Tencel vs. Cotton Sheets
What’s the difference between tencel and cotton sheets? What are the pros and cons of each material? Read on to learn more.
You may already be familiar with the standard cotton sheets, but what about Tencel? Read on to see how these fabrics compare, plus the pros and cons of each for your next set of sheets.
What Is Tencel?
While Tencel is a less commonly known fabric than cotton, it’s actually an all-organic material too. Specifically, Tencel is made by dissolving plant fibers into threads and weaving them together. This gives Tencel a smooth and cooling feel. Where cotton feels more stiff and rough, Tencel is more akin to silk. And, depending on which kind of organic material it’s made with, Tencel can vary in its feel.
The two major types of Tencel fabric are lyocell and modal, made from eucalyptus pulp and beachwood pulp respectively. The difference here is that Tencel lyocell is more airy and breathable. For hotter sleepers, this specific kind of Tencel is moisture-wicking as well. On the other hand, Tencel modal (made from beachwood) is even silkier and smoother than its eucalyptus counterpart, but offers less in the way of temperature control and ventilation.
- Eco-friendly—Not only is Tencel a natural material like cotton, but it’s also more eco-friendly too. Since both kinds of Tencel are made from trees, they require less water to create than cotton which must be farmed with large amounts of irrigation and land.
- Temperature control—Cotton is heavier and warmer, where Tencel is more like weightless silk. And, although Tencel modal is less cooling than Tencel lyocell, this material is better for hot sleepers than cotton. That said, cotton is a relatively breathable fabric itself, so temperature control shouldn’t be too much of a dealbreaker unless you tend to overheat and sweat heavily throughout the night.
- Softer—Whether you have sensitive skin or you just love the feeling of silky bedding, Tencel sheets should definitely be at the top of your list. Although there are various kinds of high-quality cotton out there, none of them quite have the same luxuriously smooth feel of Tencel.
- More expensive—For a Queen-size bed, you can expect a standard set of cotton sheets to cost about $50–$150, whereas an average set of Tencel sheets can cost anywhere from $80–$230. However, while you can find cotton for cheaper, and cotton on average is cheaper than Tencel, luxury cotton sheets (such as those with high thread counts or those made from Egyptian cotton. Find out more on the best luxury sheets.) can be significantly more expensive than Tencel.
- Higher maintenance—Like we said, cotton may be the rougher fabric, but it can also take rougher treatment. While cotton sheets can be washed with harsh chemicals, bleached, and dried at high temperatures, Tencel sheets require more delicate care. That said, aside from this, Tencel sheets don’t require much else in the way of special care.
- Less cozy—This one’s subjective, but, for some sleepers, Tencel sheets may be silky to a fault. If you’re someone who doesn’t struggle with overheating at night but instead prefers feeling snug in your bedding, cotton may actually be the better choice for you. Ultimately, this comes down to whether you want cozier or slicker sheets.
What Is Cotton?
Changes are you have some experience with how cotton feels, either in your bedding or in your clothes. That said, it’s worth going over the basics of how cotton feels, what kinds of cotton there are, and how it all compares to Tencel.
First off, since cotton is a super common fabric, it’s more or less considered the “standard” feel for bedsheets—see the best cotton sheets. Depending on which kind of cotton you choose for your sheets, you can expect the feel to range from cozy to silky and from rough to smooth. Let’s take a closer look at common kinds of cotton sheets:
- Percale—First off, percale (or Egyptian cotton) sheets are considered the most luxurious. These sheets are lightweight and durable. And, for those who sleep hot, percale sheets are ultra-breathable too. In fact, percale sheets are the closest feeling to Tencel in terms of cotton sheet options.
- Sateen—Next up, sateen cotton sheets are designed to replicate the feel of satin: lightweight and luxurious. These sheets are a little heavier and warmer than percale, but they’re still extremely soft and great on sensitive skin. Learn the difference between sateen vs. percale sheets here.
- Flannel—Lastly, flannel sheets have the least in common with Tencel. This kind of cotton bedding is warm, cozy, and heavy. Also, another big difference in feel is that flannel sheets aren’t smooth at all either. Like a flannel shirt, this fabric is more fuzzy than silky.
- Easier care—Cotton is an easy fabric to wash, to bleach, and to dry. While Tencel is more sensitive to harsh chemicals and high temperatures, cotton is a little more resistant. However, over time, it’s important to watch out for your cotton sheets thinning out or shrinking.
- More customizability—There’s a couple main kinds of Tencel, but there isn’t much variation in feel or price. However, cotton can be a great choice for sleepers with a tight or large budget, hot or cold sleepers, and sleepers who like fuzzy or silky bedding. So, if you’re an average sleeper, you’ll likely be able to find cotton sheets that fit your needs.
- Moisture-wicking—Cotton is pretty absorbent and breathable, making it a solid choice for many hot sleepers. While Tencel lyocell is even better for sleepers who really struggle with sweating, Tencel modal may actually trap moisture and lead to further sweating.
- Less durable—Cotton may be easier to wash, but it isn’t quite as durable or longlasting as Tencel sheets. However, this largely depends on the quality of the cotton sheets you buy. Luxury Egyptian cotton sheets with a high thread count can last for decades, whereas cheaper cotton sheets can be worn out much quicker. Overall, however, Tencel sheets, although pricier, are more durable.
- More wrinkly—Tencel is naturally soft and stretchy, like silk. And, since cotton is more stiff, it tends to accumulate wrinkles more quickly. So, if you’re someone who loves smooth bedding that stays smooth longer, Tencel is probably the better fit here.
- Less eco-friendly—Cotton is natural like Tencel, but it isn’t as eco-friendly. The major downside to cotton sheets of any kind is that they require a lot of water and land to be made and processed.
TLDR: Are Tencel or Cotton Sheets Better?
Not sure whether cotton or Tencel is better for your sheets? Here’s our quickdown of which kinds of sleepers may prefer which kinds of sheets.
- Sleeper who chronically overheat or sweat in bed
- Sleepers who like silky, smooth, and elastic sheets
- Shoppers looking for an eco-friendly product
- Average sleepers (those with no specific preference)
- Sleepers who like cozier and fuzzier sheets
- Sleepers who want more options to choose (in terms of budget and feel)
Tencel vs. Cotton FAQ
Can You Machine-Wash Tencel?
Yes. You can machine wash your Tencel sheets, but you’ll need to be more delicate with them than you would with cotton sheets. We recommend that you machine-wash your sheets on a gentle cycle with cold water and that you dry them on a gentle cycle as well.
Is Tencel Safe?
Tencel is an all-natural fabric that’s good for both the environment and sensitive skin. In fact, since Tencel is a thinner and more moisture-wicking fabric, it’s also more hygienic for sleepers too. Additionally, Tencel material requires less frequent and harsh washing than cotton sheets.
Is Tencel Made From Cotton?
No. Tencel can be made from eucalyptus wood or beachwood. This all-organic material is then made into pulp, which is then made into the actual Tencel fabric. So, while Tencel is made from wood, cotton is grown from a plant. As a result, Tencel also requires less water to make.