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What is Pima Cotton? The Superior Cotton Explained (2023)

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what is pima cottonPima cotton’s soft fibers cradle your skin, promising comfort. But you want more than just any cotton. You’re drawn to pima cotton, longing for its unrivaled softness against your skin.


Pima cotton’s longer fibers make fabrics far softer and more durable than regular cotton. Its rarity and difficult cultivation captivate you. Your heart knows pima cotton offers a sublime experience traditional cotton simply can’t give you.

Let’s unravel the mystery of this superior cotton together, exploring pima cotton’s origins, cultivation, uses and more.

Intimacy awaits on these lush fibers.

Key Takeaways

  • Pima cotton has been cultivated for over 3,000 years and was grown by Pima Indians in the 1800s before mechanization increased yields.
  • The origin of Pima cotton can be traced back to the Pima Native Americans in the southwestern U.S., and it is primarily produced there today.
  • The cultivation process of Pima cotton involves handpicking to preserve fiber integrity, followed by ginning, carding, and spinning into yarn for weaving.
  • Pima cotton is known for its extra-long staple fibers, which provide superior softness, wrinkle resistance, color retention, and durability, making it ideal for high-end clothing and bedding.

What is Pima Cotton?

What is Pima Cotton
Pima cotton comes from Gossypium barbadense plants with extra-long staple fibers longer than 34 mm. It is also known as sea island cotton and has been cultivated for over 3,000 years.

Extra Long Staple Fibers

You’re wearing luxurious bedsheets woven from extra-long fibers prized for their exceptional softness.

  • The extra-long staple pima cotton fibers are over 34mm, providing durability and a luxuriously soft handfeel.
  • Careful handpicking and ginning preserve fiber integrity for exquisite yarns.
  • Genetics and seed varieties are optimized for fiber length.
  • Despite export challenges, these exceptional cottons retain premium market value.
  • Quality controls ensure the purity of the extra-long fibers.

Pima cottons like Egyptian and Supima originate from Gossypium barbadense plants, prized for growing extra-long fibers exceeding 34mm. Their exceptional length imparts a luxurious softness, durability and resistance to pilling in fabrics, justifying the added production costs.

Meticulous handpicking and special processing preserve the integrity of the extra-long staple fibers. Though export and farming obstacles persist, these special cottons command premium pricing for unparalleled quality.

Known as Sea Island Cotton

Throughout Egypt for three millennia, you’ve cherished their prized ultra-silky fibers harvested by the Nile’s tranquil delta. Native to the fertile barrier islands hugging South Carolina’s coast, this extra-long staple cotton is handpicked to preserve its integrity then undergoes strict quality control.

The resulting fabric is exceptionally smooth and soft, explaining its enduring popularity amongst luxury producers.

Where Does Pima Cotton Come From?

Where Does Pima Cotton Come From
Pima cotton traces its origins to the Pima Native Americans who first cultivated it in the southwestern United States. Originally grown in California, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona, pima cotton remains primarily produced in America today.

Native Americans

Native American tribes in what is now the southwestern United States first cultivated Pima cotton. For centuries as part of their tribal culture and agricultural practices, the Pima Indians of Arizona and New Mexico grew cotton with extra-long staple fibers.

Land disputes and water rights issues impacted the Pima’s ability to continue large-scale cotton production. Today, the heritage of the Pima Indians lives on through the cotton that bears their name, which is prized globally for its luxury soft fabric.

USA Production

You’ve seen those lush fields dancing gracefully in the breeze, their bounty promising unparalleled softness to the touch. Pima cotton production takes place primarily across the southern United States, relying on advanced irrigation and land management techniques to maximize productivity.

Strict oversight ensures fair labor practices and environmentally sustainable growing methods, with organic certification available. The delicate hand-picking of the extra-long fibers allows for preservation of quality through ginning, carding, and spinning processes.

With ASA and USDA certifications guaranteeing fiber provenance and purity, the end result is a sustainable luxury that envelops you in its comforting embrace.

How is Pima Cotton Made?

How is Pima Cotton Made
Pima cotton production starts with handpicking the cotton bolls to preserve the integrity of the extra-long fibers. After ginning to separate the seeds, the fibers are carded, combed, and spun into yarn for weaving into fabric.


You’re collecting the naturally soft fibers by hand to preserve integrity. To pick the cotton, your nimble fingers pluck fluffy white tufts from bursting bolls. This painstaking process ensures no damage to the longest and silkiest filaments.

Although mechanical harvesting is faster, nothing rivals gentle handling for keeping threads intact. Luxurious fabrics and high-end sheets owe their sensuous smoothness to your diligent efforts.

Ginning and Spinning

Your pima cotton’s next stop after handpicking is the gin, where the fibers are separated from the seeds before being carded, combed, and spun into yarn. The ginning process is crucial for removing impurities and aligning the fibers. Quality controls like specialized equipment, regulated humidity levels, and expert technicians ensure a premium yarn is produced.

