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The comparison between linen and cotton sheets

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Linen vs cotton sheets: which one to choose?

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Are there differences between linen vs. cotton sheets? Aren't they the same? 

Not only are they not, but they have differences that could determine whether you get a good night’s sleep. 

Feel, price, and durability all come into play when choosing what natural fibers to favor for your bed sheets. 

Check out some of the similarities and differences between linen and cotton sheets. Your mattress specialists at Polysleep tell you more below. 

What are cotton bed sheets?

Cotton flowers placed on a bed sheet

Cotton sheets are created from the fibers of the cotton plant. They have always been popular because of the quick access to cotton. 

Cotton sheets are known for durability because you can take multiple fibers of the yarn and weave them together. 

The different types of cotton 

Egyptian

Is it cotton grown in Egypt or actual Egyptian fabric cotton? That is something you definitely want to check as they’ll have two separate qualities. 

The actual Egyptian cotton you’re looking for is extremely soft and durable, handpicked, and has more threads per square inch

Make sure you check your label to make sure you’re getting the type of “Egyptian cotton” you desire.

Pima cotton has similar properties to Egyptian cotton but is specifically American.

It consists of extra-long fibers weaved into silky soft fabric.

To ensure you’re getting accurate Pima, make sure you check your tags.

Supima cotton is an American grown, rarely used cotton. Those who use it love it for its strength, softness, and ability to retain color.

Though often confused for linen, Percale is in fact a cotton. It’s ultra-breathable and extremely comfortable to wear, though very prone to wrinkles.

This super luxurious fabric not only gives the feel of silk but is also shimmery. It resists wrinkles and is considered “fine bedding”.

When you think of flannel, you may think of warmth. That is accurate. 

While often made of cotton, it can also have wool or synthetic fibers that are used in warm weather clothes, blankets, or sheets.

Pros of cotton sheets

  • Strength: Cotton sheets are strong because of the interweaving of the fibers. Linked together, they can provide you with long-lasting sheets with durability. Their interwoven fabrics stay strong approximately 3-5 years.
  • Softness: The cotton makes these sheets soft, even after you wash them numerous times. 
  • Great for coolness: Cotton sheets are known for being able to keep you cool. Because of the softness, it’ll assist in keeping people who get hot while sleeping, cool and comfortable. Additionally, with the way the fabric is interwoven, cotton sheets can absorb up to 25% of their weight, which is helpful when you sweat. These sheets also change well with seasons so a sheet will keep you cool in the summer and add warmth with a blanket in the winter

Cons of cotton sheets

  • Breakdown of threads: While 3-5 years sounds great, it’s actually a shorter lifespan than other sheets. Because they’re so soft, the threads tend to break down faster than other materials. 
  • Drying: Cotton sheets take longer to dry (say after washing them or sweating) because they do not have a good moisture-wicking ability. 

Learn more: Bed sheets size guide  

What are linen bed sheets?

A little boy strolling through a field of flax flowers

Linen sheets are extremely popular bed sheets that vary in thread count and the structure of the interwoven fabrics.

The fibers come from the flax plant, which is harvested, dried and run through a threshing machine to remove seeds and wood. 

The machines then turn it into yarn which is turned into the fabric you know and love. 

Also, they tend to be thicker than cotton and are considered more durable. They’re known to smooth out and be soft to the skin. The more washing you do, the softer they get

Pros of linen bed sheets

  • Breathable: While cotton is known to cool you down, linen is even cooler. Because of how long and wide the fibers are, linen is extremely light and breathable, perfect for keeping you cool.
  • Better for your health: Not only are linen fabrics hypoallergenic, but they also actually have properties that minimize germs and allergens which is great if you suffer from allergies. If that was not enough, linen has anti-static properties which are great for those with sensitive skin.
  • Better for the environment: Flax is a natural plant, and biodegradable. Additionally, flax is a renewable resource. Not only is it good for you, it’s good for the environment.
  • Cooling properties: Like cotton, linen is known to be cooling. It absorbs moisture which helps keep you cool if you get night sweats. With its breathability, it won’t trap heat to make you hot.
  • Durability: Linens have been known to last an extremely long time. One designer even stated that linens are passed down from generation to generation like heirlooms. Additionally, because of how long they last, they’re the fabric most used in hotels and motels.

Cons of linen sheets

  • More expensive: Linen is more expensive than cotton, but that is because the process is more intensive. 
  • Not as malleable: The fibers of linen don’t have a lot of elasticity and do not move as easily. Because of that, they’re prone to being wrinkled. Depending on who sees your sheets, this could be a problem. 
  • Feeling: While they’re known to be soft after washing, some have reported that linen feels coarse when first used. Additionally, it takes more washing than cotton to get as soft. 

Other comparison: Difference between flat sheet and fitted sheet

Linen vs. Cotton sheets

A cup of fresh coffee on a ceramic tray in bed

Below, we compare linen and cotton sheets on several factors:

Thread count

Linen has an average thread count of 80 to 150. Cotton starts at 200. 

Now, while it’s believed that a higher thread count is better, keep in mind that linen is thicker and therefore will have less thread count

Quality does not always equal quantity, like in this case. 

Winner-Linen

Comfort

Both are comfortable, but it seems linen takes that cake for more comfort. 

Winner-Linen

Coolness

While that can be considered a toss off, linen is said to have a slight edge in coolness and breathability

In a linen vs. cotton sheets for hot sleepers match? Lean linen. 

Winner-Linen

Durability

With proper care, linen will last longer than cotton

Winner-Linen

Health

Linen has both anti-static and hypoallergenic properties, so it’s better for your health. 

Winner-Linen

Environmentally friendly

Again, linen takes the win for being biodegradable and from a renewable resource.

Winner-Linen

Price 

In this case, price is subjective. Linen will be more costly but will last longer. Cotton will have less of a price tag but will need replacing sooner.

Winner-It’s a tie (and will be based on your preference)

Another comparison: Bamboo vs Cotton

Linen vs. Cotton: Care tips

Flowers, a lamp and a bed in a white color room

How to wash linen sheets?

Linen requires a bit more delicate cleaning than cotton. 

Ideally, wash linens weekly in cold water

You should hang it out to dry or dry on low, but definitely take it out of the dryer as soon as you can since linen is prone to wrinkles. 

For ideal results, skip the fabric softener. Chemicals on the linen change its ability to absorb moisture.

How to wash cotton sheets?

Use a mild detergent (preferably with no harsh chemicals — cotton is not a fan) and put it in a cooler wash on the cotton setting

When it’s done washing, dry on low heat. If they’re not dry when complete (see above where it says cotton does not dry as fast), hang it out to dry. 

Are linen sheets worth it?

A bed with orange linen bed sheets

In this match linen vs cotton sheets, which one is best?

Linen is better for your bedding. However, cotton is not a poor choice. 

Linen is more environmentally friendly, health friendly towards your body and will last you a long time. While you’ll pay a steeper price tag in the beginning, it’ll pay off over time. 

You can select the best sheets in the world, but unless your mattress is just as good, you can forget about that cloud feeling.

Consider pairing up your new sheets with Polysleep’s Zephyr mattress. This mattress has a moisture absorbing cover (for you hot sleepers opting for linen sheets) and an antimicrobial foam.

Additionally, it’s fully designed to support and recharge your body, and to regulate your body temperature. 

Between your new sheets and Polysleep’s Zephyr mattress, you’re truly not going to want to get out of your bed!

Discover our Zephyr mattress!

The Zephyr bed


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