Egyptian cotton is often spoken about in tones of awe and high regard. It’s the best. The ultimate sleep hit.
But why is it considered the best? What about it inspires such reverence and devoted supporters?
As a customer, it’s okay to just know you like something without knowing the why. But as a seller, it’s important to know the answer to any question a customer would ask.
And so the research begins.
The Origins Of Egyptian Cotton
Regular cotton has been grown and used in Egypt since about 3,000 BC. It wasn’t until the early 1800s that the now world-renowned, extra-long staple cotton from the Gossypium barbadense plant was introduced from Ethiopa or possibly India, known as Maho. Mohammed Ali (or Aly), the founder of modern Egypt, saw the opportunity of a commercial entrée into the European market with a successful trial crop and so started an agricultural revolution in his country.
Soon, the rich, fertile floodplains of the Nile Delta were covered in new cotton plantations, flourishing in the humid, high rainfall area.
And European textile mills paid a fortune for it.
So much so, Egypt could afford to modernise on the back of its new crop. Healthy trade with Europe continued for many years, peaking during the American Civil War when the American cotton stocks were unavailable.
Why Is Egyptian Cotton Quality So Much Better Than Regular Cotton?
That’s how Egyptian cotton came to attain its reputation. By why is it of such a high quality compared to regular cotton?
The quality and processing of cotton depends on the length of its fibres or staples. Egyptian cotton is classed as an ELS (extra-long staple) cotton, its fibres reaching up to 5.7 cm (2.25 in), roughly twice the length of other cotton fibres.
When these fibres are spun into yarns, the extra length ensures the fabric remains strong, soft and more lustrous.
Egyptian cotton absorbs liquid more effectively than regular cotton, meaning dyes applied to the fabric retain their deep, vibrant colours noticeably longer.
Some people even report the fabric grows softer the more it is washed! And, it doesn’t pill. Bonus.
An historical fact that helps with the quality and purity of Egyptian cotton is that it is still hand picked, ensuring the fibres are not damaged or stressed during the mechanical picking process. Mohammed Ali bought a roller gin but didn’t use it as it was cheaper to pay peasants to hand pick the cotton rather than use machinery. Hand picking ensures the fibres are straight and intact after picking.
Then there’s supply and demand. Authentic Egyptian cotton makes up only 4% of the world’s cotton production. Most sheet sets hawked as Egyptian cotton are cotton blends or simply regular cotton from Egypt.
All of these aspects—softness, strength, durability, dye uptake, texture, appearance, lustre, scarcity—combine to ensure Egyptian cotton deserves its revered reputation for high quality.
What Is Egyptian Cotton Used For?
Due to the unique qualities of Egyptian cotton, it is used for clothing, towels, sheets, bedspreads, bathrobes, chair and sofa coverings, curtains and table items. It can be easily dyed and heavily embroidered.