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Recycled cotton

All you need to know

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The non-profit association Vesti la natura provides several free guides specially created to promote the use of low environmental impact materials among consumers and entrepreneurs

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What is recycled cotton?

Il recycled cotton (or regenerated) could be defined as converting the cotton fabric into fibers that can be reused in nuothere textile products. Recycled cotton belongs to the family of natural fibers.

Recycled cotton is not a concept nuofor the textile and apparel markets, but as manufacturers, brands and retailers begin to assess the environmental impact of their supply chain, interest in recycled cotton is growing rapidly.

The recycling of cotton as of other textile products is generated from two primary sources:

  1. Pre-consumption: includes waste generated from yarns and by-products of fabrics that are discarded at the time of cutting and manufacturing clothing and other textile products;
  2. Post-consumer: includes used clothing, upholstery, towels, home textiles, mattresses and pillows, carpets, car components whose cotton fibers will be reused.

The greatest volume of recycled cotton is produced through pre-consumer waste, even if the amount of textile waste the higher the post-consumer one. This is because it is easier to recycle pre-consumer than post-consumer.

Post-consumer waste is in fact more difficult to recycle due to the different colors involved and the fiber blends that make up the fabric, as well as the toxic substances present.

Recently, thanks to the more widespread concept of “eco-design”, fashion designers tend to develop “zerowaste” production models: clothes and accessories are designed to minimize, or even eliminate, pre-consumer waste.

Despite the efforts of the designers, tons of pre-consumer textile waste are produced every year on a global scale, a negligible figure when compared to post-consumer waste.

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From cotton to recycled cotton

The most of recycled cotton it is recovered through mechanical recycling: fabrics and materials are sorted by color; after sorting, the fabrics pass through a machine that tears the fabric into threads and subsequently transforms them into raw fiber.

It is a coarse process that causes great stress to the fiber, in fact it is not uncommon for the fibers to break and tangle during the tear:

Recycled cotton

The crude fiber is then trimmed into yarn to be reused in other products under the name of recycled cotton.

The quality of the recycled cotton will never have the same qualitative values ​​as the original fiber: in particular, the length of the fiber and the uniformity of the length will suffer, limiting the applications for certain uses.

Keep in mind that there is no fabric 100% recycled cotton, as it is always necessary to mix it with other fibers (usually virgin cotton).

Advantages of recycled cotton

  • Recycled cotton can find nuoit goes to life in various products such as clothing, insulation, rags and padding;
  • The recycling process can redirect many products that would otherwise end up in landfills;
  • The amount of energy, water and dyes used is significantly reduced. The savings are achieved by offsetting the production of nuovi materials, in addition, the common recycled cotton yarns come from textile scraps that are sorted by color, so they are already dyed;
  • The savings on CO2 and fossil fuel emissions are partially offset by using existing materials. However, collection, processing and shipping of cotton or textile waste can reduce or neutralize some of these savings.

The challenges of recycled cotton

  • Recycled cotton must be blended with other fibers to create a nuovo resistant and long-lasting yarn, so it cannot be recycled continuously;
  • The recycled cotton content will depend on the final applications. Any amount of recycled product will have an impact on the properties of the yarn and fabric such as uniformity and strength;
  • Given the difficulty of production, the cost of recycled cotton is generally higher than virgin cotton;
  • The risk of contamination by other fibers is greater for recycled cotton.

Characteristics of Recycled Cotton

Fabric Quality:

The qualities of the fabric may vary based on its blending with other fibers. Example: with Elastan or Lycra you gain in elasticity.

  Does not shrink / discolor
  Quick drying

Ecological Characteristics:

The ecological characteristics of the fabric may vary based on textile certifications or blending with other fabrics.

  Natural - Artificial - Synthetic  
  No GMOs
  Natural raw material
  Recycled raw material
  Mechanical extraction
  Chemical extraction
  Energy saving
  Sustainability class  

Textile Certifications:

The certifications that can be assigned to the fabric, but which vary according to different factors: manufacturing company, fashion brand, blending.

Global Organic Textile Standard
Organic Content Standard
Global Recycle Standard
Second Life Plastic
Animal Free
Fair Wear Foundation

This card can only be found on www.vestilanatura.it

Recycled cotton clothing

By purchasing garments of recycled cotton clothing we make our contribution to safeguarding the environment, limiting the environmental and social impact of intensive cotton cultivation. Furthermore, we encourage the development of the circular economy, which is fundamental for the survival of mankind.

Many fashion brands are starting to offer some pieces or entire collections of recycled cotton clothing.

T-shirts, dresses, pants, sweaters, sweatshirts, jackets. Is possible to buy recycled cotton clothing for men, women and children. It is certainly easier to find it online than in the shops of our cities.

