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See our high-level takeaways below, or skip to our full review!Our Take:
- Crisp and clean
- Less soft than Egyptian
Jump to: Full Review
- Smooth and soft
- Most expensive
Jump to: Full Review
Cotton is a ubiquitous part of our daily lives, yet you likely take it for granted. Still, when you need a new pair of sheets, you’ve probably wondered whether organic cotton, Pima cotton, or Egyptian cotton is the best option. Sheets and other premium cotton textiles can get expensive quickly, so what do you need to know if you compare Pima cotton vs. Egyptian cotton?
Pima cotton vs. Egyptian cotton
There are three types of cotton commonly grown: Upland, Pima, and Egyptian. Upland cotton comprises nearly 90 percent of cotton grown throughout the globe. Anything that you see labeled as “100% cotton” is more than likely made of Upland cotton.
The remaining 10 percent of cotton grown is one of the two higher-quality cotton: Egyptian and Pima. While shopping for your home essentials, you’ve probably come across these varieties and wondered why they’re labeled as such.
Lower quality cotton is noticeably less soft than pure Egyptian or Pima cotton. Whether or not cotton is considered short-staple cotton or long-staple cotton can also make a difference.
What Is Pima Cotton?
Pima cotton is a widely sought-after variety of cotton that can be traced to the Southwestern United States. It is often referred to as Egyptian cotton’s “cousin” and has long fibers that help create a soft fabric that resists pilling. The crop is grown in Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Texas. Outside of the U.S., it’s grown in Australia and Peru.
Long-staple Pima cotton also isn’t as prone to wrinkles as other types of fabric. Pima cotton tends to be crisper compared to the Egyptian variety, but it’s still soft and durable. If you’re looking for bed sheets that are reminiscent of a hotel-style, for example, then you may want to opt for sheets made of extra-long staple Pima.
Sometimes, it’s mixed with the Upland variety, lowering its quality. So, if you’re hoping for a durable fabric that’s affordable but looks luxurious, find bed sheets that are 100 percent Pima rather than a blend of different types of cotton.
This material costs less than Egyptian cotton but still feels smooth and breathable.
Pima vs Supima Cotton
Have you ever wondered what the difference between Pima and Supima cotton is? Well, you might have guessed correctly. Supima cotton is a superior version of Pima cotton only grown in the United States. The Supima name is actually a trademarked name for Pima cotton and is named after the Pima people of southern Arizona.
Supima cotton is the rarest form of cotton one the entire world, even rarer than pure Egyptian cotton, as less than 1% of the total cotton supply falls into this superior Pima category. It is more durable than Pima cotton and incredibly soft.
What Is Egyptian Cotton?
The main difference in comparing Pima vs. Egyptian cotton is grown in each variety. You can safely assume that genuine Egyptian cotton is grown in Upper Egypt along the coast of the Nile River. This area is said to have the most fertile soil, which is why it’s the perfect place to grow high-quality cotton for bath towels and bed textiles.
Egyptian varieties are often referred to as some of the most luxurious materials globally because of their extra-long staple fibers. The longer fibers create a super-strong, absorbent, and soft weave. Because this kind of cotton produces such a high-quality fabric, it’s a popular choice for bed sheets.
Egyptian cotton sheets are known to be matte and super-soft and to only get smoother over time. They’re advertised as the best variety of sheets you could possibly buy on the market and come at a very high price point. To guarantee that you have authentic Egyptian cotton sheets, you’ll want to look for certification from the Cotton Egypt Association.
Some companies simply label their sheets Egyptian cotton when grown within the country, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re of the Gossypium barbadense species of cotton.
You really can’t go wrong with the smooth texture of this type of cotton fiber. While Pima is still of high quality, the softness of Egyptian varieties is noticeably different. This can be attributed to the soil that Egyptian cotton is grown in.
Pima and Egyptian cotton aren’t grown from different species of cotton. In fact, they’re both Gossypium barbadense. But because they’re grown in other parts of the world, the soil, climate, and irrigation significantly affect how they turn out once made into fabric. All growers and farmers plant this crop in warm temperatures to ensure that the seeds can successfully germinate.
In comparing Pima cotton vs. Egyptian cotton, Egyptian cotton from the Nile River valley is the best. That said, Pima cotton carrying that Supima name holds many of the same properties.
Are Egyptian Cotton Sheets Better Than Pima Cotton Sheets?
