Mercerized vs. Unmercerized Cotton

by Calais Watkins May 31, 2018

Mercerized vs. Unmercerized Cotton

When it comes to cotton yarns, there are two flavors you need to be aware of. Mercerized and Unmercerized. Where should you land on the question of mercerized vs. unmercerized cotton? The answer depends on what you want to do with the finished product. Before you can make the right decision on this crucial matter, maybe it would help to actually know what exactly the difference is, and why you should care.

Mercerized Yarn

Mercerized yarn has been treated with a quick dip in a bath of sodium hydroxide, followed by a dip in acid to stop the process. John Mercer, an English textiles pioneer came up with the Mercerization or “Pearle” process in 1844. Mercerization works by changing the chemical and physical properties of the fabric at the molecular level. The process improves the yarns ability to take dye, strength, resistance to mildew, and mold.

Unmercerized Yarn

To make unmercerized yarns, you simply spin the fabric into yarn and then leave it alone. In their natural state, cotton fibers are short. When you spin the fibers into yarn, you end up with a soft, fuzzy yarn that feels good against the skin.

What Difference Does It Make?

Are you still unclear about mercerized vs. unmercerized cotton? How about a practical example? Very few textile articles are more practical than a towel. 

Cotton yarns have a soft, supple feeling. When you make fabric from these yarns, you end up with a soft, absorbent product that absorbs water readily, but can easily become saturated. Unmercerized yarns only get softer with age. Unfortunately, this also means that they tend to wear out quickly because they have not undergone the strengthening process.

When a towel is made from a mercerized fabric, there are a few tradeoffs to make. These towels retain their beauty for a long time. As far as practicality goes, a mercerized towel can get you through an entire sink filled with dishes without becoming saturated. When you wash these fabrics, their condition changes very little. You can expect towels and other articles made from mercerized yarn to retain their color and strength for a very long time.

Now that you know the difference, the question of mercerized vs. unmercerized cotton remains. Which one is right for your next project? That depends on what you want out of your end product. Do you want a soft product that feels good against your skin? A natural, unmercerized yarn is the right choice. Keep in mind that an article made from this yarn will wear and fade more quickly than its treated counterpart. Do you want to end up with a durable product that will keep its color, shape, and strength for the long term? A mercerized yarn is definitely the best choice.

Do you want to know more about the different types of yarn? The staff at your local yarn shop is your best resource.



Calais Watkins
Calais Watkins

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