Choosing cotton sheets can be difficult when there are many different types of cotton available and when some of those types are so similar. Bedsheets made from both Pima cotton and Egyptian cotton have similar qualities, and both are made from premium cottons known for softness and luxury, but there are a few differences.
Pima cotton is an extra long staple (ELS) cotton grown mainly in the southwestern United States, Peru and Australia. ELS cotton fibres, which are at least 1 3/8 inches, can be woven into softer and more durable fabrics than shorter upland cotton. Egyptian cotton is any cotton that is grown in Egypt, usually along the Nile River, and much of it is ELS, but not all.
All cotton labelled as Pima is ELS, but not all Egyptian cotton is ELS. Egypt does grow some of the finest cotton in the world, but there is no guarantee that sheets labelled Egyptian cotton are made from ELS fibres. Pima is often sold under the brand name Supima, which guarantees that the product is ELS and has met certain standards. Supima cotton sheets are always high quality, while sheets labelled merely Pima may be a blend of Pima and shorter upland cotton.
Thread count in bedsheets is often used to determine quality, but it should not be the only consideration in purchasing bedding, particularly when it comes to Pima cotton and Egyptian cotton. While a higher thread count generally means higher quality, the fibre is more important. A lower thread count Pima cotton sheet can be more durable and luxurious than a high thread count sheet made of lower quality cotton fibres.
Organic bedding is growing in popularity and both Egyptian cotton and Pima cotton are being grown organically by some farmers to satisfy consumer demand. In addition, many products made from organic cotton are either undyed or are coloured using natural, nontoxic dyes, making them a good choice for those with allergies or sensitive skin. There is not much difference in quality or softness between regular and organic sheets.
Because there is often little difference in high quality Egyptian cotton sheets and Pima cotton sheets in terms of softness and durability, purchasing bedding in a retail store where you can feel and test the products can be helpful, especially if you aren't sure what thread count meets your needs. If you are buying online, purchase from a trusted retailer who carries products with clear labelling and descriptions.