Bamboo vs. Tencel Sheets
Looking for soft, sustainable sheets? If so, there’s a good chance you’ve run across options made with bamboo and Tencel. But what’s the difference between the two, and which is your ticket to the sweetest dreams? While both are luxuriously soft and silky, there are a few things that differentiate the two. In this review, we’re comparing Tencel and bamboo sheets so you have all the information you need to make an educated decision.
Bamboo vs. Tencel Sheets at a Glance
We’re breaking down the main similarities and differences between bamboo and Tencel sheets.
|Bamboo Sheets||Tencel Sheets|
|Material||Derived from bamboo pulp||Derived from eucalyptus pulp|
|Typical thread count||300||300|
|Feel||Soft and silky||Soft and silky|
|Typical care||Machine wash and tumble dry||Machine wash and tumble dry|
Bamboo Sheets: Overview
Bamboo sheets are made from bamboo fibers through either a mechanical or a chemical production method. Mechanical processing is the same used to turn flax or hemp into linen—there are no chemicals used, but it’s labor intensive and finished fabric isn’t really suitable for bedding. There are two types of chemical processing. One method creates rayon or viscose via a chemically-intensive process that can exact a high toll both from those managing the process and the environment. Most of the sheets on the market are made with rayon.
The other method creates lyocell by dissolving bamboo pulp in a closed-loop manufacturing process. It’s much better for both the environment and the manufacturing staff. If you’re shopping for bamboo sheets because you prioritize eco-friendly products, make sure you’re buying viscose instead of rayon.
Bamboo sheets are highly breathable and naturally temperature-regulating. That means they don’t trap excess body heat, making them ideal for hot sleepers. It also makes them a good pick if you have sensitive skin, since they naturally wick away moisture. That helps reduce irritation that may develop from overheating or sweating.
The thread count of bamboo sheets describes the number of vertical and horizontal threads present in a single square inch of the fabric. While bamboo sheets are naturally soft, a high thread count isn’t really an indication of higher quality. Usually, a thread count of 300 to 400 is ideal for softness and long-term durability.
Despite their soft, lightweight feel, bamboo sheets are surprisingly durable. Bamboo viscose, in particular, tends to outlast other fabrics, thanks to its natural resistance to pilling and tearing (a result of the manufacturing process). That means you may be enjoying the same sheets for a decade or even longer if you take care of them properly.
Bamboo sheets are easily maintained, which is another part of their appeal. It’s important to check manufacturer directions on specific sheets, but in general, they can be machine washed in cold water and tumbled dry on medium heat.
One of the standout features of bamboo sheets, particularly viscose, is the unbelievably silky feel. They’re incredibly soft and lightweight with a gentle drape.
Bamboo sheets come in a wide range of colors, sizes, and sets. Remember, it’s important to prioritize viscose made from bamboo if you’re looking for truly eco-friendly sheet sets, which may limit your options slightly.
Bamboo Sheets Pros and Cons
- Naturally temperature-regulating
- Silky soft
- Resistant to pilling
- Not environmentally friendly unless you buy viscose derived from bamboo
- Most bamboo sheets on the market are made with rayon, so it’s up to the consumer to be educated and vigilant
Shopping Tips for Bamboo Sheets
- Check the label for insight into manufacturing processes. Since bamboo sheets can be made in a few different ways, make sure to check the tag. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) prohibits companies from calling bamboo sheets bamboo unless they’re made with bamboo fiber. In that case, the tag will indicate mechanically processed bamboo. Sheets made with a manufactured fiber that uses bamboo, such as rayon and viscose, will be labeled as such.
- Be prepared to pay more for better quality. Opting for viscose sheets will mean paying more, but you can consider it an investment in better sleep, long-term performance, and sustainability.
Tencel Sheets: Overview
Tencel is a name brand describing a fiber called lyocell, which is made primarily from eucalyptus pulp. A company called Lenzing manufactures Tencel specifically with a closed-loop manufacturing process that uses organic solvents to turn the wood pulp into fiber that is then spun into fabric. It’s a very environmentally-friendly process that ultimately creates soft, durable sheets.
Tencel sheets have a cool-to-the-touch feel, and they’re naturally breathable and moisture-wicking. They won’t absorb moisture the way cotton can. That makes them a great choice for hot sleepers.
