe. It's got Zap in its name and it says "Microwave Friendly!" right on the package.

Made from 100% cotton batting, Wrap-N-Zap is designed for projects like insulated baked potato bags and casserole warmers – situations where you heat up the food inside the cover and leave it on to keep it warm.

You can machine wash Wrap-N-Zap after you've sewn it into a project, but you should only use cotton fabrics, threads, and trims to insure it retains its microwave-safe designation. 

We found it in a 45" x 1 yard package at JoAnn Fabric. You can also find it online at Nancy's Notions and HomeSew.com.

Thermal fabrics are a "hot" trend

When we first researched this topic several years ago, we could only find about four kinds of thermal fabric or batting that was sewable and relatively easy to locate as yardage. Now we're finding a lot more options. And we didn't even include all the new energy-saving materials you can sew into things like super thermal window shades. It's nice to see the selection growing. 

Be adventurous and try some projects that are made to keep hot things hot, and cold things cold. Below are a few recent Sew4Home projects to get you started:

Casserole Carrier

Insulated Baby Bottle Carrier

Lunch Bag

Picnic Tote

Hot Pads

Oven Mitts


Comments (80)

Carlos thomas said:
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I Am looking for a  material that would keep water cool for a small period of time, but also would be warm to the skin at same time.

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Carlos - without knowing the actual project, fabric to be used, and other specifics, we can't give you a guaranteed answer. None of the fabric options above are waterproof, so they cannot hold water directly. The water would have to be in a container - so the container itself will also be a factor. The Insul Bright is what we often use for projects where we want to keep a baby bottle warm or a water bottle cool. You could experiment with that as an initial choice. If you need more warmth on the side that touches your skirn, you'd want to experiment with additional layers of batting, fleece or other fabric to layer with the thermal batting. 

John said:
John's picture

I'm looking for a material that is fairly easy to cut and sew that can be used to keep things from freezing over night, or better yet a few days or more.  The items I'm looking to insulate are metal containers containing various water based liquids, items that would not be kept outside but instead in various structures and/or vehicles.  Can you help with this, and do you know if any of the above mentioned materials, or something else for that matter, could be used in this way and what kind of effectiveness they would have??

Thank you.

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@John - Our site is dedicated to sewing and craft projects, so I'm sorry, but we don't really have any information about how these materials perform in the situation you're describing. You'd probably be better off taking your question directly to the manufacturer (Warm Company makes the majority of these, but there are links above to research all of them). You might also ask at a local farm feed & seed store if you have one n your area - they would have experience keeping animal water liquid in the cold. Or, a specialty company that deals in outdoor equipment might have suggestions based on what hikers use. One company we like in our area is The Rain Shed: http://www.therainshed.com/

John said:
John's picture

Hi, Liz.

Thanks for the feedback and the input.  I'll do more research and see what I can find out.  What I'm looking for is something that can be sown to accomplish what I mentioned as it needs to be very portable but not a space-hog.

Thanks again. 

Susan J said:
Susan J's picture

Hi my question is different. I would like to make a heat reflective pad for a dog kennel. would you use any of these inside? thanks for advise.

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Susan - it depends somewhat on what fabrics you plan to use for the exterior as well as what you plan to use as a "filler/cushion." We haven't made anything exactly like you've described, so as with other project-specific questions, we can only provide a best-guess. The Insul-Fab above would likely be a good option. Another new product from Fairfield called Solarize is another idea - it's thinner and very flexible so would be a good option if your pad is going to have a foam core - the Solarize would be super easy to wrap. Here's a link to Fairfield: https://www.fairfieldworld.com/store/category/solarize-liner-fabric-craf...

Adil said:
Adil's picture

Hi, Great site and loads of used information. I am looking to create a cloth cover for the radiator in my sons room as it can't be turned off without turning all the heating in the house off.

Which of the materials mentioned in your article would you recommend for this? I wouldn't want all the heat to be cut off though so would want something that does let heat through to an extent to allow the room to warm up  without getting too hot. 

Hopefully that made sense! Look forward to your response. 



Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Adil - we actually get quite a few questions similar to yours. It's hard to answer completely because it's almost more of a design question than a materials question. I hate to give too specific information as I would worry a bit about any type of cloth covering left in place on a hot surface for an extended period of time. In older buildings, I've seen radiator covers made of wood or metal -- kind of like a ventilated box. No matter what you use, it seems like some sort of "frame" would be necessary so the fabric doesn't sit directly on the radiator. Once you figure out the design part, the Insul-Shine product may be your best bet as it's meant for more "industrial" applications. 

Tabatha R said:
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Which of these, if any, would you recommend for lining curtains to help insulat against the cold? Thanks! :)

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Tabatha R - see my answer below to your initial comment.

