Your bed sheets are one of the most important fabrics to consider, especially because you want a comfortable night’s sleep. Recently, bamboo fabric has become a popular eco-friendly alternative to cotton sheets. With all the choices available on the market, I wanted to settle this difference once and for all.
So, are bamboo sheets better than cotton? Bamboo sheets are an extremely soft, lightweight, and durable fabric that is naturally breathable, moisture-absorbing, and antibacterial. Although slightly more costly than traditional cotton sheets, they are more eco-friendly and produced from sustainable materials.
There are few factors to consider when comparing cotton and bamboo sheets such as thread count, overall comfort, durability, and environmentally friendliness. We’ll break these down into more detail to better understand their differences.
Bamboo Versus Cotton Sheets
Bamboo sheets are produced from the fibers of the bamboo plant. Bamboo (actually a grass) is known for its sustainability as a material and natural antibacterial properties. During production, bamboo fibers are spun into yarn and weaved into a textile which results in a bamboo-derived fabric. Thanks to these organic fibers, bamboo sheets are highly breathable and extremely soft in texture. Their ability to thermoregulate temperature and wick away moisture will keep you warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
Cotton sheets are more commonly produced and widely used. Produced from the cotton plant into a textile, some sheets may even be blended with linen or synthetic fibers such as polyester. More affordable cotton sheets will have a low thread count and are more likely to pill whereas sheets with a higher thread count, like Egyptian or Pima cotton, will feel much softer and last longer. Premium brands of cotton sheets do offer features like breathability and moisture-wicking but may need to be switched out for something lighter during summer months and heavier during colder seasons.
When deciding between bamboo and cotton sheets here are several factors you will want to consider.
For cotton, the thread count will tell you the overall quality and softness of the linen. Generally, the higher the thread count the softer the linen will be. You will notice a greater difference in softness when you compare a low and high thread count in cotton linens. However, regardless of thread count, bamboo sheets will appear much softer than cotton due to its organic materials.
When it comes to overall comfort, the most important thing is being able to have a comfortable night’s sleep. Our bodies actually sweat while we sleep at night, this gets absorbed by our bedding. Bamboo is 40% more absorbent than cotton, so moisture wicks away from our skin more easily during the night resulting in more comfort while you sleep.
Whether you live in a hot or cold climate, bamboo sheets will be much more breathable than cotton. Your body heat won’t be trapped inside resulting in you producing less sweat while you sleep. Cotton sheets do well to insulate but do not have the same temperature regulation properties as bamboo.
The durability of your bed linens will depend on how well you take care of them. Both premium cotton and bamboo sheets have explicit washing and care instructions, so the closer you follow these, the longer your linens will last. Bamboo linens get the nod when it comes to durability, however, they do require more correct care and washing. Generally, bamboo sheets are best washed in cold cycles and air-dried. Avoid chemical-based detergents and bleaches along with excessive-high heat tumble drying.
For both bamboo and cotton sheets, there are different types of fabric weaves which will affect the feel of your linens:
- Percale – is a lightweight fabric with a weave that is closely-woven with one thread over and one thread under. This results in a smooth and crisp almost starched feel for the linen.
- Sateen – (not to be confused with satin) is threaded more vertically, with three threads over, and one thread under resulting in very smooth and lustrous linens.
- Flannel – is a medium to heavy fabric and is more suitable for winter. They usually have a napped finish on one side for a warm, fuzzy, and cozy feel.
Bamboo is a sustainable material as it’s one of the fastest-growing plants in the world and does not require a large environmental impact to harvest and replant. Cotton has a higher environmental impact than bamboo as most cotton production requires pesticides which can be harmful to the surrounding soil and health of farmers.
One of the most important factors when choosing linens. When compared to low-thread count cotton sheets, bamboo sheets are more expensive. However, when compared to higher thread count sheets such as Egyptian or Pima cotton, bamboo sheets are around the same price. The amount you spend will also depend on the brand you choose and the size of the bed you have.
Different Types of Bamboo Fibers
Unfortunately, not all bamboo sheets are created equal. If you look at the tag, you will see there are several different types of bamboo fibers. Each has a different production process, which depending on what you are looking for in linens, can be either good or bad.
