Egyptian cotton has long been synonymous with softness and luxury. Known for its long-staple fibers and superior breathability, this material is a top choice among five-star hotels and discerning bedding buyers alike. While most of us are familiar with the term Egyptian cotton, few people know exactly how this fabric makes its journey from the Nile River Valley to homes around the world. Keep reading to learn about the history of Egyptian cotton and discover exactly what separates it from the competition.
History of Egyptian Cotton
Contrary to popular belief, the first true Egyptian cotton was actually cultivated by someone of French descent. After finding cotton growing in Cairo in the early 1800s, Monsieur Jumel cultivated extra-long staple plants that soon found favor with Egypt’s ruler at the time, Muḥammad ʿAlī (1). It wasn’t long before demand for this new cotton grew around the world, and by 1863 the country was exporting 1.3 million cantars a year.
After Egypt erected the Aswan High Dam in 1970, the Nile’s annual flooding was finally brought under control; as a result, Egypt was able to grow cotton in even greater quantities. In 2005, the Egyptian Ministry of Industry and Foreign Trade formed the Cotton Egypt Association. A nonprofit group, Cotton Egypt exists to license and monitor official Egyptian cotton manufacturers while educating the public about the advantages of this exceptional fabric.
The Cotton Growing Process
Egyptian cotton refers to a type of long-staple cotton grown exclusively in the nation’s Nile River Valley, which is known for its stable climate and nutrient-rich soil (2). To cultivate this cotton, farmers start by planting seeds before the start of summer. Within a month, a bud sprouts and blooms into a yellow flower. After the bloom crumbles and falls off, a mature cotton ball develops in its place. This fluffy white portion of the plant is what most people imagine when they think of cotton.
One of the things that separates Egyptian cotton from the competition is that the fibers are always picked by hand. Following this practice protects the delicate material from the damaging effects of large machinery (3). By putting less strain on the cotton fibers, farmers can ensure they maintain their softness and durability.
Once Egyptian cotton has been harvested, it undergoes a careful ginning process followed by a pressing procedure. Cotton fibers are lined up and spun together to create yarn. Because Egyptian cotton is longer than other varieties of cotton, there are fewer breaks, and the fabric is stronger and more durable. The fabric is then cut, dyed, and manufactured as sheets, blankets, clothing, and more.
Egyptian Cotton vs. the Competition
Egyptian cotton offers a number of benefits that inspire consumers to choose it over other fabric varieties. Because Egyptian cotton is highly absorbent, the material holds dye better than other cottons. As a result, consumers can choose from a wide range of colors and prints when it comes to their bedding. Moreover, Egyptian cotton will stay bold and bright through hundreds of washes unlike less resilient cottons.
Additionally, Egyptian cotton is known for its innate breathability. Lightweight and crisp, this fabric keeps sleepers cool on even the hottest of nights. For this reason, people prone to night sweats and insomnia often choose Egyptian cotton over the competition.
Finally, Egyptian cotton wins converts due to its inherent softness. Because it’s made with hand-picked, extra-long staple fibers, Egyptian cotton yarn has a smooth, silky feel that many sleepers prefer. As a bonus, this fabric resists tearing and pilling, staying soft for years to come.
Finding True Egyptian Cotton
Because Egyptian cotton costs more to grow, products made from this material often come with a higher price tag. Unfortunately, not all sheets claiming to be Egyptian cotton are actually manufactured from the fabric. In fact, retail giant Target severed ties with Welspun India Ltd. in 2016 after discovering that the company was selling fake Egyptian cotton sheets (4). The good news is that the Cotton Egypt Association is taking steps to monitor the growing process and test Egyptian cotton DNA for purity. If you want to know your bedding is made from 100% genuine Egyptian cotton from the Nile River Valley, look for the Cotton Egypt Association seal of approval on the product.For more information on Egyptian cotton authenticity, or to find high-quality Egyptian cotton bedding, visit the Pure Parima website.