What is Pima cotton?

What is pima cotton?

Pima cotton, renowned for its exceptional quality and softness, has a fascinating origin. It is named after the Pima Native American tribe, the first to cultivate it in the southwestern United States. This cotton is also known as extra-long staple (ELS) cotton.

The primary difference between Pima cotton and other types of cotton, such as upland cotton (the most commonly produced cotton variety), lies in the length of the fibers. Pima cotton has longer fibers, typically ranging from 1.4 to 2 inches (about 35 to 50 millimeters) in length, whereas the fibers of upland cotton are shorter, usually around 0.75 inches (about 19 millimeters) long.

The longer staple length of Pima cotton gives it a unique edge, resulting in several key characteristics that make it stand out:

  1. Softness: Pima cotton fibers are exceptionally soft and luxurious, making fabrics made from Pima cotton very comfortable to wear.
  2. Durability: Pima cotton's longer fibers make it more durable and resistant to pilling, tearing, and fraying than fabrics made from shorter-staple cotton.
  3. Luster: Pima cotton has a natural sheen or luster, giving fabrics from this cotton a luxurious appearance.
  4. Color retention: Pima cotton holds dye exceptionally well, producing vibrant, long-lasting fabric colors.


pima cotton blue t-shirt

With its longer staple length and finer fibers, Pima is generally more resistant to pilling than shorter-staple cotton varieties. However, it's important to note that no fabric is entirely immune to pilling, especially with regular wear and washing.

Pima cotton is generally easy to wash, but following proper care instructions is essential to maintain its quality and longevity. Here are some general guidelines for washing Pima:

  1. Use Gentle Cycle: Wash Pima garments gently using cold or lukewarm water. Avoid washing them with harsh or abrasive fabrics that could cause friction and damage the fibers.
  2. Use Mild Detergent: Use a mild detergent suitable for delicate fabrics. Stay away from bleach or chemicals, as they can weaken the fibers and cause discoloration.
  3. Avoid Overcrowding: Do not overcrowd the washing machine when washing Pima garments. Overcrowding can cause excessive friction and tangling, leading to pilling and damage to the fabric.
  4. Turn Inside Out: Turn Pima garments inside out before washing to help protect any printed or embellished areas and minimize surface friction.
  5. Air Dry or Tumble Dry Low: After washing, dry Pima garments flat on a clean towel or drying rack. Alternatively, you can tumble dry them on a low heat setting. Keep away high heat, as it can shrink or damage the fabric.

Iron if Necessary: Iron Pima garments on a low to medium heat setting while they are still slightly damp. This will help smooth out wrinkles without damaging the fabric.


Follow these simple care instructions and you can keep your Pima garments looking fresh and feeling soft after washing.

Pilling occurs when short fibers on the surface of the fabric tangle together and form small balls or pills. Longer staple cotton, like Pima, produces fewer loose fibers, which reduces the likelihood of pilling. Additionally, Pima cotton's more rich and smoother fibers are less prone to breaking or tangling, further contributing to its resistance to pilling.


Pima cotton t-shirt


While Pima cotton is indeed more pill-resistant than many other types of cotton, the likelihood of pilling can still vary depending on factors such as the fabric weave, yarn construction, and how the garment is cared for. Taking proper care of Pima garments, such as washing them gently and avoiding abrasive materials during laundering, can help maintain their appearance and minimize pilling.

Overall, Pima cotton is not just a premium variety but a versatile one. Its superior quality, comfort, and durability make it a popular choice for high-end clothing and other textiles where quality is paramount.

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