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Everything You Need To Know About Pima Cotton

Everything You Need To Know About Pima Cotton

Pima cotton fabric, renowned for its extended fibers that create a luxurious and enduring material, originated from cultivation by the Peruvians. Harvested by hand and woven into clothing and bed linens, it gained formal recognition and its name in the 1700s when Americans first encountered it.

The fabric is named after the native American group, Pima, who is credited as the pioneers of cultivating the cotton plant in the United States.

RELATED: What Is Cotton: Production, Types, and Uses

What is Pima cotton fabric?

Everything You Need To Know About Pima Cotton

Pima cotton, distinguished by its ultra-soft texture, features exceptionally long cotton fibers. Unlike most cotton varieties with relatively shorter fibers, Pima belongs to the category of extra-long staple (ELS) cotton, characterized by fibers exceeding 34 millimeters in length.

Derived from the Gossypium barbadense plant, exclusive to tropical regions, Pima fabric is part of the ELS cotton family. This particular cotton plant, susceptible to frost damage, grows as a small tree adorned with vibrant yellow flowers, yielding remarkably lengthy cotton fibers.

Fabrics made from extra-long staple (ELS) cotton, like Pima fabric, and originating from G. barbadense, are occasionally labeled as "sea island cotton." This moniker stems from the cotton's initial cultivation by Westerners on tropical islands, such as Barbados. However, radiocarbon evidence indicates that G. barbadense cotton has been grown since 3,000 BC in South America and the West Indies.

Today, Pima cotton is highly valued by consumers for its exceptional softness and luxurious texture. Widely employed in upscale clothing and favored for bed linens, Pima fabric distinguishes itself by being machine washable with warm water and suitable for tumble drying. Additionally, it is available in thread counts reaching as high as 300.

Notably, Pima cotton is its resistance to pilling, the formation of tiny fiber balls on fabrics. Unlike many other cotton varieties where pilling typically starts after about 10 washes, Pima cotton, with its lengthy fibers, rarely exhibits this issue. This characteristic ensures that garments crafted from this fabric remain durable and wearable for an extended period.

How is Pima cotton made?

Centuries ago, the laborious task of handpicking cotton led to the invention of the cotton gin, an industrial machine that ushered in the era of mass production while compromising the quality of the final product. Despite these challenges, most Pima cotton producers prioritize the meticulous process of handpicking G. barbadense plant seeds to uphold the superior quality of this material.

Following handpicking, G. barbadense seeds are compacted into bales and moved to the factory floor. In the "opening room," a cotton opening machine extracts raw fibers, guiding them to a mixing machine. Carding aligns the fibers, turning them into rope-like strands, further refined by a combing machine to eliminate impurities. Subsequently, these Pima cotton ropes are wound onto spools, spun into yarn, and woven into fabric.

While cotton production generally steers clear of chemical solvents, some manufacturers may employ bleach or other caustic substances. The safest and highest-quality Pima cotton results from organic cultivation and spinning without chemicals, yet adherence to good manufacturing practices (GMP) varies among manufacturers of this premium cotton.

Pima Cotton vs. Cotton

Everything You Need To Know About Pima Cotton

The Pima cotton fabric stands out from regular cotton due to the following attributes:


Pima cotton is distinguished by its long staple fibers, contributing to the material's unique smoothness, softness, and supple feel. Renowned for its exceptional softness and durability, Pima cotton surpasses other cotton varieties.

In contrast, regular cotton typically features shorter fibers, which are prone to breakage during the harvesting process, leading to lower quality.

Durability and Longevity

Pima cotton exhibits resistance to common problems such as fraying and tearing, contrasting with regular cotton, which tends to display signs of aging sooner.

Numerous retailers and manufacturers claim that, owing to its longer fiber length, clothing made from Pima cotton lasts approximately 50% longer than those made from regular cotton. While most cotton varieties develop pills (tiny balls of tangled fiber) after approximately 10 washes, Pima cotton, with its extended fibers, experiences minimal pilling, ensuring garments crafted from this textile remain wearable for many years.

Holds Color Well

The smooth, lustrous fibers of Pima cotton retain their color through numerous washings, surpassing the color retention of regular cotton. This resilience to fading enables brands to utilize gentler dyes while achieving the desired colors.

What is Pima cotton used for?

Baleaf Evergreen Cotton Crewneck Crop Top

Pima cotton fabrics are ideal for everyday wear and particularly well-suited for summer clothing.

Pima cotton t-shirts exhibit greater longevity compared to t-shirts made from standard cotton jersey fabric, showcasing increased resistance to tearing, pilling, and breaking.

Dresses made of this fabric exhibit an enhanced drape due to their lightweight fabric, making them particularly well-suited for creating stylish summer dresses.

Likewise, Pima cotton undergarments offer excellent breathability, ensuring you stay cool and comfortable throughout wear.

Indulge in the luxurious softness of the Evergreen Cotton Crewneck Crop Top, crafted from Pima cotton fabric. Its breathable, light-weight design, combined with a relaxed fit, crewneck, and well-fitted armholes for ease of movement, make it ultra-soft, stretchy, and comfortable, complemented by a cut above the waist―perfectly paired with high-rise leggings. Additionally, flatlock seams ensure a chafe-free experience.

In addition, because of the fabric's exceptional softness, Pima cotton is frequently chosen for crafting luxury clothing items like bathrobes, loungewear, and nightgowns. Additionally, it is highly favored as a bedsheet fabric.

How do we know if a fabric is authentic Pima cotton?

Products labeled as "100% cotton" typically use Upland cotton. On the other hand, if the label specifies "100% Pima cotton" or simply "Pima cotton," it is likely to be the original Pima variety. To confirm, conduct a touch test. Authentic Pima cotton should exhibit an unparalleled softness to the touch.

Moreover, Pima cotton differs from the general term "100% cotton." Pima cotton refers to a specific type of cotton, whereas "100% cotton" simply denotes that a product is made entirely of cotton.

Wrap Yourself in the Softness of Pima Cotton

Pima cotton is a superior-quality knit known for its exceptional texture and durability, offering a softer, smoother, and stronger feel compared to regular cotton. Its silk-like luster adds a touch of luxury to the fabric, making it an excellent choice for casual or summer clothing.

Discover cotton and other fabrics that make Baleaf's All Men's and All Women's collection a standout in high-quality activewear that gets you moving in comfort and style.

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