What is Combed Cotton?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Combed cotton is an extremely soft version of cotton made by specially treating the cotton fibers before they are spun into yarn. As a general rule, combed cotton is slightly more expensive than conventional cotton. The extremely soft, strong material is ideal for making bed linens and clothing which will be worn against the skin. If the textile used in a cotton product is combed cotton, it will usually be clearly identified.

Cotton bed sheets made of combed cotton.
Cotton bed sheets made of combed cotton.

To make conventional cotton wool or thread, the cotton is harvested, cleaned to remove dirt and seeds, and then carded. Carding separates the fibers and roughly lines them up, so that they all lie in the same direction. The cotton is divided into slivers, hanks of raw cotton which are spun into thread or wool. When cotton is combed, fine brushes are used to pull out any remaining impurities, along with short cotton fibers. Approximately 15% of the volume is removed, leaving behind only long, straight fibers which are even and aligned. The slivers of combed cotton are then spun into thread.

Cotton bolls on a branch.
Cotton bolls on a branch.

The texture of combed cotton is softer because it lacks short threads to stick out and prickle, and all dirt and impurities have been removed from the thread. Combed cotton is also stronger, because shorter and breakable fibers have been removed through combing. In addition, the straightened fibers lie together more tightly after combing, making combed cotton thread less likely to fray and unravel. Because the combing process removes volume and adds an extra step, the resulting textile will be slightly more costly.

A field of cotton.
A field of cotton.

Many companies prefer to use combed cotton for clothing and bed linens because of the softness and tensile strength. Cotton which has not undergone the combing step tends to be more rough, and it will be more subject to fraying, pilling, and tearing. Combed cotton will, of course, ultimately break down, just like regular cotton. It is an excellent choice for garments intended to be worn by babies and the elderly, since it is gentle against the skin.

Summer shirts are often made from cotton.
Summer shirts are often made from cotton.

Care directions for combed cotton are much like those for conventional cotton. As a general rule, it can be washed and dried at any temperature. However, dyed combed cotton may bleed if it is washed on high heat, and knits are subject to shrinkage. The use of lukewarm temperatures and mild detergents will prolong the life of the fabric. The specific care label on a product should always be followed, in case the cotton has been mixed with another type of fiber, or it has been specially treated.

Combed cotton is very gentle, making it ideal for use by the elderly, or those with sensitive skin.
Combed cotton is very gentle, making it ideal for use by the elderly, or those with sensitive skin.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


Hi Anon, I may be wrong but this is my understanding...

Your first question about the terms i.e. 30s and Dia 26. 30s is the count of cotton, which means in 1 pound of cotton we have 30 hanks of cotton (pound being weight of cotton and hank being length of cotton) and remember higher the count, better the fineness of yarn/fabric, i.e. 40s will be better then 30s and 50s will be better then 40s. Highest that I have heard is 200s which must be priceless, huh?

Dia 26 I think means breadth of the fabric. When you say you need 10 meters fabric but diameter is the breadth. For example, if the breadth is 24 inches or 2 feet or 60 cms, then your fabric dimensions will be 10 meters by .6 meters.

Now for the second question.

Combing is a process to produce better quality yarn or thread and knitting is a process where threads are knitted together to make a fabric.

Knitting has many types and I guess you are referring to flat knits which has very visible knits.

Even T-shirts and leggings are made from knitted fabrics, so I guess what you need is better quality of fabric i.e. cotton in your case.

34s - 40s ELS (extra long staple) cotton is an average quality cotton

50s ELS cotton is a medium quality cotton

60s and above ELS cotton is good quality cotton.

People use more than 100s ELS cotton as a premium apparel offering, and who knows to what extent it might further go?

I hope this helped.

You can see videos online for every process.


Can any one please explain to me, what are the different types of weaves that 100 percent cotton towels are woven into? and which is better?


I would like to know whether combed yarn fabrics and carded yarn fabrics show any difference in shrinkage after processing? If so, why?


Is there any limitation between yarn count and combed cotton? It means if we supposed to weave thick cotton fabric, can we use combed cotton thread with higher value in yarn count? Like 1/35 or 1/40? Having your guidance would be highly appreciated.


How can i find combed cotton in a print? like flowers or damask?


I want to know what does the below rating of cotton single jersey means.

30s, gsm 150, dia 26."

i know gsm is the weight grams per square meter, but i am confused about the other two. Any help will be appreciated.


hi anon: combed cotton and knits are two diff categories which cannot be compared. combing is the treatment giving to cotton fibers and the result is termed as combed cotton fibers. than these fibers are spun into yarns. after that they can be either "woven" or "knitted".

knit fabric or woven fabric are different types of fabric construction methods. if you want a cool fabric, go for "cotton and polyester blend fabrics". these are coll as well as durable.


Is combed cotton different than a knit? I want a fabric that is cool and knits are not cool.

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