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When it comes to having the right pillowcases for sleeping, you want to make sure the fabric is breathable and will keep your skin cool at night. The ultimate goal is to sleep comfortably in any climate, any time of year.
Linen and cotton fabrics have some of the same qualities and are both popular for pillowcases. They also have different properties that make them suitable for different purposes. They can both make you feel fresh while sleeping.
What are the Differences Between Linen vs Cotton?
Most people know linen clothing for its coolness. Linen comes from the flax plant. It is a natural fiber that is lightweight and strong. Linen fabrics stay cool because they are more breathable and absorbent than cotton.
To make linen, flax fibers are woven together in a thick weave pattern. These fibers take a long time to soften once woven, unlike cotton which is already soft to begin with.
This softening process is one of the reasons why linen is so much more expensive than cotton. It’s also a much more durable fabric than cotton due to the thick weave.
Just as linen clothing is known for keeping the body comfortable and cool, linen fibers do the same during sleep. Linen fibers are hypoallergenic, and most people find linen to be a more durable fabric, woven tightly to maintain its shape. It's also eco-friendly, making it a more sustainable choice.
Understanding Cotton vs Linen
Cotton is a natural fabric that comes from the cotton plant. It is easier to manufacture than linen. As such, cotton is usually the more affordable choice for bedding. Linen is also a natural fabric, but since it is more difficult to manufacture, it is often more expensive.
What makes cotton so popular? Cotton is softer to the touch and has more flexibility and stretch than linen, which can feel rough even after being stored for a long time.
Linen sheets may feel softer after multiple washes over time. Cotton starts off as soft (and softness increases with thread count). Both fabrics are far rougher than silk, which is the softest fabric available.
Both cotton and linen fabrics are prone to wrinkling. Especially linen, which tends to have more wrinkles overall because of the stiffness of the fabric.
Linen, made from the fibers of the flax plant, is known for its durability. The flax plant produces sturdy fibers which can be used to create bedding that lasts for decades. While linen is durable, silk is generally stronger. It is a more elastic and flexible fabric with a higher tensile strength.
When it comes to luxury, many people prefer linen. If you prefer cotton, Egyptian cotton is the most luxurious type of cotton known for its high thread count. It is spun to perfection and is a quality choice for bedding. But if luxuriousness is what you're after, there is no fabric more luxurious than mulberry silk.
Linen is a more breathable and lightweight fabric, making it a good choice for warmer environments. Its natural fibers help to wick away moisture and allow air to circulate, helping to keep the body cool and comfortable.
Cotton, on the other hand, is better at keeping you warm, making it a good choice for cooler temperatures.
If you want a fabric that can regulate your body temperature, silk is the best choice. It is able to adapt to your body's temperature, keeping you cool in hot weather and warm in cold weather.
Hypoallergenic and moisture-wicking
Linen is more moisture-wicking than cotton, making it dry quickly, while cotton is more absorbent. Some cotton weave patterns are less breathable and may invite water in due to the thickness of the materials. Linen is also hypoallergenic like silk while cotton is not.
Linen vs Cotton: What Are the Benefits?
Linen sheets are more hypoallergenic than cotton which is good for sensitive skin. This is because of the lower thread count and loose weave. When sleeping, linen sheets are cool and comfortable, keeping sweat away by drying quickly.
Cotton fibers have long been used as a go-to for bedding, especially sheets. While cotton does wrinkle, it does not wrinkle as much as linen.
When it comes to linen vs cotton, look and feel, allergies, and climate should all be on the list when making a final choice. Cotton is also very versatile and adaptable to any season.
Cotton vs Linen: How Do They Compare in the Wash?
One thing to consider when deciding which fabric is right for you is how to care for them. Linen sheets and pillowcases should be washed every week. When you think about linen sheets, consider linen clothes.
Linen bedding is nice to touch and gets softer every time you wash the sheets. Linen sheets should be washed with mild detergent and dried on low heat (if at all). You should also stay away from fabric softeners.
It's very important to follow instructions when washing cotton sheets because they are known to shrink if not cared for properly. Cotton sheets should be washed with mild detergent, avoiding hot water.
Cotton sheets and pillowcases should be washed at least every two weeks (preferably every week) and separately from everything else. Cotton sheets should be dried on low heat or maybe hung out to dry.
When it comes to ease of care, cotton is a little easier to care for.
Cotton vs Linen: What are the different types for sheets?
Within the categories of "cotton sheets" and "linen sheets", there are various different types of each.
Common types of linen sheets are:
- Flax linen: These linen fabric sheets are very strong and have woven flax fibers that keep them at the top of the list.
- Irish linen: These types of linen sheets are a popular fabric selection all over the world. They are very comfortable and a rich feel that appeals to many.
