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Bamboo vs. Cotton Sheets

Quick Overview

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 of bamboo-based fabric 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-based 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 bedding materials. To learn more about what important considerations you must make when shopping for sheets, read on to learn more about differences between bamboo fiber and cotton sheets, and the advantages of each.

What Is Bamboo-Based Fabric?

Bamboo-based sheets have many of the same advantages as cotton sheets, including softness and breathability. These 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 of bamboo-based fibers have unmatched durability and comfort. They can be considered environmentally friendly, depending on which production method is used.

The bamboo used to produce this 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 and Cons of Bamboo-Based Sheets

  • Sustainably made
  • Very breathable
  • Moisture-wicking material
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Resistant to UV rays

Cons

  • Requires more care in laundering
  • Often involves chemical processing
  • Shrinkage potential

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.

Regardless of which weave is used, all cotton fabrics 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 and Cons of Cotton Sheets

  • Durable
  • Very breathable
  • Easily laundered
  • Odor-resistant
  • Fabric becomes softer with age

Cons

  • Material tends to wrinkle
  • Requires more water to grow
  • Pesticide use in cultivation
  • Shrinks more than synthetic fabrics

How Do Bamboo-Based Fabric 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-Based Fabric Rating Cotton Rating
Durability 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. Some sources say bamboo-based fabric will last longer than cotton with proper care. It also keeps bright colors longer. Bamboo-based fabric is highly durable. The more you wash these sheets, the softer they will get. Most sets last through years of wash/dry cycles.
Temperature neutrality 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. Cotton offers more breathability for better temperature regulation. Bamboo-based fabric is less breathable but still very cool, as it is a natural fiber. It is sometimes preferred by those who have more sensitive skin.
Comfort and feel 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. Cotton is hypoallergenic to help avoid allergic reactions. It requires less dye for coloration, which can result in less skin irritation. Bamboo-based fabric has a very smooth hand feel. It feels soft against bare skin, and may be better for sensitive skin.
Cleaning and care Although most sheets are made from materials that can be washed and dried in machines, some require more extensive cleaning and care. Cotton may require a gentler cycle. It needs to be washed less frequently to avoid early wear and tear. Bamboo-based fabric is easy to clean. There is no need to worry about heavy-duty washing machines, but the material 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-based sheets are generally more expensive at the lower end. Our pick for best best value cotton sheets are around $55, while our recommendation for best value bamboo-based 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-based or cotton sheets. Bamboo fibers are valued for their ability to retain bright colors for long periods. With proper care, bamboo-based sheets may last up to 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.

Cleaning and Care

Both sheets are suitable for machine washing and drying. Bamboo fibers have properties that help control odors and, as a result, 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-based fibers will hold onto dye for longer.

Final Verdict

Both bamboo-based fabric and cotton are fibers that come from renewable resources. They also both provide better breathability than other bedding materials. The cost of bamboo-based 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.

Material Bamboo-Based Fabric Cotton
Pros Hypoallergenic Breathable Eco-friendly (if mechanically processed) Widely available Breathable Exceptionally soft
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 10-15 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.
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