Is Cotton Vegan? (Do Vegans Wear Cotton?)


cotton field

This is a pretty simple question to answer.

Cotton comes from a plant that produces nice fluffy cotton. No animals are intentionally harmed in the harvest of cotton, or manufacturing of material with it, so cotton is one of the best material choices for a vegan.

A Quick Guide to How Cotton is Made

If you’d like to learn more about how cotton actually goes from the field to your clothes, here’s a detailed guide.

But here’s a quick summary of what happens during that process:

  • Mixing and blowing – the plant fiber is unraveled, cleaned (removing other substances in it like leaves), and turned into sheets.
  • Carding – Several spools of cotton are threaded together to create a web, and then rolled once again into a sheet.
  • Drawing & Roving – The sheets are elongated into a yarn.
  • Spinning & Winding – The yarn is further stretched before sent to the weaving process where fabric can be made through weaving.

There’s no reason for using any animal products in any of these steps, which is why cotton is vegan.

Other common clothing materials that are also vegan friendly include:

  • Acrylic
  • Polyester
  • Linen
  • Hemp
  • Nylon

Vegans wear pretty much anything that doesn’t have wool, leather, or fur in it (or feathers in rare cases).

There are close alternatives for all of those non-vegan materials that are cruelty-free. PU leather is a vegan alternative to leather that looks almost identical, and polyester, nylon, and other materials can be used as vegan alternatives to wool socks.

Cotton and Environmental Concerns

cotton plants being watered

While water usage doesn’t affect whether something is vegan, many vegans care about the environment.

The big concern about cotton is the water required to grow it.

It takes 20,000 Liters to produce 1 kg of cotton, that’s about the amount of cotton in a few t-shirts.

It doesn’t always take this much, but most cotton is grown in arid climates like India, which requires extra water.

Still, I think cotton is one of the best overall vegan materials for clothing.

Is ALL Clothing That’s “100% Cotton” Vegan?

The cotton itself is always going to be vegan.

However, it is possible for the piece of clothing to contain other materials that are not vegan (think glue and certain threads).

It’s not likely, but you should be aware of the possibility.

In general, clothing that is 100% cotton will be vegan, but there are exceptions.

About the author

Dale Cudmore

Your friendly neighborhood vegan from Toronto. Chemical engineer turned semi-professional soccer player and freelance nutrition writer. I've been vegan for years and try to make life easier for others by sharing what I've learned.

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