Skip to Content

Pima Cotton Vs Egyptian Cotton: What is the Difference?

I love the feel of high-quality cotton, don’t you? Pima cotton and Egyptian cotton are two of the world’s finest forms of cotton. They are so similar, it’s hard to tell them apart. So when it comes to the choice between Pima cotton vs Egyptian cotton, what is the difference?

The main difference between Pima Cotton vs. Egyptian Cotton is where they are grown. Egyptian cotton benefits from Egypt’s fertile soil and the waters of the Nile. Pima Cotton is grown in the warm, dry regions of the United States of America. Although both are high quality, Pima is less expensive than Egyptian cotton.

With little to choose between them, how can you pick the best one for your needs? This article will look at Pima cotton vs Egyptian cotton. So you can identify the differences between the two.

Pima Cotton vs. Egyptian Cotton

Pima Cotton vs. Egyptian Cotton: Key Points

The difference between Pima cotton vs. Egyptian cotton isn’t as easy to identify as you might think. They are derived from the same genus of extra-long staple fibers and have many of the same characteristics. Although their similarities outnumber their differences, they are two separate fabrics and there is a variation between the two.

Gossypium Barbadense is the species of cotton that provides the fibers for Pima and Egyptian cotton. It’s the extra-long fibers that help create the super-soft feel of the two kinds of cotton. Having said that, while Egyptian cotton normally has a sateen weave and is silky to the touch, Pima can sometimes be crispier, with more of a matte finish.

Of course, the main difference is the location where the two kinds of cotton are grown. Egyptian cotton originates from the hot, sultry climate found in the valley of the River Nile. Whereas Pima cotton hails from the dry, southern regions of the USA. Think California, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona.

Regardless of the weave and area of manufacture, both cottons are well known for their high quality, luxuriant feel, and incredible durability. Let’s take a look at the properties of each to see if there is a clear winner between Pima cotton vs Egyptian cotton.

 Pima CottonEgyptian Cotton
AffordabilityVery affordableExpensive
BreathabilityExcellentExcellent
CareMachine washable unless the label says otherwise.
Warm or cold wash only to avoid shrinkage
Dry on a low heat setting or air dry
Machine washable unless the label says otherwise.
Warm or cold wash only to prevent shrinkage
Dry on a low heat setting
and remove while damp, fold and iron or air dry
DurabilityVery durableVery durable
Fiber ContentExtra-long staple fibers
from the
Gossypium Barbadense species of cotton
Extra-long staple fibers
from the
Gossypium Barbadense species of cotton
Location of ManufactureCotton plants are mainly grown in the southwest states of the USA.
It can also be grown in South American countries like Peru
To be authentic Egyptian cotton, the cotton plant must be grown in Egypt
SustainabilityEco-friendlyEco-friendly
TextureCrisp and smoothSilky smooth
UsesBedsheets and clothingBedsheets and towels

What’s Pima Cotton?

What is Pima Cotton

Originally known as American-Egyptian cotton, Pima was first cultivated back in the 1790s through a process of cross-pollination with Egyptian cotton plants. Derived from the same long-staple fibers as Egyptian cotton, Pima has many of the same qualities but less of the hefty price tag.

The fibers within Pima cotton measure between an average of 1.4 – 2-inches, putting them at around half an inch to an inch longer than fibers found in lower quality cotton. This difference gives Pima cotton its exceptional durability, resilience, and longevity. Although the fabric made from Pima is strong and long-lasting, the fibers are delicate. Therefore, harvesting is done by hand to ensure they are not damaged by heavy machinery.

There are two types of Pima cotton. Cotton called Pima can be grown in the USA but can also be grown in some South American countries. Although this cotton is synonymous with the USA, it originates from Peru.

When Pima cotton first came to the United States, it was grown in South Carolina. These days, the cotton is mostly grown in the dry regions of the southwestern USA, including Texas, California, New Mexico, and Arizona. Of all the states linked to cotton, Arizona has had the most impact. Or, more specifically, it’s residents.

The US Department of Agriculture chose Arizona as the location for further development of the USA’s version of Egyptian cotton. Working with Native Americans known as The Pima, the cotton fibers were perfected into the high quality and superior cotton we know today. Pima cotton is named after the people in recognition of their contribution, innovation, and hard work.

