7 Fun Facts About Cotton

Field of cotton in bloom

Adding strength and looking good in everything from dollar bills to blue jeans, cotton is a versatile crop! Cotton has been an essential part of human civilization for thousands of years and continues to be a staple in our lives today. But as often as we use products made from cotton bolls, most people don’t know too many fun facts about the fruit — whoops, spoiler! — so keep reading to discover new nuggets of information. 

1. Cotton is one of the most widely used fibers in the world.

Cotton helps humans make a ton of products, including clothing, bedding, towels and more — some of which may surprise you. In fact, it’s one of the most omnipresent fibers in the world, valued for its softness, durability and breathability.

2. The United States is one of the top cotton-producing countries in the world.

From August 2019 to July 2020, the U.S. made almost 20 million bales of cotton. Globally, we’re the third-largest producer, behind India and China. Texas accounted for nearly 40% of the United States’ total production, making it a hub for this fluffy commodity. Even though we aren’t the top supplier in the nation, Kansas cotton has flourished in recent years, with an 18% increase in acres planted from 2017 to 2021.

3. Cotton has a fascinating history.

Cotton has been grown for thousands of years, with evidence of its cultivation dating back to ancient civilizations in India, China and Egypt. While we don’t know the exact date humans began harvesting the crop, researchers believe cotton was used to make clothing as early as 3000 B.C. 

4. Cotton bolls are technically a fruit.

Because they contain seeds, the white fluffy bolls produced by cotton plants are a fruit! We don’t suggest eating them raw, but the bolls are used to make products we do eat, like cottonseed oil. In fact, many restaurants use cottonseed oil for cooking and making sauces, marinades and dressings.

5. It takes more cotton than you think to produce everyday items. 

You’d need about a pound and a half of cotton to make one pair of jeans. For a skirt, you need to come up with nearly a pound. And on average, it takes 200 to 400 bolls to make that pound — that’s a lot of fluff!

6. Cotton is stronger when it’s wet.

Unlike most textiles, which usually disintegrate, shrivel or weaken when wet, cotton is actually stronger when exposed to liquid than when dry. This unique feature makes it a great option for wet wipes, cosmetic pads and other absorbent items.

7. Cotton comes in colors other than white.

While we imagine cotton bolls and crisp, clean sheets to be sparkling white, cotton can grow in shades of green, brown and other colors we see in nature. Textiles using these earthy hues are being tested but aren’t largely available on the market currently.

Agriculture never ceases to amaze us, and cotton is no exception! Cotton is technically a tree and is a distant cousin to hibiscus and okra (but not cottonwood trees)! We hope you learned something new and will appreciate this versatile, interesting crop the next time you rock your favorite pair of jeans! 

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