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Cotton Clothing: Cotton Blends & Processing Methods (and more) in High Quality Clothes

Updated: Oct 20, 2023

This is the Part 2 of our guides to Cotton Clothing, as part of our High Quality Clothes Shopping Guide Series. You can find Part 1 here - Cotton Clothing: A Practical Guide to Buying High Quality Basics in Singapore

The High Quality Clothes Shopping Guide Series (Part 2):

How to identify High Quality Cotton Blends, Processing Methods, and Why Cotton Certifications Matter

Cotton is one of the most ubiquitous and versatile fabrics used in clothing today. From t-shirts to towels, jeans to dresses, cotton is valued for its natural softness, breathability and durability. However, not all cotton fabrics are created equal when it comes to comfort and longevity.

Lush cotton plant field, symbolizing cotton clothing quality

Here in Singapore’s tropical climate, cotton is a popular choice for its ability to absorb moisture and keep us cool. However, the humidity also means clothes can be susceptible to mould and mildew. Choosing high quality cotton garments is key to ensuring clothing lasts and withstands Singapore’s climate.

This practical guide will arm you with knowledge on how to identify quality cotton clothing. We’ll explore common cotton blends, processing methods, certifications and features that indicate well-made cotton fabrics and garments. Follow these tips to build a versatile cotton wardrobe suited for life in Singapore.

Cotton Blends - Balancing Comfort and Performance

While 100% cotton has its benefits, cotton is often blended with synthetic fibers like polyester to create fabrics with enhanced properties. Some common cotton blends to know:

  • Cotton/Polyester: More wrinkle resistant, durable and quick drying than pure cotton. Polyester increases shape retention.

  • Cotton/Spandex: Provides stretch and flexibility while retaining cotton's breathability. Great for activewear.

  • Cotton/Modal: Modal adds softness, sheen and absorbency. An option for upgraded bed and bath linens.

Blends allow designers to tailor fabrics to specific uses. For t-shirts, a cotton/polyester blend prevents sagging while moderate spandex adds stretch to jeans. Blends with synthetics make cotton fabrics easier to care for. However, blends can also diminish some of cotton’s natural softness. Test fabrics to find optimal blends for comfort and performance.

Understanding Sustainable and Organic Cotton

Cotton is a water-intensive crop and historically relied heavily on pesticides and insecticides. However, methods like organic farming, water conservation and eco-certification programs are improving sustainability.

Organic cotton must meet standards like Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certification. This restricts toxic pesticides and ensures sustainable practices like crop rotation. Choosing organic cotton clothing supports:

  • Improved health for farmers and local communities by reducing chemical exposure

  • Enhanced soil health and biodiversity through avoidance of synthetic fertilizers

  • More sustainable water use, a critical consideration for cotton

Beyond organic, look for certifications like:

  • BCI (Better Cotton Initiative) - Focuses on efficient water use, soil preservation and fair labor practices. Not fully organic but aims to improve environmental impacts.

  • OEKO-TEX - Certifies textiles were rigorously tested for harmful substances and meet safety standards.

Seeking out more sustainably produced cotton helps reduce environmental impacts while promoting ethical labor standards.

Why Choose Fair Trade Cotton?

Fair trade cotton prioritizes fair wages and safe working conditions for the farmers and workers who produce cotton fabric. Numerous small scale cotton farmers face volatile market prices and difficulty accessing trade markets. Fair trade tackles these challenges.

When shopping, look for garments with certifications like:

  • Fair Trade CertifiedTM - Ensures fair pay to farmers, proper working conditions and environmentally sustainable practices.

  • Fairtrade Textile Production - Similarly promotes fair wages and conditions while prohibiting child/forced labor.

By supporting retailers and brands using fair trade cotton, consumers can help:

  • Provide stable prices and access to markets for independent farms

  • Finance community development projects improving infrastructure, education and healthcare

  • Reduce reliance on child labor by enabling school attendance

Seeking out cotton clothes made with fair trade principles makes an impact at the source.

Cotton Processing Methods

Not all cotton is processed the same way. Manufacturing steps like ginning, combing and spinning all affect fabric quality. Here are some key cotton processing terms:

  • Combed Cotton - Fibers are arranged parallel for uniformity, softness and strength. Combed cotton makes premium woven shirts, bed linens and underwear.

  • Ring-Spun - Twisting technique that elongates cotton fibers for added softness and durability. Better resistance to pilling. Used for apparel and household textiles.

  • Open-End Cotton - Quicker spinning method that is more affordable but results in shorter fibers. Found in budget or blended fabrics.

Understanding words like combed, ring-spun and open-end on clothing labels aids comparison. Seeking out combed and ring-spun cotton typically ensures smoother, more consistent and long-lasting results.

What to Look For in High Quality Cotton Clothes

Now that you understand common cotton terms and certifications, here are tangible signs of quality to seek when cotton clothes shopping:

  • Soft Handfeel - Quality cotton feels soft and smooth against skin without irritation. Scratchiness indicates shorter fibers.

  • Color Integrity - Rich, consistent dye with no fading. More porous, lower quality cotton often fails to hold color.

  • Tight Knit - Fine, tight knits without loose threads indicate quality construction. Avoid holes, gaps or unraveling seams.

  • Density and Weight - Better cotton has a more substantial handfeel. Light, flimsy fabrics sacrifice durability.

  • Reinforced Stress Points - Excellent stitching with reinforced seams maintains structural integrity, preventing tearing.

  • Wrinkle Resistance - While wrinkles are common in cotton, better fibers and finishing processes reduce wrinkling and speed recovery.

By examining factors like fiber density, seam strength and dye quality, you can identify well-made cotton clothing built to last.

Care and Maintenance for Longevity

Proper care is crucial to maximize the longevity of cotton clothes:

  • Wash in Cold Water - Hot water can damage, shrink and fade cotton. Use a cold, gentle cycle.

  • Line Dry When Possible - Tumble drying can break down cotton fibers over time. Hang dry items like t-shirts.

  • Follow Included Instructions - Some cotton items require dry clean only or other special care. Adhere to garment labels.

  • Treat Stains Gently - Avoid harsh stain removers. Pretreat with mild detergent for best results.

  • Store Properly - Cotton is prone to damage from humidity and mould. Store in clean, dry conditions.

  • Use Anti-microbial Treatment for Clothes - Disinfecting and sanitizing clothes may not be enough in an environment with mould spores. Try home or professional anti-microbial treatments that last.

With the right care, quality cotton clothes can provide years of comfort and performance.

Find Quality Cotton Clothing in Singapore

Cotton is a wardrobe staple. But not all cottons are made the same. By learning what makes cotton eco-friendly and responsibly sourced, understanding manufacturing terms like ring-spun and combed, and looking for tangible signs of quality construction in potential purchases, consumers in Singapore can build durable cotton wardrobes.

Take your time to examine fibers, certifications and workmanship when shopping to invest in cotton pieces made to last. The result will be everyday essentials ready to withstand Singapore's climate while reflecting your personal style.

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