After ginning, the long staple fibers are combed and spun into soft, strong yarns ideal for weaving high-end fabrics.

What Makes Pima Cotton Special?

What Makes Pima Cotton Special
Pima cotton offers an unparalleled softness from its extra-long fibers. This luxurious material also resists pilling and holds up well over time due to its durable qualities.


You’d be amazed to discover that Pima cotton sheets with a 300 thread count can feel softer than 1,000 thread count Egyptian cotton. The extra-long fibers of Pima cotton create a silky smooth texture that feels luxuriously soft on skin.

Pima cotton retains its rich, supple hand even after repeated machine washing, unlike cheaper cottons that pill and lose softness over time. When ironing, the exceptional quality of this luxury fabric is evident in its soft, smooth drape.


Feel the luxury last as your skin caresses the smooth softness night after night. Pima cotton’s extra-long fibers create unrivaled durability. The fibers’ strength leads to superior wrinkle resistance, excellent color retention after repeated washings, and minimal pilling even when abraded daily.

This prized cotton withstands time’s tests in the arid valleys of the American Southwest where supple Pima fibers first sprouted.

How is Pima Cotton Used?

How is Pima Cotton Used
Pima cotton is prized for its softness and durability, making it ideal for high-end clothing and luxurious bedding. You’ll find this extra-long staple cotton woven into everything from tailored suits and flowing dresses to silky-smooth, 300 thread count sheets.

High-End Clothing

You’ll find pima cotton crafting the softest shirts that hug your skin ever so gently.

Clothing Type Pima Cotton Use
Everyday wear T-shirts, polos, pants. Provides comfort.
Formal wear Dress shirts, suits. Luxurious texture.
Activewear Workout clothes. Moisture-wicking.

High-end clothing utilizes pima cotton for unparalleled softness. The extra-long American cotton fibers create a smooth handfeel. From casual t-shirts to formal wear, pima cotton offers everyday comfort and versatility.

Its quality comes at a price, costing up to three times more than regular cotton.

Luxury Bedding

You’re sure to doze off faster when you sleep between pima cotton sheets with a 300 thread count. The extra-long fibers make pima cotton sheets incredibly soft and smooth against your skin.

  • Extra softness from the long fibers
  • Moisture-wicking properties
  • Crisp, cool handfeel
  • Luxurious 300+ thread count
  • Originally grown in the Nile River Valley

Types of Pima Cotton

Types of Pima Cotton
Pima cotton, derived from Gossypium barbadense, is prized for its extra long fibers and luxurious softness. The two main types of pima cotton are Supima, a branded American product with quality controls, and organic pima, which has USDA or EU organic certification.


Softness surrounds you as you slip between Supima cotton sheets, their long fibers enveloping your skin. This premium cotton originates from rare American Pima plants, scientifically verified for quality.

Meticulous production preserves the integrity of each filament. The result is a provably softer, more luxurious, and longer-lasting cotton that elicits a profound sense of comfort and nurturing.


Not only will your skin sigh in relief, but even your sheets will grin with glee once enveloped in the cloud-like embrace of organic pima cotton. Sustainably farmed without chemical pesticides or fertilizers, organic pima cotton revitalizes soil through crop rotation and natural pest control.

Child labor is prevented, allowing the extra-long fibers to be carefully handpicked and crafted into exquisitely soft clothing and bedding in India and China. Resistant to fraying over time, organic pima cotton delicately caresses the skin while promoting ethical, eco-friendly agriculture.

Is It Real Pima Cotton?

Is It Real Pima Cotton
To verify the authenticity of Pima cotton, scientific testing and certifications are crucial. The only way to truly determine if a textile contains genuine extra-long staple Pima cotton fibers is to have it scientifically tested and certified by organizations such as Supima or USDA Organic.

Testing for Authenticity

I know checking labels can leave you wondering if it’s the real deal. Independent testing, like laboratory analysis of the fiber’s chemical composition, provides objective verification criteria. Supply chain auditing and rigorous certification standards ensure authenticity. Trustworthy brands allow their pima cotton to undergo impartial scientific scrutiny.


You’ve got Supima and USDA certifications to back it up. These respected organizations use scientific testing to identify purity and certify organic cotton. Tracing product origins and verifying fair trade practices ensures authenticity.

Trusted certifications give you confidence in the origins and production methods behind your high-quality textiles.

Pima Cotton Production

Pima Cotton Production
Pima cotton, also known as Sea Island cotton, is derived from Gossypium barbadense plants and has been cultivated for over 3,000 years. Today, the largest exporters of Pima cotton are India and China. However, cultivating Pima cotton comes with its challenges due to its longer fibers and specific growth requirements.

