Types of Cotton

Why the type of cotton in your sheets, bedding and towels matters:

is the most widely used fiber for fabric because of its strength, durability and breathability. The word "staple" refers to fiber length. When someone refers to "long staple cotton" they are referring to variety 1, 2, or 3. The longer the fiber size of a variety, the more difficult it is to grow, and the more difficult it is to process. Hence the longer the staple, the more expensive it becomes.

(The image below shows the approximate relative sizes of the fibers.)

1. Sea Island Cotton

Sea Island Cotton is in extremely limited supply, and is very expensive to grow and to process. It is typically used in very expensive men's shirts.

2. Egyptian Cotton

Egyptian Cotton was developed from stocks that originated in South and Central America. Menoufi is the most widely used variety. However, just because it is grown in Egypt, it doesn't mean it is the best cotton. There are many varieties of Egyptian Cotton, and they are all graded by quality. The highly prized Giza cotton variety has exceptionally strong fibers about 1½" long, and is used in the best qualities of embroidery thread, and the finest cotton fabrics for sheets, down bedding covers, and duvet tickings.Learn more about Egyptian Cotton

3. Pima Cotton and Supima Cotton

Pima cotton is generally in-between Egyptian Cotton and American Upland long staple in length and price. It is usually a good quality. However, Pima cotton is a generic term and does not mean it is made with extra long staple cotton. What you really want to look for to ensure a quality sheeting is Supima Cotton, this is a trademark for American grown, extra long staple cotton. Generally Supima cotton is grown only in Arizona, Texas, California and New Mexico and has a strict supply chain to ensure quality. Supima cotton represents less than 1% of all cotton grown in the world.

4. American Upland Long Staple Cotton

This cotton is only "Long Staple" in comparison to American Upland Short Staple cotton. The American Upland cottons now comprise up to 90% of the worlds crop. They are much easier to grow and process, and are therefore much less costly. They are perfectly adequate for medium quality fabrics. They make poor downproof fabrics for duvets and pillows, as they will ultimately leak. They are also unsuitable for high thread count sheets, as they will feel limp and coarse after a few launderings. This is the cotton used in bargain duvets, and in inexpensive "luxury" sheets.

5. American Upland Short Staple Cotton

A less expensive version of cotton, and a very basic quality. Suitable for denim for blue jeans.

6. Asia Short Staple Cotton

Asia Short staple is very easy to grow and process, and hence makes very cheap cloth. Unfortunately, lightweight fabrics made from this cotton are very weak and limp. They wear out quickly, and launder poorly.

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