Cotton fabric types: The properties and benefits

There’s more to cotton than meets the eye. 

There are various cotton fabric types as well as uses and properties. If you’re someone that’s on the hunt for the perfect type of cotton to use in the clothing you’re creating, you’re in the right place. 

Many people believe that cotton is simply just that… cotton, but there are a few things you need to consider. Cotton is one of the most sustainable types of fabrics on the market. It can decompose, whereas synthetic fibres cannot. 

What makes cotton such an important fabric?

Cotton is a natural fibre that is 100% plant-based which makes it far more sustainable than synthetic materials. It is also renewable and supports the livelihood of more than 250 million people worldwide. 

Its beauty, comfort, durability and versatility make it an ideal choice for clothing, bedding, textiles and a variety of other products. 

Cotton has been produced for approximately 7,000 years, making it one of the world’s oldest known fibres. Cotton remains the most widely used natural fibre in the world and continues to be ever popular with consumers.

What is the best type of cotton fabric?

The best type of cotton is cotton that is grown in the regions where it makes sense, where there is little to no artificial interference with the plant. Something to take into consideration is the farm where it’s grown. 

Because there is such a high demand for cotton, more often than not, extreme measures are taken to produce it, such as pesticide use and artificial irrigation, making it less eco-friendly. If the cotton is grown in an area where it’s native to or has become naturalised, less water is needed and farmers don’t need to use so many additional inputs to help the plants thrive.

The best regions for cotton production are:

  • South and Central America
  • Certain regions of Mexico and the US
  • Sub-Saharan Africa
  • India
  • Pakistan 
  • The Levant region in the Middle East

I recommend always trying to get unbleached cotton because this means fewer chemicals have been used in its production. And if you’re looking for cotton that you want to dye, definitely go for a cotton fabric that has no wax coating or finishes. 

What are the most common cotton fabric types?

Cotton fabrics can be divided into the following 3 categories: 

  • Short staple cotton: used for everyday items like t-shirts, bedding and towels
  • Long staple cotton: used for luxury items like your expensive bedding
  • Extra-long staple cotton: also used for luxury items like premium quality t-shirts and high-quality bedding (also called Egyptian cotton)

With that being said, there are different types of cotton fabric based on the feel and weight of the fabric. These are the most common types;

Lightweight cotton fabric types

Seersucker cotton is a great example of a lightweight cotton, a bonus for this cotton is that it never needs to be ironed. This cotton originated in India and is commonly used to make shirts and shorts, which are both great for warm weather. Plus, it is light, breathable and durable. 

Heavy cotton

Heavyweight cotton, as the name suggests, is denser, sometimes thicker and heavier than other cotton materials, and creates a more durable, sturdy product. 

Canvas is an example of heavy cotton. It is a plain-weave fabric typically made out of heavy cotton yarn. Canvas fabric is known for being durable, sturdy, and heavy duty.

Soft cotton

An example of soft cotton is cotton jersey fabric which is a staple for making t-shirts. It is super low maintenance and incredibly soft.

Pima cotton

This is the highest quality of cotton available. It’s comprised of long, silky fibres, which means that Pima cotton items are not only the most comfortable clothing items, but they’re soft, strong and colourfast. 

Take a look at some of the other types of cotton fabrics here.

Where can you buy sustainable cotton? 

The most important thing to remember when shopping around for cotton fabric is that it’s sustainable while also being high quality. 

Some of my favourites are:

Our world is becoming inundated with products and materials that are not biodegradable, renewable or eco-friendly, so it is vital that you use sustainable fabrics. 

Fabrics that are environmentally friendly and help to solve waste problems are our best bet at helping protect our planet. The general goal is to use as little as possible raw material sources and reduce our dependency on fossil resources.

Sustainability is super fashionable 

We should be making more of an effort to create beautiful items of clothing without damaging our planet. 

I’m passionate about sharing as much knowledge as I can about sustainable fabrics, fibres and textiles. It’s so important for us to appreciate what Mother Nature has to offer by respecting her. 

If you’re looking for a safe and fun space to find out more about this, my blog is the one for you!