What is Organic Cotton? Fabric Explanation & Guide

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Learn all about what is Organic Cotton? If you are looking for purity in a fabric, organic cotton is your best option. Organic cotton is grown in a pest and chemical-free environment and governed by specific standards. Added to that, organic cotton federal regulations do not allow seed that has been genetically engineered.  Everything from the seed to the soil must be pure and natural.

What is Organic CottonPinWhat is Organic Cotton


What is Organic Cotton?What is organic Cotton – Pros & ConsPros of Organic CottonCons of Organic CottonMaking a DecisionWhat is Organic Cotton – Tradmarks and CertificationWhat is Organic Cotton – LaunderingWhat is Organic Cotton – In ConclusionMORE FABRIC ARTICLES

What is Organic Cotton?

Organic cotton is grown naturally in soils free of chemicals and is free of genetic modification. The growing process for organic cotton is very strictly monitored and no growth regulators are allowed. Defoliants and fertilizers made with chemicals are also not allowed. Organic cotton does not use any synthetic gene manipulation in the growing of cotton and seed production. The entire farming process is very carefully controlled and monitored at all times. 

Natural chemicals, like sulfur dust or citric acid, are permitted, however. Instead of chemical fertilizers, the soil is improved through methods such as crop rotation and the use of organic materials.

Cotton is grown and traded all over the world. It is found in over fifty different countries.  America, China, India and Pakistan are the chief producers. Cotton is grown not just for fabric but it is used in the food industry too. The fibers go to the fabric industry and the seed into animal and human food products. Examples of food products include cottonseed oil which is used for cooking and shortenings and margarine. After oils have been extracted from the seed, the remaining product can be used as animal feed.

What is organic Cotton – Pros & Cons

Pros of Organic Cotton

More and more focus is being put on organically grown cotton to try and prevent the number of pesticides used to spray the cotton crop.  It has been estimated that 16% of the world’s pesticides are used in the cotton industry.  These strong chemicals are released into our environment and have harmful effects on us and our ecology. 

Cotton is known as the fabric of life and for people experiencing allergies, organic cotton is best for their skin. Apart from skin allergies, there are other reasons for choosing organic cotton fabric.

Organic cotton takes into consideration the environment.It is kinder to the workers who manufacture cotton because it uses fewer pesticides and the work environment is healthier.The standards surrounding organic cotton production are set very high to ensure the fabric is organically produced at every step of the process.Production costs can be sometimes lower.  The seed is cheaper because it has not been genetically modified. The organically grown cotton is not a health hazard and therefore expensive medical bills are avoided to treat skin conditions due to allergies.Organically grown products, including cotton, create an awareness of our environment. The production of organically grown cotton shows a conscious decision has been made from the farmer to the manufacturer and the retailer to look for a product that is caring of our environment.

What is Organic Cotton?What is Organic Cotton?PinWhat is Organic Cotton?

Cons of Organic Cotton

There is some controversy surrounding the switch to organic cotton because the organically grown cotton plant yields less cotton and therefore there will have to be more land used to dedicate to the growth of cotton.  This in turn means more natural resources are used to provide the high demand for cotton.

Did you know that one kilogram of cotton fiber makes enough cotton to provide the fabric for one pair of jeans?  That does not sound too bad until you realize that one kilo of cotton fibers needs an astronomical amount of water.  Experts say it uses over 7,000 liters of water.  The estimate for a t-shirt is over 1,000 liters for conventional cotton and over 2,500 liters for organic cotton.

Water is one of our natural resources and using twice as much for organic cotton leaves experts debating this topic.  Weighing up the pros and cons of growing organic cotton as opposed to the conventional cotton growing method is an important consideration.  

One of the most important aspects of cotton fabrics is the dying process.  In conventional cotton, the cotton dye process uses harsh chemicals to dye the fabric.  These chemicals are dangerous to the workers and to the water where they may be flushed away.  Organic cotton may not necessarily be dyed organically and the term organic may only apply to the growing process. 

Making a Decision

In the manufacturing of different fabrics, cotton is easily the most popular fabric. It has very particular qualities because of the way it ‘breathes’ and can retain water. It is comfortable next to the skin and very popular for children to wear. However, growing organic cotton and the manufacture of organic cotton, may not be the ideal solution. Is it right to compromise other aspects of our environment like land and water to grow organic cotton? 

It is important as an end-user to have the right information to make choices about conventional or organic cotton.

What is Organic Cotton – Tradmarks and Certification

The best way to confirm you are buying organic cotton is to look for the organic cotton trademark. It is a certificate issued by the Global Organic Textile Standards organization known as GOTS. 

A garment that has a GOTS certificate has been checked by the textile standards to be sure that it is organic. Organic cotton should have this certificate to prove it is completely organic. This certificate covers manufacturing, processing, labeling, packaging and the distribution of 70% certified organic natural fibers.

PinWhat is Organic Cotton – Labelling

What is Organic Cotton – Laundering

Organic cotton may shrink when it is washed because it has no added chemicals and has not been treated in any way. Follow the washing instructions carefully and pre-wash the fabric before cutting and sewing. Hang the fabric to dry and if you use an air dryer do not use heat on organic cotton.  

Here are some tips:

Use a cold wash on the first wash at a temperature of a maximum of 300 C (86F).Wash with similar colors as the dye might bleed.Wash organic cotton items inside out.Use a normal to mild detergent.  Avoid heavy detergents.Iron with the iron at a medium temperature.Reshape items while they are damp.

What is Organic Cotton – In Conclusion

How does the novice or the environmentally conscious become involved in creating awareness of what is organic cotton?  Reading labels and learning what is organic cotton is a good place to start.  Becoming aware of the processes involved in creating the cotton fabric is another way of knowing what has been part of the process to manufacture the cotton.  As is looking for the essential trademarks that define an organic product like the GOTS certificate.  If a garment of fabric is 100% cotton then the purchaser of that fabric may want to take their understanding of the quality of the fabric a step further.  Use your understanding of organically produced cotton to check if 100% cotton means a completely organically produced cotton fabric, that is kind to our environment. 


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