Cotton fibers are one of the most used raw materials in the world, and is 100% naturally occurring. Its fabric is one of the most commonly used types of fabrics in the world. It is chemically organic, which means that it does not contain any synthetic compounds. It is derived from the fibres, surrounding the seeds of cotton plants, which form fluffy, round balls once the seeds are mature.
Continue to read into this article and dive into the world of Cotton.
What can cotton fibers be used to make?
Cotton fibers can be used to create a variety of different fabric types for a range of end-uses, this includes blending it with other natural fibres like wool, and synthetic fibres like polyester. It is also used in fishnets, bookbinding, tents, archival paper and coffee filters. It is however mainly known for its textile products, like t-shirts, shirts, underwear, socks, towels and bedding.
Cotton fibers vs other synthetics
Even though cotton is a naturally grown fiber, there are also synthetic fibres in the market. The most widely known of these synthetic fibres are rayon, polyester and nylon.
• Rayon – This is a type of synthetic fibre that is obtained from wood pulp. It is soft, absorbent and comfortable, and quite easy to dye. Rayon is often blended with cotton fibres to make bedsheets, and with wool to make carpets.
• Polyester – This type of fibre is obtained from coal, water, air and petroleum. It is easy to wash and remains wrinkle-free and is quite suitable for making dress material. It is also used in making ropes, nets, raincoats and jackets.
• Nylon – Nylon is also obtained from coal water, air and petroleum. It is lustrous, easy to wash and elastic. It dries quickly and retains its shape. Used widley in seat belts of cars, sleeping bags, socks, ropes and parachutes.
Although synthetic fibres may be comparatively cheaper than cotton fibers, they differ in functionality. While they are more durable, cotton is environmentally friendly and biodegradable which means it is a sustainable source of clothing. Sustainability is something that is being looked at increasingly of late and risen in awareness across all industries. Cotton is also far more breathable than polyester nylon and rayon. Even people with sensitive skin take up a fondness for cotton fibers because of the feel of the material being so light and easy. Synthetic fibres like nylon and polyester tend to stick to the skin, leaving the wearer with a feeling of irritation. Cotton on the other hand falls beautifully and feels great against the skin due to its natural softness.
Cotton vs other natural fibres
It is not a huge surprise that cotton isn’t the sole naturally occurring available fibre. There are also other fibres like silk, linen and wool, to name a few.
• Silk –
It is a natural fibre known for its strength, shine, lustre and durability. Its fibre is made from the secretion of the silkworm. It is traded worldwide due to its exquisite texture. Silk is the epitome of luxury due to its high cost to produce, soft feel, and elegant appearance. It is primarily used to make garments especially to cater to high-end fashion.
• Linen –
It is a sustainable fabric made from flax fibres. Linen fabric is fairly common, and before the age of cotton fibers, used to be quite popular, especially for making clothes and bedding (hence even to date, all laundry is often referred to as linens). In the present day, linen is used to make clothing, curtains, tablecloths, pillows, rugs, rope, and more. It can also be blended with cotton to make the sturdy, paper-like substance that’s used to create dollar bills. (Seems like money does grow on trees)
• Wool –
Wool is a natural fibre produced by various animals, in a likeness similar to hair. These animals include alpacas, llamas and goats. The most prevalent of the wool that you might wear is however produced by sheep. Wool is breathable, durable, fire and odour resistant, moisture-absorbing and insulating, which makes it useful for many purposes, such as clothes, carpets, bedding and cosmetics.
The above-mentioned natural fibres may have a lot of common ground when compared to cotton, like its natural occurrence, making it a sustainable fabric, and its texture is even softer and finer than cotton fibers. They are all biodegradable and recyclable making them very environmentally friendly but compared to cotton, they are all far more expensive. Silk is also a material that does not conduct electricity well, and the wearer may experience a lot of static. Linen has low elasticity and hence crumples and wrinkles quite easily causing the wearer to look shabby. Wool is mainly used by all of us during the colder seasons, and also is difficult to maintain and wash.
On the other hand, Cotton can be easily washed, is very comfortable to wear, and does not wrinkle quite so easily. It may be a little less durable than the other natural fibres, but it is also significantly cheaper and more easily available.
We have looked at cotton compared to both natural and man-made fibres to see its price in comparison to all the fabrics, its durability, its sustainability and how environmentally friendly it is. When cotton is looked at in contrast to all the above-mentioned fibres, we can conclude that cotton, although not a high-end fabric, is definitely a gem due to it being affordable, durable, sustainable, easy to maintain, and natural and feel-good fabric.