Due to the increasing use of synthetic fibres, the proportion of cotton in terms of all fibres used in the textile industry is declining. In 1900, cotton made up about 80% of all fibres. By 2003, this had fallen to about 35%. Nevertheless cotton remains an important fibre and it is used to make a wide variety of products.
The bulk of cotton fibre worldwide is used in the garment industry. Many cosmetic and medical items such as tampons, wads, swabs and bandages are made from cotton. The latter are commonly made of short cotton fibres (so called combers ), a by-product of the ginning and spinning process.
Other cotton products include bed linen and cloths, furniture, tablecloths, curtains, toys such as dolls and stuffed animals, yarns for knitting and crochet, seats for cars, trains and airplanes, tents, awnings, fishing nets, ropes, and explosives.
Many centuries ago, the first Chinese paper was made of cotton lint and still today, several types of paper are commonly produced from the most important natural fibre in the world: coffee filters, blotting paper, book covers and a type of paper that we use on an everyday basis - money.
About 60% of the harvested weight of cotton consists of cotton seeds, which are usually processed for oil extraction. Cotton oil is used for cooking, as an ingredient in the food industry (e.g. margarine), as a base for cosmetic products, and as fuel. Residues from oil extraction (oil cake) are rich in protein and can be fed to cattle.