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Cotton Vs. Microfiber Sheets - Which is Better?

Cotton Vs. Microfiber Sheets - Which of These is Better for You?

Cotton and microfiber are two popular choices of materials among bed sheets. Each has its own set of pros and cons. In this HomeQuicks article, we look at the similarities and differences between these two sheet materials.
Satyajeet Vispute
Last Updated: May 13, 2018
Did You Know?
Compared to microfiber, which was first developed in the 1950s, cotton has a long history of usage. Though no one knows exactly how old cotton is, scientists have found bits of cotton balls and pieces of cotton cloth in some caves in Mexico, that are thought to be at least 7,000 years old.

Unless you are an incurable shopaholic, buying new sheets for your bed is something that you are likely to do only once every couple of years. It is a long-term investment, but not one to be taken lightly. There is a whole myriad of options available in the market today, from which you must be able to pick out the best fabric material, which not only looks and feels great, but is also priced right as well.

Seems like a tough job? Not to worry. We are here to help you choose the right sheet for your bed. We have already narrowed down the choice of fabric to two - Cotton and Microfiber. Both are worthy candidates that are commonly found in most households and hotel rooms. In the following lines, we shall first find out what these two materials exactly are, and then run a comparison between them.

What They Are
Microfiber
Microfiber sheets, as the name itself suggests, are made of very finely woven fibers. The unit of measurement of a fiber is 'denier', where fine silk is 1.25 denier. To qualify as microfiber, the fibers in a material need to be less than 1 denier, with some being as small as 0.5 denier too.

Such small fiber sizes do not occur in nature, and hence, microfibers have to be made artificially in a lab. Most commonly, synthetic materials such as polyester are used to make microfibers. However, some natural materials such as wood pulp can also be used to derive microfiber.

Cotton
Cotton is a naturally occurring material, and has long been used to make sheets, clothing, etc. It is known to produce a soft fabric which has the quality of being breathable, that is, which allows air to move through it.

Usually, longer cotton fibers contribute to a softer and smoother sheet. Also, the higher the thread count, that is, the number of cotton threads present per square inch of fabric, the better is the feel of it. Low thread count cotton sheets have a coarser texture, and are much more likely to pill.

Typically, cotton sheets with a thread count of 200 or higher are considered to be of high quality. 100 percent Egyptian cotton or Supina cotton is considered to be the best quality around.

Cotton Vs. Microfiber
Though cotton has a long history of usage, microfiber, which is a much more modern fabric, has managed to gain a lot of popularity in a rather short amount of time. But are microfiber sheets as good as cotton, or maybe even better? Let's compare them to find out.

Comfort and Feel
Comfort is largely dependent on individual preferences. Microfiber sheets generally have a very smooth and slippery feel, similar to that of satin. They are usually very thin and light-weight, which makes them a good option during the hot seasons. Microfibers are also quite flexible, making them all the more comfortable.

Good quality cotton sheets are usually used in expensive hotels, owing to the high degree of comfort that they provide. The feel obtained from cotton sheets can be best described as soft and crisp. Those that are ironed after a wash provide an alluring crispness, that slowly translates into silky softness as the night progresses.

Durability
Microfiber sheets are made from numerous tiny microscopic fibers. Each of these fibers is extremely fine, and as such, individually, do not possess any strength. However, when a number of such fibers are combined together to make a sheet, they gain a considerable amount of strength. Though strong, it must be noted that low-cost microfiber sheets are prone to tearing during hard washing, after a few months of usage.

Cotton sheets too gain strength from the increased number of threads in them. The more the threads in a sheet, the better it will wear. However, thread count alone doesn't decide the strength of a material. The actual make of the cotton fibers too is equally important. Cotton sheets, having a very high thread count and priced low, are usually more likely to tear, as the cotton used in making them is of a cheaper grade. They also tend to peel and become less comfortable over time. High quality cotton sheets, on the other hand, become more comfortable as time passes, and are able to retain their texture with each wash.

Storage and Care
The maintenance and care requirements of both, microfiber and cotton are nearly the same. They can be washed and dried using ordinary equipment which are commonly found in every home. Cotton sheets, unless designated as 'pre-shrunk', are most likely to shrink in size after the first wash. Microfiber sheets, especially the ones derived from natural fibers such as cellulose or wood pulp too are prone to shrinking after the first wash. Both these are also subject to wrinkling, and will have to be regularly pressed and ironed to keep them presentable.

An important difference in the maintenance of these two materials is the amount of washing that is required. Microfibers have a higher thread count than cotton, meaning, the thread fibers in them are closely and densely packed. Hence, they do not soak in the stains deep within them like cotton does, and therefore, comparatively, are easier to wash. Also, microfiber doesn't retain a lot of water, and therefore, dries up to three times faster than cotton does.

One more point worth considering is the storage. Cotton tends to fluff up on being washed and even after it is folded, it still remains quite thick, making it difficult to store in a tight space. Microfiber, on the other hand, is very thin and isn't prone to fluffing up either. This makes it much easier to store when limited space is available.

Cost
The cost of both these materials is largely dependent on the quality and make of the sheet. Usually however, microfiber sheets cost lesser than the cotton ones of equal quality.

Thus, both cotton and microfiber are equally good materials used for making bed sheets. Deciding which of them is the better choice is mostly a question of personal preference. For easy maintenance, storage, and acceptably good overall levels of comfort, you should opt for microfiber. However, if you are looking for an elegant and durable fabric, and don't mind spending a little extra for it, 100 percent Egyptian cotton is the way to go for you.