Sustainable Material Spotlight: Organic Cotton

Soft, strong and sustainable, organic cotton is a clear winner for your next interior design project.
Beige blanket on the double bed in stylish wabi sabi bedroom of minimal style house, real photo with copy space on the empty wal

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These days, you can find organic products everywhere. When it comes to fabric, “organic” refers to the way the material was farmed. And organic cotton is one of the most sustainable textiles on the market. That’s an important note for today’s clients, of which more than 50% are interested in sustainability, according to NAR data.

“We prefer using organic cotton in our design projects because it is grown without the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers,” says Brooke Lang, owner of Brooke Lang Design in Chicago. “Organic cotton farmers also use water conservation techniques to reduce the amount of water required.”

Organic Cotton 101

You might not be able to feel the difference between cotton and organic cotton bedsheets—and in some ways, that’s the point. All cotton comes from the cotton plant. This natural fiber grows from cotton shrubs in soft, fluffy clumps called “bolls.”

Organic cotton is grown without the use of pesticides and artificial fertilizers, according to Soil Association, a British nonprofit. On top of that, organic cotton farms tend to use less water than conventional farms. Going organic with fibers and textiles is an easy way to make a home more sustainable.

Ultimately, says Lang, organic cotton is grown using materials and methods that have a lower impact on the environment than traditional cotton. “It’s a great option for clients who desire more sustainable or environmentally-friendly design practices weaved into their space,” she adds.

Organic Cotton Trends in Home Design

When it comes to home textiles, cotton is a true workhorse. As a natural fiber, cotton is also soft and easy on sensitive skin. Going organic only makes cotton friendlier to your skin—and the earth. Here are a few ways to use organic cotton in interior design projects:

Organic Cotton Bedding

The bedroom is one of the most obvious places for organic cotton. Sheets, duvet covers and pillowcases are all available in countless solid hues, prints and patterns.

“Organic cotton bedding is softer and free from harmful chemicals,” says Lang.

According to The Sleep Foundation, the ideal thread count for organic pima cotton sheets is 200 to 400, while organic Egyptian cotton is most comfortable and durable between a 300 and 400 thread count.

Organic Cotton Curtains

Cotton is an easy fabric to dye. That makes it easy to find organic curtains in various styles, patterns and colors, says Lang. Cotton is strong but soft, which gives even heavy curtains a natural drape. Lang also chooses it for its washability.

Organic Cotton Upholstery

Homeowners with children and pets often appreciate the simplicity of organic cotton upholstery.

“When we search for a durable and easy to clean material for upholstery, we often select organic cotton as an option,” says Lang.

A sofa or recliner covered in organic cotton may not seem design-forward. But the beauty of cotton is that it is a natural fiber that can be spun into a variety of weaves. Common cotton weaves include twill, flannel, percale and sateen.

Organic Cotton Rugs

Don’t forget the floors!

“Organic cotton rugs in a living space bring in a soft, eco-friendly texture to the floors,” says Lang.

A few recommendations:

  • Grund for organic cotton bath rugs
  • Revival for washable, flatweave organic cotton rugs
  • Fhygge for minimalist organic cotton and wool rugs
  • Loomy for organic cotton rugs that are biodegradable at the end of the product’s lifecycle
  • Hook & Loom for cream-colored organic cotton rugs made with no dyes or adhesives
  • Under the Nile for zero-waste organic cotton rugs made from clothing industry remnant

While many organic cotton rugs are washable, some require special care due to dye or fragile weaves.

Finding Organic Cotton Resources and Retailers

Organic cotton is an easy choice if you or a client want to prioritize sustainable textile materials in an upcoming room renovation or interior design project.

Just as Energy Star certification indicates that an appliance is energy efficient, Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certification demonstrates that a textile has been made with organic raw materials and without hazardous chemicals. There are 35 GOTS-approved home textile suppliers in the United States. Lang frequently looks to Coyuchi, Boll & Branch and Pottery Barn for client projects that need ready-made organic cotton home goods.

“Search online for companies that specialize in sustainable and eco-friendly products,” she says. “Look for products that have Organic Cotton certifications and meet the strict environmental criteria.”