Fabrics Database - Cotton

Summaries for Cotton

Key: Centre (0) Bad        Outer (6) Good

Characteristics / options defined by the above graphs are proportionally represented and approximate, and are only intended as a guide. As such they do not represent any industry standards. Among other things, fabric construction and weight will influence the perceived ranking.

Data Sheet for Cotton


Natural cellulosic fibre. Cotton is a natural cellulosic fibre that is characterised by the flat ribbon like structure that has a tendency to twist. It is only available as staple fibre. Naturally near white, organic and "green" cotton are also available. The soft handle and moisture regain properties make it an ideal fibre for use in clothing. Cotton requires extensive chemical intervention and high levels of irrigation during cultivation.

Available as:

Wide range of woven and knitted fabrics. Can be supplied as a single fibre yarn but will often come as a blend with other fibres. The compositions of the blends can vary considerably both in terms of the other fibres used in the blends and also the percentage of cotton in the blend. Generally available as a woven fabric, it can come in a range of weave patterns that will includes, simple weave, hopsack and twill. Fabrics can be supplied in a wide range of fabric weights encompassing 145 to 300 gsm


Readily bleached and dyed. It is recommended that hydrogen peroxide bleaching is used as a preparation of the fibre irrespective of the ultimate shade as this route removes most of the extraneous matter present. This will facilitate better levelling during the dyeing process. Cotton for corporate wear can be dyed with reactive dyes or in some cases direct dyes. If the clothes are to be used for work wear more durable colouration is necessary and reactive dyes, vat dyes or sulphur dyes would be the selection of choice.

Use of organic cotton would require specialist bleaching and dyeing processes in order to retain the organic cotton label.

Dimensional Stability

Generally stable, especially woven fabrics. Affected by the fabric construction and weight. Woven cotton fabrics show a greater degree of dimensional stability during laundering than knitted.

Resistance to pilling

Pilling resistance will be affected by the form of the fabric and also the way in which the yarns have been manufactured. Some spinning techniques result in yarns with a hairy appearance and these will be more prone to pilling.

Moisture regain

Moderate moisture regain @ 65% R.H. 20°C, 7 to 11%

Care information

Stable under industrial laundering conditions, may be boiled. While cotton can be easily laundered at high temperatures, these should only be used for heavily soiled garments. Dyes have a tendency to bleed and suitable separation during washing should be encouraged. Chlorine based bleaches can be safely used on cotton, although dyed fabric should use a colour safe bleach. Tumble-drying requires a high temperature setting. Cotton is prone to becoming creased during washing and this will requires the use of a hot iron during pressing. Cotton can be treated with a crease resistant finish therefore when laundering instructions may recommend lower heat settings during drying and ironing.


Suitable for use in a wide range of garments. Cotton is widely used in homogeneous and blended yarns. Polyester cotton is the most common blend and widely used if easy care fabrics which require a combination of the natural fibre properties associated with cotton and the durability of polyester. Fabrics can be supplied in a wide range of fabric weights encompassing 145 to 300 gsm

End of life Possibilities

Can be disposed of using all end of life opportunities. Although cotton is biodegradable it also has the potential to be reused in other ways. Re-use in most ways will be dependant upon the removal of corporate identities such as logos. Some applications will also require the removal of fastenings such as buttons and zips. As complete garments, the reuse in similar roles, for example in third world countries, offers one possibility. In fabric form it can be recycled into wipes for use in a variety of industrial sectors and shredded to be used as mattress infill or into insulation for buildings. Cotton can also be used as a source of raw material for the manufacture of regenerated cellulose fibres either through the viscose or lyocell processes.

Eco aspects

Key environmental impacts of the cultivation of cotton include:

  • Impacts of industrial scale cotton growing such as reduced soil fertility, soil Stalinisation, loss of biodiversity and water pollution etc.
  • Massive pesticide use on the cotton crop causing problems to land, animals and severe health problems in humans arising from exposure to acutely toxic pesticides.
  • The most widely used groups of pesticides on cotton are insecticides and have been classified by the World Health Organisation as 'moderately hazardous'. However, some insecticides that are widely used, especially in developing countries, are classified as 'highly hazardous’; these are generally acutely toxic and are nerve poisons.
  • Cotton fibre production also requires large quantities of fungicides, herbicides and defoliants. Large amounts of synthetic fertilisers (often based on nitrogen compounds) are also used and can result in nitrate contamination to water. Fertiliser pollution of water can cause accelerated growth of aquatic plants and algae. Such accelerated growth (eutrophication) can deoxygenate the water to a state in which it cannot support animal life.
  • Major water consumption in crop cultivation, ranging from 29000 litres in Sudan to 7000 litres in Israel per kg of cotton fibre (approx 2 pair of trousers).

Cost scope (economic impact)

Common trade names

Not applicable


The range of regenerated cellulose fibres available can often be used as suitable alternatives to cotton. Other natural cellulose fibres, such as flax, can also be used as a cotton substitute


Carrington Career & Workwear Ltd,
Market Street
Adlington Nr Chorley Lancashire
Tel: +44 (0) 1257 476 850
Fax: +44 (0) 1257 476 863


Oakdene Hollins Limited, 2024 for the CRR Uniform Reuse Project www.uniformreuse.co.uk


The rationale behind the study has been to provide a means whereby current and potential fibres/fabrics for use in the corporate clothing sector, can be compared. Any such comparison will be dependent on a multitude of factors that will influence the choice. Although application is the foremost factor that will be influencing the material selection, service life and cost will also play an important role.

The information contained within the following data sheets is an attempt to draw together some of the salient points that may be of interest at the specification and design stage without trying to be exhaustive.

De Montfort University produces these data on the fibres/fabric groups and blends on a non exhaustive basis. De Montfort University therefore makes no representation, express or implied that any of the fibres/fabric groups or blends will be unaffected by other treatments or processes. Users of these data must address the possibility of any health and safety issues that may arise personally.