what is absorbent cotton


Absorbent cotton
How to say absorbent cotton in different language?
German: Watte
English: absorbent cotton wadding
French: Ouate
Scientific: Gossypium hirsutum

Product description

Absorbent cotton is obtained from degreased and bleached short, very loose, soft cotton fibers or viscose staple fiber. The fibrous material is in part broken down to the individual fibers, which naturally adhere together.

Absorbent cotton for medical dressings consists of nonwoven fleeces of fine, roughly parallel, knot-free cotton fibers, up to 3 cm in length, made from spinning mill waste (comber waste). It is sterile and is therefore suitable for use in dressings.

Quality / Duration of storage

Do not accept for loading absorbent cotton which is wet, damp, contaminated or discolored.

Subject to compliance with the appropriate temperature and humidity/moisture conditions, duration of storage is not a limiting factor as regards transport and storage life.

Intended use

Absorbent cotton is used to produce dressing material, padding for items of clothing, quilts etc..


(Click on the individual Figures to enlarge them.)

Figure 1
Countries of origin

This Table shows only a selection of the most important countries of origin and should not be thought of as exhaustive.
Europe: Bulgaria, Spain, Russia, Turkey
Africa: Egypt, Ivory Coast, Mali, Burkina Faso, South Africa, Sudan, Chad, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Algeria, Uganda
Asia: Burma, India, Pakistan, China, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Iran
America: El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, USA, Honduras, Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela

Absorbent cotton is transported in bales, which are strapped with metal strapping and wrapped in jute fabric.
Marking of packages

Keep dry

Use no hooks

Keep away from heat
(solar radiation)



Spontaneously combustible,
Class 4.2 IMDG Code

Fire hazard
(Flammable solids),
Class 4.1 IMDG Code

General cargo

Means of transport

Ship, truck, railroad

Container transport

Standard containers , subject to compliance with water content of goods, packaging and flooring.

Cargo handling

In damp weather (rain, snow), the cargo must be protected from moisture, since absorbent cotton is strongly hygroscopic and readily absorbs moisture. This may lead to discoloration, decay, mold, mildew stains and rot. In addition, the absorbent cotton may swell by absorbing water vapor, resulting in an increase in volume of 40 - 45%.

Do not use hooks for cargo handling, since they may lead to sparking when they come into contact with metal objects.

In addition, smoking is absolutely prohibited during cargo handling.

Stowage factor :7.31 m3/t (bales)
Stowage space requirements: dry

Segregation:Fiber rope, thin fiber nets

Cargo securing

The cargo is to be secured in such a way that the bales or strapping are not damaged. Undamaged strapping is essential to maintain compression of the bales during transport. If the strapping is broken, compression is diminished, which at the same time results in an increased supply of oxygen to the inside of the bales. This in turn increases the risk of combustion or feeds a fire which has already started. Bursting or chafing of metal straps may lead to sparking and external ignition.

Risk factors and loss prevention

RF Temperature

Absorbent cotton requires particular temperature, humidity/moisture and possibly ventilation conditions (SC VI) (storage climate conditions).

Favorable travel temperature range: no lower limit - 30°C

RF Humidity/Moisture

Absorbent cotton requires particular temperature, humidity/moisture and possibly ventilation conditions (SC VI) (storage climate conditions).
Designation Humidity/water content Source
Relative humidity 65% [1]
Water content 7.85 - 8.5% [1]
Maximum equilibrium moisture content
70% [1]

Being strongly hygroscopic (hygroscopicity), absorbent cotton readily absorbs all types of moisture. It must be protected from sea, rain and condensation water and also from high levels of relative humidity, if decay, discoloration, mold, mildew stains and rot are to be avoided.

In addition, the absorbent cotton may swell by absorbing water vapor, resulting in an increase in volume of 40 - 45%.

RF Ventilation

Absorbent cotton requires particular temperature, humidity/moisture and possibly ventilation conditions (SC VI) (storage climate conditions).

If the product is loaded for shipment in a dry state, it does not have any particular ventilation requirements.

Problems arise if the product, packaging and/or ceiling/flooring are too damp. In this case, the following ventilation measures should be implemented:

air exchange rate: 6 changes/hour (airing)

RF Biotic activity

Absorbent cotton displays 3rd order biotic activity.

It belongs to the class of goods in which respiration processes are suspended, but in which biochemical, microbial and other decomposition processes still proceed.

RF Gases

The increase in CO2 and CO content indicates a cargo fire. The TLV of the hold air is 0.49 vol.%. As a result of the oxygen-rich lumen, bales often burn for weeks without being discovered. The high absorption capacity of the fibers means that the gaseous combustion products are soaked up by the cotton fibers and the smoke alarm is often triggered too late.

RF Self-heating / Spontaneous combustion

Absorbent cotton is assigned to Class 4.1 of the IMDG Code (Flammable solids). However, its specific characteristics and negative external influences (see below) may cause it to behave like a substance from Class 4.2 (Substances liable to spontaneous combustion) of the IMDG Code or ADR.

Absorbent cotton is liable to catch fire through external ignition. Therefore, it must always be protected from sparks, fire, naked lights and lit cigarettes. Smoking is absolutely prohibited. Sparks may arise from bursting or chafing of the metal straps (and also as a result of inadequate cargo securing in the hold or container) and cause a cargo fire. In accordance with the IMDG Code, ventilation openings leading into the hold should be provided with spark-proof wire cloth.

Contamination with oils/fats may result in cargo fires.

Fire-fighting is best performed using CO2 . It is very difficult to extinguish a fire because of the excess of oxygen in the cotton fiber, which maintains the fire from the inside. When fighting a fire, do not break the metal straps or open the bales, since relieving the compression increases the oxygen supply and makes it impossible to fight the fire effectively.

Water must not be used for fire-fighting, since the swelling capacity of the absorbent cotton may cause damage to the hold or container walls.

RF Odor
Active behavior Absorbent cotton is neutral in odor.
Passive behavior Absorbent cotton is sensitive to all types of odor tainting.

RF Contamination
Active behavior Absorbent cotton does not cause contamination
Passive behavior Absorbent cotton is sensitive to contamination by dust (coal, cement, dyes etc.), dirt, fats/oils and rust as well as oil-containing goods, such as oil-bearing seeds/fruits, copra, raw wool etc., since oil-impregnated fibers promote self-heating/cargo fire. Holds or containers must accordingly be clean and in a thoroughly hygienic condition. Rust contamination may be caused by rusty metal straps, among other things.

RF Mechanical influences

Absorbent cotton is sensitive to mechanical influences. Snapping, chafing and breaking of the steel strapping result in tearing of wrappings, losses of volume and contamination.

RF Toxicity / Hazards to health

No risk.

RF Shrinkage/Shortage

Unclearly marked bales may result in losses of volume due to incorrect delivery.

RF Insect infestation / Diseases

No risk.