Bamboo vs. Linen vs. Cotton Sheets: Which is Best?

According to the National Institute of Health (NIH) ’s newsletter, insufficient sleep increases your chance of developing serious health problems. Plus, a poor night’s sleep makes it more challenging to focus and stay in a positive mood throughout your day. While many things can contribute to trouble sleeping, if you’re uncomfortable because of worn-out bedding that does not meet your needs, this is likely the first place to start.

A stack of Vilano extra deep pocket 6-piece sheet set in dark blue from Southshore Fine Linens.

When you’re trying to get comfortable and settle in for a good night’s rest, you’re going to want to be at your ideal temperature, have your preferred level of softness up against your skin, and have a sense of calm. Generally speaking, for these aspects to all line up, you’re going to want bedding made of natural fibers. Natural fibers are more likely to be hypoallergenic, soft, breathable, and eco-friendly.

This is especially true when it comes to sheets that will directly touch your skin and can vastly make or break temperature regulation (especially for hot sleepers). Ultimately, it comes down to your preferences regarding price, environmental impact, personal comfort preferences, and style choices. Keep reading to learn more about bamboo, linen, and cotton sheets.

Get luxurious sheets at an affordable price with Southshore Fine Linens!

Bamboo sheets

Bamboo sheets may be the ideal choice for those who run hot while they sleep and desire a comfortable yet eco-friendly sheet. While some may think bamboo is abrasive on the skin, this is usually only for organic bamboo sheets or linen. In reality, bamboo can actually be incredibly soft and cozy.

Benefits of bamboo sheets:

  • Soft
  • Eco-friendly
  • Breathable
  • Viscose from bamboo provides moisture-wicking
  • Regulates temperature well
  • Gentle on the skin
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Antimicrobial
  • Durable (especially when cared for properly)
  • Easy to clean
  • Higher thread count 

Cons of bamboo sheets: 

  • It can be more expensive
  • Apt to wrinkle — ironing on low may be required if wrinkles bother you
  • Research is needed to ensure ethical and environmentally safe production
  • Even more costly when shopping ethically for top-quality

Disclaimer: Always follow the specific instructions from the manufacturer with any new sheet set.

According to the Sleep Foundation, most bamboo sheets should be washed on a gentle cycle in cool/cold water with mild detergent (no bleach or fabric softener). For drying, it’s ideal to line dry, but since that’s not always feasible, tumble drying on low heat is recommended. 

How are bamboo sheets made?

According to the Sleep Foundation, bamboo sheets are made by harvesting bamboo stalks, cutting them into chips, and then soaking the chips in enzymes or chemicals to turn them into a pulp. This pulp is then spun into bamboo fiber in multiple textiles.

There are four major types of bamboo textiles:

  • Rayon: This semi-synthetic textile was originally created as a substitute for silk and is made by combining bamboo pulp with either wood pulp or cotton. This combination is then soaked in chemicals, drained, and then spun into fiber to create a more affordable alternative to natural bamboo.
  • Viscose: A kind of rayon that is so common the terms are often used interchangeably. While both rayon and viscose use chemicals and basically the same processes to achieve the final result, viscose uses carbon disulfide. These chemicals (especially carbon disulfide) are dangerous to workers and the environment if not handled properly. So, ethically speaking, it is best to research the company you’re ordering from to ensure safety protocols are met.
  • Lyocell: Lyocell uses a non-toxic chemical solution to soak the bamboo pulp and incorporates a closed-loop manufacturing system to reduce waste
  • Bamboo linen: Sometimes referred to as “natural bamboo,” this process uses a purely mechanical process to break down bamboo using its natural enzymes. Bamboo fibers are then “combed” out (by hand) and spun into a yarn. Bamboo linen is less common as it is a more exhaustive process and produces a fabric that isn’t very soft (especially compared to rayon and lyocell fabrics). 

Are bamboo sheets environmentally friendly?

Bamboo is a renewable resource that grows quickly. Therefore, when ethically produced, bamboo sheets are likely the most environmentally friendly option. The ecologically conscious should keep in mind that some companies may not process their bamboo ethically or environmentally friendly. 

Are bamboo fibers softer than cotton?

When bamboo is made using quality textiles, it can be just as soft (if not softer) than cotton. 

Linen sheets

Linen sheets are a great option for those who live in a warm climate, are looking for something that will last quite a long time, and desire a more relaxed and natural vibe to their décor. 

What is the difference between linen and bamboo sheets?

While linen and bamboo are both environmentally friendly choices, bamboo is still more eco-friendly. Also, even though both materials are long-lasting, linen tends to outlast most other types of sheets. 

