Bamboo Sheets vs. Cotton
Tried-and-true cotton sheets have been a mainstay on most of our beds. But newer sheet materials, like microfiber, satin, and linen, have become popular and come with various benefits and drawbacks.
In this overview, let’s compare two popular sheet materials: Bamboo vs. cotton. They’re both widely available, but bamboo is certainly the newer of the two. Let’s put these two sheet categories to the test.
Bamboo vs. Cotton Sheets at a Glance
Cotton is well-known for its durability and breadth of options in stores. It’s the most common, after all. But bamboo is coming for its popularity with its softness and breathability.
It’s worth noting that both cotton and bamboo sheets can vary widely in material composition. If they’re labeled as “bamboo,” they could contain materials like modal or rayon that are derived from bamboo. Similarly, cotton sheets may contain more than one type or weave of cotton, such as Egyptian or percale. These variables will affect comfort, quality, and price.
Let’s compare them head-to-head.
|Rayon, lyocell, viscose, or modal, all derived in part from bamboo and in various weaves
|Organic or non-organic cotton fibers (or, “staples”) of varying lengths
|Typical thread count
|250 to 500
|200 to 400
|Generally more breathable than cotton regardless of quality
|Retains heat more, but higher quality sheets can be just as breathable and cool as bamboo
|Most types of bamboo sheets are very soft
|Softness varies widely, but higher quality sheets can be very soft and luxurious
|Typical care & durability
|Bamboo tends to be more durable than cotton but needs to be gently laundered and dried
|Cotton tends to soften after each wash and is durable when carefully laundered and stored. But it may not have the durability of bamboo over time
Bamboo Sheets: Overview
Bamboo sheets are known to be durable, breathable, cooling, and in some cases, hypoallergenic, meaning they aren’t likely to cause an allergic reaction. A sheet set labeled as “bamboo” may be comprised of materials derived from bamboo, and come in various weaves (such as percale or sateen) and levels of quality.
Bamboo sheets are often considered a more environmentally sustainable and durable option since the bamboo plant grows very quickly and has durable fibers. This has boosted their overall popularity and availability in retail stores.
However, bamboo sheets are typically processed using chemicals that can make them less environmentally friendly. If this is a concern for you, you can check if they are certified USDA Organic or STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX.
Bamboo tends to be very breathable and doesn’t retain heat as much as cotton does. Even less expensive bamboo sheets will generally be breathable and cooling. The percale weave, which uses a “one thread over, one thread under” pattern, is particularly cooling due to its lightweight feel.
Bamboo thread counts range between 250 to 500. Thread count tends to matter less with bamboo sheets than with other sheet types since bamboo sheets tend to be very soft no matter the thread count. Higher thread counts in bamboo may retain heat a bit more and be slightly less cool.
Bamboo is a highly durable material; it’s even used to fortify flooring. It’s also superior at absorbing dye for brighter colors than some other materials. Bamboo sheets will last upwards of five to eight years with proper care and gentle washing.
Always follow the manufacturer’s care instructions on any sheets you use. This usually requires gentle washing and tumble drying on low. Bamboo sheets also tend to air dry well.
Bamboo sheets of all quality levels tend to be very soft and breathable. Percale bamboo weaves tend to be soft and lightweight. Sateen bamboo weaves tend to be silky and wrinkle-resistant. Twill bamboo weaves have a diagonal pattern and tend to be the thickest, most durable, and the least soft. Bamboo linen feels crisp like regular linen, but often feels softer. Generally, many people consider bamboo to be one of the best luxury sheets you can buy.
The Council of Fashion Designers of America, Inc. (CFDA) explains that it’s a natural fiber that is produced as a bast fiber or a manufactured fiber. This produces either bamboo linen or bamboo rayon/viscose or lyocell. There are a few varieties on the market:
- Bamboo viscose/rayon
- Bamboo modal
- Bamboo lyocell
- Bamboo linen fiber
There are also bamboo blends containing other types of fabric, often with cotton.
Check out our list the best bamboo sheets for more insight.
Bamboo Sheets Pros and Cons
- Durable with proper care
- Long-lasting, often lasting more than 5 years
- Soft feel regardless of price point
- Can be environmentally friendly, depending on how they’re produced
- Typically more expensive than cotton sheets
- Often uses chemical processing
- Some weaves tend to wrinkle
Shopping Tips for Bamboo Sheets
- Watch out for fake bamboo sheets. Many brands labeled “bamboo” may not contain any bamboo or derivatives at all. Look for 100% bamboo viscose or 100% bamboo rayon for the most bamboo bang for your buck.
- Don’t pay top dollar for a blend. Bamboo can often be blended with other materials to save on production costs. Just don’t pay 100% bamboo pricing for them.
- For the best of all words, choose twill or sateen weaves. These two bamboo weaves are often the best blend of durability and feel.
- Thread count isn’t everything. Fiber quality usually matters much more. Also, watch out for unreasonably high thread counts (usually over 800). These are often not accurate and have diminishing returns. Stick to a more moderate 300 to 500 for a reasonable (and likely more accurate) thread count.
- It will be pricier. Higher quality bamboo sheets tend to run upwards of $100 or much more, so be prepared to pay a bit more than you would for cotton sheets.
Cotton Sheets: Overview
If you’re in the U.S., you’ve probably been sleeping on cotton sheets for most of your life. They’re the most common sheet type. And they’ve come a long way in recent decades. No longer are we relegated to scratchy superhero and floral prints only.
Cotton is generally durable and many varieties are quite soft and breathable. But that variety makes it challenging to find ones that will work for you.
Cotton, especially less expensive varieties, tend to run a bit warmer than bamboo sheets. Cotton is still a breathable fabric in general, though. Egyptian cotton, however, tends to be one of the best cooling sheets since it breathes better than most. Combine these with some cooling pillows and cooling pillowcases for a pleasantly chilly night.
