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What is Ring-Spun Cotton Used in T-Shirts?

Many ask what is ring-spun cotton used in t-shirts we sell.

In short, ring-spun cotton is softer, thinner, and feels more comfortable than classic carded open-end cotton.

T-shirts described as 100% cotton are manufactured from a less refined open-end cotton, offering good value for less expensive tee shirts.

Let us look at these two main variants:

Ring-Spun Cotton

It means that the cotton goes through a spinning process – about the same as wool. This process straightens each fiber.

The cotton arrives in bales, which are mixed, it’s called blending. It then goes through filters to remove particles like leaves, pieces of stems, etc.  Then it goes through carding – aligning every single fiber of the product carded – my Grandma, who was a farmer, carded wool by hand using wooden paddles. Carding is used for any vegetal or animal fibers. As of today, cotton is still carded by hand in many countries – see picture below of a carder in India.

What is Ring-Spun Cotton Used in T-Shirts?

Carding provides a uniform thickness of the fiber (still untwisted) called sliver. The cotton fiber is almost ready for spinning, felting, and inexpensive cloth making.

When fine yarns are needed, combing follows carding. Combing removes short fibers, providing a thread of long fibers all parallel to each other. The combed cotton is already smoother than the carded only one.

Spinning is the significant next step – to make it simple, spinning takes multiple slivers and combines them into one. There are multiple types of spinning: simple, ring, and adhesive-aided ring spinning

As you can imagine, it all depends on the type of cotton, some have mostly short fibers, others have mostly long fibers which is chosen for the ring-spun cotton. 

You might have seen statements such as “organic cotton is softer.” It’s true and not that true. Spun cotton organic or not will be softer than carded cotton – be careful, we saw “organic” cotton mentions about ring-spun traditional cotton t-shirts. Softer doesn’t mean organic, it means a better manufacturing process.

Carded Cotton

Carding is a cheaper process of turning cotton into usable yarn. In this method, cotton fibers held together by a fiber that runs around the slivers, while in ring-spun processed cotton, all of the fibers are aligned in the same direction. 

This process makes the fiber bulky, and much less smooth compared to the spun one.

Carding machines are not that simple as there are five steps to the card: Lickerin, cylinder, flats, offer, and coiler.

The lickerin is covered with coarse teeth; the cylinder, flats, and doffer are composed of thousands of fine wire teeth; the coiler delivers the high quality carded cotton.

Other Cotton Processes

Soft Spun Cotton is a modern way (less expensive) to produce spun cotton yet the result doesn’t provide smoother cotton compare to the ring (wheel) spun version.

Twisted Cotton is a part of the spinning process, ring-spun cotton is definitively twisted.

Air Jet spun Cotton is manufactured in Rieter carding machines and air-jet looms. Most of which deliver open-ended cotton 

Fun cotton facts

Did you know that cotton will stretch only 8 to 10% before breaking and its tensile strength is about 2 pounds (0.9 kilograms)? Remember that that is for one fiber… cotton products at composed of thousand of fibers 🙂 – by the way dry cotton is less resistant than wet cotton.

Did you know that cotton is absorbent, breathable, hypoallergenic, and non-toxic? Remember that printing ink can be toxic and allergenic. We saw t-shirts printed with arsenic-based inks 🙁 

Did you know that cotton is made of cellulose? As are rayon and wood pulp fibers! Cellulose is a naturally occurring molecule. This makes cotton 100% biodegradable – careful, colored, and printed cotton may/will lose the biodegradability unless you chose a 100% biodegradable one but then… the colors fade with washing… I know, lose, lose situation 🙂

Did you know that good quality ring-spun cotton doesn’t shrink? Well, unless like my ex did, boil then heat dry my favorite ACDC T-Shirt 🙁 –  regular wash and dry will not affect the size of your tees or any other good quality ring-spun cotton outfit.

Did you know that cotton dust can cause Byssinosis? A lung disease also called brown lung disease. It’s caused by inhaling cotton, hemp, and flax particles – no worries it affects workers in poorly ventilated with no air filtration factories. 

Hoping this answers the question: “What is Ring-Spun Cotton Used in T-Shirts”

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