100 Percent Cotton

Most of us demand 100% cotton in the clothes we buy, especially for us guys.  Nothing provides the comfort and feel of a cotton shirt or pant. Anytime plastic fibers, like polyester are introduced to the blend it diminishes the comfort level and value of the garment for me.   The same goes for a textile mill when buying a bale of cotton; they want and expect 100% cotton without plastic or other contaminants. Contaminants can end up in yarn and fabric products, resulting in defective fabrics and significant costs to textile manufacturers.

Keeping plastics out is not always an easy task because plastics are an integral part of our production system.  Plastic irrigation pipe, plastic ditch liners, plastic tie-downs, as well as module covers and wraps are all involved in the production system and can inadvertently get into the module and into the gin.  In many cases, plastic shopping bags are blown into the field and can be picked up by the harvester.  As we all would agree, the best time to remove plastic is in large pieces and not once it has been shredded by gin equipment.

Keeping plastics and other fiber contaminants out of the bale requires diligence and commitment.  Education of employees working in the field and gin is critical.  Some recommended practices to prevent lint contamination can be found on the NCC website: http://www.cotton.org/tech/quality/prevent-lint.cfm .  These include:

Remove plastic irrigation pipes, irrigation ditch liners and foreign materials from fields before harvest. 

Inspect, repair or discard worn or frayed module covers.


Use cotton cord or rope, never use plastic twine for securing module tarps.


Remove module covers and tie-down materials completely before ginning.

 First signs of plastic entering the gin can be seen wrapped around the module feeder rolls. As the plastic entangles around the drum, small pieces are frayed and enter the cotton stream. If the plastic makes it through the over head cleaning and enters the gin stand, it is further reduced in size making it more difficult to remove.

 Remember to train employees to be observant and take the opportunity to safely remove plastic when the gin is shut down. Remind them that contaminants of any kind can not only reduce the value of the bale but harm the reputation of the gin and the US. cotton industry, as a whole.  One of the positive attributes of US cotton is it that it is free of contaminants, as compared to other production regions.  Let’s do our best to keep it that way.


Thomas D. Valco, PhD, USDA Cotton Technology Transfer, Stoneville, MS. thomas.valco@ars.usda.gov or call (662) 686-5255.  Additional information can be found at:  http://msa.ars.usda.gov/gintech .  8/12