As mentioned, technically, Pima can be grown anywhere in the Americas and isn’t restricted to states within the US. To validate and verify Pima cotton as being US grown, a non-profit organization was set up. Known as Supima, their remit is to promote USA-grown Pima cotton and to ensure quality assurance. They also provide authenticity as cotton is grown elsewhere in the world cannot be called Supima.

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Can be grown in locations around the world
  • Durable
  • Luxury, high-quality cotton

Cons

  • Depending on the weave, the fabric can be crisp
  • Cheap compared to Egyptian cotton could make it seem to be of an inferior quality

What’s Egyptian Cotton?

What is Egyptian Cotton

Whereas Pima cotton likes dry, warm climates like those of the southwest United States or South America, Egyptian cotton likes to be warmer. It’s happier in hotter, dryer conditions like those found in the valley of the River Nile in Egypt.

To be true Egyptian cotton, the cotton plant must be grown in Egypt. The downside here, although it has to be grown there, Egyptian cotton doesn’t have to contain the high-quality extra-long staple fibers it’s famous for. It could contain a mix of different, lower-grade fibers.

Cotton production and Egypt have a long history, but it didn’t become known as Egyptian cotton until around 1821. A Frenchman called Monsieur Jumel found some sorry-looking cotton plants in a Cairo garden. He breathed new life into the plant, experimented with different blends, and eventually created the extra-long staple yarn we know today.

Ironically, it was the American Civil War in the 1860s that made the Egyptian brand more popular. The war forced European buyers towards Egyptian cotton to make up for the loss of cotton production in the USA.

Once manufacturers worldwide tried the quality and strength of Egyptian cotton, they were hooked. Leaving the USA in need of new, higher quality cotton to be in with a chance of reclaiming the world market.

As Egyptian cotton became more popular and demand increased, prices soared. It became a brand synonymous with luxury, quality, and durability. The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 further improved world access to cotton and its popularity as a worldwide favorite was sealed.

Known for being a strong and soft fabric, the fibers it contains can be quite delicate. Egyptian cotton is handpicked to make sure the fragile fibers are not damaged during the harvesting process. Keeping the integrity of the fibers ensures only the highest-quality yield goes into the making of the cotton fabric. Creating the exquisite feel and look Egyptian cotton is famous for.

These days Egyptian cotton tends to be used to refer to any cotton grown in Egypt. This includes poor quality cotton lacking many of the superior characteristics inherent to pure Egyptian cotton. In an attempt to counteract the confusion, the Cotton Egypt Association, a non-profit organization was introduced.

Led by the Egyptian Ministry of Industry and Foreign Trade, they monitor and promote the use of Egyptian cotton backed by the Egyptian Cotton trademark. The only cotton that complies with the definition of true Egyptian cotton can carry this badge. Part of the monitoring involves issuing licenses to manufactures of genuine Egyptian cotton.

Pros

  • Can only be called Egyptian cotton if grown in Egypt
  • Strong, soft, and durable
  • Sustainable and eco-friendly
  • All the benefits of cotton fabric with the feel of silk

Cons

  • Not always made from 100% extra-long-staple fiber content
  • Only has to be grown in Egypt to qualify as Egyptian cotton
  • Expensive
  • Not always easy to tell if you’re getting an imitation product

What’s the Difference Between Pima Cotton vs. Egyptian Cotton?

When it comes to Pima cotton vs. Egyptian cotton, the one you go for may have more to do with the price than the characteristics of the fabric. Both kinds of cotton are of the highest quality and incredibly popular.

With high-thread counts creating durable materials, they are hard to beat in both resilience and comfort. The truth is, both cotton types have more in common with each other than they have differences.

To confuse the choice even further, Pima cotton and Egyptian cotton have the same advantages and disadvantages as other types of cotton. They are prone to shrinking, especially on the first wash. Color can bleed out of the fabric during the washing process leading to fading. Wrinkling can also be an issue.

Egyptian cotton and Pima cotton have high thread counts, so they are more resistant to fraying, tearing, and piling than other cotton fabrics. The good news, it’s easier to tell lower-quality cotton from either Egyptian or Pima simply by feeling them. Cheaper cotton fabrics will be coarser to the touch.

