Cotton is a material you probably come into contact with several times a day. Bed linens and towels are usually made of cotton, and many of the garments in your closet might be too. Cotton is a natural fabric made from cotton plant seedpods, and it is grown all over the world. Combed cotton comes from the same plant, but it undergoes an additional step during manufacturing to make it softer, stronger and smoother than regular cotton.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
Combed cotton is a softer version of regular cotton, made by treating the cotton fibers before they are spun into yarn. Because combed cotton requires more work and results in a higher quality, tougher fabric, it is usually more expensive than regular cotton.
Making Cotton Wool or Thread
Cotton is harvested from the plant, cleaned to get rid of dirt and seeds, and then carded to separate the fibers and arrange them in roughly the same direction. The cotton is then split into slivers, coils of raw cotton spun into wool or thread. Fine brushes remove any residual impurities and short cotton fibers to make combed cotton. Only long, straight fibers remain. The slivers of combed cotton are then spun into thread.
Cotton vs. Combed Cotton
Combed cotton is softer than regular cotton because it doesn't have any impurities or short protruding threads, and it is stronger than regular cotton because the combing process removes short fibers, which are prone to breakage. After combing, the straightened fibers join together more tightly, leading to less fraying and unraveling. These benefits plus the additional work required during the manufacturing process makes combed cotton more expensive and luxurious than regular cotton.
Fine knitted and woven fabrics used for high-quality home textiles, garments, blouses, shirts and T-shirts are often made of combed cotton.
Caring for Combed Cotton
The care instructions for combed cotton are usually the same as for regular cotton. In general, you can wash and dry cotton at any temperature, but it's a good idea to give your combed cotton garments, bed linens and towels a little extra care. To prolong the life of dyed combed cotton and knits, wash items at lukewarm temperatures with mild detergents. Use the cool-down cycle of the tumble dryer 10 minutes before the end of the drying process to allow combed cotton fibers to relax. Wash new combed cotton bed linens and towels before use to make them softer and more comfortable.
About the Author
Claire is a writer and editor with 18 years' experience. She writes about science and health for a range of digital publications, including Reader's Digest, HealthCentral, Vice and Zocdoc.