If you are the type of person who is meticulous when it comes to choosing high-quality mattresses and pillows, then good for you!
But remember, bed sheets play a significant role in your sleep quality, too, so you might want to hold that thought of skimping on bed sheets because they’re “just bed sheets.”
As we lay out the pros and cons of the most popular bedding fabrics, we hope it helps you with selecting the best sheet sets that work best for you and the environment. So if you care about our planet, you’ll want to take note of the fabrics to avoid.
Here are the most popular fabrics explained in alphabetical order.
Bamboo is usually not the first-bed sheet material that comes to mind but it’s gaining popularity for good reasons. One thing though. There are a lot of bed sheets labelled bamboo that is actually rayon – bamboo pulp that’s been chemically processed. Obviously, this isn’t good for the environment.
Our advice? Go for 100% organic bamboo sheets!
Here are general pros and cons to help you weigh your options and consider bamboo bedding:
- Highly sustainable; uses an organic solvent to dissolve the plant pulp, allowing the water and solvent to be recovered and re-used.
- Antibacterial, hypoallergenic, thermo-regulating
- More anti-pilling, smoother than bamboo vicose,strong, resilient, lasts for a long time if proper care instructions are followed.
- Similar to Tencel, soft, smooth and strong. Doesn’t have the crisp feel of cotton.
- Slightly more expensive than most cotton options due to the technology used to process and the absence of large-scale production.
- Can be more prone to wrinkling, due to their softness and suppleness. They also lack the “crisp” bedsheet feeling, which is a matter of personal preference.
- Slight pilling is normal for natural fibers, especially in response to friction and isn’t a fault or defect.
- It can look a little “fuzzy” after some washes.
- Most bamboo sheets are not 100% bamboo unless labelled as such.
What do you think? Do you want to lessen some of the cons and experience the awesomeness of high-quality bamboo sheets? Then go for the best and make sure to check out organic bamboo bed sheets that are made using an eco-conscious process.
Let’s talk about the most popular bed sheet fabric – cotton. This fabric has been used for 7,000 years. It is the most widespread profitable non-food production that covers the income of about 250 million people worldwide. In fact, around half of all textiles in the world are made from cotton fibres. So, it figures why this type of fabric is the most common when it comes to bed sheets.
Unfortunately, cotton’s current production methods are not eco-friendly— with hazardous materials and chemicals (including pesticides) that are expensive to dispose of properly. Just producing a t-shirt and a pair of jeans takes huge amounts of water.
Another thing to note is, the natural fibres of cotton are not made equally into sheet sets. As a result, there is a significant disparity in quality across different types. The most common attributes that will differentiate its quality are staple length and high thread count.
Generally, cotton fibres are a little more stretched and flexible than linen fibre. It’s also softer and smooth to the touch and usually costs lower than linen. In terms of care, cotton sheets can be a little easier than linen sheets. However, we do know that linen lasts longer than cotton. Cotton also tends to warm up with the body, allowing less air to move between threads, providing less breathability.
While these are the general descriptions of cotton, we shall see how it still varies per type.
1. Upland Cotton
Upland cotton comprises nearly 90% of all cotton produced around the world; the majority of standard bed sheets are made with upland cotton.
- Inexpensive vs. Egyptian, Pima, and Supima
- Still soft, comfortable, and breathable.
- Made with short fibre cotton that is rougher and less durable.
- More likely to pill and become coarse over time.
2. Egyptian Cotton
Egyptian cotton is only grown and handpicked in Egypt, where the climate is best (warm and dry) to grow cotton; considered the best type of cotton fabric.
- Luxury, long-staple cotton, therefore the softest
- High-quality, higher thread count, strong, incredible durability
- Porous: breathable and comfortable
- Many knockoffs (cheap imitations)
3. Pima Cotton
Pima cotton is regular cotton but with better fibres, 50% longer fibres than usual.
- Not as long as Egyptian cotton, but still soft (the next choice if you can’t afford Egyptian cotton)
- Strong, durable, flexible
- Often blended with regular cotton
4. Supima® Cotton
Supima® is a trademark name for American-grown Pima cotton that highlights luxury, quality, and craftsmanship.
- Twice as strong as regular cotton, resilient
- Superior comfort, extra-long-staple cotton fibre, softer as time passes
- Retains colour
- Hypoallergenic, resistant to mould and dust mites
- The most expensive
MicroCotton® is a trademark of fine cotton produced in India, initially developed for making towels due to its super-absorbent properties.
- Very soft, made with long-staple cotton, similar to Pima.
- 250% more absorbent than regular cotton.
- More expensive than standard Upland cotton sheets.
- Very few manufacturers use it, so MicroCotton sheets are challenging to find.
We’re not veering away from cotton yet as Flannel is still made from cotton fibres. It is also referred to as brushed cotton since it’s finely brushed to pull loose tiny top fibres.
Although flannel is still cotton, it’s distinct from other cotton fabrics because flannel sheet sets are suitable for cold nights.
Apart from wool, flannel is best known for winter as it’s made to be heavy to trap body heat more effectively, thus, keeping you warm.
