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What Is The Difference Between Linen And Cotton?

Linen and cotton are both durable, breathable, soft fabrics derived from natural fibers. So where do they differ? In examining linen vs. cotton, each material thrives on different elements, whether it’s breathability or absorbency. Both cotton and linen are eco-friendly fabrics because they are made from natural fibers, but there are many slight differences between cotton textiles and linen textiles that make them each unique.

What Is Cotton?

Cotton is a staple fiber, which means it is composed of different varying lengths of material. Cotton fabric is made from the natural fibers of cotton plants. The part of the cotton plant that becomes the fabric is the part that grows in the boll, the encasing for the fluffy cotton fibers. Cotton is a soft and fluffy material that is spun and woven to create a durable fabric.

Pros And Cons Of Cotton Sheets

Things We Love About Cotton Sheets

Wide Variety of Design Options

Luxury cotton sheets are available in a wide variety of colors, patterns, and textures to match any bedding ensemble or design décor.

Different Weaves

Since cotton can be woven into a variety of different types of weaves, cotton sheets come in uniquely different sheet styles like sateen, percale, and Supima that offer luxurious comfort.

Durable 

Luxury cotton sheets get their strength from the complex woven structure used in their creation, making them durable sheets that are made to last.

Softens with Each Wash 

Cotton sheets wash very well and actually get softer each time they are washed.

Things We Want To Improve About Cotton Sheets

Easily Wrinkled

Cotton fabric does tend to wrinkle quite a bit, so luxury cotton sheets may need extra attention and care to avoid excessive wrinkling.

Less Durable

While cotton sheets do offer exceptional durability, these popular sheets may have a slightly shorter life than linen sheets, depending on the weave and quality.

Shrinkage

Unfortunately, cotton sheets do shrink. It’s simply the nature of the fabric. Washing your luxury cotton sheets in cool water will help keep shrinking to a minimum.

What Is Linen?

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Linen is an extremely strong, lightweight fabric made from the flax plant, part of the genus Linum in the family Linaceae. The word “linen” comes from the Latin name for flax, “linum usitatissimum.” Linen is a natural fiber, like cotton, but it takes longer to harvest and make into fabric, as flax fibers can be difficult to weave. The fibers are extracted from the plant and stored for long periods of time to soften the fibers. Linen is a common material used for towels, tablecloths, napkins, and bedsheets. The term “linens” still refers to these household items, though they are not always made out of linen fabric.

Pros And Cons Of Linen Sheets

Things We Love About Linen Sheets

Durability

Linen sheets are some of the most durable sheets around and will last for years with proper care.

Hypoallergenic

Most healthcare professionals consider linen sheets to be naturally hypoallergenic. This means that most people can comfortably use linen sheets with no issues, which is perfect for those with sensitive skin.

Moisture Wicking

Linen sheets offer natural moisture wicking abilities and excellent breathability, leaving them cool for great sleeping conditions.

Eco-Friendly

Linen sheets are considered to be environmentally friendly because they are made from flax seeds, they last longer than most other sheets, and are biodegradable when you are finished with them.

Things We Want To Improve About Linen Sheets

Fewer Color Options

Linen sheets are not typically available in the variety of colors, patterns, and designs as many other luxury sheets, limiting creative design options and themes for your bedroom decor.

Coarse Feel at First

New luxury linen sheets are not optimal for use right out of the package. Even the finest linen sheets need to be washed several times to feel as smooth as cotton sheets.

Higher Upfront Cost

While luxury linen sheets do come with a higher price tag compared to other sheets, the investment will be worth it due to their longevity, since you are likely to have them for many years.

Wrinkle Easy

The linen fibers in these sheets do not have very much resilience or elasticity, so this means that they do tend to get wrinkled easily. This can often give a crumpled appearance.

FAQs

While cotton sheets and linen sheets both really do offer excellent breathability, some people feel that linen bedding sets may have a slight edge when it comes to keeping you cooler in warmer temperatures. Both of these highly breathable fabrics are also absorbable, which means that you stay cooler longer due to their superb wicking qualities. If your main concern is breathability, linen vs cotton sheets may work best for you, however, if you prefer a softer sheet, cotton is for you.

Cotton sheets and linen sheets are both great choices for cool weather. Cotton will make you feel warmer at first, but you may end up getting a little too warm, which is the case for many. Linen sheets, however, will retain the heat from your body, making you feel nice and cozy. Linen sheets feel heavier than cotton sheets and are about 30 percent stronger yet offer better breathability. For those who tend to get a little warm when sleeping, linen sheets are a perfect luxury bedding choice.

Linen is an excellent choice for luxury bedding items such as sheets, duvets, pillows, and more. In fact, it is a top choice of many hotels and vacation rental homes due to its durability and hypoallergenic qualities. Below are some of the pros and cons of linen sheets and cotton sheets so you can see how linen vs cotton sheets compare and which one will work best for your bedroom.

To put it simply, manufacturing linen is a laborious and timely process, from harvesting in the fields to fabric construction on the factory floor. Add geographical limitations of where the linen producing flax plant will grow and the result is a more costly purchase than the more easily produced cotton fabric.

