What is the Difference Between Supima and Pima Cotton?

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Most people agree that cotton is a marvelous fabric for use in almost anything, from shirts to sheets. When you shop for high quality cotton items of any kind – including bed linens, you will often keep seeing two terms over and over again: Supima and Pima. Both relate to cotton, which leads to an obvious question. What is the difference between Supima and pima cotton sheets?

There are a number of differences between the two, but the most important thing to understand is that the term Supima is a branding vehicle, it is not a type of cotton. Supima cotton is made up only of pima cotton fibers that have met some exceedingly exacting standards. In fact, the name actually says it all.

Supima = Superior Pima

Confused? We are not surprised. That is why here we are going to take a closer look at pima, Supima and cotton in general to help you understand the issue better, while also making the right cotton buying choices for you.

You’ll love SUPIMA COTTON SHEETS if you:

  • Want 100% American-grown cotton sheets
  • Are a “hot” sleeper and need breathable sheets
  • Want environmentally friendly sheets
  • Want sheets that are softer and lighter.

You’ll love PIMA COTTON SHEETS if you:

  • Want good-quality cotton sheets
  • Want less pilling, wrinkling and fading
  • Soft sheets that are also durable in the wash
  • Have sensitive skin

What is Supima Cotton?

Supima sheets
Stone & Beam

As we mentioned earlier, Supima is NOT a type of cotton plant, it is a brand (of sorts) The brand – and its associated trademarks – belongs to The Supima Association. This special industry association is responsible for grading, regulating, and marketing pima cotton that meets certain specifically exacting standards.

Interestingly, although all US pima is great some experts say that the pima cotton grown in San Joaquin Valley in California is the best of all, thanks to that area’s dry, consistent climate and fertile soil.

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Is Supima better than Egyptian Cotton?

The answer to this question has been causing controversy in the cotton industry for years. Both are excellent cottons and thanks to their long staple nature share similar durability and strength.

There are those that prefer Supima specifically because it makes use only of pima cotton that is cultivated in the US. Others feel that because Supima makes use of only cotton fibers that meet high grading standards the wonderful properties of fabrics created using extra-long staple cottons are enhanced.

It is fair to say however that both Supima and Egyptian cotton are excellent choices for all kinds of uses, but especially bed linens. It is why you will rarely find anything but one of these two choices in fine hotels.

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Is Supima cotton breathable?

Breathable bedding is a must for a great night’s sleep no matter what the season happens to be, and cotton bedding in general is renowned for its breathability. However, because of its high fiber quality and its excellent weave pima is especially light and airy feeling when you sleep under it. When you choose Supima cotton sheets you get the guarantee that the fabric has been woven using the best pima cotton available.

What is the difference between Supima cotton and regular cotton?

Supima cotton has extra long-staple fibers which makes the fiber 45% stronger and significantly softer. Supima also comes fully certified by the Supima® association. Because of this, Supima cotton is also twice the cost of regular cotton sheets.

What is the ideal thread count for Supima cotton sheets?

Most experts – both cotton experts and bedding pros – recommend a thread count of between 400 and 700 as ideal. A higher thread count will result in a softer feel in many cases, but a 400-thread count Supima cotton sheet will still have all that great durability and strength and be noticeably softer than a standard cotton sheet.

How do I care for Supima sheets?

Their high quality aside one of the other reasons that Supima sheets are such a popular choice for hotel use is that they are easy to care for, even when laundered as often as they must be for safe and sanitary hotel use.

Ideally, they should be machine washed on a cool cycle and tumble dried on low heat. You can make use of a good non-chlorine oxygen bleach to help them stay bright and white – or to maintain their color is you opt for colored Supima sheets. Chlorine bleach should not be used on Supima cotton – especially white Supima cotton – as it can lead to premature yellowing.

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Supima cotton sheets pros and cons

Like almost anything – including bedding – Supima sheets have their pros and cons. Here is a quick look at some.


  • Exceptionally durable
  • Incredibly soft
  • Easy to launder
  • Will stay white/bright if washed with oxygen bleach
  • Grown only in America
  • Cool to sleep in


  • One of the more expensive choices in bedding including Egyptian cotton
  • May be harder to find in bricks and mortar bedding stores. Can, however, be found easily online.

What is Pima Cotton?

Soft and smooth pima sheets in a neutral color
Peru Pima

No doubt at some point, maybe at school, you have seen dreamy looking images of fluffy cotton plants growing in a far-off field some place. And although from a distance all cotton plants look fairly similar, they are actually quite different from one another.

Pima cotton is one of a family of cotton plants known as extra-long staple cottons. Another very well-known member of the family is Egyptian cotton.

However, although it originated in Peru, most of the world’s supply of pima cotton is now grown in the US, and it is named after the Pima Indians, a migratory tribe who brought it with them when they arrived in what is now the Southwestern United States. You will now find pima cotton fields dotted across Texas, Arizona, California, and New Mexico.

Extra-long staple cottons are considered superior to other cottons because their fibers are longer. Longer fibers result in a cotton fabric that is softer, stronger, and more durable. Inside each fluffy cotton bud, extra-long staple cotton has individual fibers that measure at least one and three eighths of an inch in length, a measurement that is 50% longer than other cottons.

Peru Pima - 415 Thread Count Percale - 100% Peruvian Pima Cotton - Queen Bed Sheet Set, Ivory

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Pima cotton sheets pros and cons


  • Soft and durable
  • Smoother fabric than other regular cotton
  • Generally good quality and often grown in the USA
  • Cleans easily and doesn’t fade
  • Safe for sensitive skin


  • Not as smooth as Supima cotton
  • May be grown abroad and thus not monitored by 3rd party organizations
  • Some are blended with cheaper cotton

Are Pima and Supima cotton the same? What is the difference?

Supima sheets are crafted from pima cotton.

The difference is in the quality of the fiber and its origin. Some pima sheets on the market make use of cotton grown in Australia or Peru as well as the US. Only the Supima brand mark guarantees that cotton fabrics are crafted using US grown pima cotton.

So, Which is Better, Supima or Pima Cotton Sheets?

By now hopefully you have realized that Supima cotton is a marketing and standards instrument. Pima cotton sheets in general are an excellent bedding choice that is strong, long lasting, easy to care for and will wash easily. The fact that you can tumble dry pima sheets without shrinkage is a big care plus as well.

The choice between pima sheets and Supima branded sheets often comes down to personal preference and budget. If buying US made goods is important to you then the Supima label guarantees you that you are. It also serves as an assurance that the fibers used to weave the fabric were some of the best available.

The Supima mark is a very prestigious one in fabric industry so the association simply does not allow inferior fibers to make the cut. That being said, pima cotton itself is an excellent choice, simply perhaps because of the cotton’s natural properties that are then transferred to the fabric created. So, if you find that pima sheets without the Supima brand mark are a better fit for your budget or are more readily available then you can still be assured you will be buying great sheets.

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