How to Care for Pima, Supima, and Egyptian Cotton

caring for pima supima egytian cotton

Luxury is fleeting to most, but those that obtain it never want to look back. It’s a completely different world than general or casual environments. Whenever you obtain luxury, you don’t want to give it up—most people won’t. If you’re comfortable enough to live in the lap of luxury, it’s more likely that you’ll stay there. Luxury vehicles, clothes, houses, even your bed sheets can be luxurious.

However, even though these things may be luxurious, the effort it takes to keep them that way is also more intensive. It’s one of the reasons that it costs so much—upkeep is almost as expensive. Whether it is necessary tune-ups on a vehicle or taking your bed sheets to the dry cleaners, it always requires a bit of extra love and care. Otherwise, your luxurious items may not be so luxurious after a while, including your ELS bed sheets.

What are ELS bed sheets?pima cotton sheets

The short answer to this question is “extra-long staple”. This represents the cotton that the material is made out of. Extra-long staple cotton is a special species of cotton plant called gossypium barbadense. It is cultivated to have long staple fibers, which is what gives this cotton its luxurious, high-quality feel. The staples are longer than 34 mm (1 3/8”), which is the norm for most regular cotton products.

There are three main types of ELS cottons that can be made into bed sheets and clothing. The same care rules apply to each, but they are somewhat different from each other. The main difference is location in which they’re grown, but there are other differences:

  • Pima Cotton

Many chains and retailers use this as a generic term for “high-quality” cotton. It is ELS cotton grown in the USA, but isn’t produced by many chains themselves. It is easy to put “pima cotton” on a tag to the point that it may not even be Pima, so you have to be careful when buying Pima. For more information on it, we have an extensive guide specifically on Pima cotton.

  • Supima Cotton

This ELS cotton is verified by the Supima brand. Any piece of material that has Supima on it is guaranteed Pima cotton in the USA. It will always been ELS cotton with no worries of buying cheaper or even fake Pima. They are sourced through a licensed supply chain and have specific brands that they work with. The Supima Association makes the call on Supima cotton.

  • Egyptian Cotton

This type of cotton is mainly from where the name comes from—Egypt. Egyptian cotton, if sold by another outlet, is most likely imported and may cost a bit more. Unfortunately, this is also easy to fake, considering only 5% is necessary to actually be considered “Egyptian cotton”. If you’re looking for the best Egyptian cotton sheets, it’ll need to be made from the Giza 45 strains. If you manage to get some, they will be some of the best sheets you could ever hope for.

Is it difficult to take care of ELS cotton?what is egyptian cotton

As said above, ELS cotton is considered a luxury. You’ll have to have a big budget to drape your bed in these sheets. However, if you do get some, then the answer is a resounding “yes”.

Pima, Supima, and Egyptian cotton all need special care to keep from pilling, shrinking, or being stained by outside sources. Accidents can happen, so it’s a good idea to read up on special methods to care for your high quality cotton.

Realistically, cleaning your sheets every three or four weeks in a normal thing for any material, but ELS cotton needs more attention. Washing these sheets, or even taking them to the dry cleaner, is necessary every two weeks.

Can you bleach ELS cotton?

It is highly recommended that you do not use bleach on materials like ELS cotton. Whether it's Pima, Supima, or Egyptian cotton, this chemical can damage threads and fibers much more quickly than any other detergent. There are plenty of other alternatives when it comes to bleach, so it is a good idea to stay away from it.

Because bleach is so harsh, it's dangerous to use on any high quality material—even silk. The more gentle the detergent, the better off your luxury bed sheets will be. Look for detergents that have whitening aspects, just without bleach or Clorox. Even if the sheets are white, stay away from bleach!

Does ELS cotton shrink?

Like its lower-quality brethren, Pima, Supima, and Egyptian cotton can all easily shrink. It can be difficult to stretch them back out and it can ruin them by doing this, so be sure to treat them with gentle care. In the molecules of cotton, there is energy. When washed in heated water and dried with heat, the threads expand and then contract further than normal.

These two machines can do more harm than good when it comes to ELS cotton or any cotton at all. There are multiple ways to prevent shrinkage in any sort of environment, however.

Gentle Settings

With any luxury garment or special material, it’s almost a necessity to put your washer and dryer on the gentlest setting. Whether it’s silk, Pima, or Egyptian cotton, gentle settings will bring them a long way.

Most washer and dryers have these settings now-a-days, so don’t be afraid to use them. This setting will ensure the longevity of your garments.

Cold Water

This is the other main thing to remember when cleaning your bed sheets and cotton garments: never use hot water! This is the leading cause of shrinking cotton materials, causing them to contract after drying in the dryer.

The key here is to use cold water and a no-heat dry when cleaning your bed sheets. This, combined with the gentle tumble, will cause the cleaning times to extend, but it will be worth it in the long run. It will keep your bed sheets like new for years to come and will feel almost like new each time you wash them.

