Cotton vs. Linen -- The Definitive Guide to Choosing Quality Sheets

If you have not given much thought to the sheets you use or wish to learn the differences between cotton and linen products, you have come to the right place. While cotton and linen are the most popular materials for bedding, dining and kitchenware, there are distinct differences between the fabrics, with each offering alternative textures and properties. From percale to Egyptian cotton to the misconception that thread count is the only defining feature to base your purchase on; learning the differences will help you avoid making important mistakes. The following guide looks at cotton vs. linen and ways to make the best buying decision for your home.

Before We get Started, Here are Some Important Facts You Need to Know

Thread count refers to the number of yarns crossed and woven per square inch of fabric. A higher thread count means that more stitching and extra fibers are used in the manufacturing. The purpose is to make the product more durable and comfortable, but this is not always the case. Tighter weaving and additional yarn can make a blanket or bedding feel stiff and incredibly hot to sleep under. The more the thread count, the less breathable the fabric. It does provide a smooth product and is the most durable, but quality fabrics may not possess a high thread count and the number of yarns used in manufacturing will depend on personal preference.
Whether cotton or linen, a higher thread count does not always mean that you are purchasing the best product. Research into the label advertising exceptional thread counts can help determine the reliability of the brand and its production.


Cotton is a much-loved fabric used on many products from lightweight bed sheets to luxurious plush towels and bedding. There is nothing better than buying a new sheet or duvet to experience the soft textures and fresh scents of your new cotton products only to find that once unwrapped, the sheets and duvet are coarse to the touch. Unfortunately, cotton is not just cotton. A multitude of types have become available from silken and lush feels to rough manufacture and if you are none the wiser, you will end up buying something you were not looking for.
Percale, Sateen and Egyptian cotton are bedding terms to describe the several types of cottons you can find. While each product comes from the same plant, the major difference is the way it is woven and overall thread count. Manufactured from cotton balls, fibers are extracted and woven together to produce a snug and strong fabric.

Types of Cotton

Egyptian Cotton – This is the most luxurious and durable of all cottons described as an extra-long staple or ELS cotton. Its supple woven design contributes to the exceptionally soft texture and versatility of the fabric. It is easy to keep clean and considered the top of the range. Check the labels of products to ensure it is certified Egyptian cotton.
Percale – A common style of weave used in the production of towels and bedding helps develop a thicker type of thread. Percale is recognized for its fresh crispness and smooth textures that do not crease easily after being washed. If you are looking for excellent quality percale, you can expect to pay over $100 for bedding. The cheaper alternatives will feel extremely thin and rough in comparison. These breathable sheets are great for heat prone sleepers, but superior manufacturing is pricey and difficult to find.
Sateen – Satin-like and lightweight best describe Sateen sheets. Cotton is incorporated in its manufacture using closely woven fibers leaving you with a shiny material that is breathable, durable and commonly noted in the lining of bedding products.


Linens are generally costlier than cottons, but offer a better longevity and feel much cooler and smoother than its bedding counterparts. Bedding, pillows, sheets and more offer breathability for a cooler feel and minimize moisture absorption. The material is naturally anti-bacterial and anti-microbial making it the ideal choice for allergy sufferers. A favourable feature includes its tendency to become plusher after every clean. Made from the flax plant, these products have been recognized as more eco-conscious in its manufacture.

Types of Linen

Pure Linen – the 100% linen fabrics are slightly rougher than cottons, but do not lack comfort and feels cooler when used in sheeting and clothing. Investing in high quality linen sheets will last for many years and serves as a great choice for bedding in the summer months or for warmer climates.
Cotton Linen – This material combines the properties of linen and cotton providing a lush, breathable and strong fabric. The limitation is the ease with which it creases and will require regular ironing if clothes are not properly hung or homeware packed away.

Cotton vs. Linen and How It Affects Sheets

Cottons are spun from the tightly knit fibers of cotton balls contributing to a thicker and durable material that is smooth to the touch, but can take an exceptionally long time to dry. The cotton based bedding, including sheets and duvets, leave many people feeling hot and bothered during the night. It does not consist of a fair amount of breathability and will not wick excess moisture adding to a heavy and weighted feel. Cotton linen combinations will tend to crease and require regular ironing.
Linens are created from a longer grass type plant that does not involve a dense weave as with cotton fibers. You will find that the thread count does not reach the high numbers found with Egyptian cotton or Percale, but this does not compromise the quality of the fabric. Linen offers higher breathability owing to its loosely knitted fibers leaving you feeling cooler and comfortable in warmer temperatures. These products dry very quickly and feel smooth against your skin. It is easy to wash and tends to feel softer once rinsed and dried.
The selection of the best style of bedding or homeware depends on preference and affordability. Investing in quality linens or higher thread count Egyptian cotton is more expensive, but can provide decades of use with the right care. Considering these factors can help you make the right choice for all comfort and bedding needs.

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