When you’re building your dream bedding set, 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 sheets. 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.
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.
The World’s Greatest Cotton
Simply put, the best cotton in the world is a guaranteed pure extra-long staple cotton. So how can you trust that you’re not falling for an inferior blend 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 may be made of Egyptian or pima cotton. A good first step, but an inferior blend usually reveals itself after you’ve purchased your sheets by quickly losing softness when it’s washed, or wearing far more quickly than you’d expect.
The only way to be certain you’re getting authentic Egyptian cotton or pima cotton? By scientific verification. In our case, PimaCott tracks its pima cotton from farm to store and tests it for purity at multiple steps along the way. Because we have insight into the entire supply chain, we can guarantee 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. By doing your research into which companies and brands have the methods to back up their claims, you can rest easy knowing you’ve bought bedding made with the world’s greatest cotton.