The manufacturing of cotton is a time-intensive process that includes many steps. Ginning, spinning and weaving are the major preliminary steps that precede the finishing process. There are six main processes in cotton finishing: singeing, de-sizing, scouring, mercerizing, bleaching and dyeing. However, not all of these processes are used in the production of all types of cotton. The processes used depend upon the type of finished product desired.
Singeing is a finishing process the textile industry uses to burn or singe off unwanted protruding fibers in textile production. This is usually the first finishing step in the production of cotton. In the singeing process most often used, the cotton fabric is exposed to a gas flame to render the fabric smooth to touch and appearance. Intra-red and heat singeing are also used by the textile industry.
De-sizing is the process of removing size material from finished cotton. Size material is used in cotton production to strengthen fibers. De-sizers are synthetic or natural chemicals used to remove de-sizing agents. The process involves saturating the fabric with one of these chemicals to degrade and remove the residual size material.
Scouring is a washing process used in textile production to remove a natural pectin layer and impurities from cotton. In the past, the textile industry used harsh chemical agents that, as a side effect, reduced the volume of cotton during scouring. However, more eco-friendly agents are now available that do not significantly reduce the volume of cotton. Scouring can also remove sizing agents.
Bleaching removes contamination from finished cotton. This process also removes cotton's natural color, rendering it very white. Bleached cotton is suited well in the production of items that filter, polish and absorb. The medical industry is a major consumer of bleached cotton.
Mercerizing is a process used to increase the luster of cotton. Mercerized cotton is often used in cotton crafts and yarns. The process involves exposing cotton under tension, to a caustic soda for about 10 minutes. Varying the amount of time, caustic agent and light to which the cotton is exposed to causes varying degrees of luster.
Dyeing is a process in which the fabric color is changed with a dye. The cotton is brought to a boil in a large vat and is exposed to a chemical agent whose molecules adhere easily to the cotton fabric. Each vat contains a shade of color specific to that vat. It is important to purchase skeins of yarn with the same dye-lot number for each project. Yarn from other dye lots may differ slightly in color, though labeled as the same color.
- Photo Credit Cotton plant -3 image by Alexey Burtsev from Fotolia.com yellow fabric background image by JoLin from Fotolia.com factory image by e1129783 from Fotolia.com Cotton swab image by lefebvre_jonathan from Fotolia.com
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