Egyptian cotton sheets are commonly believed to be the most luxurious cotton bedding globally, even more, luxurious than Pima cotton sheets. This is mainly a result of the extra-long-staple cotton fibers found in Egyptian cotton. The extra-long-staple cotton fibers result in fewer fiber-ends exposed as part of the weave. Sheets with a high number of fiber ends have more friction and therefore are less soft.
Softness & Quality
As we mentioned in the earlier part of this guide, three types of cotton are commonly grown: Upland, Pima, and Egyptian. The former is the most common type, while pure Pima cotton and Egyptian cotton are high-quality cotton plants that only makeup 10 percent of the crop growth.
When it comes to softness and quality, both types of sheets are durable and lightweight. That’s why these two varieties are often sold at a premium price. While comparing Egyptian cotton sheets vs. Pima cotton sheets, you’ll want to check the thread count of each sheet set you’re considering.
If you’ve heard of this term before but never really understood what it meant, the thread count refers to the number of threads per square inch of fabric. Take a look at the weave of a piece of fabric and examine all of the strings. Each thread woven into a square inch goes toward the thread count. The higher the number, the better. This is because the fabric will be a lot denser and more durable.
One warning here: Some nefarious companies will artificially inflate the thread count, so if you find cheaper sheets with a very high thread count approaching 1,000, be skeptical.
Sometimes brand doesn’t matter, but when it comes to thread count, we recommend looking for brands with excellent customer reviews. Boll & Branch and Brooklinen are our favorite brands, but you may also consider Parachute Home if you want a wider variety of colors to choose from.
Differences in Feel
Now, let’s talk about the differences between pure Pima cotton and Egyptian cotton. Pima cotton tends to be crisp and smooth. That’s why it’s often used for both bedsheets and clothing.
Egyptian cotton tends to be silkier in texture, so it’s often used for hand towels and washcloths on top of cotton sheet sets. Both kinds of cotton have long-staple fibers. The length of the fibers contributes to their softness and breathability.
Truthfully, you can’t go wrong with either one. Both have silky fibers that are great for sensitive skin and feel significantly better than Upland varieties. Most people find that Egyptian cotton is usually the softer material of the two.
Two factors determine the price of cotton: quality and accessibility. Upland cotton is inexpensive because it’s widely grown. It makes up 90 percent of cotton grown throughout the globe and doesn’t have the longest staple fibers. Overall, it isn’t as soft.
Meanwhile, authentic Egyptian cotton must be grown in Egypt. Thanks to the rich, fertile soil along the Nile River, this variety has extra-long-staple cotton fibers, which give the fabric a luxurious feel.
Pima cotton falls right in between the two varieties. It’s often more accessible and affordable because it’s grown in several parts of the globe, such as the Southwestern United States, Peru, and Australia. But it still makes for a smooth fabric that’s a lot better than Upland varieties.
Overall, Egyptian varieties are said to be the finest cotton in the world, and that’s why you’ll find that it comes at a significantly higher price point than Pima cotton. It’s entirely up to you to decide whether the higher price tag is worth it.
Both varieties of cotton are easy to wash and maintain. Because the material is so durable, you can simply throw your cotton bed sheets in the wash without worrying about tears or pilling. Just make sure to run them on a warm or cold wash rather than a hot cycle to avoid shrinkage.
The best part is that both of these materials are wrinkle-resistant. That’s why either one is ideal for home textiles, particularly sheet sets. You can choose to hang them up or run them through the dryer. To avoid any damage, you’ll want to tumble dry on a low heat setting.
Egyptian cotton sheets may also need more care to ensure that the material lasts. After drying on low heat, you’ll want to remove your bedding while they’re still a little bit damp. Then, you can iron them, or you can choose to hang them up to dry.
Either way, it’s excellent that both cotton varieties are machine washable. That means it’s easier for you to maintain it without fuss.
Cotton is typically an eco-friendly crop. It’s biodegradable, sustainable, and easy to grow. The downside is that cotton production typically uses copious amounts of water and chemicals such as pesticides.
Thankfully, several methods of cotton farming have changed over the years to ensure sustainability, and organic cotton avoids these pitfalls. A lot of Pima cotton is primarily grown within the U.S., which makes it more earth-friendly in terms of transportation and emissions and regulatory standards.
When a crop is local, it also benefits the cotton farmers and the local economy. Plus, it’s easier to hold companies accountable for sustainable practices when they’re local.
Cotton vs. Alternative Bedding
Regardless, it is fair to note that cotton is often grown primarily in dry climates across the country, in locations such as southern Arizona and even South Carolina. Growing in a dry environment requires more water. While cotton fabrics are better than they used to be, many conscientious consumers have started to consider eucalyptus sheets vs. bamboo sheets as alternatives.
