Properties and cotton products

  • Cotton is both a food and fibre crop.
  • The cotton plant produces fruit, known as bolls.
  • When mature the crop is picked and ginned - which separates the cotton fibre (or lint) from the seed.
  • Cotton lint makes up about 42 percent of the picked cotton by weight, and contributes about 85 percent of the total income from a cotton crop. The other 15 percent of income is from cotton seed.
  • Almost all parts of the cotton plant are used in some way including the lint, cottonseed, linters, stalks and seed hulls.

Natural cotton fibre properties

  • Cotton is a soft, absorbent and breathable natural fibre, making it the perfect fibre for clothing and undergarments worn close to the skin
  • Cotton keeps the body cool in summer and warm in winter because it is a good conductor of heat 
  • Cotton is non-allergenic and, unlike synthetic fibres, cotton fibre is a natural product that contains no chemicals
  • Cotton, due to its unique fibre structure, breathes better and is more comfortable than oil-based synthetic fabrics
  • Cotton is one of the easiest fabrics to dye due to its natural whiteness and high rate of absorbency
  • Australian cotton in particular is perfectly suited to colour application processes as it offers spinners crisp white lint, low breakages and stoppages, good throughput efficiency and uniformity of yarn
  • Cotton holds up to 27 times its own weight in water and becomes stronger when wet
  • Cotton can’t hold an electric charge, eliminating static cling

Products made from cotton

  • The cotton lint from one 227kg bale can produce 215 pairs of denim jeans, 250 single bed sheets, 750 shirts, 1,200 t-shirts, 3000 nappies, 4,300 pairs of socks, 680,000 cotton balls, or 2,100 pairs of boxer shorts
  • Cotton’s strength and absorbency make it an ideal fabric the production of thousands of useful products from sheets and towels, tarpaulins and tents, pharmaceuticals and medical supplies - even astronauts’ inflight space suits
  • About 60% of the world’s total cotton harvest is used to make clothing, with the rest used in home furnishings and industrial products 
  • Cotton lint is spun then woven or knitted into fabrics such as velvet, corduroy, chambray, velour, jersey and flannel
  • Cotton can be used to create dozens of different fabric types for a range of end-uses, including blends with other natural fibres like wool, and synthetic fibres like polyester
  • More unusual uses of cotton fibre include tents, car tire cord, fishnets and book binding

Products made from cotton linters

  • Cotton linters are fine, very short fibres that remain on the cottonseed after ginning. They are curly fibres typically less than 3mm long 
  • Linters are used in the manufacture of paper (such as archival paper and bank notes) and as a raw material in the manufacture of cellulose plastics 
  • Linters are commonly used for medical supplies such as bandages, cotton buds, cotton balls and x-rays

Products made from cottonseed

  • Cotton seed, which makes up around half the weight of the picked cotton, is mostly used to make cotton seed oil
  • One tonne of cotton seed yields approximately 200kg of oil, 500kg of cotton seed meal and 300kg of hulls
  • Cotton seed oil is cholesterol free, high in polyunsaturated fats and contains high levels of anti-oxidants (vitamin E) which contribute to its long shelf life. It can be used for deep frying, and for some margarines and salad dressings. Cotton seed oil is also used to make products such as soap, emulsifiers, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, rubber, paint, water proofing agents and candles
  • The by-product of the oil-extraction process is meal, which is used as stock feed. Cotton seed meal is a high protein meal that can be fed to most animals. Cotton seed hulls are also a valuable feed source for livestock
  • Global cotton seed production can potentially provide protein requirements for half a billion people and many billions of other animals


© Cotton Australia 2018. This material is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial 4.0 International License (CC BY CC BY-NC 4)