Last Updated on October 29, 2022 by Shariful Alam
Organic cotton fiber
Indians are most likely the ones who discovered cotton fabric and made cotton famous worldwide. However, organic cotton fiber is believed to be on the earth since the “Fifth Millennium BC.” Whenever it was truly discovered, this discovery certainly changed the course of human life.
There are hundreds of cotton fibers. Different cotton fibers have different characteristics and work best for different purposes.
However, organic cotton fiber, the purest four kinds of cotton fiber:
Gossypium Hirsutum, Gossypium Barbadense, Gossypium Arboreum, and Gossypium Herbaceum have been there since the beginning of cotton history.
Organic cotton fiber is full of advantages. Organic cotton fiber is sustainable, good quality, and versatile.
In today’s topic, we discuss organic Cotton fiber kinds, their history, characteristics, the difference with regular cotton, importance, advantages, disadvantages, the dying process, conversion to organic cotton fabric process, sustainability, and grading policy.
We, the Muslin Dhaka Team, consisting of writers, textile experts, and fashion geeks with a combined experience of 25 years, write on this topic to add value to your life.
Types of organic cotton fiber
Organic means natural. Natural resources are limited and come in only a few varieties. For example, organic cotton comes in only four different types. Although various kinds of cotton are made worldwide, you will find only four types of organic cotton fiber.
Already we shared the name of the four purest organic cotton fibers. Gossypium is the scientific name of cotton. Each of these organic fibers is grown in different parts of the world with its unique specialties.
Gossypium Hirsutum, also called “Mexican cotton,” is grown the most around the world. 90% of the world’s total cotton comes from this species and 95% of U.S. total cotton production. G. hirsutum is native to the West Indies, Mexico, Northern South America, and Central America. Different types of G. hirsutum and crossbred cultivars grow in variable conditions and have different fiber lengths. Long staples are used widely in commercial production.
Another species of organic cotton is Gossypium Barbadense. This plant is also called Egyptian cotton, sea island cotton, ELS cotton, and Pima cotton. Tropical areas are the best environment for the growth of Gossypium barbadense. Their seeds are black, and the flowers are yellow. This plant’s cotton is long and smooth. G. Barbadense is from Peru and Ecuador. China, Sudan, Egypt, India, Peru, Israel, Australia, Uzbekistan, the southern U.S., Turkmenistan, and Tajikistan are the main producers of G. Barbadense. G. Barbadense meets 5% of the world’s cotton needs.
Gossypium Arboreum is native to Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, and other tropical and subtropical areas. The tree of Gossypium Arboreum cotton is called “tree cotton.” The plant belongs to the Species Plantarum.
It was discovered in 1753. This tree cotton is a 1–2 m tall bush with purple branches. White cotton wraps around the cotton seeds.
You might not know, but Dhaka muslin is made from a kind of Gossypium Arboreum. This kind of cotton is only grown in the south of Dhaka, near the Meghna River. Local name of this cotton fiber is “Phuti karpus”.
Gossypium Herbaceum, or “Levant cotton,” is a cotton plant in the semi-arid parts of Arabia and Sub-Saharan Africa. G. Herbaceum’s flowers are yellowish, and the center is purple colored. The fully matured flowers let the seeds fall once the air is warm. The cotton fiber is usually about 2 inches.
Throwback to the history of organic cotton fiber
It is said that “If you want to understand a civilization, then you must know its history.” Like most historical elements of our present life, cotton has come a long way and evolved with time.
From the beginning of civilized human history, cotton has been there, providing every human with clothing. How is an organic cotton fiber made? It is essential to know some historical facts about them as well.
It is believed that during 4000 BC, cotton was introduced for making clothing. The locals believe that two of India’s states: Rakhigarhi and Mehrgarh, are where the usage of cotton began. The cotton-user civilization, also known as the “Indu Valley civilization,” kept growing from 3300bc to 1300bc. However, there is a disagreement among historians. They believe that the Mexicans were the ones who started the revolution of making cotton fabric around 5500 BC.
