10 Surprising Cotton Facts: Pros and Cons of Cotton

Do you want to know some interesting facts about cotton? Then you’re in the right place.
We’ve added a quick guide to the advantages and disadvantages of cotton with ten facts about cotton you may not know.

1. Cotton is a natural fiber grown from the cotton plant. The scientific name for cotton is Gossypium spp.

2. There are hundreds of cotton species; however, only four are widely cultivated for fiber production. The most common cotton species is Gossypium hirsutum, which accounts for around 90% of all cotton worldwide. The other three most cultivated species are Gossypium barbadense, Gossypium arboreum, and Gossypium herbaceum.

Cotton has been cultivated for around 7000 years for use as a raw material in clothing, bags, and cloth production.

3. Cotton has been cultivated for around 7000 years as a raw material.

4. The largest cotton producers are India, China, the USA, and Brazil. The top four largest producing countries produce around 75% of all cotton globally. India and China collectively produce around 40-50% of cotton, followed the USA with approximately 20%, and Brazil about 10-15% of global cotton cultivation.

5. Around 60% of all cotton production is grown annually for the fashion industry. It is estimated approximately 26 million tonnes of cotton are produced for the fashion industry globally.

Cotton plant in field
Image Showing field of cotton

Advantages of Cotton

6. Cotton is a biodegradable material, as the cellulose fibers break down over time. This makes cotton favored over non-biodegradable materials such as polyester.

7. Properties of cotton include Breathable, comfortable, absorbent, soft, and biodegradable.

Disadvantages of Cotton

8. Cotton crops use more pesticides than any other natural fiber crop, using approx $2 billion worth of pesticides every year. In addition to pesticides, fertilizers and insecticides are used heavily in cotton production. These chemicals can include heavy metals, Ammonia, and Chlorine, which can have adverse health effects on weavers and garment workers, and cause pollution of soil and waterways.

9. Cotton uses around 44 trillion liters of water to irrigate, using approximately 3% of global water usage yearly.

Cotton uses around 44 trillion liters of water to irrigate, using approximately 3% of global water usage yearly.

10. Most cotton used today is grown from GMO seeds to improve pest resistance and yields.

11. Cotton is a flammable fabric when not treat with fire retardants.

Wrapping Up: Cotton Facts

We hope you’ve learned some new facts about cotton.

While cotton is a more sustainable material than polyester or other synthetic fibers that rely on fossil fuels, cotton also has adverse environmental effects.

However, as companies start to understand the need to move towards more responsible and sustainable materials, there is a push for organic cotton, recycled cotton, and BCI cotton, which is cotton that is produced safely and ethically.

Recycled cotton can save up to 90% water and 50% energy compared to virgin cotton. In addition, organic cotton uses ten times less water and is grown without harmful pesticides.

If you want to discover organic cotton clothing or textiles, check out our guides on organic cotton t-shirts, underwearbeddingcomforters, and more.

Bethany
Bethany

Bethany Worthington BSc (Hons) (she/her) is the Sustainable Fashion Editor and Co-founder of Ecothes. She has a passion for the environment, and a long love of all things clothing, and combines those two interests with Ecothes. In her free time she loves dancing, hiking in the countryside, and laughing with friends.

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