Changing the sheets on your bed is one of the most important tasks you need to do frequently. And let’s admit it — there’s nothing better than jumping into bed with fresh clean sheets, especially after a long day. But when it comes to switching up your bedding, you may be wondering which material is best. After all, not all sheets are created equal! In this article, we’ll discuss some of the prominent differences between bamboo vs. cotton sheets as well as their pros and cons. Let’s dive in!
The Difference Between Cotton and Bamboo Sheets
What’s the difference between cotton and bamboo sheets? Is there any difference at all? There are actually a variety of contrasting features between the two, such as the plant material, fabric types, thread count, durability, and cooling regulation. Let’s break down each of these differing characteristics in more detail!
Bamboo sheets (like the ones from Hotel Sheets Direct) are essentially made from natural bamboo fiber. Bamboo is a sustainable and easily renewable plant material as it’s fast growing, thrives in many environments, and requires very little water to produce. In fact, manufacturing sheets made from bamboo is generally known to be eco-friendly as they leave a smaller carbon footprint and pose no considerable environmental threats. In addition, this material is recognized for its pesticide-free, antibacterial, antimicrobial, deodorizing, and moisture-wicking properties.
Cotton sheets are made from cotton plants, which are the most widely-used material. However, cotton is generally known to be the dirtiest crop and less environmentally friendly than bamboo; this is because a lot of pesticides are used when growing the plant. Some pesticides are even labeled as hazardous to our health. If you’d rather stick to this kind of material, a better option is organic cotton. Just make sure to look for organic certifications like the ones from Organic Content Standards (OCS) and Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS). While some labels on cotton products say “All Natural,” this isn’t always the case if GMOs or chemicals are used in the manufacturing process.
There are three common types of bamboo fabric with different manufacturing processes and environmental impacts.
- Bamboo Viscose/Rayon: The majority of bamboo sheets are made of bamboo viscose or rayon. This type of bedding material is hypoallergenic, thermoregulating, odor-resistant, and soft. While viscose itself isn’t toxic or polluting, there are chemicals (like carbon disulfide) used in the manufacturing process that can harm the environment. When purchasing bamboo sheets of this type, look for products labeled as “rayon made from bamboo” or manufacturers with strict waste treatment guidelines.
- Bamboo Lyocell: Bamboo lyocell is one of the most sustainable textile materials used today. It’s also non-toxic, produces non-hazardous waste, requires less energy and water to produce, and is softer and stronger than bamboo viscose.
- Bamboo Linen: The manufacturing process of bamboo linen is similar to that of regular linen and doesn’t use chemicals to produce fibers. However, this type of bamboo fabric is slightly coarse and wrinkles easy, so ironing is necessary after washing.
Bamboo fabric also comes in two distinct weaves that result in different textures: sateen and twill. Sateen bamboo sheets have a smoother and more luxurious feel in comparison to twill bamboo sheets.
With cotton fabric, there’s a wider variety to choose from, but in general there are three common types.
- Egyptian Cotton: Although they require extra care, Egyptian cotton sheets are considered the best since they have a soft, gentle, and cooling feel.
- Pima Cotton: Pima cotton sheets are the second best kind of material. They’re also pretty soft, but compared to Egyptian cotton sheets, they’re a bit rougher.
- American Upland Cotton: If you ever come across sheets that are labeled as “100% cotton,” they’re most likely American upland cotton. This type of material is pretty common but is rougher than Egyptian and Pima cotton.
Cotton fabric, just like bamboo fabric, comes in different types of weaves: perscale, sateen, and flannel. Among the three, sateen cotton has the softest feel. Flannel cotton has a cozy and fuzzy appeal while percale cotton has a crisp, smooth touch to it.
The term thread count refers to the number of individual fiber strands woven into a sheet. For example, if there are 100 threads across the length and 100 across the width, then the thread count would be 200. In general, the higher the thread count, the softer the material feels.
So, are bamboo sheets soft? While a higher thread count indicates softer material, bamboo sheets can actually have a lower thread count (250 to 350 for example) than that of cotton sheets. Yet, they still feel softer because bamboo fibers are naturally softer than cotton.
For quality cotton sheets, the ideal thread count range is typically between 200 and 800. Although these sheets usually have a higher thread count, this isn’t always a good thing because they can easily trap heat.
Bamboo fibers used in fabrics are longer than cotton and less likely to tear or separate. As a result, bamboo sheets tend to be more durable than cotton ones. However, it’s still a good idea to wash them only on a gentle cycle in cold water and air or tumble dry them with low heat.
Cotton is somewhat strong but can still tear under stress. It’s stronger when wet, however, so the material can handle many wash cycles. Cotton sheets can typically last two to ten years depending on how much they are used. When washing sheets of this material, it’s best to use cold water and a mild detergent with no bleach.
Are bamboo sheets cooler than cotton ones? The short answer is yes! Bamboo sheets are naturally breathable and comfortable due to their lower thread counts.
While some cotton sheets have thread counts in the lower range, they generally retain more heat than bamboo ones (which is great for the colder seasons). Some high-thread cotton sheets have more breathability but can cost much more.
Pros and Cons of Bamboo Sheets
To summarize the important things you should consider when shopping for bamboo sheets, here’s a list of some pros and cons:
- Environmentally friendly
- Great at keeping you cool (they’re breathable and moisture-absorbent)
- Soft and comfortable
- Can be a bit expensive
- May require more care when cleaning
Pros and Cons of Cotton Sheets
We’ve also included a list of pros and cons of cotton sheets below to help you weigh the benefits and drawbacks of having cotton sheets:
- Low maintenance
- Soft and comfortable
- Generally not expensive
- Not eco-friendly
- Can tear under stress
- Retains heat
Bamboo vs. Cotton Sheets: The Final Verdict
So, are bamboo sheets better than cotton ones? Or is it the other way around? While bamboo material seems to reveal more benefits, the reality is, it all depends on your needs, preferences, and budget. When choosing the perfect kind of sheet for yourself, you should consider all the different characteristics we outlined above. It’s also important to think about how your body responds to the material as you may have certain allergies. With that said, pick the type of sheet that’s right for you!
Contributing Writer: Rebecca Lee