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Bamboo vs. Cotton Sheets

With so many fibers and weaves available, it’s difficult to know what the right set of bedding for you could be. There are many things beyond thread count to consider when choosing sheets, and many people don’t realize sheets made from bamboo are an option.

Egyptian cotton is generally considered to be top-notch for high-quality sheets for those interested in natural fibers with a high level of breathability. However, bamboo sheets are becoming more and more popular because they can be lightweight, durable, and come from an easily renewable resource. This guide will give you an in-depth look at these two natural fibers. To learn more about what important considerations you must make when shopping for sheets, read on to learn more about differences between bamboo and cotton sheets and the advantages of each.

What is Bamboo?

Bamboo sheets have many of the same advantages as cotton sheets. They are made from a natural, rather than synthetic, fiber. Bamboo sheets might require a little more care while laundering, but with their potential to last up to two decades, the added care can be worth your time. Textiles made from bamboo have unmatched durability and comfort, and can be considered environmentally friendly, depending on which production method is used.

Bamboo fabric is made from the pulp of bamboo grass for a soft, natural textile. The bamboo used to produce fabric grows quickly and requires no pesticides or fertilizers to grow in most locations. It is among the most environmentally friendly and sustainable raw materials because it requires no irrigation and it biodegrades. Mechanically produced bamboo linen is considered the most eco-friendly version. Bamboo can also be made into rayon using a chemical process, called the viscose process, to dissolve the bamboo pulp and then spin fibers from its cellulose. Bamboo rayon lasts even longer than bamboo linen, but this production method is less eco-friendly as it involves chemical processing.

Pros
  •         Renewable resource
  •         Breathability
  •         Moisture-wicking
  •         Hypoallergenic
  •         UV resistant
Cons
  •         Requires more care in laundering
  •         Often involves chemical processing
  •         Shrinks more than synthetic fabrics

What is Cotton?

Cotton is the most well-known and best-selling fabric used for sheets. Cotton is also a natural, rather than synthetic, fiber. Cotton sheets are extremely durable, and the strength of the fabric means you can wash and dry them easily at home without having to worry about specialized care for them.

Cotton fabric is made from the fibers of the cotton plant which has a soft, fluffy staple fiber. The length of the fibers used to spin the various types of cotton yarns affects the texture and pliability of the resulting fabric. Egyptian cotton, with the longest fibers, is regarded as the most luxurious and softest form of cotton. All cotton fabrics, no matter the weave that is used, are highly breathable. Like bamboo, cotton is also a renewable resource, but its cultivation tends to be more labor-intensive and, depending upon the farming techniques used, generally requires more water, fertilizers, and pesticides.

Pros
  •         Durable
  •         Breathability
  •         Easily laundered
  •         Odor resistant
  •         Becomes softer with age
Cons
  •         Tends to wrinkle
  •         Requires more water to grow
  •         Pesticide use in cultivation
  •         Shrinks more than synthetic fabrics

How do Bamboo and Cotton Compare?

What’s the main difference between the two materials? It seems to be a consideration of eco-friendliness. Both come from renewable resources, but bamboo is quicker and less resource-intensive to grow. For this reason, it has grown in popularity in recent years.

Be aware when buying bamboo, though: Many bamboo-based fabrics are rayons. This means they are chemically (rather than mechanically) processed, so this may negate some of the environmentally friendly factors you may be looking for.

Both fabrics can be grown and processed organically. Plus, both are available in various weaves and thread counts.

Category Criteria Bamboo Summary Cotton Summary
Category

Durability

Criteria

With proper care, a sheet set can last for several years – but in many cases, regular use and frequent washing/drying cycles can cause the material to deteriorate.

Bamboo Rating

Some sources say bamboo will last longer than cotton with proper care; keeps bright colors longer

Cotton Rating

Extremely durable; the more you wash them, the softer they will get; will last through years of wash/dry cycles

Category

Temperature Regulation

Criteria

Breathable sheets and pillowcases provide better temperature neutrality than those made from fabrics – often synthetics – that trap heat and cause sleepers to feel excessively warm.

Bamboo Rating

More breathability for better temperature regulation

Cotton Rating

Less breathability but still very good as it is a natural fiber; sometimes preferred by those who have more sensitive skin

Category

Comfort and Feel

Criteria

Excessively thin sheets often bunch up and cause comfort issues, while inflexible sheets tend to snag around the sleeper’s body; the ideal sheets offer a balance of softness and flexibility.

Bamboo Rating

Hypoallergenic to help avoid allergic reactions; requires less dye for coloration which can result in less skin irritation

Cotton Rating

Very smooth hand feel; feels soft against bare skin; better for sensitive skin

Category

Cleaning

Criteria

Although most sheets are made from materials that can be washed and dried in machines, some require more extensive cleaning and care.

Bamboo Rating

May need a gentler cycle; needs to be washed less often

Cotton Rating

Easy to clean; no need to worry about heavy-duty washing machines; needs to be ironed if you wish to avoid wrinkles

Cost

The cost of both fabrics is remarkably similar for more quality sheets, although bamboo is generally more expensive at the lower end. Our editors’ choice for best best value cotton sheets are around $55, while our recommendation for best value bamboo sheets cost about $80. High-end sheets made from either material can cost hundreds of dollars. Both styles can be either highly affordable or extravagant, depending on the style and weave you choose.

Lifespan and Warranty

You should expect several years of quality use from either bamboo or cotton. Bamboo is valued for its ability to retain bright colors for long periods. With proper care, it is possible bamboo sheets may last 15-20 years.

A benefit to cotton sheets is that the more wash cycles that they go through, the softer they become. However, they do tend to eventually wear out and become thinner over time.

For both materials, warranties apply to defects in workmanship, such as hems coming apart, seams tearing, pilling, and excess shrinkage. Warranties do not cover regular wear and tear that occurs with use.

Care

Both sheets are suitable for machine washing and drying. Bamboo has properties that help control odors and can be washed less often. However, if you use your machine’s delicate cycle, you can increase both sheets’ lifespans. While both sheet types are highly durable, bamboo will hold onto its dye for longer.

Final Verdict

Both bamboo and cotton are natural fibers that come from renewable resources. They also both provide better breathability than synthetic fibers. The cost of bamboo sheets tends to be slightly higher, but both are soft and comfortable. Still, despite their similarities, there are other considerations to keep in mind when you are deciding between the two.

Bamboo Cotton
Pros Hypoallergenic
Breathability
Eco-friendly (if mechanically processed)
Wide availability
Breathability
Softness
Cons Requires slightly gentler care
Softer bamboo fabrics require greater chemical processing
Prone to wrinkles
Less durable
Requires more water for growing
Feel Bamboo has a soft, luxurious feel very similar to cotton. Like any fabric, this depends upon weave, as much as it does material. Cotton has long been considered the standard for sheets, as it is soft and breathes well.
Average Cost $50 and up $50 and up
Average Lifespan 15-20 years 10 years

You should buy bamboo if…

  • You are concerned about breathability.
  • Durability matters to you.
  • You are looking for a hypoallergenic fabric.

You should buy cotton if…

  • You prefer a softer feel.
  • Ease of care is important to you.
  • You prefer to spend less.

Additional Tuck Resources

Choosing between bamboo and cotton is only one consideration to make when buying sheets. Visit the links below to learn more about different types of sheets that could meet your needs, as well as the best in each category:

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