Cotton is a natural, cellulose, staple fibre produced in the cotton boll, a fluffy covering over the seeds of the cotton plant.
There are a variety of species of cotton plants, which are mostly differentiated by the length of the fibre staple. Longer fibres are usually more desirable than shorter fibres as they are easier to spin together and produce a smoother, stronger yarn.
Cotton is primarily grown in white as it is easier to dye, however efforts are being made to re-establish coloured varieties.
Cotton is a warm climate crop, grown in a number of countries including Egypt, Australia, China, The U.S and India.
Context of Use
- Cotton can be used to make clothing such as t-shirts, shirts, pants, jeans and dresses.
- Cotton can be used to make homewares such as bath towels, tea towels and sheets.
- Cotton can be used to create both durable (e.g. canvas) and light weight (e.g. poplin) fabrics.
- Cotton can withstand high washing temperatures, making it suitable for uses where hygiene is important (e.g. hospital sheets).
- Cotton has excellent wicking properties and so is good for use in warm weather clothing as it is able to pull sweat away from the skin, allowing it to evaporate quickly, creating a cooling effect.
The following is a general guide to caring for this textile, however you should always refer to and follow the instructions on the care label of each garment.
How to WashCotton can be hand washed or machine washed. Some washing machines now feature cotton cycles but a standard or delicate wash works well for cotton.
Washing TemperatureCotton can be washed cold, warm or hot. However, unless you need to sanitise your cotton a cold wash is best to prolong your garment’s life and to reduce the environmental impact of using energy to heat the water. Using hot water can cause dyes to fade and garments to shrink.
Detergents, Bleach and Removing StainsIf necessary, cotton clothes can be washed with bleach based detergents to restore their white, bright appearance or to reduce bacteria. Keep in mind that for coloured clothes bleaching can remove the dye. For day to day washing of most cotton clothes mild detergents are enough. If small stains occur, consider spot cleaning them rather than adding harsher stain removers to the whole load of washing.
DryingCotton can be warm tumble dried, however air drying using a clothes line, drying rack or even a coat hanger hung in a well ventilated area is better for the environment and will reduce wrinkles in the garment. Line drying in the shade or away from direct light and only leaving garments on the line for the amount of time required for them to dry can reduce the risk of fading.
IroningCotton can be ironed using the hot setting of the iron. Steam can be used to help ease out wrinkles.
StoringCotton products can be hung or folded for storage. Keep it well ventilated and away from damp to reduce the risk of mold and away from direct light or sunlight to prevent clothes from fading.
- 100% cotton garments can be home recycled by shredding and placing in a compost bin (it counts as dried or brown matter)
- Using as coverings for worm farms, where they’ll eventually be eaten and turned into worm castings
- Larger pieces of cotton such as sheets, table cloths and napkins that are no longer usable may be accepted by local vets and animal rescue organisations for caring for animals.