Air Drying

One of the safest bets to increase the longevity of your luxury bed sheets is to go back to the old style of no machine at all. After you wash your sheets in the washing machine or by hand washing them, don’t be afraid to throw them over a clothes line to let the air dry them. Not only will this keep your sheets in a healthy state of luxury, it will also give your sheets a crisp, breezy scent of outside.

Unshrinking Cotton

If you’ve faced bed sheet or even shirt shrinking, then it might seem like a lost cause and your sheets are ruined. Thankfully, there are quite a few ways to get your high-quality cotton back to its original shape and size.


This liquid is one of the best things for sheets, as it can remove stains as well. Adding about a cup of vinegar in with your wash cycle can work your cotton threads to expand back to their original size. Remember, using cold water is the key to keep them from shrinking, but will also assist in getting them back to normal.


While one of the ingredients to shiny, healthy hair, this can also do the same for the threads of cotton material. It will keep them from clinging tightly to each other and help expand the cotton back to its original form. Adding about half a cup of conditioner to your wash load will do wonders for your high-quality materials. This can also help you soften new sheets.

Stains in ELS Cottonegyptian cotton bleach

It’s a little more frightening whenever we stain some high-quality cotton. Whether it’s ink, blood, other bodily fluids, or even grass stains of some sort, they can ruin any material. Egyptian, Pima, and Supima are all subject to getting stains on them, but there are ways to get them out.

  • Don’t panic!

The worst thing that you can do when it comes to stains is to panic and immediately start scrubbing at the spot. Never press into the stain or scrub at it, as it can get deeper into the material and even smear around. This will make it even harder to get out, but it’s on the right track. You must act immediately, but in the proper way.

  • Dab gently.

Before you do anything else, get as much of it up as you can. Gently dab the liquid with a moist paper towel or rag and try to get as much of it up as you can. The sooner you do it, the less chance it has to stain. The longer it sets, the more difficult it is to get up. Keep it moist until you get a stain remover set up.

  • Use a cleaning agent.

Cleaning agents are plentiful when it comes to getting up stains, including: vinegar, baking soda, and even salt. Be sure to dilute these cleaning agents with water and continue to dab it with one of these mixtures. Half-and-half is a good ratio to combine them with water. After cleaning it with these, be sure to put it through the wash once more. There is also OxiClean, which is a great way to get stains out.

  • Bring it to a professional.

If the stain remains, there might not be much more that you can do. The best method of action here is to simply take your bed sheets or other cotton items to a professional cleaner. They will have professional-grade cleaning agents that can get most stains out of any material, so there’s nothing wrong with bringing these items to them.

Pilling Cotton

With some materials, pilling can be a real drag and it makes the material look worn and used. With use, some ELS cotton can start gathering small balls of cotton that can become hardened and uncomfortable. We have an entire guide here to assist with pilling sheets, so if you have those small, fuzzy balls that are driving you crazy, check it out here.

Storing ELS Cotton

There may come a time where you need to store your high-quality cotton sheets for a while, whether you’re going for a different type of bed sheet, moving, or someone has left to go to college. There are many reasons, but there are specific ways to store cotton, whether high-quality cotton or not.

  • Since it is a natural fiber, cotton sheets must be stored in a ventilated area and not sealed off.
  • If you’re storing them in a chest-of-drawers or closet, make sure that the outsides are lined with acid-free shelf paper, a quilt, or some other non-sticky covering (i.e. wallpaper, cabinet liner, etc.) Adhesive can attract insects.
  • Always make sure to give your cotton bed sheets a wash before storing them. Ample amounts of bacteria that pile on bed sheets can often increase mold growth or other bacterial growth. This can also attract insects.
  • If you have colored sheets, make sure they’re kept in a dark area. Light fades colors over time, so the darker the area is, the better.
  • There are special chemical desiccants you can buy to fend off moisture and mold. Make sure these desiccants are not stored directly on the sheets, as they can ruin the materials.
  • Make sure the sheets are folded nicely—even the fitted sheet. For better explanation on how to do this, check out our guide here.

In Conclusion

These caring tips can be applied to all three ELS cotton types: Egyptian, Pima, and Supima. All of these rules fit among each other, so don’t be afraid if you have something else. Any cotton can be taken care of in these ways, so if you’re unsure, refer to this guide. Never be afraid to take your garments to a professional cleaner, however. They’ll know a lot better than anyone else when it comes to cleaning these materials.

Luxury can cost a pretty penny, so be sure to keep your possessions at the top of their game. Even though they can sometimes be fragile, high-quality cotton is durable if you treat it like it should be treated. The best Egyptian cotton can last for years, so there’s nothing wrong with picking up some! Some people exclusively use professional cleaners so they don’t have to worry about damaging their material, but if it works for you, then do it!