Cotton is not a new term to most people. It generally makes up most of your clothes in your closet and this owes to its quality properties. There is a however another competitor in the market called hemp. The common question is, hemp vs cotton, which one is the best? You will appreciate that cotton is cheap, readily available, and very comfortable as well. Among the good points about cotton include the fact that it can be incorporated into a wide range of products. Manufacturers love cotton owing to its obvious advantages. All the same, there is a darker side to this fabric. To be precise, environmentalists are getting concerned about the role that cotton plays in the demise of the planet. If you were not aware, growing cotton can take up several resources.
With all these claims and worries, is there a better and practical alternative for that? Hemp it is. Hemp proponents claim that that the plant could help in solving the different environmental issues. The sad thing about this plant is that its benefits have actually gone unnoticed for so many generations. After the 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp across the US, it could be high time we rethink our fashion. In this post, we shall have an in-depth look at the debate about hemp vs. cotton. This will help you to determine whether a complete switch to hemp can be beneficial and practical.
An Overview on Hemp and Cotton
Hemp basically refers to different varieties of cannabis grown for commercial and industrial purposes. These include clothing as well as healthy foods. Other cannabis varieties have the psychoactive compound called THC. It is the active ingredient found in marijuana. All the same, industrial hemp contains few THC trace amounts. This, therefore, means that one will not get high after smoking hemp.
For people who do not know the hemp plant, it is tall and thin and grows between 5 and 15 feet in terms of height. Hemp is common in China, Europe, North Korea, and South America. You however need to note that the US prohibits the growth of hemp is not legal in all states. Hemp usage dates back to 8,000 BC especially in China and the Middle East. Its fibers were used for ropes, textiles as well as fishnets. Its oil was used for cosmetics and the seeds used for food.
Hemp has also been used in producing quality papers for a very long period of time now. Nowadays, hemp fibers are easily woven in clothing, shoes, curtains, carpets, and tarpaulins. The seeds are still being used for healthy foods, paint, soap, creams, edible oils, and other products. You will be amazed to know that how many hemp products there are.
Cotton has so many uses among them fiber, feed as well as a food crop. It is native to tropical and subtropical regions all over the world. Additionally, it is used in manufacturing different products including apparel, tents, towels, and others. Cotton is similarly used in cooking oil as well as a salad dressing. You will also find its meal and hulls in feed for poultry, fish, and livestock. Just like hemp, cotton is a versatile plant. Currently, the world’s largest producer of cotton in China. India falls in second place while the US falls in third place. Here, cotton is normally grown in 17 different states and especially the south. Texas has been regarded as the leading state in cotton production. Owing to its simple availability, cotton is less expensive as compared to hemp. When it comes to the hemp vs cotton price, we can conclude that hemp is a bit pricey.
Hemp vs Cotton: A Brief History about Them
In order to get a better understanding of the debate around hemp vs. cotton, it is good to understand the hemp vs cotton history. If you weren’t aware, the two have a longstanding place in the history of humans. Hemp is an ancient plant. Hemp has been around for several millenniums. It grows everywhere on the planet and for that reason, the ancient civilizations easily realized its key uses. Hemp is a hardy and sturdy plant with its stalks being thick and fibrous. It is for this reason, why the plant is used for construction. Apart from that, is seeds are very nutritious. With that, most modern people are using these hemp seeds in the paleo diet as well as other nutrition plans.
Experts have estimated that the hemp plant has been in use since 8,000 B.C., therefore, means that it has been in existence before humans started cultivating the plant. Apart from that, it was long before the technology was invented that was needed to make clothes. All the same, hemp remained with humanity after which it began being used in various ways.
Hemp vs Cotton: The Difference Between Them
Let’s not jump to a conclusion without weighing the facts. Let’s focus on the significant differences in them:
- Water Usage
When looking at the debate of hemp vs cotton. Water usage is one aspect that makes the difference between the two. In this case, cotton happens to be a big loser as far as water is concerned. It requires around 50% more water every season compared to hemp. The good thing about hemp is that it can grow with just a little irrigation. Additionally, cotton appears to be grown in areas where water is very scarce. Hemp is a very strong and reliable plant that will only require a short time to grow. You will learn that hemp produces more fiber compared to cotton under the same land amount. In this case, hemp takes a very early lead.