Bamboo was the first widely marketed alternative to standard cotton. In comparing cotton vs. bamboo, the most significant differences are in sourcing. Bamboo is known to grow like weeds without much need for excessive water or pesticides, but even bamboo fabrics have been criticized because they require a chemical extraction process.
Still, bamboo uses less water or insecticides than standard cotton, and our favorite brand is Cozy Earth.
Eucalyptus is the other modern alternative. In comparing cotton vs. eucalyptus lyocell, cotton is more durable, but eucalyptus lyocell wins for sustainability. Eucalyptus is also highly regenerative and uses a less harsh manufacturing and extraction process.
Many high-quality manufacturers use a closed-loop production cycle that reuses water and solvents. Our favorite eucalyptus brands are Buffy and Sheets & Giggles.
Pima Cotton vs. Egyptian Cotton Sheets
When it comes to sustainable cotton farming, organic cotton still uses a lot of water, but it uses less water than non-organic cotton. Pima cotton is both earth-friendly and sustainable if it is grown organically.
Cotton production in Egypt involves using pesticides to kill the Egyptian cotton leafworm. Pima cotton can be grown in fields where pesticides are not necessary. The most sustainable variety of cotton is always the organic option.
If you’re debating between Pima and Egyptian sheets, you’ll find that their differences don’t vary all too much. Pima sheets are crisp and smooth, and they’re affordable. Egyptian bedding will be silky smooth, but they’re also pricey.f
Both types of sheets are breathable, durable, and soft. They’re great for hot sleepers and cold sleepers. The natural fibers can keep you cool in hot weather and keep you warm in cold climates due to the thickness of the weave.
A History of Cotton
Cotton has been grown throughout the world since 6000 BCE to create textiles for clothing. In the 1700s, it grew in popularity after Eli Whitney patented the cotton engine, also referred to as the “cotton gin.” The machine separated seeds from their fibers ten times faster than by hand. And thanks to this innovation, the U.S. cotton crop became a million-dollar market.
The Southern United States quickly became the world’s largest exporter of cotton. In the early 1900s and beyond, the U.S. accounted for more than two-thirds of the world’s cotton. Eventually, cotton production levels reached 7 million tons all over the world.
The benefits of cotton are clear, as it is durable and affordable. Some are starting to look for alternatives, due to cotton farming’s impact on the environment, but cotton will remain an important part of our daily lives.
Best Cotton Sheet Brands
In comparing Egyptian and Pima cotton, consumers sometimes overlook whether or not the cotton is organic, making a big difference.
Still, extra-long-staple cottons, such as Egyptian and Pima Cotton, have a reputation for quality. Durability and softness are the key differences between shorter staple cotton and the long strands associated with Egyptian and Pima cotton.
Brooklinen was established so that the average consumer could afford high-quality sheets often associated with hotel bedding. Brooklinen doesn’t sell Egyptian or Pima cotton sheets, and they don’t even sell organic sheets, but they do sell premium quality sheets at an affordable price.
The Brooklinen team ensures you enjoy all the benefits associated with long-staple cotton without the inflated price tag sometimes related to specific regions. They sell the right sheets at the right price.
For something a little different, you might check out the Brooklinen Heathered Cashmere sheets. The Heathered Cashmere sheets are mostly cotton, but they do have cashmere mixed in as secondary material. This provides an unparalleled level of softness and luxuriousness.
On the other hand, if you are sold on purchasing bedding sourced from near the river Nile, Parachute Home offers products made from Egyptian cottons, as well as a few organic options. At the same time, standard cotton is woven from shorter fibers, the long-staple cotton grown in Egypt results in the yarn’s surface being much less coarse.
The bottom line is that is why people love Egyptian cotton. The resulting fabrics are both long-lasting and soft. We like Parachute home because they have multiple high-quality options, but we also like Parachute Home because the collar profiles are neutral and earthy.
Boll & Branch
Lastly, if you decide that you don’t need one of the fancy regional cottons and prefer organic sheets, Boll & Branch is the brand for you. Its products are a little more pricey than some of the alternatives, such as Brooklinen mentioned above.
That said, not only are the fabrics extremely comfortable, but because they are organic, you can rest assured they had a lower environmental impact. Less water was used in the manufacturing process, and no chemicals were used during farming. You can’t go wrong with Boll & Branch sheets.
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