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Egyptian Cotton vs. Pima Cotton: What’s the Difference?

When it comes to quality, most people understand the difference between a 525-thread count sheet and a 750-thread count sheet. Less understood, however, is the difference between various kinds of cottons, especially premium cottons like Egyptian and pima. What is the difference between pima cotton vs. Egyptian cotton? Is one better than the other? And is either really worth the premium price?

Pima cotton sheet production

Three types of cotton

There are three different species of cotton used to make the products we know and love. The most common type is Upland cotton, comprising nearly 90% of all cotton produced around the world. The remaining 10% is made up of two higher-quality cottons — Egyptian cotton and pima cotton.

The difference between Egyptian and pima cotton

Egyptian and pima cotton are classified as “extra-long staple cottons”, a term that refers to the length of the individual cotton fibers. These longer, silkier fibers produce a luxuriously soft fabric that is also incredibly strong. It’s resistant to fraying, tearing, pilling, wrinkling, and fading. But while Egyptian and pima cotton share similar premium characteristics — and even have the same scientific name (gossypium barbadense) — their differences lie in where they come from. Pima cotton is primarily grown in the United States, and Egyptian cotton thrives in the hot, dry climate of the Nile River Valley.

Both Egyptian cotton and pima cotton offer exceptional quality — that is, if their origins can be verified. Unfortunately, many cotton products labeled “Egyptian” or "pima" are, in fact, made of an inferior cotton blend. A recent test revealed 89% of cottons sold as Egyptian or pima aren't pure at all. And Egyptian cotton is especially troublesome, 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.  

It says it’s Egyptian or pima cotton…but is it?

Egyptian and pima cottons are so luxurious, it’s no wonder so many products claim to contain them. So how can you be sure you're getting the real deal when buying pima cotton sheets or Egyptian cotton sheets?

First, check the label. Anything labeled "100% cotton" is likely Upland cotton. If, however, the label indicates Egyptian or pima cotton, see if it passes the touch test. Is the fabric extraordinarily smooth? If so, the fabric could be made of Egyptian or pima cotton. But this method is far from foolproof.

The only real way of knowing you’re getting authentic Egyptian cotton or pima cotton? By scientific verification. For example, PimaCott tracks its pima cotton from farm to store and tests it for purity at multiple steps along the way. This ensures that the products made with PimaCott contain nothing less than pure pima cotton. That’s not just something on a label; it’s scientific fact — and a difference you’ll feel for years to come.