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What Is Cotton?

Updated: Sep 15, 2022

Cotton is a soft, fluffy staple fiber that grows in a boll, or protective case, around the seeds of the cotton plants of the genus Gossypium in the mallow family Malvaceae.

The word cotton comes from the Arabic word “quton.” The earliest production of cotton was in India, where the material dates back to the fifth millennium B.C.

Cotton can be grown between latitudes 30° N and 30° S in nearly all tropical and subtropical regions around the world.


The first cotton gin, which is a tool that separates the cotton fluff from the plant seeds, was invented in India in the thirteenth century. The cotton gin made the production of cotton much easier and faster, helping the fiber spread as a widely used textile.


During the Industrial Revolution, with the invention of new technologies like the spinning jenny, spinning frame, and spinning mule, U.S. China, India, Egypt, Turkey became leading cotton producers.


Cotton is used to make several textile products. These include terry-cloth for highly absorbent bath towels and robes; denim for blue jeans; blue work shirts, corduroy, socks, underwear, and most T-shirts are made from cotton.


Cotton is a preferred material for textile as it is hypoallergenic, easy to maintain and non-irritant to the skin.

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