Another comparison between hemp vs cotton regards its softness. Is hemp softer than cotton or is it the other way round? We all agree that cotton is very soft but the cotton fibers will break easily with time. The more you wash it, the more it tends to break down. On the other hand, hemp fibers are more durable and get soft with time as opposed to breaking down like cotton. As opposed to cotton, hemp will hold its strength when it is wet. It also prides itself on the anti-bacterial properties. Even though it does not begin off soft, it gets soft over time and cannot, therefore, be regarded as uncomfortable. When thinking about hemp vs cotton fabric, go for hemp since you will never regret it.
In terms of durability, you can already guess that hemp is durable as compared to cotton. As we have mentioned, cotton is soft and will break down with time. Even though these two materials are biodegradable, hemp is stronger and more durable compared to cotton. Owing to its hardness, hemp is preferred for making upholstery, bags, carpets, belts, and bags. Apart from that, hemp is an antibacterial material that grows easily and retains heat more.
- Versatility of Use
As an estimate, hemp has more than 20,000 various ways of use. Among these uses are paper making, fabrics, textiles, body care products as well as building materials. Hemp takes around 90 days to degrade biologically which makes it better than plastic. What qualifies hemp for building is self-insulation, waterproof and fireproof properties among others. Cotton is also versatile and it is therefore used in different ways. For instance, it is used in making jeans, T-shirts, socks and other clothes. Cotton is also used in the production of goods like curtains, banknotes, bandages, cotton buds as well as x-rays.
- Pros and Cons
Here, we shall have a closer look at cotton vs hemp pros and cons;
|Rich historical use||It is not legal all over the world||This is a natural plant||Requires 5.5 o 6.5 months to generate fiber|
|It is totally biodegradable||This industry is relatively small||Breathable material||It is not friendly to the environment|
|Saves trees from deforestation||It doesn’t irritate the skin||Decays during prolonged use|
|Destroys weeds naturally||It is biodegradable||Expensive production|
|Source of protein, fatty, and amino acids||A soft and flexible material||Huge water amounts for irrigation|
|1 kg fiber needs 2300 liters of water||It has a wide range of uses||Breeds with chemicals|
|Requires little to no chemical additives for growth||This is a huge industry making huge profits||Too much land needed for growth|
|Ideal for industrial and medical purposes||Poses real impacts on human health|
|Grows in every continent apart from Antarctica|
|It is environmentally friendly|
|Requires only 2 months to grow|
Why Hemp is Better Than Cotton? Is It True?
Clearly, hemp has so many advantages compared to cotton, particularly concerning the environment. You can easily see that hemp’s list of pros has outweighed its cons. This, therefore, suggests that hemp is to a large extent more beneficial in comparison with cotton. We however advise you not to jump to the conclusion that your closet needs hemp. As opposed to that, you are supposed to make your choice slowly and with surety. Currently, you will easily get different brands selling hemp/cotton blends. These prove to be more economical compared to pure hemp clothing. Additionally, combining the benefits of both cotton and hemp, the end products have so many advantages.
The top three reasons why hemp might be better than cotton include;
- Hemp production is efficient compared to cotton production
- Hemp will not wear as fast as cotton
- Less water is needed to grow hemp compared to cotton
The Bottom Line
It is true that both hemp and cotton have so much in common. These two have been in use by humanity for so many years especially in the textile industry. All the same, there are very clear reasons why hemp is still better than cotton. At the very least, it is easy to cultivate and remains friendly to the environment. Additionally, the fabric is more durable and will also get softer as time goes by. In terms of color retention, hemp will retain its color better than cotton. As of now, cotton remains to be the king, especially in the textile industry. All the same, we look forward to seeing more garments made from hemp in the near future. With the increasing hemp usage all over the globe, there is a chance that you will shop more sustainably.
Walter was not an engineer even from the first day he stepped at the University of California in Los Angeles. He only had to fulfill his Father's wish to pursue civil engineering. He graduated in 2015, and he started practicing as a writer. His passion was thriving in the hemp industry following the controversies and myths about the plant. Walter E. Russo later embarks on a full-time job in a hemp website, and he now delivers informative content on everything you should know about hemp. His in-depth research and elaborate skills have earned him a reputation as a trusted writer. He enjoys watching football during his leisure hours.