How to Identify Cotton

One of the most widely used materials for all sorts of purposes, cotton is one of the best natural fabrics that has been around for a very long time. It’s popularity comes down to a few things – the ease of methods to obtain it, the amounts that can be produced and recycled, and the beauty of the look and feel of it.

Photo by cottonbro on

What do you need to look out for if you’re looking for cotton? Here are a few things that might help.

100% cotton

Yes, the easiest way to find out if it’s cotton is by checking those labels! It should simply say ‘100% cotton’, or the another percentage for what it contains.

Sometimes if your labels are in a different language, they will use words that don’t similar to cotton. One notable translation is ‘baumwolle’ which is the German translation meaning ‘cotton’ or ‘cotton wool’.

Photo by NastyaSensei on

Other translations include ‘ algodón (Spanish), puuvilla (Finnish), and bawełna (Polish). Whichever language it’s in, don’t forget that you can look it up any time on an online translator. (I find that the Google Translator app is great, as you can translate photos too.)

Flexible but Stiff

When simply woven, cotton feels like a dream to wear. It’s best defined by its soft texture, and how comfortable it feels to wear when it’s not too thick.

However natural cotton isn’t normally very stretchy. Although it has the flexibility to be bent and folded, certain forms of cotton such as twill or denim are much hardier, and demonstrate a tougher side to it.

Photo by Dinielle De Veyra on

As a result, when picking cotton clothes, you want to ensure it has enough space for when you’ve had bigger meals and need more give.

But on the whole, cotton feels lovely and rarely causes any discomfort on the skin.

Feels Damp for Longer

Cotton is well known for how it works with water. Its a massively absorbent material that can take up to 20 times or more of its weight in water, which is amazing to think.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on

Because of this, you’ll see that it takes longer to dry it. You’ll know its made of cotton if you’ve ever hung it up inside the house and its still drying after two days. It just loves water so much that it can’t let go very easily!

Doesn’t Feel Cheap

No matter where I’ve bought cotton pieces from, I always find the same thing; they just seem to be really good quality. From my more expensive branded cotton tees to my Primark cotton pieces, they always feel so soft, strong and beautiful.

Photo by Sorapong Chaipanya on

Even if some fabrics feel too rough or dry, like linen or polyester, you’ll always find the cotton is different. There’s a good reason why its used so much in cosmetics and for luxury bath towels. They just feel so naturally soft.

Burn Test

So this last method can really pin point the nature of the material. If its really cotton then this is what it’ll do.

It should start burning after a few seconds, and will keep burning after you remove it from the flame. The flame that stays with the fabric is fairly steady and orange, and it will leave behind dry, black or grey charcoal like ash.

Photo by Alexander Mils on

Cotton also tends to stay lightly lit after its burnt, much like paper burning. It also smells somewhat like burning paper too.

So those are some of the ways you could use to identify cotton. Since its pretty commonplace everywhere you go, it wouldn’t be too difficult to compare and identify it with other definite sources of cotton.

One thought on “How to Identify Cotton

Leave a Reply