The fuzz around the seeds (known as linter) comprises short cellulose fibres that are used to make felt, stuffing for mattresses, furniture and car seats, compresses, gauze, cotton wool, wicks, yarn for rug-making, etc. Food derivatives can also be extracted (dietary fibre, thickeners, excipients, etc).
There is an international market for linter, by virtue of its many uses. China, Germany, Japan and Israel are currently the main importers.
The hull of the seeds can be burnt to generate energy for oil mills. It can also be used as an animal feed or to make synthetic derivatives for the chemicals industry.
The seed kernel is very rich in oil and protein. But it contains a toxic pigment, gossypol, which is removed by traditional and industrial processes. Pressing the kernels produces excellent edible oil, which can also be used to make soap.
There are now naturally glandless cotton varieties (without the glands that produce gossypol), which are grown on a large scale in some countries.
Cottonseed oil is the sixth most widely consumed oil worldwide. It is high quality, rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids (including vitamin E), and cholesterol-free. However, it is not as good for cooking as the other main oils.
In certain cotton-growing countries (Mali, Chad, Burkina Faso, Togo, etc), it accounts for a major share of edible oil consumption. Some countries export it: the United States and Brazil are the two leading exporters.