What Am I Wearing? Cotton
Have you ever wished you knew more about what materials you were actually wearing? Where did it come from? Is it safe? Here is your one stop guide to some of the most common fabrications, what their impact is on the environment, and how to make it last.
Cotton is a natural fiber. One of the oldest materials we still use today. It was first made in Pakistan in 3,000 BC (Gray) It's one of the most versatile materials and can be blended with several other fibers such as polyester or spandex. You can find it in a woven (non-stretch material) or a knit (stretchy like a t-shirt) while still containing 100% cotton fabrication.
When cotton grows, it grows small little fibbers into a ball shape puff. After it's picked and the leaves and sticks are pulled from the fibers. The fibers go through a process that makes all of their hairs face the same direction. Those fibbers are then strung into string. The string gets woven or knit into fabric.
Cotton is naturally grown, so we run into the same issues as any other agriculture business; run-off from fertilization and pesticides, minerals from cotton fields contaminating water sources, and water waste. Although, In recent years a non-profit organization called the Better Cotton Initiative, BCI, has made large improvements worldwide.
It is also the easiest fabric to recycle (as long as its not blended with spandex) making organic cotton or BCI approved cotton the most environmentally friendly fiber.
The cotton industry sustains more than 100 million families worldwide (UN News).
How To Care For It:
Always check the wash instructions on your garments but if the protocol is machine, use the appropriate wash cycle. We recommend dental to avoid washing away the little cotton fibers, resulting in holes. Avoid fabric softeners, as this can dull the finish.
Use cool or warm water. Neve hot water. Hot water puts stress on the cotton fibers, causing them to shrink up. Which is usually a bummer.
It's usually best to air-dry cotton fabrics. Machine drying is fine when dried using moderate-to-low heat. High heats can cause cotton fibers to shrink or develop premature wear and tear.
Iron on high heat while fabric is slightly damp. Use steam as needed. Note that ironing can usually be avoided by air drying or removing immediately from the machine. (Pimacott)
Gray, Douglas. "The History Of Making Cotton." 22nd Jun. 2014 https://www.cottonmill.com/blog/the-history-of-making-cotton-fabric/
UN News. "Cotton Sustains More Than 100 Million Families Worldwide." 7 Oct. 2021 https://news.un.org/en/story/2021/10/1102432
Pimacott. "Cotton Care." https://www.pimacott.com/cotton-guide/cotton-care