Cotton Paper 101

Paper was first made in China in the second century from scrap containing cotton, such as rags and fishing nets. At this time, paper was not commonly used for writing but rather because of the strength of the cotton fiber, was used as wrapping and padding valuables. It wasn’t until the 3rd century that paper became more prominently used for writing. The following post comes from an article by Mohawk Paper all about cotton papers, how they’re made and the types of uses for them in today’s communication mix.

Although hemp and linen fiber were favored when paper mills started to appear in Europe, cotton quickly became a preferred fiber source. This continued until the19th century, when demand for paper, created by the invention of the steam-driven printing press, outstripped the available supply of cotton rags. Mills turned to wood fiber to meet the demand and it soon became the standard. Cotton fiber papers became a high-quality luxury.

The source of fiber used in the production cotton papers is a by-product of cotton refining known as linters. Linters are smooth, shiny fibers that remain attached to cottonseed after ginning. For textile producers, linters are a waste product of their manufacturing process. Because linters are collected and shipped to the mill in bails, the original source of the cotton is unknown.

Cotton fiber can be considered an environmental choice because it is a recovered material from cotton refining, and it reduces the need for virgin fiber thereby taking pressure off of forest resources. Cotton also has less lignin than wood fiber. Lignin is an impure component of the fibers that must be chemically removed prior to papermaking. Therefore it takes less energy and chemicals to process cotton fiber.

Cotton fibers are classified by the EPA as a rapidly renewable fiber. This means that cotton fibers are produced from plants that are harvested within a ten-year, or shorter, cycle.

Because of its archival quality, cotton paper is commonly used for corporate identity programs, legal documents, and college theses. As a mark of quality, cotton paper typically contains a watermark, an unalterable part of the paper that is created when a dandy roll presses the watermark design into the wet sheet during the papermaking process. A watermark in cotton paper will often indicate the amount of cotton in a sheet, whether it be 25% cotton or 100% pure cotton.

Some examples of Cotton papers are Strathmore Writing, Crane’s Crest and Choice, and Classic Cotton. If you’d like to learn more about cotton papers or want to see samples, go to our online sample request form. You can also read more about Mohawk Paper on their blog.

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