Linen Vs. Cotton Sheets: How To Choose

October 20, 2021 | Casper Editorial Team

If you’re choosing between snuggling up to a linen or cotton bed sheet at night, rest assured that both materials can lend themselves to a luxurious night’s sleep.

There are, however, some ways in which these fabrics diverge. In particular, you’ll notice a difference in their look and texture. Cotton is more soft and less wrinkly whereas linen is crisp and more prone to wrinkling. 

In this article, we’ll break down both linen and cotton bed sheets to help you decide which fabric should carry you off into dreamland. 

Whether you desire a silky touch or snuggly feel, our selection of bed sheets will be your favorite thing to sleep with. Browse our different types of sheets to find the perfect bedding.


Key Differences Between Linen and Cotton

There are two key points of distinction to be aware of when deciding whether linen or cotton sheets should dress your next bed:

  • Texture – First, cotton and linen have markedly different textures at the beginning stages of their use. While cotton is soft and pliable from the get-go, linen tends to be coarse and crisp. Linen fibers are thicker than cotton’s, which means that when researching cotton and linen sheets, you’ll typically find that linen sheets have a lower thread count.
  • Look – With respect to aesthetics, cotton is decidedly more wrinkle-resistant, whereas creases can be obvious on linen bedding. Even so, linen fabrics drape exquisitely and aren’t as prone to producing lint.

While these are the main differences, we’ll explain more about the two and let you decide which you prefer. 

First, let’s dive into more detail about cotton.

What is Cotton Bedding?

Cotton fabric is a natural cellulose fiber derived from the cotton plant (a member of the mallow family). It’s one of the world’s oldest and domesticated non-food plants, with an agricultural history dating back 6,000 years.1

Cotton is one of the most versatile types of natural fibers on the planet—it’s the leading natural fiber in the textile industry and a go-to fabric for bedding. 

Common types of cotton bedding include:

  • Flannel
  • Percale
  • Sateen

Benefits of Cotton Sheets

There’s a reason why cotton has made such an indelible impression on human culture. The benefits of cotton sheets go above and beyond pure coziness and include:

  • Breathability – Cotton is an extremely well-ventilated fabric and can tamp down temperatures for sleepers who tend to overheat in bed. Organic cotton is particularly breathable—because it’s cultivated with zero pesticides, the cotton ball develops longer fibers that can admit more air into the textile weave.
  • Softness – Cotton sheets are renowned for their supple, ultra-gentle feel. Plus, the more you wash them, the softer they’ll get.
  • Hypoallergenic properties – Cotton is a non-irritating fabric, making it a friendly choice for those with sensitive skin and looking for the best sheets for allergies. Combined with its intrinsic breathability, cotton offers a great choice for summertime sheets by eschewing any extra aggravation to sunburns, heat rashes, or itchiness.

Overall, cotton’s fresh, light build and cozy feel make for an idyllic year-round sheet. 

What is Linen Bedding?

Linen fabric is a natural textile made from the flax, or linseed, plant. Archaeological evidence shows humans were spinning, dying, and knotting linen fiber as far back as the Upper Paleolithic period—30,000 years ago.2

Linen is a uniquely durable fabric and is often produced using heritage treatment processes. Many manufactures use softening procedures like stone or enzyme washing to distress the fabric for a softer product, though the use of chemicals during these treatments may aggravate those with sensitive skin.3

Benefits of Linen Sheets

There are many advantages to turning to linen for your bedding, including:

  • Durability – Linen is known as one of the textile industry’s most tenacious fabrics, and while their texture starts off sturdy and crisp, your linen bed sheet softens with time.
  • Longevity – Your linen sheet set is in it for the long haul—for both your personal lifespan, as well as for human history. With proper care, linen sheets with a high-quality weave pattern can last for decades of top-tier sleep.
  • Thermoregulation – As a moisture-wicking fabric, linen does a sterling job of holding temperatures steady during the night. This also makes linen a great fabric for a pillowcase, keeping both sides of the pillow cool, crisp, and night-sweat-free.

Care for Linen vs Cotton Sheets

Most cotton sheets can be machine-washed with warm or cool water and a non-toxic detergent. It’s best to avoid using high temperatures—whether hot water or hot dry settings—which can deplete color and shrink your sheets. Fabric softeners should also be avoided, as they can sap the fabric’s finish.

Linen sheets require a higher investment in care than cotton sheets, and you’ll need to tend to them properly to ensure the longest possible lifespan. Linen bedding can be machine-washed on a weekly basis with the following guidelines: 

  • Use cold water and a mild, non-toxic detergent
  • Dry on low heat (or on a clothesline) for minimum wrinkling

Which is Better for Sheets: Linen or Cotton?

Ultimately, cotton and linen are both high-ranking fabrics for bedding. However, linen can be higher maintenance to both produce and own—and can take some time to break in. This makes linen a preferable option for pillows and throws, rather than the sheets you cozy up to on a nightly basis.

While linen can be a more demanding sheet to work with, you’ll be able to snuggle up to cotton straight out of the gate (or the box, as it were).

Get Cozy Between the Sheets with Casper

For instantaneous luxury the next time you make your bed, sink into Casper’s range of bed sheets:

With four comfy options to choose from and hues from across the color spectrum, we provide cotton bedding for every kind of sleep priority, from staying cool to looking luxe and everything in between. As long as you choose Casper, you’ll never have to compromise on luxury sheets and quality sleep. If you still can’t decide, check out our guide on how to buy sheets so you can begin your journey to better sleep.

Sources: 

  1. Thought Co. The Domestication History of Cotton (Gossypium). ​​https://www.thoughtco.com/domestication-history-of-cotton-gossypium-170429 
  2. Harvard Library. 30,000 Years Old Wild Flax Fibers – Testimony for Fabricating Prehistoric Linen. https://dash.harvard.edu/handle/1/4270521
  3. Real Simple. Interested in Linen Sheets? Here’s Everything You Need to Know Before You Commit. https://www.realsimple.com/home-organizing/decorating/decorating-bedroom/linen-bed-sheets-guide