Europeans used to believe that only India could cultivate cotton until the middle Ages started. Europe and Britain embraced cotton in the late 1600s, as cotton is easier to work with than wool.
Throughout different eras, cotton kept revolving and reached every corner of the world. From comfy to luxury wear, we now prefer fabric made of organic cotton fiber.
Organic cotton fiber is now the most wanted fiber for clothing and fabric. We love to believe that Bangladesh also played a vital role in the discovery and revolution of organic cotton fiber as a part of Ancient India.
How to identify certified organic cotton fiber?
Signs of organic cotton are:
- “Organic” labeling
- A label or symbol of approval On the label or website for the brand (on the specific product page)
- In some parts of the world, organic cotton might meet the country’s rules, while other countries might get their cotton certification internationally. Check the label and symbols on the product to see which standards the organic cotton meets.
- The NOP sets rules for how USDA organic products are made, labeled, handled, and enforced within the U.S.
- The USDA currently lets textiles that meet the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) be sold as organic in the U.S. IF you are about to buy organic fibers and materials, then buy the ones with the GOTS label.
In one sentence, you can learn more about organic cotton fiber by reading the regulations and standards of different bodies, specially GOTS.
Difference between regular cotton fiber and organic cotton fiber
Organic cotton is 100% natural and has no additives. Even though you can tell the significant differences between conventional cotton fiber and organic cotton fiber by their definition. A few differences you might know, some do not.
The differences will help you distinguish organic cotton fiber from conventional cotton.
One of the main differences between regular and organic cotton fibers is how they are processed and manufactured. While traditional cotton fiber is made from genetically modified seeds, organic cotton fiber is made from natural origins.
Although regular cotton fiber seeds are genetically modified to prevent bugs from destroying the plant, they still are attacked by bugs. In that case, using pesticides is mandatory. In addition, synthetic fertilizer is a must in cultivation.
However, planters do not use chemicals, synthetic pesticides, or fertilizer while collecting organic cotton. GMOs are not allowed in organic cultivation!
Regular cotton fiber producers use pesticides and herbicides during the weeding process, which hamper the nutrients and minerals of the fiber. These chemicals also harm the farmers as they are in the first line of the cultivation process.
Again, organic cotton fiber is hand-weeded. However, unlike regular cotton, the weeding process for organic cotton is natural and chemical-free. That helps us get better cotton fiber.
Bleaching is also one of the main differences. If you see that the color of the cotton fiber is as white as milk, you can rest assured that it’s bleached.
Organic cotton always has a yellowish tone to it. However, organic cotton is mostly of off-white color, as it does not have any bleach or chemical.
From farming to Fabric, traditional cotton goes through so many chemical processes. The chemical could be very toxic. The toxic chemical could be dangerous for not only humans but also mother nature!
Chemicals can cause skin irritation, especially for people who have sensitive skin.
Thankfully, organic cotton fiber is free from any toxic chemicals. This makes the cotton healthy. Furthermore, the absence of harmful chemicals makes the cotton softer and environmentally friendly. This is the main reason why we prefer organic cotton rather than regular cotton.
Why organic cotton fiber?
Organic cotton fiber is collected from cotton trees that are not genetic experiments nor use chemicals to grow the plants. In this case, the cotton fiber is suitable for making any piece of fabric. From tablemats to dresses, organic cotton provides comfort to your day-to-day life.
It works wonders for people who have sensitive skin. Dresses made of organic cotton do not irritate the skin. Instead, it is one of the very few fibers that are good for human skin.
It is one of the healthiest fibers and is eco-friendly. So, if you are thinking, “Why organic cotton fiber?” believe, “Why not?”
Pros and Cons of organic cotton fiber
Here we talk about some potential benefits of organic cotton and some things that could go wrong with it. When comparing organic cotton to regular cotton and other textile fibers and materials, it may be essential to consider both these pros and cons before concluding.