Telling the difference between Pima and Egyptian cotton isn’t so easy. Even their age difference doesn’t help. Egyptian cotton may have been around longer, but Pima mimics its characteristics. Choosing between the two a little bit tricky. Let’s take a look at some of the properties in detail to see if one stands out over the other.

Breathability

Being natural fibers, they are both breathable and can absorb moisture—essential traits for keeping you cool in hot weather.

One of the main uses of Egyptian and Pima cotton is bedding. Sheets made from either of the high-quality options are extremely good for ensuring a comfortable night’s sleep. Not only can the natural breathability of the fibers keep you cool if the weather takes a turn to the chilly side, but the thickness of the cotton weave can also keep you warm.

Quality of Cotton

Welhome Premium 100% Egyptian Cotton Sheet | 4 Piece Set | Queen Size | Taupe | 300 Thread Count Long Staple Cotton | Deep Pocket Fitted Sheet Fits Mattress Upto 16' | Silky Soft, Cozy & DurableCotton fibers in both Pima cotton and Egyptian cotton are the finest quality in the world. They are both derivatives of the extra-long staple fibers of the Gossypium Barbadense species of cotton. A species that ensures fabric made from its fiber is super soft and luxuriant.

Gossypium Barbadense, pronounced Gossy-pee-um barb-a-den-see, has longer fibers than other cotton species. It’s the extra length that creates the super-soft, high-quality cotton contained in both Pima cotton and Egyptian cotton.

Due to the popularity of both Pima and Egyptian cotton, they both suffer from poor imitations. The cotton market is full of poor-quality materials claiming to be either Pima cotton or Egyptian cotton. Take extra care when purchasing to make sure you get the genuine article.

Always check the garment label. If it says 100% cotton, it’s more likely to be standard cotton. To be Egyptian or Pima cotton, the label should say it is one or the other. Performing a touch test will also help identify whether it’s bona fide or imitation. Both Egyptian cotton and Pima will feel soft with a smooth surface. Another cotton tends to be stiff with a coarser surface.

Another thing to look for is either the Supima label or the Egyptian Cotton label. Any Pima cotton showing the Supima label is guaranteed to be genuine USA-grown Pima. For any Egyptian cotton to carry the Egyptian Cotton trademark, it has to be licensed by the Egyptian Ministry of Industry and Foreign Trade. A license is only awarded to manufacturers proven to be makers of genuine Egyptian cotton.

Durability

When it comes to cotton, the longer the fiber, the more durable the fabric. Pima and Egyptian cotton are made from extra-long staple fibers that are on average about an inch longer than many other cotton fibers.

Although the fibers in Pima cotton are slightly shorter than Egyptian cotton, the difference is minuscule. Both fabrics are still a close match when it comes to durability.

Coupled with a durable weave such as percale, twill, or sateen, the longer fibers help create an elegant, sophisticated fabric with the strength and durability of denim or canvas. With the added advantage of being as soft as silk.

Texture

Bumble Towels Classic Luxury USA Pima Cotton Percale 4 Piece Bed Sheet Set - 100% USA Pima Cotton - Ultra Crisp, Smooth Finish Plush Sheets (Queen, Sky Blue)There is a slight difference between Egyptian cotton and Pima cotton when it comes to texture. Pima cotton contains fibers that are slightly shorter than Egyptian cotton. This can make Pima feel less silky to the touch.

Pima also tends to be woven into different weaves. While Egyptian cotton and a sateen weave are often seen together, a favorite for Pima is a percale weave. This difference can create more of a crisp feel to Pima cotton.

Care and Maintenance

Caring for either Egyptian or Pima cotton is similar to cotton fabrics in general. The absolute essential for any cotton is to avoid hot washes. Although cotton can withstand heat, the hot water will cause it to shrink. There may also be some color loss.

You may find that even high-quality cotton like Pima and Egyptian will shrink after the first wash. Even if you use a cooler water temperature. It’s one of the main disadvantages of cotton fabric.