- Linen blends: Linen blends are two fabrics—a linen weave combined with another fabric that may make the sheets feel a little more comfortable and not as rough on the skin.
There are three popular types of cotton sheets:
- Standard or regular cotton: These sheets are the most common. The cotton they're made with is easy to grow and can withstand different types of weather. This cotton is used for sheets, pillowcases, cotton textiles, clothing, and more.
- Pima cotton: This cotton is considered to be one of the best in the world. This can be compared to the quality and durability of Egyptian cotton.
- Egyptian cotton: The thread count for Egyptian cotton is 400 at a minimum. These sheets are known to be ultra-soft and the most luxurious as far as cotton goes. Egyptian cotton is the strongest of any cotton fabric.
Linen vs Cotton Pillowcases
Linen fabric sheets and pillowcases have limited patterns, colors, and styles, whereas cotton has an endless range of patterns, styles, and colors available.
Linen sheets are a luxurious and long-lasting choice, but they can be more expensive than cotton sheets.
If you are willing to invest in a higher-quality product, linen sheets may be a good option for you. They can last for a very long time, so you won't need to replace them as often as you would with cheaper sheets. However, if you are working with a tight budget, cotton sheets may be a more affordable option for you.
Cotton sheets are generally more affordable than linen sheets and are a good option for those on a budget. However, high-quality cotton sheets, such as those made from Egyptian cotton, can be more expensive.
Cotton sheets may not last as long as linen sheets due to their tendency to shrink and become damaged more easily, as they do not have a tight weave pattern like linen. If you are looking for premium sheets, cotton can be a good choice due to the wide range of options available. Cotton sheets are also more widely available and easier to find than linen bedding.
Recap of Linen vs Cotton Bedding
The pros of linen sheets and pillowcases:
- Durable: Flax fiber is strong and when wet gets even stronger. This prevents linen sheets from weakening after each wash cycle.
- Moisture-wicking: Linen sheets are very light and absorb their weight when wet. They also dry much faster than cotton. Linen is also highly breathable and is great for warmer climates.
- Eco-friendly: Since linen fabric is created with durable natural fibers, it is biodegradable and will last for decades.
- Hypoallergenic: Linen sheets do not irritate and are good for people with sensitive skin.
The pros of cotton sheets and pillowcases
- Durable: Cotton can endure multiple washes and retain colors over time.
- Soft: Cotton is relatively soft from the moment it comes out of the package. It does not require many washes to become soft.
- Versatile: Cotton sheets are versatile and can accommodate many different types of sheet styles, patterns, and fabrics.
- Breathability: Cotton is breathable and works well in the summer. It can adapt to any temperature.
Cotton and linen cons
The cons of cotton pillowcases and sheets are that cotton fibers are not moisture-wicking. Cotton takes more time to dry, whereas linen dries quickly.
Both linen and cotton can wrinkle quite easily. Linen tends to hold wrinkles for longer periods of time. Cotton shrinks after washing so it is advised to buy a larger size than the mattress, anticipating the shrinkage.
So Which Should You Buy?
Both linen and cotton are natural fabrics and good choices for sheets—it all depends on your needs and preferences. If you are someone who wants the look and feel of luxurious and durable sheets, linen would probably be a better choice. They offer a crisp, clean, appearance but are limited in color choice and styles. They also work better in warmer climates.
Cotton can also provide the appearance of luxury, but that will require purchasing high-end Egyptian cotton to get the look and feel you desire. If budget is a concern, regular cotton is more affordable.
Also Consider Silk
If you want the best of both worlds in every category, the best fabric to buy is actually silk. Silk sheets can be prohibitively expensive for some, but the benefits of sleeping on silk are the greatest around your head and face. For this reason, you may want to consider investing in silk pillowcases (like Blissy), which are much more affordable than an entire sheet set.
Silk offers the same benefits as linen, but it is many times softer, more beautiful, and has benefits for your skin, hair, and sleep quality. Click the following links to read how silk compares with linen, cotton, satin, and bamboo.
- 5 Rules for Washing Your Cotton Sheets | Blog | HomeGrown Cotton. (n.d.). https://www.homegrowncotton.us/blog/5-rules-for-washing-your-cotton-sheets
- Dreamcloud Editorial Team. (2022, July 20). Linen vs Cotton Sheets: What Is the Difference? DreamCloud. https://www.dreamcloudsleep.com/posts/linen-vs-cotton/
- Interested in Linen Sheets? Here’s Everything You Need to Know Before You Commit. (2022, May 18). Real Simple. https://www.realsimple.com/home-organizing/decorating/decorating-bedroom/linen-bed-sheets-guide
- Mullen, C. (2022, May 13). Let’s Settle This Once & for All—Cotton or Linen Sheets? Food52. https://food52.com/blog/26471-linen-vs-cotton-sheets