Why is Egyptian cotton so special?

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For many years now, Egyptian cotton has been a byword for good cotton. We all know that cotton is grown widely across the world, but it’s Egyptian cotton that we want when we’re buying our bed linen and our clothes. Egyptian cotton is the accepted gold standard for cotton but have you ever wondered why this might be?

The history of cotton

Egypt’s history with cotton is a long and complicated one, but it is far from the only country to have a long history of growing cotton. For example, caves have been found in Mexico that contain cotton cloth of at least 7,000 years in age; while cotton was being used in the Indus River Valley in Pakistan around 3,000BC.

Egypt’s history with cotton dates back to around this time, too; but it cannot lay claim to being the oldest cotton-producing country in the world. When trying to judge why a product is considered superior, lineage is usually a crucial component; the longer a country or business has been producing a product, the more chance they have had to perfect the process and produce a better quality of product. Yet this doesn’t apply to Egyptian cotton, so we have to examine different areas to see if we can find an explanation for why this type of cotton has become so world-renowned.

It’s all about the fibres

To understand the reasons for the popularity of Egyptian cotton, you have to look beyond the country of origin and instead examine the cotton itself. When you do this, the answer to the popularity of Egyptian cotton is actually rather simple - it’s all about the length of the fibres.

Egyptian cotton produces fibres that are far longer than other cottons. These fibres are smaller in diameter, longer in length, and much stronger than other types of cotton have. As the fibres produce a yarn that is smaller in diameter but maintains length, more threads can be used per square inch when creating the fabric. It is the density of the threads that allows Egyptian cotton fabric to be:

  • Stronger than fabric made from other kinds of cotton
  • More luxurious to the touch than other kinds of cotton
  • Lighter in terms of weight, but without impacting the breathability of the fabric, which in turn enhances comfort
  • Egyptian cotton is also able to absorb more liquid, which helps to produce brighter, more vivid colours when it is dyed.
  • So is that it? Or is there another potential reason for the reputation of Egyptian cottons?

The benefits of the cotton plant itself

Egyptian cotton does not produce as much lint as other cottons. This means that fabric made from Egyptian cotton is far less likely to “pill” when it is washed repeatedly, which helps to preserve the quality of the fabric for longer periods of time. So while pure Egyptian cotton fabric may be more expensive, it is actually likely to offer better value for money because it will last far longer than inferior cottons.

Understanding the importance of thread count

When it comes to purchasing your own Egyptian cotton, you will find yourself encountering the world of thread counts. As a general rule, the higher the thread count, the more luxurious and wonderful the material is going to be. The higher the thread count, the “silkier” the cotton will feel, while still maintaining all of the beneficial aspects of cotton such as its high level of breathability. Egyptian cotton that has a thread count of 600 is about the best you can buy.

However, provided the cotton is over 180 in thread count, it is likely to be extremely luxurious and comfortable, and well worth the extra investment.

It is also worth noting that Egyptian cotton of high thread counts tends to be rather stiff when it is new, due to the dense nature of how the thread fibres are arranged. Over time — and particularly when the fabric is frequently washed — the fibres begin to relax and soften. This means that Egyptian cotton genuinely does improve with age.

Now you know why

Egyptian cotton has become associated with high levels of luxury, and for very good reason indeed. Egyptian cotton is not the product of advertising or marketing spin; it’s known as the best cotton there is because it genuinely is the best cotton there is. If you’re looking to purchase anything made of fabric in the future, opting for Egyptian cotton is always going to be an excellent decision. Enjoy!