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  • Writer's pictureOlivia Yves


Updated: Jan 16, 2019

Much like coffee, cashmere, or wine, the quality of cotton varies greatly.

Cotton fabrics can be silky or rough, smooth or textured, thick or sheer, simple or luxurious, making them the world's favorites for both home furnishings and clothing alike. Versatility, softness, breathability, absorbency, performance and durability are just a few of the qualities that have earned it year-round status.

There are many different types of cotton we may or may not have heard of, and the quality all depends on where and how it is grown, as well as the length of its staple.

Egyptian Cotton -

When it comes to superior, the most mentioned is often Egyptian cotton.

Egyptian cotton is a term usually applied to the extra long staple (ELS) cotton produced in Egypt. As the name suggests, it is fine and lustrous, and has long and thin fibers. Its fiber is light brown in color and is used for making strong yarns. Egyptian Cotton is mostly used for premium bed sheets, cushion covers, etc.

When searching for quality linens, however, the brand of Egyptian cotton can often be tricky. Any cotton produced in Egypt can technically be labeled “Egyptian cotton.” In fact, your linen could be made of non-ELS quality cotton, and therefore be a lower quality product, but still maintain the label of Egyptian cotton because of where it was grown and produced. Some linens labeled Egyptian cotton may only contain as little as 1% within the weave.

Ultimately Egyptian cotton does not always mean superior quality. Remember to read labels carefully.

Pima Cotton -

Pima cotton is a type of cotton grown primarily in Peru, the southwestern United States, and Australia. This type of cotton is named after the Pima, a group of American Indians who first cultivated the plant in the U.S.A in the 1700s, however,  the plant was first cultivated in Peru.

Pima cotton has extremely long fibers (ELS), similar to Egyptian cotton, and is generally considered to be one of the superior types of cotton. The fiber length means that  pima cotton weaves into a very soft, dense, and durable fabric, lasting as much as 50 percent longer than fabrics made from other forms of cotton.

Thanks to the blessed growing conditions, and being carefully harvested entirely by hand, Peruvian Pima Cotton stands out. The preserved extra-long staple produces exceptional durability, softness and brilliant luster of white cotton. The silky soft feel will remain wash after wash, wear after wear. It is so light to wear, yet provides superior warmth, and is a great choice for people with skin sensitivities as well.

The prized Pima makes up roughly 2% of the world’s cotton; organically grown is even rarer. Organic Pima that is originally grown from Peru is less than .0005% of all the world’s cotton.

Handpicking avoids tearing the fibers and maintains the fibers’ natural softness.

Asiatic Cotton -

Asiatic cotton is grown extensively in India, China, and the Middle East.  It has thick and coarse fibers which create a strong and durable fabric. It is suitable for manufacturing products like blankets, filters, coarse clothes, padding materials, etc.

American Upland Cotton -

Another commonly used variety is the American Upland cotton. It is less expensive and has a very basic quality. It is also used to make several types of fabrics. Its versatility makes it the best option for manufacturing shirts, shorts, and denim fabric. The majority of products labeled 100% cotton come from American Upland cotton.

All varieties of cotton can be grown conventionally or organically. In the US, the crop must be raised in accordance with the USDA's National Organic Program. A farmer can choose whether to use sustainable farming practices or not. Currently, only about 1% of the world's cotton production is organic, the rest is conventionally grown.

Additionally, most cottons are machine harvested, which creates a rise in pollution, and tears the cotton fibers, giving it a yellowish hue, and creating a scratchy texture that affects the smoothness of the final product. Manual harvesting preserves the quality of the cotton, as handpicking avoids tearing the fibers, and maintains the fibers’ natural softness.

Regardless of the type of cotton,  there always exists the possibility that they were grown with GMOs or pesticides. If you prefer the softer feel, choose  100% cotton with longer staples, as the quality with long staples will definitely surprise you. If you have sensitive skin, and care about your health and that of the environment, 100% organic, plus extra-long staples is definitely the wisest choice. 

Oil and grease from machinery, plastics and other trash get picked up and put right in with the cotton when harvested.

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