What is Pima Cotton? Ultimate Guide to Pima Cotton Sheets

You’ve heard of things like thread-count or weight or a million other technical terms that may give you an idea about the quality of sheet that you are looking to buy. As a general rule, it is recommended that you invest in great sheets because it can have a significant impact on your sleep. One type of sheet that you should look for to get that luxurious quality sleep are Pima cotton sheets. Not sure of what they are? Not to worry, we are here to fill you in!

Where Did Pima Come From?

Girl picking pima cottonThere are various types of sheets that are soft and luxurious, but Pima cotton is high up on that list. It is a much higher quality sheet because it utilizes longer fibers than the cotton that you would find in more standard sheets. Approximately 90% of cotton that is produced globally is made of Upland cotton, but the remaining ten percent are is comprised of mostly Egyptian or Pima cottons.

Pima is said to be one of the finest cottons in the world and has a history that is deeply rooted in the United States. Of course, Egyptian cotton sheets are still known to be the finest and most luxurious sheets ever. However, Pima cotton fabrics were actually born out of it.

At the height of the cotton industry in the United States, some cross-pollination of the Egyptian cotton crop resulted in a longer version of it that also seemed stronger and more durable. This was referred to as the American-Egyptian cotton since it was still very fine but was brought to life in the heart of the cotton economy.

In Peru, a similar cotton was being grown by a tribe called the Pima. Years later, in the 1900’s, the Department of Agriculture began working to harness and perfect the seed of the American-Egyptian cotton when the Pima cotton was discovered. The government agency worked with the Pima tribe to reach the perfect seed to produce Pima cotton that exists now. The greatest advances in this seed were seen in the 1950’s and the studying and improving of it continues on today.

What Makes Pima Cotton Sheets Superior?

Couple wearing Pima Cotton ClothesOf course, there are so many types of fabric that are comfortable so why is Pima cotton particularly special? Cotton that is made from longer cotton crops have a tendency to be softer and more durable than cotton with shorter fibers. Pima cotton was cross-pollinated specifically to be long and produce a softer and more durable product.

For a frame of reference, standard cotton averages out at approximately one inch in length. Pima cotton, on the other hand, can be up to two inches in length so the difference in tangible. The difference in length makes Pima cotton estimated to have a shelf life that is about 50% longer than the standard, so your linens could be around for a while!

The length of the fibers impacts the durability as much as softness, but it also can affect the maintenance necessary in your linens. Pima cotton linens can produce far fewer wrinkles than other types of cotton so your pile of ironing could be considerably smaller, the more Pima cotton you use.

How to Tell Pima Cotton from Other Types of Cotton

There are a lot of linen and apparel companies that use creative language or clever marketing to make you believe that what you are buying is a high-end or luxurious cotton. But very often that isn’t the case!

There are a few things to look for on your label that will help you know exactly what you are getting, but at the end of the day simply doing your research on the brands that you buy are the best way to be certain of what you are purchasing.

Typically if a label states that something is “100% cotton” then it is probably Upland cotton because that is the more standard and common type of cotton. If something contains Egyptian or Pima cottons in it then the label will probably state that very clearly. However, the way that this is phrased will tell you a lot about how much stock to put in that label.

Couple Covered in Pima Cotton SheetsOften times, tags will state that an item has a Pima cotton “blend” and that is when you should look a little bit closer at the rest of the label. There should be a breakdown of how much cotton and acrylic or anything else may be in that piece of linen. When you find that, it should let you know if there is 50% Pima cotton or something closer to 5% in the blend. If it doesn’t give you any clarity, then it is probably a very low amount in the blend that they are trying to leverage for sales.

According to the Federal Trade Commision (FTC) close to 90% of Egyptian or Pima cotton sheets are either completely or partially fake. It is always better to be cautious about labels than to waste money on a dishonest manufacturer, but there are other ways to know if what you have is real.

If you are familiar with the texture of various types of fabrics, you may be able to tell by hand. Pima cotton is exceptionally soft in comparison to your other standard cotton items, so feeling it out can tell you a lot before purchasing!

Care Tips and Advice

Be gentle with your Pima cotton sheets when it’s laundry day! Even if it is a durable cotton, you must wash it properly to maintain its luxurious feel.

  • Similar to other types of cotton, it can shrink when washed in very hot temperatures. So try to keep the water between warm and cold.
  • The washing cycle that you put it on depends on the washing instructions of that particular item and the strength of your specific machine.
  • When drying Pima cotton, many people opt for air drying to be on the safe side. If you have the space, this is definitely your best option.
  • Drying your linens in a dryer at a low temperature should not damage any of the materials.
  • Depending on your machine and the item itself, you can use medium temperatures but if the machine gets too hot then it can also cause the cotton to shrink.

Air drying can limit the need for ironing, but if you do need to iron then make sure to use steam generously throughout the process. With Pima cotton, you will actually get the best results if you iron while the linen is still damp and operate the machine on high heat. The dampness of the item will prevent it from burning or warping the cotton.

The extra care that Pima cotton requires is worth the amazing way that it feels! Follow these instructions and you will see why people love it so much.