Apart from many other types of natural and synthetic fabrics, linen and cotton are widely talked about and used for bedding, often leaving us confused. Which one is better for sleeping in? Is the difference mainly in the looks or personal preferences? Read on to find out, as we point out the main features you need to know when choosing between cotton and linen sheets.
WHAT IS WHAT
Flax linen is said to be the oldest known natural fiber used by humans. Yet, cotton takes the crown of the most popular natural fiber at the moment. Both are natural and full of benefits, however, slight but important differences begin to emerge from the very start.
Linen is an annually grown crop, with thin long stems and blue blossoms. During delicate and careful processes, the long fibers are extracted from the stems, made into treads, and woven into a fabric. One of the biggest benefits of linen is the low environmental impact of growing it because of low water and pesticide consumption.
Cotton grows on a completely different plant and is extracted from bolls - hard protective cases, growing around the seeds. Harvested cotton is then also processed to make different kinds of cotton fabrics for many different uses. Compared to linen, cotton requires large amounts of water and often pesticides to grow successfully.
Both fabrics are highly absorbent, with cotton being slightly better at it. Cotton can hold up to about 25% of its weight in water, whereas linen can hold up to 20% of its weight in water. However, linen tops cotton with its amazing moisture-wicking ability, meaning it can evaporate moisture much faster than cotton. This is important to remember when choosing bed sheets as you probably want them to stay dry and cool on even the hottest nights instead of feeling damp and uncomfortable.
Cotton and linen are both known to be highly breathable. However, there are some key differences here. The breathability of cotton depends mostly on how the fabric is made rather than on the fiber itself. Thinner cotton will be more breathable, while thick fabric like denim will be far less breathable. Linen on the other hand is highly breathable because of the fiber. So the weaving has much less effect on its breathability, even when talking about thicker linen fabrics. That’s why linen bedding can ensure great ventilation and still be durable.
Talking about durability, flax linen is widely known as the strongest natural fiber on Earth. Due to long fibers, linen is much more durable than cotton. However, this also makes linen a bit more rigid when compared to cotton, which has more stretch and flexibility. But at the end of the day, rigidness has little impact on the comfort of your linen bedding so choosing linen sheets is a great investment that can last generations. Want to know the numbers? Here you go! Given proper care cotton usually starts to lose its quality after 3-5 years, while linen can last up to 20 years and more.
Both of the fibers are natural and thus can be beneficial for people with allergies. However, linen has more benefits to it when compared to cotton. Because linen is moisture-wicking and dries faster, it is less prone to bacteria and fungi building up inside the fabric. This makes linen great for people with sensitive, allergenic skin. Linen pillowcases can be good for those who have sensitive or problematic face skin. Also, because of a lower thread count and a looser weave, linen is less likely than cotton to trap small particles inside the fabric. Thus it is better for people suffering from allergies caused by dust.