Advantages of organic cotton fiber
The advantages of organic fiber are enormous and unavoidable. Still, we list a few to make your research easier.
- Reduces or gets rid of the use of harmful synthetic pesticides, insecticides, and herbicides. Instead, it uses natural ways to get rid of pests.
- Synthetic fertilizers are not used. That keeps the soil healthy.
- Regulators for plant growth are not used that much for organic cotton fiber.
- The absence of chemicals leads to a broader range of farming techniques. Less reliance on monocultures improves the health of the soil. It helps maintain the right level of nutrients and water in the ground, leading to less soil erosion.
- The farmers don’t get affected by chemicals. Not only that, cotton farmers will be able to maximize profit. Organic cotton fiber can lead to a better way for society to take care of its natural resources.
- The fiber is softer than regular cotton fiber.
Disadvantages of organic cotton fiber
Nothing in this world is full of blessings. Where there is hope, there are challenges as well. Now let us see at the cons of organic cotton fiber.
- Even though cultivating organic cotton fiber might use less water than other types of cotton, it still uses a lot of water.
- The cotton yields often need to be better. Reduced crop yields will have several unintended financial effects.
- Organic cotton fiber requires more work from people with strict rules to follow.
- It is more costly.
The dyeing process : Certified organic Cotton
For organic cotton fiber, there are two ways of dyeing the yarn. One is vegetable dyeing, and the other is reactive dying.
What does that mean? This means :
For vegetable dyeing
Organic cotton fiber is easy to dye as it absorbs color faster than any other fiber. That is why even vegetable dye is possible for organic cotton fiber. Vegetable dyeing is done in three simple steps. Those are:
Mordanting A two-step mordanting process with Mordant II and Alum is a must to use natural vegetable dyes.
- Applying dye
At this point, the solution of the dissolved particles needs to be applied to the organic cotton fiber and go to the next step.
- Setting the dye
You can wash vegetable-dyed fabric in cold or warm water with regular detergent, dry it on low heat, or hang it up to dry.
For reactive dyeing:
Vegetable dyeing is easy for organic cotton fiber. But reactive dying is even easier. It’s done in two ways:
Organic cotton fiber is put in a dye bath made of water, dye, and approved chemicals to obtain the desired color. The yarn must be set for a certain period. Then, to get a uniform color, you must stir the dye solution.
So that the dye can go all the way through the fiber, it must be move without restraint in the dye solution. If you add more water to a dye bath than you need to, the colors will be less intense and take longer to dye. That is why dye baths are so famous. To get even coloring, stir the dye bath over and over every 2 to 5 minutes. Then, after straightening out the fiber, put it back in the bath differently.
Is organic cotton sustainable?
Organic cotton fiber is undoubtedly sustainable as it is grown without pesticides and Non-GMO seeds. Chemicals that are bad for the environment and waste resources are not used in organic farming. Agricultural land that hasn’t been treated with chemicals stays productive longer than land that has been treated with pesticides. Because of this, organic cotton farmers have a longer cotton commodity life.
Fewer pesticides improve the health of workers as well as give us access to clean water and food and make the land stay healthy for further cultivation. It also means that our clothes are safer. Cause they do not have any Toxic chemicals.
You can act in an ethical and environmentally friendly way by promoting pesticide-free cotton and buying alternatives that are made from organic cotton. After this short discussion, we can safely conclude the sustainability of organic cotton.
Certified Organic cotton fiber to fabric:The Journey
The process of making organic cotton fabric is lengthy. It takes months and day-night of hard work to produce cotton fiber and from fiber to cotton fabric. Being a long process means many steps to pass. The whole process takes time, skill, and resources. Many of you might have a vague idea of how this transformation occurs. In comparison, most of us have no idea about it at all. That is why we made a separate section for processing organic cotton fabric.
The process of transforming organic cotton fiber into organic cotton fabric goes as follows:
Farming organic cotton depends a lot on working with nature. The goal is to keep a natural balance and ensure the environment can last without using chemical pesticides. Instead, farmers cooperate with nature by using natural fertilizers, composting, and finally switching crops around. As a result, the soil stays healthy when farmers grow organic cotton in rotation with other crops.
