The City Mattress Blog

linens & bedding

Linen vs Cotton Bedding: Which is Right for You?


woman laying on sheets

You’ve put a lot of thought into finding and buying the right mattress for your sleep needs. You found one that is perfect for you, both comfortable and supportive. Great! You’re not finished creating the right sleep environment just yet. You still need to look into finding the right sheets. Buying sheets can be a confusing task. The options seem nearly endless, and the differences can seem minimal. This is a mistake, though. Outfitting your new mattress with the right sheets it’s important for your sleep, and thus your health. Much of that decision comes down to the very material they’re made of. Let’s look at two of the most popular options, cotton and linen. 

What is Linen

You’ve probably heard bed sheets described as “linens” before. This is common, but not quite correct. You can have sheets that are linen, but not all are. This is because linen is actually a specific material. Many people ask “where does linen come from?” or even “is linen a natural fiber?” Yes, it is. Linen is an extremely strong, lightweight fabric made from the flax plant. The word “linen” comes from the Latin name for flax, “linum usitatissimum.”

Linen is a natural fiber and woven together, which makes it similar to cotton. However, linen takes longer to harvest and make into fabric, as flax fibers can be difficult to weave. For this reason, the fibers are extracted from the plant and stored for long periods of time to soften the fibers. This makes linen more of a luxury item, because it isn’t incredibly easy to create.

Cotton vs. Linen: What is the Difference?  

Cotton and linen are both durable, breathable, soft fabrics derived from natural fibers. So where do they differ? There are nine main difference between the two:

  1. Durability. Cotton has a little more stretch and flexibility than linen but is not as durable.
  2. Softness. Cotton is softer to the touch than linen because flax fibers are rougher than cotton fibers.
  3. Texture. Cotton is a smoother fabric. Linen has more of a rough, textured pattern as a result of the looser weave.
  4. Appearance. Both cotton and linen wrinkle easily, as they are made from natural fibers, but linen wrinkles slightly more due to the stiffness of the fabric.
  5. Hypoallergenic. Linen is slightly better for people with allergies.
  6. Absorbency. Cotton is more absorbent.
  7. Water wicking. Linen has natural water-wicking qualities, which means it dries quickly.
  8. Breathability. Both cotton and linen fabric are breathable, but most people consider linen to be more breathable.
  9. Warmth. Linen flax fibers are hollow, making it very cool for the summer, but not as cozy and comfortable in the winter months.

Benefits of Linen Sheets 

When looking at the nine differences, probably a few linen pros and cons jumped out at you. Both cotton and linen are hypoallergenic; however, linen is slightly better for people with allergies. This is because the lower thread count and the loose weave is less likely to trap dust and particles. As well, linen has natural water-wicking qualities. This means it draws sweat out of our skin as we are sleeping and dries quickly. Cotton also wicks moisture well, but it doesn’t have the same natural wicking ability that linen has. Both cotton and linen fabric are breathable, though the breathability of cotton depends more on the weave of the fabric rather than the fibers themselves. Some cotton weaves, like denim or canvas, are thicker and less breathable. You certainly wouldn’t want canvas sheets! Flax linen fibers, on the other hand, are hollow so air and water can easily circulate. 

Benefits of Cotton Sheets

Cotton is a fluffy fiber which grows on the cotton plant. It’s been used for thousands of years in all types of fabric production, particularly bedsheets. For some, it’s viewed as the bedsheet gold standard. Both cotton and linen are very absorbent. However, cotton is slightly more absorbent, as it can hold more than 25% of its weight in water while linen can hold up to 20% water. Does linen wrinkle? Yes! Cotton sheets do not wrinkle quite as much as linen does, meaning your bed will have a more smooth, “put together” appearance. It feels softer, too!

The difference between cotton and linen fabric is somewhat small, but it can greatly impact your sleep. When looking for sheets and linens, it is important to look into how these differences will affect you. Do you suffer some allergies? This may mean linen is the ideal choice. Perhaps you want your bed to look and feel really smooth. If so, you want cotton sheets.

City mattress carries high-quality bedding in both linen and cotton materials. When you’ve decided which option is right for you, it’s easy to shop online and find exactly what you’re looking for. We carry top brands, like American Blossom Linens, Malouf, and PureCare. If you’re looking for sheets that are truly the best of the best, you’re looking for SFERRA luxury bedding. With the right sheets, put onto your ideal mattress, you’ll climb into bed and sink into a peaceful oasis. Sleep will be easy to achieve!