The quality of flannel bed sheets is measured by their weight (ounces per square yard) and not by their thread count.
- Very warm and cozy feeling
- Slight fuzziness or fleeciness to the touch, which some people find comfortable.
- Flannel bed sheets are likely to feel stifling for those in warm climates.
- Won’t work for those who experience night sweats or need to fall asleep in a cool environment
- Can take a long time to clean and dry because of its thick texture.
We’d all agree that linen shouts premium and best value for money.
Linen sheets are made of high-quality natural fibres from flax plants that elevate them to their premium status. Its inherent charm is its rough texture with a crinkle-crushed appearance that is calming to the touch.
True to its promise, bed linen boasts an extraordinary heat conductivity that can withstand elevated temperatures to keep you fresh and cool in warm weather and pleasantly snug in the winter.
- Flax plants require less water to grow than other plants such as cotton.
- Durable/long-lasting with proper care, as flax fibers are much stronger than cotton fibers (it can be passed down through generations or up to 3 decades)
- Hypoallergenic and antimicrobial
- Breathable. Good with temperature regulation
- Can last many years and gets softer with time, while cotton is usually softer immediately out of the box.
Linen feels stiff in the beginning.
- More expensive than cotton.
- Wrinkles easily.
- Softer linen sheets require higher yarn count and additional production process which drives cost higher.
- As linen get softer over time, it does so by shedding excess and unnecessary fibres after few initial washes, with little balls or pieces of lint and fluff gathering on your sheets. It’s totally normal and is part of the life cycle of linen fiber. Through a couple of right wash cycles, the shedding usually comes to an end.
If you are willing to invest in nights of good and sound sleep then linen sheets are the way to go! So if you don’t have any problem with the cost and all you’re concerned about is texture, then worry no more.
Check out Ecosa’s 100% European flax linen that is garment washed, blasted and tousled by air to speed up the softening process, creating incredibly soft linen sheets without all the roughness and grain.
Enough of natural fibres for now and let’s talk about something synthetic — Polyester. It’s a man-made fabric that’s essentially petroleum-derived plastic.
You might not know it, but the same polymers found in our clothes or bed sheets are also incorporated into the manufacture of plastic bottles.
This synthetic fibre was manufactured as a cheaper, more durable alternative to natural fabrics like cotton. Back then, the synthetic materials and plain weave of polyester were not breathable and trapped sweat against the skin.
However, thanks to fibre science, polyester fabrics are now manufactured explicitly with lots of micro-pores for superb moisture-wicking and breathability.
Look for “moisture-wicking polyester” or “performance polyester.” These “moisture-wicking” pores of improved polyester fabrics allow perspiration to pass through the material to keep you cool and dry.
- Hydrophobic (water-resistant), quick-drying; wicks moisture away from the skin
- Stain-resistant and wrinkle-resistant
- Durable and long-lasting
- Not as breathable as cotton and can irritate sensitive skin.
- Neither considered sustainable or environmentally friendly (Suggestion: Look for polyester fabrics that are biodegradable or recycled)
- Synthetic materials like polyester contain many toxic chemicals embedded in them that can be bad for your health.
- According to research, microfibers from polyester are poisoning water sources and wildlife.
True to its feel and benefits, silk is all about luxury. It’s buttery soft, light, elegant, and provides an unmatched luxurious experience with its elegance and silky feel.
Silk’s relatively low conductivity allows heat to be retained close to the skin. On the other hand, it will generally remain cool against your skin due to its high emissivity for infrared light.
The smoothness of silk puts less friction on your hair and skin, making it even more appealing. Who wouldn’t want that?
Clearly, women love silk. It helps reduce rosacea, frizz, and wrinkles. It’s even suitable for those with skin asthma or with sensitive/dry/eczema-prone skin.
- Incredibly soft, silky, and comfortable
- Prevents dust mites, antimicrobial, hypoallergenic
- Needs specialised treatment and care
- Stain easily, have poor resistance to water
- Prone to tears
If you’re into sustainability, we’ve got good news with Tencel.
Tencel is a branded material first developed in 1972 and has been gaining attention as a cotton alternative due to its eco-friendly production. The process for creating Tencel fibre was designed to reduce environmental impact.
Tencel is made from the wood pulp of the eucalyptus tree. And while still turning out soft and comfortable like cotton, it requires less water, chemicals, and energy to produce. It’s known for its “closed-loop process,” – meaning no chemicals leak into its surrounding ecosystem.
- Soft and cool
- Wicks moisture away from the skin
- Durable and long-lasting
- Smoother and slicker feel, which some dislike
- Susceptible to mildew
- More expensive than 100% cotton or upland cotton
What to choose?
These are just the most common bed sheets out there and there is a myriad of options online and in-store. But once you get to choose the best option for sustainable living and comfortable sleep, you’ll realise that it pays to make a fully informed choice more than just personal preference based on price or look.
Isn’t it also a valuable exercise to know the materials that add value to your sleep now that consumers are becoming more attuned to what they can do to improve their sleep habits?