Benefits of linen sheets:

  • Eco-friendly
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Antimicrobial
  • Can be ironed, if desired
  • Lightweight and breathable
  • Cool
  • Very durable
  • Get softer with age 

Cons to linen sheets: 

  • Crease easily

  • Often pricey

  • Material may not feel soft enough to some 


Disclaimer: Always follow the specific instructions from the manufacturer with any new set of sheets.

According to the Sleep Foundation, linen sheets should be washed in cold water with a mild detergent (no bleach or fabric softener). To avoid wrinkles, remove them from the dryer when they’re still damp and line-dry them. Ironing may enhance a sleek look if desired.

How are linen sheets made?

According to the Sleep Foundation, linen is made using the flax plant to weave into a fabric. Since these fibers are really strong, linen sheets tend to last a long time and have a distinctive “crinkled” look.

Are linen sheets environmentally friendly?

Linen is almost as environmentally friendly as bamboo (when grown and manufactured properly). Another eco-friendly bonus is that linen sheets are biodegradable. Those who are environmentally conscious should consider whether the flax is grown with pesticides or if the manufacturing process uses harsh chemicals to cut back production time.

Which is the better fabric for bed sheets: bamboo or linen?

This question often comes down to personal preference. Bamboo sheets and linen sheets are both:

  • Sustainable and eco-friendly
  • Able to transition between seasons well
  • Hypoallergenic and antimicrobial
  • Durable

Making your choice often comes down to the key differences. For example, linen is likely to last longer, but bamboo is going to be softer (especially initially). Bamboo will have a higher thread count but will not be as lightweight.

Cotton sheets

For many, cotton sheets reign supreme when it comes to combining comfort and affordability with multiple style options. For those who prioritize style, warmth, and softness over longevity, cotton is likely your best bet.

Benefits of cotton sheets: 

  • Affordable
  • There are a lot of styles, colors, and price options
  • Soft and crisp
  • Breathable yet warm
  • Absorbent (good for sweaty sleepers)
  • Easy to clean

Cons of cotton sheets: 

  • Can rip/tear easier than other materials
  • May pill if poor-quality
  • It takes longer to dry
  • May shrink if too much heat is used while washing/drying 

Disclaimer: Always follow the specific instructions from the manufacturer of your specific sheet set.  

According to the Sleep Foundation, cotton sheets can be washed and dried without much worry of damage. However, since cotton is prone to shrinking, it is best to avoid hot water when washing and high heat when drying. Cooler temperatures will help this fabric last longer. When washing, you can use a fabric softener if desired. If wrinkled, an iron is safe to use.

How are cotton sheets made?

According to the Sleep Foundation, cotton sheets are made using the cotton plant, the most frequently used material for making sheets, as it is soft and breathable. The three most common types of cotton used to make sheets include:

  • Egyptian cotton: The most expensive type of cotton, Egyptian cotton is considered the most lavish type of cotton sheet. Sheets made with Egyptian cotton use exceedingly long fibers for supreme softness and a delicate texture. This type of cotton is very resistant to pilling.
  • Pima cotton: This less costly option still uses extra-long fibers, so it’s optimally breathable and moisture-wicking. This type of cotton will also resist pilling.
  • Upland cotton: This is the most common and cost-effective type of cotton. Since upland cotton uses shorter fibers, it isn’t quite as soft or durable as Pima or Egyptian cotton. This means it may rip easily and is more prone to pilling.

The feel of cotton sheets is determined by the way it’s woven. Usually, cotton sheets are weaved using one of two weave patterns:

  • The percale weave: This weave uses a one-over-one-under stitch when combining the fibers to produce a crisper sheet
  • The sateen weave: This weave uses a one-under, three- or four-over pattern when combining the fibers to produce a softer sheet with a bit of a shimmer for added stylishness

Are cotton sheets environmentally friendly?

Not always. Companies trying to cut corners may use cotton that is grown using pesticides that are harmful to the environment. Therefore, you’re going to want to look for labels that read “organic cotton” or look for companies that use materials that are OEKO-TEX 100 Certified or OEKO MADE IN GREEN. Since cotton is a natural fiber, it’s biodegradable and is a renewable resource (although not quite as renewable as bamboo).

Check out Southshore Fine Linens for various styles of cotton sheets made using cotton grown in the U.S.

A made bed with 300 thread count cotton percale sheet set in white from Southshore Fine Linens.

Finding the ideal bedding material can be a bit of a challenge. Especially if you’re sensitive to certain fabrics, live somewhere with multiple seasons, and/or are sensitive to temperature while you sleep. Luckily, Southshore Fine Linens offers multiple types of top-quality fabrics to choose from. 

Looking for a better night’s sleep on luxury bedding? Check out Southshore Fine Linens today. 


Best Bamboo Sheets. (2023).
Good Sleep for Good Health. (2021).
Linen vs. Cotton Sheets