Uses. Many products can be made with linen: aprons, bags, towels (swimming, bath, beach, body and wash towels), napkins, bed linens, tablecloths, runners, chair covers, and men's and women's wear. Today, linen is usually an expensive textile produced in relatively small quantities.

Differences Between Cotton And Linen: Cotton Vs. Linen

There are a number of key differences between cotton and linen. They include:

Durability 

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Cotton has a little more stretch and flexibility than linen but is not as durable. Finer cotton, like Egyptian cotton, is made from long-staple cotton fibers, which makes this cotton softer and more durable than standard cotton, but still not as durable as linen. Linen is much more rigid but lasts longer because the cellulose fibers in linen yarn are slightly longer and wrapped tighter than those in cotton yarn, which increases its strength and longevity.

Softness 

Cotton is softer to the touch than linen because flax fibers are rougher than cotton fibers. For example, cotton sheets are very soft right out of the box and can last around five years, but linen sheets become very soft after several washes and last longer, up to 30 years.

Texture 

Cotton is a smoother fabric, while linen has more of a rough, textured pattern as a result of the looser weave.

Appearance 

Cotton pills more than linen as cotton fibers are weaker. 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.

Hypoallergenic 

Both cotton and linen are hypoallergenic; however, linen is slightly better for people with allergies as the lower thread count and the loose weave is less likely to trap dust and particles.

Absorbency 

Both cotton and linen are very absorbent and water strengthens both linen and cotton fibers. Cotton is slightly more absorbent, as cotton can hold more than 25% of its weight in water while linen can hold up to 20% water.

Water Wicking 

Linen also has natural water-wicking qualities, which means it draws water (or sweat) out of the skin and dries quickly. Cotton also wicks moisture well, but it doesn’t have the same natural wicking ability that linen has.

Breathability

Both cotton fabric 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. Flax linen fibers, on the other hand, are hollow so air and water can easily circulate. Learn more about denim in our complete guide here.

Warmth 

Cotton does not conduct heat and it has similar insulating properties to fiberglass, the material used to insulate homes. Linen flax fibers are hollow, making it very cool for the summer, but should be layered in the winter months.

Linen Vs Cotton Bedlinen

For a good night’s sleep you need to feel comfortable. Whilst cotton is preferable to synthetic fibres, linen bedding still wins hands down in the comfort department. Linen sheets are not only soft, they also have temperature-regulating qualities that will keep you cool even on the warmest nights, and cosy when it’s cold outside. And thanks to its natural ability to wick moisture away from your body, you won’t wake up feeling sweaty either. Just blissfully well rested and ready for your day.

Why Linen Clothes Are Better Than Cotton

And it’s not only linen bedlinen that we love more than cotton. Linen clothes also offer the same temperature-regulating properties and supersoft comfort. In fact, research has shown that people wearing linen perspire less than those wearing cotton. Linen clothes are quick to dry and lightweight too, making them a great choice for travelling. Thanks to their charming crumples there’s no need to worry about ironing, either. Linen clothes lend an air of casual elegance and breezy simplicity. They are unfussy, unfaddy and show that whilst you care about your appearance you are not swayed by fast fashion trends. You want clothes that you can wear everywhere, any time, whether you are walking the dog, on the school run, giving an important presentation or meeting friends for dinner.

Cotton clothes can be lovely, but they can also become threadbare and lose their shape after repeated washing. Unlike linen, which actually gets better with every wash. Linen is also moth-resistant and anti-microbial too, meaning your clothes stay fresher and looking great for longer.

Linen Is A More Sustainable Option

The method of producing linen fabric from the flax plant uses far less water than it does to produce the same amount of cotton. This makes it a more sustainable choice. Fewer pesticides are used to grow flax than in cotton growing, and linen fibers can be processed without the use of chemicals. Which is only going to be a good thing for the planet.

Cotton plant also requires huge acreage, whereas flax will happily grow on poor soil. Organic cotton is a good choice if you are trying to buy environmentally-friendly textiles, but due to the reduction in crop yields resulting from the lack of chemicals allowed for organic cotton production, it requires yet more land. Linen is less resource-hungry, and once it has finished its useful life linen fabric will simply biodegrade with no harmful waste or by-products.

Better Texture, Look And Feel

There’s a reason food stylists, Instagrammers and interior stylists choose linen textiles. They simply have a much more interesting look and feel to cotton alternatives. Whilst cotton textiles can look flat and bland, linen has texture and a depth to its fibres that is completely on trend right now. From stylish picnics to poolside snaps, linen homewares are rightly having a moment. Linen looks stunning whether you opt for muted, neutral Scandi-inspired hues or go for pops of bold colour. And it will keep on looking and feeling amazing for years to come thanks to its durability and the fact that, like most good things, it gets better with age.

Conclusion

Both linen and cotton fabrics look gorgeous and feel luxurious, but subtle differences may make one more suitable for you, your lifestyle, and your home.

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