- Viscose rayon – this is one of the most common types of bamboo fibers and can easily be found. It has all the positive benefits of breathability, softness, and durability, however, its production requires an intense chemical process using harsh chemicals like sulfuric acid and sodium hydroxide. The good thing is that these chemicals do not end up in your linens, the bad thing is that they may end up as waste in the environment. Something to think about if you are looking for a product produced with a low environmental impact.
- Lyocell/Tencel – this has the most eco-friendly production process for bamboo sheets. It still requires chemicals for production, however, they are produced in a 100% closed-loop cycle meaning the chemicals are recycled and contained to be used again instead of dumped into the environment. Bamboo sheets produced using only this process are not easy to find.
- Bamboo blend with cotton – a common blend includes 70% bamboo lyocell or rayon and 30% cotton, or 60% bamboo 40% cotton. The addition of cotton makes the fabric slightly less soft than 100% bamboo and could be a less sustainable choice for your linens as cotton has a higher environmental impact.
- Bamboo linen – this is a chemical-free and labor-intense production process but does not produce the intense softness that you may get from Rayon or Lyocell produced linens. It’s a sustainably produced fabric but is more likely to wrinkle and requires ironing after washing. Despite their high maintenance needs, they are still very breathable and will keep you cool at night.
Different Types of Cotton Sheets
Both Egyptian and Pima cotton are the best cotton sheets available as they come in higher thread counts. They will both require proper care and washing to ensure their longevity. These premium linens both will be more expensive than standard cotton sheets.
If you still prefer using cotton linens but want to be more eco-friendly, you can look for sheets that are produced from organic cotton. Organic cotton does not require the use of synthetic agricultural chemicals such as fertilizers or pesticides reducing its environmental impact. This results in a fabric that is chemical-free.
The Best Bamboo Sheets
There are dozens of brands on the market that produce bamboo sheets with the production processes described above. When I look for a reliable set of bamboo linens I want them to be most importantly comfortable, but also environmentally friendly.
Cariloha 4 Piece Bamboo Sheet Set
The Cariloha 4 Piece Bamboo Sheet Set (link to read reviews on Amazon) are some of the softest and most luxurious linens produced from bamboo you can find. Although they are only 230 thread count, their softness will surpass that of 1000 thread count cotton. Moisture-wicking and naturally breathable, they will keep you cool and comfortable regardless of the time of year. Cariloha is one of the premier producers of bamboo clothing and fabrics.
Vivendi Pure Sleep Cotton Bamboo Lyocell Blend Sheet Set
The Vivendi Pure Sleep Cotton Bamboo Lyocell Blend 4 Piece Set (link to read reviews on Amazon) is an affordable and eco-friendly choice for someone who is looking to try out bamboo linens for the first time. Blended with 60% cotton and 40% bamboo lyocell, they are produced with the environment in mind. They are a soft fabric with moisture-wicking and antibacterial properties that will help absorb moisture away from your body for a more comfortable sleep.
Ettitude Bamboo Lyocell Sheet Set
The Ettitude Lyocell Bamboo Sheet Set (link to website) are some of the only 100% lyocell bamboo produced available on the market. Since the chemicals used during production are done in a closed-loop process, the overall environmental impact for production is low. They combine all the great benefits of bamboo sheets – extremely soft with a smooth texture, breathability and thermoregulation, and eco-friendly production.
It’s up to you which type of linens you prefer to sleep in. I always prefer a nice balance between comfort and price without having to compromise for the environment, so for that, I stay away from cotton sheets.
Always look at the label to find out if you are buying “bamboo rayon/viscose”, “bamboo linen” or “bamboo lyocell”. In the US, manufacturers are required by law to specify the production of the fabric on the label, however, this may not be the same for fabrics produced overseas.
If you are looking for the most eco-friendly option, bamboo sheets made from Lyocell/Tencel or bamboo linen will be your best bet. They offer all of the positive benefits of bamboo fabric – softness, durability, breathability, moisture absorption, and antibacterial qualities without the high environmental impact that cotton has.
More commonly available are bamboo from rayon/viscose. Although they involve a harsh chemical process during production, the environmental impact of bamboo as a plant and material is much lower than that of traditional cotton or polyester.
If you still want to stick with cotton as your fabric but want something more eco-friendly, look for cotton sheets produced with organic cotton.
I hope this has helped you make a more informed decision on the bed sheets you choose. I wish you and your family a happy and comfortable night’s sleep. Sweet dreams!