Like bamboo sheets, thread count isn’t the best way of judging Tencel sheets. Since they’re naturally softer, a lower thread count isn’t a sign of lower quality. That’s why many manufacturers of lyocell sheets don’t even list thread count. Instead of focusing on this component—which isn’t actually regulated by the FTC—it’s better to look for reputable brands.
This is another feature that Tencel shares with bamboo. With proper care, you can expect Tencel sheets to last for many years.
Some Tencel sheets are best washed by hand or require a delicate washer setting, like a wool cycle, which can make them a little higher maintenance than other options. That’s not the case for all Tencel sheets, so it’s important to double-check manufacturer directions before purchasing. They should also be washed separately to avoid the possibility of pilling. On the plus side, the risk of shrinking is low.
Tencel sheets have the delightfully silky-softness of high-quality sheets derived from bamboo. They’re wonderfully smooth and cool to the touch.
Tencel Sheets: Pros and Cons
- Soft and silky
- Durable and long-lasting
- High price point
- Can require hand washing
Shopping Tips for Tencel Sheets
- Double-check care recommendations before buying. Not all Tencel sheets can be machine washed, so make sure to check the manufacturer’s care recommendations so you know how to properly look after your sheets.
- Shop from reputable brands. If you know Tencel sheets are what you want, make sure that’s really what you’re getting by sticking with trusted brands.
Who Would Prefer Bamboo Sheets?
- Hot sleepers
- Environmentally-minded shoppers who don’t mind checking labels and researching brands
- Those looking for long-term performance and low maintenance
Who Would Prefer Tencel Sheets?
- Hot sleepers who prefer a cool-to-the-touch feel
- Environmentally-minded shoppers looking for to spend less
- Those who don’t mind the possibility of hand washing
Popular Bamboo Sheets
These luxurious sheets are incredibly soft and manufactured to the highest environmental and worker standards. They’re available in seven subtle colors from twin to California king sizes.
Made from viscose and available in eight colors and twin to California king sizes, these organic sheets are incredibly priced. That’s thanks to Quince’s unique supply chain, which avoids expenses like sourcing agents, warehousing, wholesaling, distribution and storefront retail.
Popular Tencel Sheets
This classic sheet set comes in a rainbow of colors, including seasonal limited collections. It’s made with Tencel lyocell fibers with a proprietary treatment method for extra silkiness and a cool-to-the-touch feel.
This eucalyptus sheet set is also made with Tencel for a cool, soft, moisture-wicking option that sleeps comfortably year-round. It’s available in seven colors, multiple sizes, and with or without a flat sheet.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Tencel or bamboo sheets better?
While both types of sheets are silky soft and breathable, there are differences that may make one or the other more appealing to some people. Tencel sheets are made with a brand name fabric made with an eco-friendly, closed-loop manufacturing process. That’s not true of all bamboo sheets—only viscose derived from bamboo uses a sustainable manufacturing method.
Sheets made with viscose from bamboo also tend to wash better than some Tencel sheets, which can require hand washing or delicate cycles in a machine.
What is the downside to bamboo sheets?
The biggest drawback to bamboo sheets is the fact that they aren’t all made in an eco-friendly process. Since bamboo itself grows quickly and is considered sustainable, people may assume that all bamboo sheets must also be good for the environment. Unless you’re purchasing sheets made with viscose derived from bamboo, that’s not the case.
Price point can also be a deterrent for many people. High-quality bamboo sheets manufactured responsibly tend to be expensive.
Do Tencel sheets make you hot?
No. Tencel is a naturally breathable and moisture wicking material that should keep you cool and comfortable.
With their silky feel, temperature-regulating properties and impressive breathability, bamboo and Tencel sheets have a lot in common. But while Tencel sheets are made from a brand-name fiber that’s manufactured in an environmentally responsible way, the same isn’t true of all bamboo sheets. Look for bamboo sheets that are made with viscose from bamboo if you want soft sheets that match the impressive eco-friendliness of Tencel sheets. Either way, you’re sure to enjoy softer, more comfortable nights.
How to avoid bamboozling your customers. (2009). https://www.ftc.gov/business-guidance/resources/how-avoid-bamboozling-your-customers