Mercerised Cotton

Mercerised cotton (also referred to as “pearl” cotton) is produced by a special chemical process that gives cotton fibres a lustrous appearance while strengthening them at the same time. By applying the Mercerisation process to cotton yarn or fabric under tension which causes the fibre to swell, straighten out and become rounder and smoother, a resultant high lustre (a result of the light reflection off the smooth, round surface) is imparted to the fibre. Not only does Mercerisation help the fibre to increase its affinity to dye, but it also improves its resistance to mildew and shrinkage.

Magnified image of a regular cotton fibre compared with one which has undergone mercerisation

How is mercerised cotton made?

Mercerisation is a special chemical treatment that is used to alter the chemical structure of the cotton fibre in order to achieve a lustrous, shiny appearance on the fibre. Mercerized cotton is made by holding cotton yarn or fabric under tension, bathing it in a caustic solution at room temperature, and then neutralizing it with an acid bath. This whole Mercerising process results in the swelling of the cell wall of the cotton fibre, causing increase in the surface area and reflectance, and thus gaining a lustrous appearance on the fibre. As an added bonus, the acid bath ensures that the cotton fibre/yarn accepts dye more readily, making colours more vibrant and long-lasting. It is also found that cotton with long staple fibre lengths, such as Egyptian Cotton, react best to Mercerisation.

Image of two cotton strands – The one which has undergone mercerisation is much stronger and more vibrant in colour.

What is mercerized cotton used for?

Mercerized cotton is commonly used for knitting, embroidery, and other craft projects. It is also often used to make bed linens and other home fabric accessories that are softer to the touch and more pleasing to the eye because mercerising gives fabric a silky smooth, exquisite softness and glossy sheen. What’s more, mercerised cotton has many desirable attributes which are ideal for making clothing: it is much less likely to pill and shrink, and it is also durable, resistant to mildew and it reduces the rate of colour fade. 

In partnership with Cottonil, Sphinx Cotton is proud to be the first to bring Mercerised Cotton clothing to the Australian market. Head over to our online store to get your hands on some of the finest, highest quality Cotton clothing money can buy.