Buy recycled cotton products

A showcase where you can find Sustainable, ethical and cruelty free fashion brands guaranteed by the supervision of our association:

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Consumer interest in recycled cotton

Market research Cotton Incorporated Lifestyle Monitor ™ it shows how consumers are looking for recycled materials, but "recycled" is not necessarily the same as "sustainable" in the minds of the people interviewed.

Research shows that 24% of consumers are willing to pay more for clothing or home textiles labeled as “recycled” and 32% of consumers who intend to buy them look for the “recycled” label on the shelves. However, only 5% of consumers believe that “recycled” equates to “sustainable”. Consumers give more value to products labeled as "100% cotton", "natural" or "environmentally friendly".

Many well-known brands have launched initiatives within their stores. Companies such as H&M, The North Face, Patagonia, and many others encourage customers to bring old garments into the store with the aim of recycling them. Some of these initiatives include consumer benefits, such as coupons or points for future purchases. Patagonia also focuses on the repair of old clothes to extend their life.

In some cases we can say that it is pure greenwashing, since not all these companies are sustainable, but in order not to be too negative we want to consider it as a sort of "commitment".

The conversion to sustainability continues to move towards a greater need to extend the life of garments, promoting what is now defined circular fashion, to the detriment of the “disposable” business model to which we have been accustomed over the last twenty years.

Il recycled cotton has conquered its place in the market for certain uses, but still faces many challenges in the production phase in order to be defined as a valid alternative to standard cotton, while a valid alternative to cotton is undoubtedly the organic cotton.

Other sustainable natural fibers to consider when purchasing clothing are hemp, jute, linen, organic wool , ramia.

Maintenance of ecological fabrics

How do you wash recycled cotton?

The environmental impact of laundry detergents and household cleaners is devastating to our planet, so we highly recommend using ecological detergents.

Recycled cotton is a natural fiber, from which garments and fabrics commonly used in daily life are produced, including sheets, towels, tablecloths and decorative cloths. To wash recycled cotton garments correctly, it is necessary to carefully read the label placed on each garment or fabric, both in the case of washing by hand and in the washing machine.

Machine wash

First we will illustrate the modalWashing in the washing machine, the one that could create more than one problem, if some precautions are not observed.

White cotton items, such as sheets, towels and towels, can be washed in the same cycle if there are no items whose label recommends hand washing.

In modern washing machines, programs dedicated to cotton include a long cycle at 60 degrees and others at 30 or 40, with varying durations, from 30 to 90 minutes. For whites, not very dirty and without stubborn stains, the ideal program is at 40 degrees, using ecological detergent in the quantity indicated on the package, based on the capacity of the washing machine, considering a full load.

The detergent can be both powder and liquid, although the latter, if applied directly into the drum together with the garments, guarantees less wear on the fabric and excellent results. Instead of the softener, pour a little white vinegar into the tray dedicated to the final treatments; the laundry will be fresh, clean and super soft, ready to be folded, worn or ironed.

As for colored garments, it is possible to apply the same rule, with the additional precaution of washing in the same load those garments with stable colors and which have already been washed, without causing loss of pigment and stains that are difficult to manage.


Hand washing of recycled cotton garments involves the use of warm water, with the use of a neutral detergent, specific for hand washing and possibly ecological. If the garments are delicate, it will be sufficient to soak them for a maximum of half an hour, rinsing under cold running water; to avoid wasting a precious resource such as water, it is advisable not to overdo the detergent: in this way, it will be easier to remove it, using the minimum amount of water necessary.

Do you want to wash your clothes while minimizing water pollution?

  1. We have selected one of the most sustainable detergent and detergent brands click here to buy an ecological detergent
  2. You could use a Washing Ball to wash without using detergents click here to buy a washing ball
  3. You could use the nuovissimo Ecoegg, a nice ecological egg with which you can do about 720 washes click here to buy the ecoegg egg


Are you looking for more information on recycled cotton? Ask your questions using the form below.

Ask Your Question!

Our answers:

Where can I buy recycled cotton fabric?

Vesti la natura has created a table with more than 40 sustainable materials, their respective applications in the textile sector, and their suppliers (even for small quantities). To access the table we ask you to donate a small financial contribution to our association. Click here for more information.

Which cotton to choose?

Choosing to buy recycled cotton clothing is certainly a conscious choice, just as conscious is choosing to buy organic cotton. It is less so to buy traditional cotton that does not have textile certifications.

Do I find only recycled cotton clothing?

No, even home textiles, such as sheets, pillows, towels, tablecloths and many other products available online are made from recycled cotton.

Where is recycled cotton thrown away?

Recycled cotton is 100% recyclable and biodegradable and to dispose of it you can use the special recycling bins dedicated to clothing.

Is recycled cotton hypoallergenic?

As there are no scientific tests in this regard, the answer is NO

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