Main Exporters

Experience the exquisite elegance of Pima Cotton as it effortlessly emanates from India and China, the largest exporters in today’s global market. Cultivating this luxurious fabric poses challenges due to its extra-long fibers, but producers employ advanced production techniques to ensure quality control.

Scientifically verifying the purity of Pima Cotton is crucial for maintaining market demand. With stringent verification methods and certifications such as USDA/EU organic certification available, consumers can trust that they are purchasing authentic Pima Cotton garments or textiles with unparalleled softness and durability.

Cultivation Challenges

You’ll need to be patient while waiting for the delicate Pima cotton plants to mature and produce their prized fibers. Growing Pima cotton presents challenges like requiring more irrigation and pest management than upland cotton.

Crop rotation and innovative irrigation techniques help maximize yields. Despite genetic engineering efforts, the extra-long staple fibers still need gentle handling during harvesting and processing to preserve quality.

The Cost of Pima Cotton

The Cost of Pima Cotton
Bet Pima costs twice or more than regular cotton, eh?

  • Pima cotton is more expensive due to higher production costs.
  • Longer fibers require more meticulous harvesting by hand.
  • Lower yields per acre compared to short-staple cotton.
  • Significant added processing like combing and carding is required.
  • There is a limited global supply from select growers.

Pima cotton commands a premium price due to its renowned softness and durability. The extra-long fibers translate to higher thread counts and enhanced longevity in textiles. For consumers seeking luxury bedding and apparel, the additional cost is well worth it.

The History of Pima Cotton

The History of Pima Cotton
Pima cotton has a rich history spanning millennia. First cultivated in the ancient Americas over 3,000 years ago, Pima cotton was later grown in the southwestern United States in the 1800s by Native American tribes such as the Pima.

Ancient Cultivation

Soak in supreme softness steeping for centuries. Appreciate the ancient delicacy caressing pharaohs in ancient Egypt. Imagine royal linens woven from precious fibers first cultivated along the Nile. Marvel at intricate irrigation systems sustaining these treasured plants over millennia.

Feel the ancient trade spreading softness along the Silk Roads to eager hands. Sense dexterous fingers patiently weaving, spinning threads into timeless treasures.

USA History

You’ve been growing this luxuriously soft cotton in the American Southwest for centuries.

  1. Native American tribes like the Pima cultivated it originally.
  2. By the 1800s, American farmers prized its softness and durability.
  3. Production boomed in Arizona, New Mexico, California, and Texas.
  4. Mechanization increased yields, but handpicking preserved quality.
  5. Today, Supima promotes sustainable practices and fiber integrity.

Though challenges like labor costs persist, the future looks bright for this special cotton thanks to conscientious farmers and consumers who value natural softness and quality.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How can I tell if a product is really made with pima cotton versus just branded that way?

Unfortunately, the only definitive way to verify that a product contains true Pima cotton is through scientific testing. Look for certifications from reputable organizations like Supima or organic labels from USDA/EU.

However, high thread counts over 300 often indicate Pima cotton. Ultimately, you’ll have to rely on the integrity of the brand.

What’s the difference between pima cotton and Egyptian cotton?

Both are extra-long staple cottons prized for softness. Egyptian cotton comes from Egypt’s Nile region. Pima cotton was first cultivated by Native Americans in the US Southwest. Quality depends on where and how it’s grown, not just the name.

Does pima cotton shrink when washed?

You bet pima cotton can shrink when washed. Since the fibers are extra long, pima cotton gets softer over time unlike regular cotton. But too much agitation and high heat will still cause the fibers to tighten up. To keep your pima clothes fitting great, wash delicately and air dry when possible.

Is pima cotton better for people with sensitive skin?

Pima’s extra-long fibers make it ideal for sensitive skin. The silky smooth weave prevents irritation from friction. Its pilling resistance also maintains comfort over time. With strict quality controls, it’s a reliable choice to pamper and protect delicate skin.

Where can I buy bedsheets and clothing made with pure pima cotton?

Obtain luxury clothing and bedding directly from manufacturer websites that independently verify the pima cotton’s purity, length, and origin. Seek out Supima certification from vendors that control their cotton’s entire supply chain.

For the softest bed sheets that improve over time, invest in long-staple pima from trusted brands.


You thought pima cotton was just another type of cotton. Surprise! This superior, extra-long staple fiber boasts unrivaled softness and durability. Cultivated for millennia yet uniquely prized and scarce, authentic pima demands careful production.

Tested and verified, this cotton delivers unparalleled luxury. So go ahead, indulge in the exquisite softness of real pima cotton and discover what you’ve been missing.

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Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim is the founder and editor-in-chief of, a site dedicated to those passionate about crafting. With years of experience and research under his belt, he sought to create a platform where he could share his knowledge and skills with others who shared his interests.