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Microfiber vs. Cotton Sheets

Quality sleep plays a key role in both physical and mental health. Ensure that you get the most comfortable night’s sleep possible by picking the right sheets for your bedding set. There are a number of things to consider when selecting sheets that will result in the most restful sleep for your particular needs, such as texture, feel, and moisture-wicking capabilities.

Style isn’t the only thing to think about when it comes to choosing bedding, and this guide will explore two fabric options to see if they match your comfort needs. Cotton and microfiber sheets each have unique benefits when it comes to texture, durability, and temperature. Read more to discover which option is the best for you.

What is Microfiber?

Microfiber sheets are made up of super-thin fibers, which are woven together to create a lightweight and comfortable sheet. This sheet is set apart by its specific thickness, measuring 1 denier in diameter, and can be made from a number of materials, such as nylon polymers, polyester, or wood pulp. Since microfiber sheets are often made from synthetic materials they are less prone to wrinkling and shrinkage in comparison to natural materials, like linen or cotton.

Microfiber sheets are lightweight, and the higher the quality of the sheet, the more moisture-wicking capabilities it will have. They are woven in a percale or sateen weave, and the tighter the weave, the more durable the sheet will be when it comes to frequent washing. Though microfiber sheets are very thin, they are often strong and durable, resulting in a smooth finish and the ability to modulate temperature similarly to a weatherproof jacket.

Pros
  • Lightweight
  • Durable when accompanied by a tight weave
  • Machine washable
Cons
  • Highly absorbent, and therefore more prone to staining
  • More likely to generate static
  • Durability and temperature dependent on thread count and weave

What is Cotton?

Cotton is a breathable fabric made from cotton plants, making it a natural and soft option for sheets with an organic, comfortable feel. This sheet typically consists of around 200,000 individual fibers: short-staple fibers measuring shorter than 1 1/8”, long-staple fibers measuring 1 1/8” to 1 ¼” in length, or extra-long-staple fibers measuring 1 3/8” to 2” in length.

Cotton also provides versatility in terms of the kind and quality of the cotton used, from 100 percent cotton sheets to a cotton blend. Egyptian cotton is a high-end option, with extra-long fibers and a higher thread count. Pima cotton is a mid-range cost option and is remarkably soft. The most affordable cotton option is Upland cotton, with short-staples and a coarser feel, and it is the most common type of cotton for sheets. Cotton sheets can either be knit or woven, with the weave options being sateen, percale, or combed.

Cotton has a wide range of styles and varieties that are perfect for all price ranges.

Moreover, cotton sheets are easy to take care of and get softer with every wash. They are also naturally breathable and wick away moisture, making for a cool night’s sleep. Finally, they’re an all-natural option, often coming in organic and environmentally-friendly options for the environmentally conscious consumer.

Pros
Cons
  • More expensive
  • Natural fibers are not as durable

How do Microfiber and Cotton Compare?

There are a number of differences between microfiber and cotton sheets to consider before making your purchase. The quality of the product will determine the best choice for consumers: both microfiber sheets and cotton sheets come in a variety of options when it comes to weave and thread count, which will in turn affect affordability. Most people prefer cotton sheets to microfiber sheets. Cotton sheets are more breathable than microfiber and won’t trap heat as easily, providing a more comfortable sleep.

However, microfiber sheets can be more durable than cotton sheets, as natural fibers–particularly less expensive cotton options–can break down more easily with frequent washes. They are a good option for a consumer who is interested in a lightweight and highly durable sheet.

Category Criteria Microfiber 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.

Microfiber Rating

Durable. Microfiber sheets generally have a tight weave and are less likely to deteriorate with frequent washes.

Cotton Rating

Less durable. Cotton sheets become softer with each wash, though they are more likely to breakdown given their natural fibers.

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.

Microfiber Rating

Less breathability; microfibers trap heat more easily than cotton sheets. They are better suited for colder climates and people who tend to get chillier at night.

Cotton Rating

Very breathable. The natural fibers assist in regulating the temperature for a cool and dry sleep. They are ideal for sleepers who run hot at night.

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.

Microfiber Rating

Lightweight, smooth, and slippery feel. However, due to the thinness of the sheet it might bunch during the night if the sleeper is restless. These sheets are also less ideal for people with sensitive skin.

Cotton Rating

Clean, cool, and soft feel. Cotton sheets become softer with every wash. These sheets are a good selection for people with 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.

Microfiber Rating

Easy to clean, no need to worry about washing them on any cycle; they are less likely to shrink. However, microfiber sheets are more prone to long lasting stains because they’re absorbent and more static-y.

Cotton Rating

Easy to wash and not prone to staining, however due to the natural fibers the sheets will breakdown quicker over time.

Cost

The cost of both sheets depends on the quality of the sheet purchased in either category, with both offering a range of cost-effective options as well as high-end selections depending on the thread count and weave. However, cotton sheets tend to be more expensive on average.

Lifespan and Warranty

Both microfiber and cotton are highly durable and, if cared for correctly, the user can expect several years of high-quality use from either. This is also contingent on the quality of the sheet purchased for either microfiber or cotton. Microfibers, due to the tightness of the weave, are more durable than cotton, which, due to its natural fibers, will break down with more frequent washing. Pilling can happen with either sheet and depends on the finishing process.

The warranty on both microfiber and cotton sheets are often both for one year. However, depending on the cost and quality of the sheets, the warranty might be extended to several years.

Care

Cotton and microfiber sheets are both easy to care for, and both can be machine washed and dried. They are both highly durable and often hold colors well. Cotton becomes softer with every wash, though it is more prone to breaking down with time due to its natural fibers. Cotton might also shrink with first washing and is more prone to wrinkling. However, microfibers are more likely to stain due to their highly absorbent nature, unless otherwise specified.

Final Verdict

Both microfiber and cotton sheets are durable and smooth-feeling options, with a variety of options when it comes to price points, style, and quality. But, despite their similarities, there are a number of things to consider when you are making the final decision between the two of them. Cotton is a more breathable and allergen-free option, while microfiber is a more durable one.

Microfiber Cotton
Pros Durability
Easy to care for
Silky feel
Breathability
Softness
Better for those prone to allergies or sensitive skin
Cons Traps heat
Stains
Less durable
Might shrink in wash
Feel Microfibers have a smooth and silky feel. Cotton has a cool and soft feel.
Average Cost $15 and up $50 and up
Average Lifespan 2-3 years 2-3 years

You should buy microfiber if…

  • You are looking for a more cost-effective sheet option.
  • You are looking for a durable and more wrinkle-resistant option.
  • You want a silky smooth sheet.

You should buy cotton if…

  • Breathability is a consideration.
  • You have sensitive skin or are prone to allergies.
  • Softness is a priority.
  • Environmental consciousness is a concern.

Additional Tuck Resources

Deciding between whether a microfiber sheet and a cotton sheet is just one of many things to consider when making your bedding purchase. Check out the links below to learn more about a variety of other sheets that could meet your unique needs, and the best of the options available in each sheet category.

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