Tabatha R said:
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Which of these, if any, would you recommend for lining curtains to help insulat against the cold? Thanks! :)

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
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@ Tabatha R - insulated windows are a different ballgame - but Warm Company, who makes many of the options above, is the pioneer in that game. They built their business on it and they still produce the top products under their "Warm Window®" brand. You can check it out here: https://warmcompany.com/products/warm-home/warm-window

candida said:
candida's picture

Is it possible to use scraps of insulbrite and piece them together with a satin stitch?  I have so many left over pieces when cutting 8x8 pieces

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ candida - we haven't tried it, but it sounds like it could work. Depending on the density of the satin stitch, you coud end us with a ridge or a "wavy" effect on the finished piece that could show through on a project. In this case, you might want to consider adding a thin layer of batting over the Insul-Bright to disquise that. 

Leia said:
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If I am making a rain jacket, and I want to put in a thermal fabric lining, what would you suggest I use?

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
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@ Leia - We're not really garment sewing experts here at Sew4Home, so we may not be your very best resource. That said, I'd say you probably want something lightweight with some water repellent properties. I think probably the Iron Quick or Thinsulate would be best. You might also want to check out The Rain Shed - they specialize in supplies for outdoor clothing and gear. http://www.therainshed.com/

Ms E said:
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Could the Wrap N Zap be used for oven mitts and pot holders? My local department store has it on clearance 

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Ms E -- I don't know if the the Wrap N Zap would have the heat protection you'd want for mitts or pot holders. Because WNZ is microwave safe, they removed all the metallic fibers so it is essentially just a safe, 100% cotton batting. You'd need a lot of layers to have it work well for hot mitts or pads. The thermal battings, like Insul-Bright, are much better for this use. 

Kim of Keswick said:
Kim of Keswick's picture

What a great page of info and great thread! Thank you very much for providing it :)

Does anyone have any recommendations for my dilemma? My gas golf cart seat gets very hot due to the motor that's located below the seat, and hot air escapes at each side of the seat as well, ouch! So, I'm thinking I should make a blanket that will cover the seat and extend past the sides so I can enjoy my ride for longer than 20 minutes. I did remove the cover at the back of the motor to allow heat to escape but it's not good enough. Thank you :)

SmitDog said:
SmitDog's picture

Look at a Welder's blanket.  Rated for nearly 1100 F.  Comes in a 4' x 6' sheet.  

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Kim of Keswick - that's quite a challenge. I think I'd be a little worried about anything fabric hanging loose next to the heat of the motor. You could certainly make a seat cushion that would help out there. For the sides, it might be better to consider havving a shop look at the possibility of creating a shield for either side of the motor, out of a heat resistant plastic or similar, that could act like a flange to direct the hot air down and towards the back. 

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
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@ Elizabeth - We didn't recommend any 110" fabric above. We don't have any sources for this width - you might need to research that option with a commercial provider.

Elizabeth said:
Elizabeth 's picture

I am looking for a fabric to use as a thermal lining in curtains. What do you suggest?

Ina said:
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Hi I found all this information very interesting. I am looking for fabric to make external screens for our campervan windows, I think the Therma-flec would do the job if I sandwiched it with some wadding. What my question is do you know if therma-flec would shed water, ie rain. 

Thank you for your help 

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Ina - we have not used Therma-flec in a project - so we can't give you any specific useage experiences. That said, none of these products are really designed for exterior use. Therma-flec is mostly cotton so that also makes me suspicious of its water-shedding abilities. You would likely want to use a rip-stop nylon or something similarly manufactured as water repellant as your exterior layer. 

Bishop said:
Bishop's picture

Thanks for the article. I read all the discriptions and it seems most these fabrics are decribed by keeping warmth "in". Would you be able to reccomned one for keeping the warmth "out" or the cool "in". I am having a custom made patio tent made for the back of my camping trailer. It will be completely enclosed. I need a to find a good material for keeping the cool A/C air inside this tent and reflecting the outside heat. I was interested in the Thinsulate for it's lite weight. Would it be as simple as turning it around to reflect heat back out of the tent?

Thanks for any help you guys could provide. - B.

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Bishop - as we mention above, the idea of these fabrics is both to help keep hot things hot and cold things cold. They are all designed to reduce conduction. So, yes, they could certainly work for your situation. What you're describing sounds like a large area and a custom job (certainly nothing similar to what we've done with our small home décor projects), so we really can't advise long-distance which product would be best for you. Perhaps discussing the options with the person doing the custom work for you would be a good idea. 

CeeGeeGee4 said:
CeeGeeGee4's picture

Very frustrated looking for puffy quilted fabric to make a lightweight short coat or ski jacket  possiboy in bright neon shade that will pack easily.  Any sources?  Thanks!

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ CeeGeeGee4 - we don't really focus on clothing construction here at S4H and so may not be your best source for answers. But, there is one local company we use regularly for strapping, buckles and clips: The Rain Shed - they specialize in outdoor fabric and supplies and do carry some insulation. If they don't have what you need, they may be able to help point you in the right direction: http://www.therainshed.com/

Nicole Heatherington said:
Nicole Heatherington's picture

Which product, if any, would be best to use to line cotton curtains to block out the sun's heat?

