Bamboo vs Cotton Sheets—Which Natural Fiber Is Best?

Having trouble deciding which sheets are best for you? Learn more about bamboo vs. cotton sheets to help you choose.

By Nicole Gleichmann

Through most of our lives, Egyptian cotton sheets have been considered the utmost in luxury. But in recent years, another natural fiber has come to the forefront: bamboo. Thanks to its silky smooth texture, many life-long Egyptian cotton aficionados have found themselves ditching cotton for this new, trendy fabric.

But, is bamboo really as comfortable and eco-friendly as cotton? Read on to learn more about these two popular fabrics.

Bamboo Sheets

Bamboo bed sheets are made from the fiber of the bamboo plant. For anyone who knows what a bamboo plant looks like, the luxurious feel of textiles made from bamboo can come as quite the shock.

What makes bamboo fabric exceptionally soft and supple is the long length of its natural fibers. When woven into a textile, these long threads often reach the full length of the sheet. Not only does this continuity create an elegant feel, but it results in high durability and resistance to pilling. Combine this with an impressive ability to retain color and repel body oil, and you have a set of sheets that can look and feel like new for many years.

Bamboo bedding sleeps cool, readily wicking away moisture as you sleep. This impeccable breathability is beneficial not only for those who sleep hot but for those with allergies or sensitive skin. By protecting against trapped moisture, the airiness of bamboo fabric helps to keep skin healthy and dry, reducing the risk of bacterial and fungal growth. This makes bamboo bedding a solid option for those with allergies, asthma, or skin conditions.

But, one of the biggest selling points of bamboo is that the raw material is incredibly eco-friendly. Bamboo stalks grow readily in many climates without the need for harsh chemicals, fertilizers, or irrigation, making bamboo one of the most environmentally-friendly bedding materials.

Different Types of Bamboo Sheets

While there’s a reputation with sheets that the higher the thread count the greater the comfort, thread count has little to do with the comfort of bamboo sheets. Rather, much of its comfort is dependent upon the manufacturing process used to create the bamboo fiber.

Most bamboo bedding is made using a chemical process that takes the fibrous material and converts it into one of three types of Rayon (lyocell, viscose, or modal). Alternatively, a mechanical process can convert the raw bamboo into bamboo linen.

Bamboo rayon is typically longer-lasting and softer to the touch than bamboo linen. For the eco-conscious consumer, it’s important to understand that not all bamboo is made in an environmentally-conscious way thanks to harsh chemicals. Lyocell and bamboo linen are the eco-friendliest.

Cotton Sheets

Cotton is breathable, soft, and ranges in costs from downright affordable to quite costly. The most comfortable and durable cotton sheet sets are made using long-staple cotton, often from pima cotton or Egyptian cotton. With cotton, the type of cotton plant matters because lower-quality types of cotton have shorter fibers that aren’t as soft or durable.

When it comes to high-quality cotton, it’s known for its soft and silky hand, easy laundering, and lasting comfort and quality. For many years, the best-of-the-best sheets were high-thread count Egyptian cotton sheets. With its long, thin cotton fibers, this fabric feels buttery soft and elegant against the skin.

What’s more, cotton is cool and breathable, making it a great choice for those who sleep hot. And you can find organic cotton sheets made using environmentally-friendly practices.

Which Is Better? Bamboo vs Cotton Sheets

Durability: Bamboo

Both bamboo and cotton are durable fabrics. With proper care, a sheet set made from either material can lead to 5, 10, or 15 years of use. Bamboo came out on top because of its resistance to absorbing body oil, resulting in sheets that look like new for many more years than cotton sheets.

Comfort: Tie

Both bamboo and cotton sheets feel incredibly luxurious against the skin. Bamboo is typically a bit silkier and ever-so-slightly warmer than cotton sheets, while cotton is soft, familiar, and light.

Cost: Bamboo

The highest and lowest quality of bamboo and cotton sheets come in around the same price point. It’s the middle-ground where bamboo comes out on top. Because you don’t need a high thread count of bamboo fiber to create a comfy textile, there are 100% bamboo sheets that are quite plush feeling without costing as much as the most expensive options.

Breathability: Cotton

Bamboo and cotton are both breathable fabrics that help keep you cool all night long. That said, cotton is slightly lighter and more breathable than bamboo.

Health: Bamboo

While cotton is slightly cooler than bamboo, bamboo has impressive moisture-wicking abilities that result in a dry night’s sleep. This reduces the chances of your sheets sticking to your skin, helping to keep your skin dry and healthy. For people with skin sensitivities, a dry night’s sleep can be the difference between peace and flare-ups.

Ease of Care: Cotton

Every set of sheets will come with its own care instructions, and following these is essential to get the most from your sheets. That said, on average, cotton sheets are easier to care for than bamboo sheets.

Both are usually able to be machine washed and tumble-dried, but bamboo sheets often require a low heat setting or instruct to have them washed separately. Plus, long-staple cotton can become softer with every wash, which is a nice perk.

Environmental Friendliness: Bamboo

Bamboo is a crop that has a very small carbon footprint. It grows quickly, easily, and in a wide variety of climates. What’s more, in many climates, it doesn’t need pesticides to protect it from pests or irrigated water to encourage growth.

And with high-quality bamboo sheets lasting up to 20 years, you won’t need to replace your sheets for many years. These factors make bamboo the eco-friendliest bedding textile.

We do want to give an honorable mention to organic cotton sheets. While organic cotton tends to require more water and labor than bamboo, it is still a relatively eco-friendly option.


Conclusion

Both cotton and bamboo can be used to create luxury linens. While neither option is likely to disappoint, you may find that you prefer the feel of one over that of the other. Go with cotton if you like soft, light bedding. But if you’re someone who wants a silky feel, bamboo may be the fabric for you.


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