A Guide Egyption Cotton
Cotton has been grown in Egypt from around 3000 BC and introduced into Europe around AD 800. While similar cotton thought to be 7000 years old was found in Mexico, the silkiness and softness of the Egyptian product imported into Europe by Arab merchants holds the distinction of being the world’s first truly luxurious cotton.
Egyptian cotton has been imported into Britain since the 19th century after American cotton exports were cut during the Civil War, and can be found today in everything from clothing to towels – and, of course, bed linen.
Aside from the obvious luxury feel, Egyptian cotton is so highly regarded because it is handled by farmers and not machines. Fibres benefit from a long ripening period and are not disturbed during harvest, with absolutely no artificially altering by way of chemicals or pesticides.
Egyptian cotton sets itself apart from other natural fibres due to the length of the fibres, making it possible to manufacture the finest yarns without compromising strength. This makes the product stress resistant and allows for better absorption of liquids, resulting in deep, bright resistant colours.
The natural process from picking to exporting guarantees the very highest level of purity and gives the cotton an unsurpassed level of softness.
Egyptian cotton is primarily harvested in the Nile Delta, an area known for its warm, dry climate – conditions that are perfect for cotton growth. Despite mass production in its home country and across the world, Egyptian cotton accounts for less than 1% of the world’s total cotton – a reason, perhaps, why it is so highly sought after.
While there is a lot to be loved about the feel of an Egyptian cotton shirt or towel on the skin, the real benefits of this product comes from bedding. From duvet covers to pillowcases and coverlets to sheets, nothing comes close to the softness and breathability of Egyptian cotton in helping you to achieve the perfect night’s sleep.
We spend one third of our lives in bed, so it’s definitely worth investing in the very best bedding you can afford. With Egyptian cotton, the quality is graded by thread count.
The thread count is the number of threads per square inch and the higher the count, the more soft and luxurious the cotton will feel and the harder it will be for you to fight off sleep the moment your skin makes contact with the sheets. Thread count is not the be all and end all of a quality product though; the quality of the yarn is also of great importance in the feel.
However, quality yarn and high thread counts do tend to go hand-in-hand.
The most widely available thread count and the most inexpensive. Linen in this range tends to be used for common domestic purposes, often in hospitals and care homes.
Perhaps the most the common thread count on the market. 400-count perfectly balances quality and affordability, providing a greater softness than 200-count and offering a cool feel.
Above 400-count linen starts to move into the exclusive category and 600-count sheets and duvet sets will sit in the upper range. Manufactured using compressed air in the weaving process, this thread count offers a beautiful smooth and soft feel.
The most lavish bed linen on the market – and the most durable. Invest in 800-1000 thread count and you can expect a product that will retain its quality for years to come with its silky weave pure heaven to touch.
When shopping for Egyptian cotton bed linen, you will come across the term ‘percale’ quite a lot. Percale refers to the woven quality of the bedding and the term is used for any linen over
180-thread count. Percale is a sign of a quality product, with linen woven tighter and smoother than lower thread counts.
Egyptian cotton is a luxury product that deserves to be handled with care. While it is incredibly robust, treating your linen and towels correctly will ensure they retain their quality.
When washing Egyptian cotton bedding you should never overload the machine as doing so may damage the long fibres. Always separate linens into dark and light colours and wash in warm water with a gentle detergent, finishing off with a cold rinse. If you need to pre-soak your linen, use cold water.
When washed, remove linen from the machine immediately and shake out before drying at low heat or, preferably on a washing line – this will help to reduce wrinkles.
Linen can be dried in a dryer but high heat should be avoided. Air-tumbling without heat (if your machine has such as setting) is the best method.
Egyptian cotton towels can be washed before use as way of ‘breaking them in’, making them softer and more absorbent. Towels may take several washes before the benefits are truly realised. Wash towels in warm water using a general detergent. Do not use fabric softener as this can affect absorbency.
Look after your Egyptian cotton and it will look after you for many years to come.