Cotton thread counts tend to run a bit lower than bamboo (usually 200 to 400), but this usually isn’t a major differentiator. Higher thread counts will usually make sheets softer, but also make the sheets a bit less breathable.
Cotton sheets are generally durable with proper care, but will likely start to pill, fray, and wear out before bamboo sheets will. Cotton sheets usually last about two to four years depending on how frequently you use them and if they’re a higher quality material like Egyptian or Pima cotton.
As with any sheets, follow the manufacturer’s care instructions for the best longevity. Cotton can be machine-washed and dried. If you get cotton sheets at a lower price point, you could buy an additional set to alternate and have them last longer. A bonus is that cotton tends to get softer the more you wash it.
Regular cotton sheets are typically crisp and can be wrinkle-prone. They will usually not be softer than bamboo sheets unless you opt for a more luxurious weave like sateen or percale. High-quality Egyptian or Pima cotton sheets can be just as soft as bamboo but come with a higher price tag.
There are three main varieties of cotton bed sheets:
- Regular cotton
- Egyptian cotton
- Pima cotton
Egyptian cotton and Pima cotton have longer staples, which is the length of the weave. This will usually produce a richer, softer feel and a bit more durability. Regular cotton is typically less durable and soft, but less expensive.
Like bamboo sheets, cotton comes in a variety of weaves as well. These can include percale, twill, sateen, and jersey. Jersey in particular stands out as a warm, soft, t-shirt-like material that is good for those who get cold in the winter.
Cotton Sheets: Pros and Cons
- Easy to maintain and keep stain-free
- Can be very affordable
- Will get softer with each wash
- Less durable than bamboo sheets
- Can be wrinkle-prone
- Tends to shrink if washed and dried in hot temperatures
Shopping Tips for Cotton Sheets
- Look for long-staple cotton. Long-staple cottons will give you a more luxurious feel, better breathability, and more durability.
- Thread count isn’t that important. As with other sheet types, inflated thread counts don’t always equal higher quality or a better feel. For cotton, stay between 200 to 500 for a good mix of affordability and quality.
- Check the care instructions. You may think your cotton sheets and wash-and-use, but some have more specific instructions. Look at the label before you buy to make sure it works for you.
Who Would Prefer Bamboo Sheets?
- Those looking for an eco-friendly option and will research to find the right fit will be better off shopping for bamboo sheets.
- Those who sleep hot and want to stay cool at night.
- Those who don’t want to buy new sheets anytime soon.
Who Would Prefer Cotton Sheets?
- Budget shoppers
- Those who like to swap sheet sets often
- Parents who want an easy-to-clean set for kids’ beds
- Those who want a big selection at their nearby store
Popular Bamboo Sheets
This brand blends affordability with higher-quality viscose bamboo materials. It’s also certified by STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX for more eco-friendly production. It comes in 16 colors and six sizes to fit most mattresses. The deep pockets in the fitted sheet allow more room for those popular plush mattresses.
These sheets are made with bamboo rayon which is breathable, soft to the touch, and machine washable. Extra deep pockets with firm elastic allow room for a thick mattress without the edges pulling up while you sleep. This brand comes in eight colors and five sizes (only missing the twin XL size, so college students may need to pick a different set).
We reviewed these bamboo sheets and found them to be the softest sheets we’d ever felt. They use organic and hypoallergenic bamboo viscose offering a luxury feel. They come at a higher price point but do have a good warranty in case you don’t like them.
Popular Cotton Sheets
This set is made with 100% organic cotton certified by STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX. These are a percale weave which is a higher quality, softer weave than standard cotton sheets. You can grab these in nine colors and six sizes, or in just a pillowcase set.
This is another 100% organic cotton certified by STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX. The percale weave is another step up from your standard cotton budget sheets. These comes in three pretty neutrals and six sizes to fit most mattresses. The 16-inch fitted sheet pockets are ready to handle your thickest luxury mattresses.
Head here to find more of the best sheets sets from Amazon.
Frequently Asked Questions
How many sets of bed sheets should you own?
While you can get away with just one sheet set, owning two or three will extend the life of each set significantly. You’ll also be more likely to change your sheets on a regular basis when there’s another set waiting to be put on.
What is the best material to keep you cool?
Sheets made from bamboo, linen, bamboo, Tencel are the most likely to keep you cool while you sleep. They offer lightweight breathability to keep air flowing around you.
Do cotton sheets pill?
Cotton sheets can pill, especially if they are a lower quality weave. Percale cotton tends to pill less frequently due to its tightly woven fibers.
Deciding between cotton sheets and bamboo sheets often comes down to availability and prices versus durability and feel. With cotton, you’ll have ample availability at most stores and a lower price point. Bamboo offers a more luxury feel with enhanced breathability and comfort.
If you’re a budget shopper, you may find cotton sheets, especially higher-quality weaves like percale and sateen, to be a good blend of quality and affordability. Those looking for their sheets to wear well for many years should set their sights on bamboo. Just be wary of sets labeling themselves as “bamboo” when they’re anything but that.
Bamboo. (n.d.). https://cfda.com/resources/materials/detail/bamboo
Chaowana K, et al. (2021). Bamboo as a Sustainable Building Material—Culm Characteristics and Properties. https://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/13/13/7376
Kareth S, et al. (2014). Durability Assessment and Physical Properties Investigation of Modified Petung Bamboo (Dendrocalamus asper) as Resulted on Acetylation, Assisted by Supercritical CO2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1876619614000357
USDA Organic. (n.d.). https://www.usda.gov/topics/organic
Xia C, et al. (2021). Study on the Durability of Bamboo Fiber Asphalt Mixture. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33800705/