Following the facts will teach us how cotton is made and processed from seed to factory and beyond.
Polycotton is a great example of how cotton fiber can be blended with other fibers to create fabrics that better suit a need. Cotton fiber is used to make woven, knit, and lace fabrics, as well as lace and other fabrics. In actuality, a lot of different kinds of cotton fabrics are made using cotton as a fiber!
So, how is cotton made? Read on to discover how cotton is made.
How is Cotton Made?
Here is a general, step-by-step explanation of how cotton is produced, from planting to harvesting. The next step is to look at cotton processing, including cotton ginning and quality control.
Cotton is cultivated in more than 80 nations worldwide despite being native to tropical and subtropical areas. India, China, the US, and Brazil are the top four cotton-producing nations in the world. Spring is the typical time to plant cotton. Around its seeds, it develops a boll or protective case.
The fibers that surround these seeds are what eventually become the fabric we know as cotton. The average time it takes for cotton to be ready for harvest is about five months. The boll is currently a ball of fluff. It has a somewhat dandelion-candy-floss-like appearance.
A cotton picker is a type of harvesting machine that can either be used manually or mechanically. Pickers of cotton remove the fibers from the seeds in the bolls and discard the plant. In order to be processed, or “cotton gin,” the harvested cotton is first made into a substantial block known as a module.
The first step in the cotton processing process, once at the plant, is referred to as cotton ginning. The cotton would have had any significant debris removed at the farm, but once it gets to the gin, it goes through a more thorough mechanical cleaning process to get rid of twigs, leaves, burrs, and sticks.
To facilitate further processing, the cotton is then dried. In a device called a hot box, any moisture is removed using hot air. The remainder of the debris is then removed using a combination of screens, saws, and centrifugal force by a number of machines.
Sourcing the Lint
The gin stands to receive the cotton seed via pipes. To separate the seed from the fluff or “lint,” these devices employ a variety of rotating circular saws. In order to transport the lint to the packing station, the saw teeth are made to grab the lint as it is drawn into a flue.
The seeds are left behind because they can’t fit into the same opening. They aren’t thrown away, though. Instead, they might be used to make cooking oil or sold as feed for cattle.
Utilizing a tramper machine, the cotton lint is compressed into bales. When the lint weighs 500 pounds or more, it is pressed into shape after being fed into a box with a bale-like shape. Then it is safely tie-wrapped.
The trade in cotton is very tightly regulated in the US and several other nations that produce cotton. This includes assigning a grade to cotton based on its color, cleanliness, and general quality.
As a result, before each bale is wrapped in plastic and given a unique ID number, a machine with gripper arms collects samples from each one. In order to use the samples in the grading process, the samples are given the corresponding ID numbers.
How is Cotton Picked?
Around the world, cotton is harvested in varying ways. While cotton is currently harvested mechanically in developed nations, it is still harvested manually in less developed nations.
And cotton is picked under the conditions of forced labor (modern slavery) in Xinjiang, China. Unfortunately, forced labor is used to harvest 20% of the cotton grown worldwide.
Machines Used in Picking Cotton
There are two machines used in the harvesting of the cotton plant:
- Cotton Picker: The 1920s saw the creation of the first cotton picker. Amazingly, this device can remove the cotton from the boll while not harming the plant because it has rotating prongs that can remove the cotton from the bolls when it is ready.
- Cotton Stripper: A cotton stripper “strips” the entire cotton boll, including the stalk, and is extremely wasteful because many of the bolls are picked before they are fully mature and then thrown away.
Picking Cotton by Hand
Cotton picking by hand is a laborious and painful process. Cotton pickers may spend several months picking cotton because the cotton bolls can ripen at different times.
In Uzbekistan, the cotton harvest is ‘picked courtesy of the forced labor of the country’s children and young adults’ (Lucy Siegle) for two months in the autumn.
During these harvesting seasons, schools are closed and kids are made to work long days to meet strict daily quotas. Even though they are allegedly “paid” for their labor, the reality is more akin to child slavery when fines are imposed for failing to meet unreasonable quotas.
Summary: How is Cotton Made?
Cotton is made through a straightforward process that is neither time-consuming nor difficult. Cotton fiber must first be harvested, after which a yarn must be spun before the fabric can be created.
You are now aware of the factory-based methods used to produce cotton. As a result, you now know how cotton is made, whether you’re wearing it, sitting on it, or hanging it in the fluffy form in your bathroom. You cannot cover your eyes with cotton wool.
When and How is Cotton Produced?
Cotton is planted from March to June and harvested from August to December. Texas is the top-producing state in the United States, accounting for about 40% of national production. cotton production in recent years. Georgia, Mississippi, and Arkansas are among the states that produce the most cotton.
How is Cotton Made Today?
The fibers and seeds of cotton are separated at gins after it has been harvested, compressed, and shipped. The fibers are collected in bales, bought by mills, and spun into thread. Cotton that has been spun into thread is either exported or sent to U.S. textile mills for production.
Why is Cotton Not Sustainable?
Runoff of pesticides, fertilizers, and minerals from cotton fields contaminates rivers, lakes, wetlands, and underground aquifers. By being immediately toxic or by accumulating over time, these pollutants have an adverse effect on biodiversity.