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What is Cotton Linter?

A Comprehensive Guide to Cotton Linter: Its Origin and Applications


When we think of cotton, the first images that spring to mind are usually those fluffy white balls ready for harvesting, destined to become textiles that clothe millions worldwide. However, beyond the well-known cotton fibres lies a lesser-known byproduct of the cotton industry: cotton linters.  

This blog post explores cotton linters in detail, shedding light on what they are, how they’re generated, their extraction process, and their myriad uses across various industries. 

What are Cotton Linters?

Cotton linters are short, fine fibers that remain on the cottonseed after the ginning process has removed the longer staple fibers used in textile manufacturing. These fibers, though too short for spinning into yarn, are far from a waste. Cotton linters are nearly pure cellulose, a versatile and valuable organic compound that forms the structural component of the primary cell wall of green plants. 

Extraction Process

The extraction of cotton linters is a meticulous process that follows the ginning of cotton. Once the longer fibres are separated, the seeds with the remaining linters are processed through specialized machines designed to carefully remove these short fibres without damaging the seed. The linters are then cleaned and prepared for various applications, making every part of the cotton plant valuable. 

Grading of Cotton Linters

Cotton linters are graded based on their fibre length, colour, and purity, which directly impacts their pricing and suitability for various industrial applications. The primary classifications include first-cut, second-cut, and mill-run linters: 

  • First-Cut Cotton Linters: These are the longest and finest fibres, ideal for high-quality applications like pharmaceuticals and speciality papers due to their high cellulose content. 
  • Second-Cut Cotton Linters: Shorter than the first cut, these fibres are used in producing cellulose derivatives for the chemical and food industries. 
  • Mill-Run Cotton Linters: A mix of varying fibre lengths and qualities, suitable for lower-grade cellulose products. 

The grade is influenced by extraction methods, cotton seed type, and processing techniques, with higher purity and whiter linters being more desirable. This grading system ensures that industries can select the appropriate linter quality for their specific needs. 

Applications of Cotton Linters

The purity of cellulose in cotton linters makes them a critical raw material in several industries: 

  • Paper Manufacturing: Cotton linters are used to produce high-quality, durable paper products such as currency notes, archival papers, and speciality filters. 
  • Pharmaceuticals and Cosmetics: The cellulose from linters is used in the production of microcrystalline cellulose, a common binder and filler in pharmaceuticals, and as a base for many cosmetic products. 
  • Food Industry: Cellulose derived from cotton linters is utilized as a food additive, serving as a stabilizer, emulsifier, and thickener in various food products. 
  • Chemical Industry: Cotton linters provide a source of cellulose for making cellulose derivatives, which are used in producing plastics, films, explosives, and other chemical products. 
  • Textiles: In some instances, cotton linters are processed further to create special viscose and rayon, used in producing soft, absorbent, and breathable fabrics. 

Sustainability and Cotton Linters

The use of cotton linters exemplifies the move to zero waste in agriculture, demonstrating the cotton industry’s developments in sustainable practices. By utilizing a byproduct that would otherwise be discarded, the industry adds value to the cotton crop and reduces environmental waste. 


Cotton linters, though overshadowed by the more visible cotton fibres, play a crucial role in various industries, from paper manufacturing to pharmaceuticals. Their versatility and sustainability underscore the importance of maximizing the use of all parts of the cotton plant. As industries continue to seek sustainable raw material sources, cotton linters stand out as an exemplary product of how traditional agriculture can meet modern industrial needs. 

Cotton at TP-Exports

At TP-Exports, we deliver cotton for industrial and consumer demand globally. This includes raw cotton staples, cotton linters, and sustainable by-products, like combers and motes.

With an Agri division built on sustainability and transparency, our industry-focused approach ensures every bale we deliver carriers the assurance of traceability and risk mitigation. We bring resilience to your supply chain and deliver better raw material solutions.

Explore our capacity information to understand further our cotton supply capabilities and what we can deliver for your production requirements. For a quotation or to speak with someone, please refer to our Contact Us page.