As cotton is a breathable fabric, it’s best to avoid fabric softeners. The chemicals in the softener can clog the pores in the cotton fabric and hinder its ability to absorb moisture, which can lessen its breathability. This is particularly important with Egyptian or Pima cotton. Softeners could interfere with the finish of the fabric, making them less silky and smooth.

Cost

Both Pima cotton and Egyptian cotton are premium fabrics with a price tag to match. You are paying for quality, durability, and the reputation of elegant sophistication. None of which comes cheap.

Of the two, Egyptian cotton is the most expensive. It’s been around for longer and has the edge of being the better known of the two. Pima is an ideal cheap alternative to Egyptian cotton, having the same levels of quality and style at a fraction of the price. Better still, as it’s so similar to Egyptian cotton, it’s unlikely anyone will know you went for Pima. Keeping your budget and reputation intact.

Uses

Pima and Egyptian cotton can be used for many projects. The applications for both differ slightly. Pima cotton is generally used wherever you see standard cotton. From bedsheets to clothing, including shirts, dresses, and underwear.

Egyptian cotton is mainly used for bedsheets and towels. It’s rare to find dresses or other clothing made out of cotton from Egypt. This is probably due to the high level of luxury the fabric embodies or simply the size of the price tag that goes with it.

Popular Products Made of Pima Cotton vs. Egyptian Cotton

True Luxury 1000-Thread-Count 100% Egyptian Sheets

True Luxury 1000-Thread-Count 100% Egyptian Cotton Bed Sheets, 4-Pc Queen Dark Grey Sheet Set, Single Ply Long-Staple Yarns, Sateen Weave, Fits Mattress Upto 17'' Deep PocketYou know you’re getting high quality when the label on your sheets says 100% Egyptian cotton! This 4-piece bedsheet set is no exception. Made with a luxurious sateen weave, these sheets are the epitome of style, comfort, and authenticity.

Fibers containing 100% long-staple, genuine Egyptian cotton are woven into a 1000-thread count fabric to make these durable sheets. Ideal for those of us who get too warm at night, the sheets are highly breathable and soft to the touch. Pure decadence in bedding.

Pros

  • Made from 100% Egyptian cotton
  • Certified to be sustainable and environmentally friendly.
  • High thread count for increased durability
  • Luxuriant sateen weave

Cons

  • Expensive
  • May shrink if washed in hot water
  • May need a few washes to soften up

Bumble Towels Pima Cotton 4 Piece Bedsheet Set

Bumble Towels Classic Luxury USA Pima Cotton Percale 4 Piece Bed Sheet Set - 100% USA Pima Cotton - Ultra Crisp, Smooth Finish Plush Sheets (Queen, Sky Blue)This 4-piece bedsheet set offers the luxury and comfort of quality cotton at an affordable price. Made from 100% USA-grown Pima cotton woven into a durable percale weave, these sheets will add a touch of elegance to your bedroom.

With a crisp, smooth finish, these sheets will be equally at home in a master bedroom, guest room, or even a child’s bedroom. Oozing with style, comfort, and sophistication, these sheets will bring a touch of classic finesse to your room for years to come.

Pros

  • Affordable alternative to Egyptian cotton
  • Available in a range of colors to suit any décor
  • 100% USA-grown Pima Cotton
  • Durable and cool percale weave

Cons

  • Crisp finish may take time to soften
  • May wrinkle after washing
  • The percale weave may make these sheets less silky-soft than a sateen weave

Which Is Better: Pima or Egyptian Cotton?

Pima and Egyptian cotton are high-quality, luxury fabrics. As Pima cotton comes from the same fiber as Egyptian, it contains many of the same properties. Both Fabrics are durable, soft, and long-lasting. Neither one is better than the other.

Egyptian cotton is exclusive to the River Nile valley. Pima grows in dry, warm climates like those in Peru, New Mexico, Texas, California, and Arizona. The place of origin doesn’t change the characteristics of the fabric. But, it does have an impact on affordability. Egyptian cotton is more expensive.

In a nutshell, price is the only main difference between the two. The one you go for is down to you and your budget. Pima is the go-to budget option for fine, luxuriant sheets. While Egyptian cotton is the more extravagant choice. Let me know in the comments if you have purchased Pima or Egyptian cotton sheets? Which ones did you prefer?