Bed sheets: Linen vs cotton vs silk vs bamboo

There's so much choice when it comes to buying bed sheets. But we're here to help you cut through the jargon and find the right ones for you.

When it comes to bed sheets, you can buy all sorts of fabrics and fibres these days. Cotton is still a firm favourite, but silk is becoming more and more popular. So too is linen and bamboo.

But what’s the difference and how does it affect the way we sleep? Well, that’s where we can help. Below, we’ve pulled together everything we know about cotton, linen, bamboo and silk to help you decide.

What is cotton?

Simply put, cotton is a plant. The fluffy, white balls we’re used to seeing in cotton wool packs at the supermarket are very similar to what cotton looks like when it grows. These fibres are then treated and woven into fabrics.

200 Thread Count 100% Egyptian-Quality Cotton Fitted Sheet
200 Thread Count 100% Egyptian-Quality Cotton Fitted Sheet


Specialist Temperature Balancing 400 Thread Count Cotton Deep Fitted Sheet, White
Specialist Temperature Balancing 400 Thread Count Cotton Deep Fitted Sheet, White

John Lewis & Partners


One of the best things about cotton, be it for bed sheets, t-shirts or underwear, is that it’s a natural and breathable fabric, as well as being soft, easy to wash and affordable. The downsides are that it’s prone to creases (as you may have noticed). Cotton is often also criticised for being a crop that requires a lot of water to farm. And in areas like Australia and the USA, which often experience long periods of drought, thirsty crops can overburden limited water supplies, leaving some to argue that it isn’t an environmentally-friendly option.

Why choose cotton sheets?

Bed sheets are traditionally made from cotton and it’s long been considered a premium fabric. It’s the comfort factor of cotton that has made it the go-to choice for bed sheets. Some other fibres are more durable and breathable, but cotton is generally the softest and most comfortable natural fibre, making it pretty ideal for your bedding needs.

Cotton vs Egyptian cotton

But what about Egyptian cotton? This comes from a different plant than regular cotton. The fibres from the Egyptian variety are longer and silkier, producing a more luxurious fabric. But, keep your eyes peeled when shopping for these sheets. Not everything labelled “Egyptian cotton” is the real deal.

What is linen?

Linen is another natural fibre that comes from the flax plant, the same little guy we get flaxseeds and linseeds from. Turning flax into linen is pretty time-consuming, making it an expensive fabric to buy. Despite this, linen is often favoured by many for its breathability. It’s a fabric that keeps you much cooler in warm weather, and warmer in cool weather.

Habitat Linen Light Grey Bedding Set - Double
Habitat Linen Light Grey Bedding Set - Double


100% Linen Fitted Sheet, Dusky Green
100% Linen Fitted Sheet, Dusky Green

John Lewis & Partners

Why choose linen sheets?linen

There are a few reasons why linen makes for great sheets. If you’re someone who often gets too hot when sleeping, it can offer a real solution. It keeps you fresh and cool in hot weather and draws moisture away from your skin, letting you sleep more comfortably. It’s also incredibly durable, becoming softer and more luxurious with each use (and wash).

Another reason some sleepers opt for linen is that it’s considered a bit of a status symbol. It’s luxurious, expensive, and for many, its crinkly appearance is quite attractive.

Linen vs cotton

While cotton is a breathable fabric, linen definitely wins hands down in this category. Linen also requires less water to farm, making it a more environmentally-friendly choice. And when it comes to washing and drying, linen is very low maintenance – it dries quickly and requires no ironing. Whereas, cotton takes a little longer to dry and will need to be ironed to look its best. After all, creased cotton sheets aren’t a great look.

But in the price wars, cotton comes out on top. Linen is labourious to make, which means it’s pricey, with cotton sheets a cheaper option. And if you want soft sheets and soft sheets only, cotton is your guy.

What is silk?

Silk is another natural fibre that comes from the spun threads of silkworms. It’s an extremely premium fabric, mainly because it’s so difficult to source and produce. While it’s not particularly durable, it’s hard to wash and prone to a stain or two, even from water. But, the upsides are that silk is ultra-soft, light-as-a-feather and lovely and glossy, making it a highly sought-after fabric.

100% Mulberry Silk Pillowcase for Hair and Skin Health
100% Mulberry Silk Pillowcase for Hair and Skin Health


The Ultimate Collection Silk Standard Pillowcase, Latte
The Ultimate Collection Silk Standard Pillowcase, Latte

John Lewis & Partners

Why choose silk sheets?


