When you’re building your dream bedding set, or purchase the clothes you probably think about color, pattern, and even thread count. And if you’re someone who knows that a high-quality, natural fabric stays soft and strong longer than a synthetic, you’ve probably decided you want cotton fabric . Smart choice! But did you know that there are different types of cotton – and that one type beats all the rest when it comes to comfort, breathability, and durability? We’ve put together a quick primer to help you understand the ins and outs of cotton quality.
Cotton is one of the most popular fabrics used in the creation of clothing. Pretty much everyone has at least one garment in their closet that is made of cotton fabric, but did you know that there are an array of different types of cotton fabric on the market today?
Cotton has been around since 3,000 B.C. Back then, it was grown in the Indus River Valley in Pakistan before being spun and woven into cloth. By 800 A.D., Arab merchants were bringing cotton cloth to Europe to sell, and in 1492 when Columbus discovered America, he located cotton plants that were growing throughout the Bahama Islands. By the 1500s, cotton was being grown and sold throughout the entire world and in today’s world, is used to make many different types of cotton fabrics.
A Tale of Two Different Species
While they’re often lumped together under the same name, the cotton fabrics in your favorite products can come from one of two distinct species of plant. They’re differentiated by the length of their fiber (or “staple”), the fine little strands that make up a raw piece of cotton. Upland cotton (Gossypium hirsutum) is made of short-staple fibers that offer reliable quality at an affordable price. It’s also the most common, making up nearly 90% of all cotton produced around the world. The remaining 10% consists of two higher-quality cottons — Egyptian cotton and pima cotton. Both cottons are actually the same species of “extra-long staple cotton” (Gossypium barbadense). Those longer fibers make the fabric softer and stronger than Upland cotton. If they’re pure, both Egyptian and pima cotton are renowned for their superior quality.
Cotton Myths and Misnomers
Unfortunately, purity is a big “if” for many items that claim to contain extra-long staple cotton. Due to unscrupulous production or promotion, many cotton products labeled “Egyptian” or “pima” aren’t what they say they are. A recent test revealed 89% of cottons sold as Egyptian or pima are, in fact, made of an inferior cotton blend. And Egyptian cotton is especially problematic, because any cotton grown in Egypt can technically be labeled “Egyptian cotton” — even if it’s not the high-quality extra-long staple cotton of the same name. This type of confusing labeling preys on smart consumers who know to look for the mention of one of these premium cotton types. Even for the well-informed, it can be nearly impossible to know the true makeup of a fabric without having insight into the entire supply chain.
How to Check the High-quality of Cotton Clothing
Most of us judge a garment by its first impression. Only a few take the time to take a detailed look at the quality. First of all, it is important to see the garment as a whole: a great finish for example is of little use if the fabric is of poor quality and vice versa.
Durability, Softness, Breathability
Even with 100% cotton fabrics there are huge differences in quality. Cotton is very popular because it is versatile, relatively inexpensive and, when it’s good quality, also durable.
- Durability: Fabrics made from long staple fibres are normally higher quality, because they are spun into a finer yarn. This makes the resulting fabric stronger and more durable.
- Softness: The length of the fibres is also important for the softness of the material. This is because with short fibres their ends cannot finish cleanly, whereas long fibres are woven more evenly into the fabric.
- Breathability: One reason why some fabrics are less breathable than others are the tiny air pockets between the individual threads, which provide thermal insulation. Finely combed cotton can be woven very tightly to avoid air pockets and the unpleasant sweaty feeling.
Note the most fundamental quality characteristic of cotton is the length (or staple) of the individual fibres and how finely they are combed – this affects the points above directly.
You must have a better understanding about cotton quality and fibre lengths in this post . What are your tips for the topic? Share your thoughts below!