In recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in luxury and fine living. One of the simplest ways to experience upscale living is to upgrade your bedding, towels and bath robes to Egyptian cotton. But, before you invest in expensive linens, there are some facts you should know.
What is Egyptian Cotton?
Egyptian cotton is a species of the cotton plant family that is cultivated in the Nile Valley in Egypt. The area surrounding Giza has the ideal climate for growing cotton plants with very fine, extra-long fibers, also known as staples. Egyptian cotton is classified as ELS, Extra-Long Staple. Pima cotton, which is native to the American Southwest, is also ELS cotton. Egypt supplies roughly 55% of ELS cotton to the world. Because of the long fiber length, ELS cotton can be spun into very fine yarn that is soft and luxurious as well as very strong, durable and super absorbent.
Egyptian cotton is hand-picked by local growers and it is combed to preserve the integrity of the fiber. Hand picking, as opposed to large-scale mechanical picking, does not add extra stress to the cotton fibers, but leaves them straight and intact.
When you’re selecting Egyptian cotton linens and bedding, be sure to look for pure cotton products, which are more expensive than products manufactured with mixed fibers. The Egyptian government created a logo that is used to distinguish 100% Egyptian cotton products from other cottons. The logo consists of a white cotton plant inside a dark triangle. Always choose Egyptian cotton products with this official seal of authenticity.
What is Thread Count?
Another indicator of the quality of cotton bedding is thread count. Thread count is the measure of the number of fiber strands in one square inch of fabric, measured both lengthwise and widthwise. In a broad sense, the higher the thread count, the better the quality. However, buyer beware; some marketing advertisements will overstate the thread count by counting individual threads in multiple ply strands. This practice makes it more difficult for consumers to use thread count as a comparison factor to evaluate one manufacturer’s product against another’s. But thread count is still a valuable measurement when used with other deciding factors, such as fabric purity.
By definition, luxury linens begin with a thread count of 300. If you like cooler, lighter sheets then shop in the 300 to 600 range. Higher thread counts on sheets means that the fibers of cotton are woven closer together. It also means that the sheets are both softer and more durable than the lower thread count sheets.
Weave: percale vs. sateen
Weaving is the method of material production where threads crisscross over each other to form the fabric. The weave of the fabric will determine the level of softness, crispness, breathability and durability.
Percale is a tight basket weave in which the fabric is woven one thread over one thread. Percale weave produces a strong and durable fabric, but limits the achievable thread count to 400. Percale sheets are breathable and have a crisp feel that will soften with repeated washings
Sateen is a weave designed to reflect light, giving sheets a glossy, satiny feel. Threads are woven four over one, so that most of the threads are on the surface of the fabric. Using this method, higher thread counts can be achieved. If you’re looking for the ultimate in bedding softness, opt for a sateen weave.
How do I care for my Egyptian cotton linens?
Egyptian cotton sheets are easy to care for. Simply wash them separately or with like colors in cold water using a mild laundry detergent on the gentle cycle. Do not use bleach, chlorine or phosphates, since these products can damage the cotton fibers. Tumble dry on low heat, or hang to dry. You may find your Egyptian cotton linens a little stiff at first, but the more you wash them the softer they will become. A warm iron may help soften the feel as well.
100% Egyptian cotton bed sheets provide year-round comfort. They are cool in the summer and hold a layer of warm air under the covers during cold weather. Egyptian cotton is also unparalleled in its ability to absorb moisture. This quality makes very absorbent products like bath towels and bath robes, which are also very soft.