Silk sheets are growing in popularity, despite having been around for years. If you decide silk is the fabric for your next set of bed sheets, be aware that it is pretty thin, tears quite easily and can change texture-wise if washed… not ideal.

But you’ll still find that many people will choose silk because of how soft and light it is. It’s especially popular for people with sensitive skin – those with eczema-prone skin or dry skin will have a much more restful night. So if you like the sound of some silk on your bed, but don’t want to go the full way with it, why not opt for silk pillowcases, alongside cotton or linen bedding. The slipperiness of silk puts less tension on your hair and skin while you sleep, which can help prevent hair loss, premature ageing and acne. Pretty good, hey?

Silk vs cotton

As we already know, cotton is soft… but silk is softer and pretty much unbeatable in this category, especially for pillowcases. But silk doesn’t compete with cotton on price, durability or ease of care. Remember that silk also stains easily and as it comes from an animal, many hold ethical concerns around the sourcing and production of it.

What is bamboo?

Bamboo is a plant that comes from Asia. It’s technically a grass and is known for being one of the fastest-growing plants in the world. As such, it’s highly versatile and very strong – you can use it in cooking, building, construction and textiles.

But before you can make sheets out of bamboo, it needs to be processed into a textile. Typically, bamboo is made into rayon, viscose or lyocell, which are man-made natural fibres – this means the origin is natural but it has been processed, unlike cotton.

Why choose bamboo sheets?


Bamboo sheets are popular because bamboo is a more sustainable option. Some people will tell you that bamboo is even softer than cotton and linen (although it’s not softer than silk), is less susceptible to bacteria and is much more absorbent. Bamboo is also breathable, keeping you cool in summer and warm in winter.

And if you’re conscious about the environment, bamboo sheets are a great option, more so than silk, anyway. Bamboo lyocell sheets have the same feather-light silky feel as silk, without any animal involvement. Win!

Bamboo vs cotton

Bamboo has been hailed as one of the most sustainable bedding options. Not only does it need less water to grow compared to cotton, but it also uses less water during production than the other fabrics we’ve talked about. This is because the water used in production can be recycled.

And in terms of breathability, bamboo is similar to cotton – both are natural fibres. The rest comes down to preference. Some people prefer cotton for its feel and weight, and the price of bamboo may put shoppers off. After all, bamboo can be costly.

Which sheets should you choose?

We’re not here to tell you which sheets to choose, only to help you make an informed decision when you do shop for new bedding.

You may choose to oscillate between two different fibres in summer and in winter, or, maybe you want to use silk pillowcases with cotton sheets if you have sensitive skin. It really is down to personal preference.

Natural vs man-made vs synthetic materials

Just because something is man-made, doesn’t mean it’s not natural. Take rayon as an example. It’s a class of fabric, which includes viscose, lyocell and modal, all of which (while being processed and made by man) are crafted from materials of natural origin. Rayon is often made out of wood pulp or bamboo.

The difference between something like rayon and cotton is that cotton isn’t processed. It grows, is picked and then weaved. It doesn’t need to be “turned into” a weavable fibre.

Synthetic fibres are textiles or materials that have been made and processed from non-natural materials. The most obvious example of this would be polyester, which is a fabric that has been made from plastics.

Where to buy bedding online

Deals and discounts for house and home

Code New daily!

25% off everything | New Amazon discount codes released daily!

Amazon releases new vouchers daily with savings of up to 25% off every category! Browse specific products from headphones to household essentials, supplements, fitness equipment, tech and homeware. T&Cs apply.
Code Top deal!

41% off orders over £299.99

Verified 2 days ago Expires 24 Oct 2021
Simba Sleep sale event! Shop at Simba Sleep now and save 41% off! Limited time only. T&Cs apply.

Up to 50% off beds and mattresses

Expires 26 Oct 2021
Enjoy up to 50% off beds and mattresses at Dreams. T&Cs apply

3 for 2 on all Furniture

Perfect your bedroom with furniture from Dreams! Right now get 3 for the price of 2. Choose from a wide range of bedroom furniture pieces, from bedside chests to storage boxes and accessories. T&Cs apply.

Autumn sale: 20% off all bed frames!

Expires 26 Oct 2021
Shop the Dreams autumn sale and get 20% off all bed frames if bought together with mattress! T&Cs apply.
Deal Mattresses!