Jane Doenut said:
Jane Doenut's picture

Hi. Thank you for your great article. Please, maybe you have some suggestions for me too? I need help on a project I'm planning on doing. I am making a denim and quilting cotton floor cloth for my 'Glamper' to put across the entire floor space over the carpet. It gets very cold in at night and I would like back my pretty floor cloth with denim but I need to find the absolute best affordable solution for the middle with or without additional batting. Every layer is a good thing for drafty -15 degree nights during winter camping. I was thinking about Thinsulate but maybe you have a better suggestion?

Thank you.

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Jane Doenut - that is a very specific use that we don't have specific experience with. Your thought about the Thinsulate makes sense as that is the option most associated with outdoor gear. You might consider two layers of Thinsulate or perhaps a layer of Thinsulate along with a layer of batting. You also might consider visiting the website for The Warm Company who makes much of the regular thermal batting. They have a Warm Window product that might be a good option for your project: https://warmweb.warmcompany.com/us/warm-window.aspx

Jane Doenut said:
Jane Doenut's picture

Thank you for taking the time to respond. I will do some comparative research between the two and go from there. Many thanks for the tips.

Charles said:
Charles's picture

This is a great article, but I am still looking for something a little more specific. Maybe you guys can help...

I would like to make a high quality barber towel.  Standard barber towels in the us are made of 100% cotton herringbone fabrics, but I would like to have something maybe a little better quality.

Basically the caracteristics would be that it maintains moisture and heat while on the clients face to soften beard before the shave.  Although many barbers have heating cabinets, some use microwaves, therefore 100% cotton is the best.  What I'm not quite sure about is if the Pollen brand products can because the might ought to be used with another material to cover them.

If you anyone has any suggestions, it would be greatly appreciated.

Charles said:
Charles's picture

Hello again, I was thinking that maybe I should just find a good quality terry cloth instead.  What are your thoughts?

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Charles - interesting challenge. As you mentioned in your first comment, 100% cotton is likely your best bet. And, yes, a high quality cotton terry cloth would be great. That said, the thicker cotton terry cloth can be hard to source. We haven't worked with the Pollen fabrics. I believe they are hemp/wool blends. I'm not sure how that would perform with the heavy mositure. Your best bet is probably to continue your search and then get small cuts of the best options you find. Put the swatches through the exact situation you plan for the finished towel and see which performs best. 

Eliza Fox said:
Eliza Fox's picture

Hi there! I'd actually recommend hemp fiber over cotton because it retains more water than cotton. You can buy hemp terry, French terry, jersey, other knits/wovens; there's a lot of variety. The amount of water it will hold onto is ideal for what you're talking about even though it is not thick. It's a really amazing fibre and I've actually made cloths for my dad for precisely the purpose you describe and he loves them. 
Here's a source I recommend: http://www.hemptraders.com/SearchResults.asp?Search=hemp+terry

Eliza said:
Eliza 's picture

Oh, I forgot to mention you can also get a sample box of their fabrics as well as a swatch set. 

Charles said:
Charles's picture

Eliza looks like a good option for me.  Could you tell me which fabric you used for your father's "towels". 

Holding water is great, but also the ability to hold heat and have a bit of texture to actually clean the face and not slide right off when shaving product is on the face.

Thank you in advance for your advice!


lb.again said:
lb.again's picture

Is there a fabric that is best to keep cold drinks cold in a fabric coozie? 

Camille S. said:
Camille S.'s picture

Thank you for this information.  It's quite helpful.  I'm considering a new project that requires "heat-resistant fabric" but had no idea how to find it without product names.  I'm going to bookmark this site for future reference.

Patricia OK said:
Patricia OK's picture

I am looking for a 'blanket' type fabric that I can use under a tablecloth to protect my table.  I don't like the 'plastic' type pads that are sold everwhere, I want something that will hang more over the edge of the table but also prevent it from scratches and a certain amount of heat, although I wouldn't put anything very hot on it.  Any suggestions as to what would be best?

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Patricia OK - I think the Thermal Fabrics described above are what you are looking for. There are links to where-to-buy options for both.

shahin113 said:
shahin113's picture

hi i am looking for thermal fabric that will create heat when tempreture is cold and will cool down when it is hot. Iam doing this project where i want to create football boots which will adjust to hot or cold depending on the temreture.

if you have any ideas it will be great to here them.

 thank you!

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ shahin113 - as we mentioned above, the type of thermal fabrics we reviewed are designed to insulate by resisting conduction. The metalized poly film resists radiant energy by reflecting it back to its source. The can't create heat or cool on their own; they can only insulate. If something is already warm, it can help keep it warm - if it's already cool, it can help keep it that way. You would need an additional outside source of engergy to actually create a dramatic change in temperature - such as an ice pack to cool something down or those chemical hand warmers to create instant heat. In some of the extreme outdoor clothing offerings, there are some materials with wicking capabilities or other features that can further impact temperature, but we don't deal in those type of projects and so do not consider ourselves experts in that arena. 


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