Cotton is such a part of everyday life that you might never have stopped to think how amazing it is that we can turn a plant into a smooth, luxurious sheet, shirt or pair of pyjamas. There’s much more to cotton that meets the eye, though – here are five things you may not have known about this extraordinary plant.
- Cotton likes a warm climate, and most of the world’s crop is grown in the USA, Uzbekistan, China and India. In the USA, it’s illegal to grow cotton plants in your own private garden if you live in an area where cotton is grown commercially! This is to help control pests called boll weevils.
- Cotton sheets are often stamped with the ‘thread count’ – for example, 600 or 800. Generally, the higher the thread count the better the quality. The number refers to the number of threads in one square inch, counting both the horizonal and vertical threads.
- The longer the cotton fibre, the softer the finished thread. The plants with the longest cotton fibres are grown from special seeds in Egypt, Pima and Sea Island and go into making the softest, most luxurious cotton.
- Although the main aim of growing a cotton crop is to harvest the fluffy fibres, the entire plant is used. The seeds are made into cottonseed oil, which can be used as an animal feed or a cooking oil, and the woody plant stems get ploughed back into the land as compost.
- Although many natural fibres such as wood pulp lose strength when they get wet, cotton actually gets stronger. This is due to a chemical reaction between the water and the cotton molecules. So although we wouldn’t recommend spilling water on your cotton pyjamas, it really won’t do them any harm!