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What is the tensile strength of 100% cotton fabric?




One common property of materials such as fabrics is the tensile strength, which represents the maximum amount of tensile (stretching) stress that a material can withstand before failure, that is, before it breaks or fractures.

When discussing the tensile strength of cotton fabric, it's worth noting that it varies considerably based on a number of factors. These can include the type of cotton, the weave of the fabric, the thickness of the threads, the direction of the tension (either warp-wise or weft-wise), the testing process used, and finally, the conditioning of the sample, such as whether it's conducted in a dry or wet state. It is generally agreed that cotton has higher tensile strength when wet.

The literature has various statistics about tensile strength of 100% cotton. As an approximation, it's often noted that cotton thread has a tensile strength in the range of 2870 to 5970 psi (pounds per square inch), which is around 20 to 41 MPa (Megapascals), when dry. Wet cotton can have a tensile strength up to 20% higher. Each fabric, made of individual threads woven together, will have a different tensile strength based on the factors mentioned above.

Let's delve deeper into these factors:

  1. Type of Cotton: There is a variety of cotton types available, from Egyptian cotton, known for its longer fiber (staple) length, to regular upland cotton with shorter staple length. Longer the fiber, the stronger and more durable the cotton tends to be.

  2. Weave of the Fabric: The way the threads are woven together can significantly impact the fabric's tensile strength. Common weaves include plain, twill, and satin. Twill weaves, for example, often offer higher tensile strength than plain weaves as they have a denser structure.

  3. Thread Thickness: Thicker threads tend to have higher tensile strength. This is because they contain more fibers, which increases the strength. However, fabrics with thicker threads may not feel as soft or flexible.

  4. Direction of Tension: Fabrics are made from threads that are woven together in two directions: warp (lengthwise) and weft (across). Depending on the weave, the strength can differ in these two directions. Often, the warp direction tends to have higher tensile strength.

  5. Testing Process: Different methods of testing can yield different results. For instance, the speed at which the fabric is stretched during testing can alter the tensile strength recorded.

  6. Conditioning of the Sample: A key characteristic of cotton is that its strength increases when wet. This is due to the hydrogen bonding between the cellulose molecules in the cotton - when water is added, the hydrogen bonds are reformed, resulting in an increase in strength.

When considering the specific tensile strength of a particular cotton fabric, it is recommended to refer to the information provided by the manufacturer or fabric supplier, as they often have specific values based on their production and processing methods.

Moreover, when looking at fabrics for specific purposes (like heavy-duty clothing or protective equipment), other attributes like the tear strength, abrasion resistance, stretching under tension, elasticity, and how these factors change under different conditions (like washing, wetting, or heat) should also be considered.

In conclusion, the tensile strength of 100% cotton fabric is influenced by numerous factors, making it challenging to provide an exact universal value. Always consider the factors outlined above when evaluating the strength of a particular cotton fabric for a specific application.

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