In this study, cotton cellulose was cross-linked with 1,2,3,4-butanetetracarboxylic acid (BTCA) via esterification to improve anti-pilling, wrinkle recovery and flame retardant properties of the fabric. Cross-linking was conducted in the presence of sodium hypophosphite (SHP) as an effective catalyst for anhydride formation. Fourier transform infrared (FT-IR) spectroscopy was used to investigate the structure of the cotton fabric cross-linked with BTCA. Water absorption, air permeability, bursting strength, and whiteness change in the fabrics treated with BTCA were also studied. The results indicated that the BTCA treatment could act as a multi-functional finishing agent to improve antipilling, crease resistance and flame retardant properties of the cotton fabric. However, it caused a decrease in the bursting strength, air permeability and whiteness of the fabric.