AmazonBasics mattresses from £110

Shop AmazonBasics mattress of any size with prices starting at just £110. T&Cs apply.
Deal Summer!

Summer Sale up to 50% off

From lovely dresses to swimwear that can handle the British weather, find the holiday heroes you need for a summer break. T&Cs apply.

Up to 20% off home & garden accessories

Searching for designer piece for your home? Shop John Lewis home range now and get 20% off selected furnishings & accessories for home and garden. T&Cs apply

Up to £100 off top brand TVs

Enjoy up to £100 off a brand new TV from John Lewis! T&Cs apply.
Deal Stay active!

Dumbbells and wrist weights from £10

Shop dumbbells and adjustable wrist or ankle weights at John Lewis with prices starting at just £10! T&Cs apply.
Code Free delivery!

Free Standard delivery on orders over £50

Who doesn't love free delivery? Simply make an order of £50 or more and get your John Lewis delivery for free. T&Cs apply.
Deal Clearpay!

Buy furniture now, pay later with Clearpay!

Ready to invest in some new furniture? Shop now and pay later with Wayfair and Clearpay. T&Cs apply.
Deal Klarna!

Buy furniture now, pay later with Klarna!

Update your home with the latest furniture styles and pay later with payment service Klarna! T&Cs apply.
Code 200 nights!

Risk-free 200-night trial!

Not sure if Simba is for you? Try it risk-free for 200 nights and if you don't love it you can return it for a full refund! T&Cs apply.

Get the Lighter Mattress from £279

Shop Eve Mattress' brand new, lighter version of their famous mattress! Made with just the right pressure relief, comfort and breathability. It’s heavy on quality, but lighter on price. T&Cs apply.

Popular Reads

The Dunelm winter sale is here!

The Dunelm winter sale is here!

Dunelm are slashing prices left right and centre – with up to 50% off thousands of products.

Read more…
Where to buy vacuum cleaners online

Where to buy vacuum cleaners online

Are you looking for a new vacuum cleaner? Browse our round-up of the best online retailers for household electricals.

Read more…
Where to buy garden furniture online

Where to buy garden furniture online

Wanting to freshen up your garden for the summer months? Find out where to buy the best-value garden furniture in this guide.

Read more…
How to create your very own Scandi-inspired home

How to create your very own Scandi-inspired home

Discover the cool and clean lines of Scandinavian design and learn how to create your own Scandi-inspired space with our favourite homeware retailers.

Read more…
Browse A-Z of home brands

Browse A-Z of home brands

Discover our favourite brands for furniture, soft furnishings, home appliances, fixtures and fittings and home improvement DIY, and shop for your home today!

Read more…
Where to buy washing machines online

Where to buy washing machines online

Browse our list of the top retailers for buying washing machines online! Discover the perfect machine for your needs at the best price.

Read more…

More guides on Finder

  • How to keep your skin healthy while wearing a face mask

    Don’t suffer from maskne or rash-like sores in silence! Follow these key steps for glowing skin while wearing a face covering.

  • Where to buy bamboo face masks in the UK

    Looking for a reusable, comfortable bamboo face mask? We’ve listed the best places you can buy one online, with some offering free delivery.

  • Casper vs Emma

    We’ve compared Casper mattresses with Emma mattresses. Find out all the pros and cons of each as well as the similarities.

  • Simba vs Casper

    Looking to compare the Simba and Casper mattresses and find out which is right for you? Discover the differences, similarities and pros and cons of each here!

  • Different types of mattress available in the UK

    Shopping for a new mattress can be confusing, so we’ve created this guide to help you understand the many types available and find the right mattress for you! Find out everything you need to know about different mattress types, plus our tips on how to make your new mattress last longer!

  • 15 ways to make life a little more luxurious

    Here are some sweet, simple suggestions within your budget to make you feel like royalty.

Ask an Expert

You are about to post a question on

  • Do not enter personal information (eg. surname, phone number, bank details) as your question will be made public
  • is a financial comparison and information service, not a bank or product provider
  • We cannot provide you with personal advice or recommendations
  • Your answer might already be waiting – check previous questions below to see if yours has already been asked provides guides and information on a range of products and services. Because our content is not financial advice, we suggest talking with a professional before you make any decision.

By submitting your comment or question, you agree to our Privacy and Cookies Policy and Terms of Use.

Questions and responses on are not provided, paid for or otherwise endorsed by any bank or brand. These banks and brands are not responsible for ensuring that comments are answered or accurate.
Go to site