Saturday, March 13, 2010

Egyptian Cotton

"Egyptian Cotton" is a term that holds mystic value for people when discussing towels, bed linens, and even clothing. But what is it? What makes it so special?

Egyptian cotton is a long staple fiber from Egypt and perhaps a good way to introduce it is to first tell you what it isn't.

Most cotton that we encounter on a daily basis is a short staple cotton. What that means is that the actual fiber itself is fairly short and doesn't have a lot of strength or durability. Most short cotton doesn't have an immediate absorption rate either. If you spill liquid on it, there is a moment when it sits beaded up on the surface before finally sinking in.

Egyptian cotton, having a long staple fiber, has more strength and durability than the everyday cotton we're used to. In yarn and fabric form, it will last much longer than conventional cotton and while initially it feels harder/less soft it actually gets softer and cozier every time it's laundered. In addition, it has a superior absorption rate.

Mercerized is another term that gets thrown around in connection with cotton. Mercerization is a process that is intended to improve the luster of the yarn and, on Egyptian cotton, reduce the fuzz we generally associate with cotton. A bonus side affect is that it also improves the absorption rate. While that's great for toweling off after your shower, it also means you get more intense colors. Mercerized cotton absorbs dye better than unmercerized so you get less fading and deeper, richer hues.

So when you use mercerized Egyptian cotton, as I have in my Ocean Waves scarf, you get a durable accessory that will get softer with use while maintaining a dressier upscale look.

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