Ginning is taking raw cotton balls and pulling out the fibers. When the cotton is dry enough, the lint is forced through a grill in the gin to keep the seeds from getting through. The workers then take out the gin by spinning brushes. The same brushes are then used to pack the cotton into big bales.
Making cotton yarn
Spinning is the process of turning organic cotton fibers into yarn. It’s done using cotton bales. First, they moved around the blades to spread out seeds and other trash to clean again. Next, the fiber goes through a “carding” machine, which separates the individual threads and then pulls them together to make a single, loose, long rope.
Drawing is the process of straightening, mixing, and finning the cotton fibers to get them to the right density for the spinning machine. This process strengthens, refines, and smooth’s the material by removing any leftover dirt.
Knit or weave
Knitting is the process of making fabric by looping threads on top of each other. A few simple tests, like the stretch test, can help determine if a piece of fabric is knitted or woven. Knitted fabrics are very stretchy all the way across, while woven fabrics are very stiff.
The Whole Picture
Most textiles get one or more finishing touches at the end of the process. To make finished goods look and feel better. Organic cotton can be softened with a brush, printed on, or dyed, among other ways to finish it. Toxic chemicals are always prohibited from getting organic products.
Though we write it so easily the whole process are under multiple industries. The cotton cloth we wear, can not even think how it come passing so complex ways!
How is organic cotton fiber graded?
We are almost at the edge of the discussion. However, before we conclude, I feel obliged to tell you about how organic cotton fiber is graded. For grading, color, trash content, and the quality of grinning are considered the benchmark.
For color grading, we have the following:
- Lt Sp- Light Spotted White cotton.
- Sp- Spotted white cotton.
- Tg- Tinged cotton.
- YS- Yellow Stained cotton.
- Lt Gy- Light Grey cotton.
- Gy- Grey cotton
- DGM- Strict Good Middling
- GM- Good Middling
- SM- Strict Middling
- M- Middling
- SLM- Strict Low Middling
- LM- Low Middling
- SGO- Strict Good Ordinary
- GO- Good Ordinary
In this organic cotton grading method, the neps count determines the cotton’s quality. The more number of neps the lower the quality. Neps are fiber entanglement. This entanglement takes place during the ginning process.
CertifiedOrganic Cotton by the Pound
Organic cotton is a bit more expensive than regular cotton. Organic cotton per ounce costs around 1 to 1.50 USD. Given the higher price of organic cotton fiber, organic cotton fabric is more elevated. It can be more expensive according to the fabric’s dying process, patterns, and quality.
You can buy certified organic raw cotton by the pound as well. Pricing come above mentioned way. You can buy this as count. However, the price may vary by brand, quality, and other variables.
- Is organic cotton fiber and natural fiber the same?
Yes, organic cotton fiber and natural fiber are the same.
- Is organic cotton good for the skin?
Organic cotton is considered the best choice for your skin, especially if you have sensitive skin.
- Is organic cotton more expensive than mixed cotton?
Yes, organic cotton is more expensive than regular ones as it is made from natural cotton, which is lengthy and costly.
Organic cotton has come a long way. The first kind of fabric used for all purposes came from organic cotton. What a revolution! There are hundreds of varieties of cotton now. Although the number of types of cotton is quite impossible to remember, the base of organic cotton fiber, the basic and most pure form of cotton, comes in four kinds.
We have finally come to the last segment of this article. It’s time to take leave now as we have shared our part of the story about organic cotton fiber. If you are intrigued and want to continue reading, check out our other articles on cotton.
Shariful Alam Pavel, A fashion lover, passionate marketer. Love to share wisdom based on real life experience to enrich knowledge.
Founder of Muslin Dhaka, a brand, speaks the truth about royal muslin and fashion. Explore the digital fashion universe with organic cotton muslin and much more!