Bamboo vs cotton sheets, what's the difference? Bamboo sheets have recently become the preferred bedding option for more and more shoppers. However, cotton sheets have been mainstream for centuries. Whenever you see people shopping for bedding items, there is a good chance that they already have cotton sheets in mind. In many cases, shoppers look for flannel or jersey sheets, for example, without being fully aware these are actually textile products made with cotton.
Many wonder how bamboo sheets and cotton sheets compare in terms of comfort, durability, health, and sustainability. The best way to make this comparison is to look at their respective properties.
The Comfort that Cotton Sheets and Bamboo Sheets Provide
Thanks to the detailed keeping of records by Arab traders in the 10th century, we know that they created textile products similar to bedsheets in Cairo City. These came to augment the old custom of covering up with just large pieces of canvas. Those early sheets were not made with cotton. Instead, they were woven from flax fibers to make linen. This made them durable but only slightly more comfortable than canvas blankets. It was only many years later that cotton sheets made for more luxurious bedding.
The Origins of Cotton Sheets
The concept of bedsheets traveled from Cairo City to Constantinople. There, textile producers preferred to work with the abundant cotton that was cultivated across the Byzantine Empire. Cotton was not only easier for textile production but also more comfortable, thus making cotton sheets more appealing. Eventually, cotton seeds made their way to Cairo City where high-quality Egyptian cotton began its textile history.
Now that we know comfort was a major factor in the early production of cotton sheets, we can proceed to talk about how they compare to bamboo sheets in this regard. The first thing to know about cotton as a fabric is that how comfortable it feels will vary based on the plant species and the method of textile production. The same is true for bamboo sheets to a certain extent.
Types of Cotton Sheets
The major types of cotton used for sheets are:
Of the above, the most comfortable fabric is the high-quality Egyptian cotton. The texture of this cotton is the smoothest you can find on sheets because of the length of its fibers. Egyptian cotton sheets also happen to be the most expensive. Flannel is specialty fabric that is suitable for cold weather regions. Since warmth is an aspect of a comfortable sleep, this type of bedsheet makes sense in some situations.
The Origins of Bamboo Sheets
Bamboo rayon is a type of fabric produced from the cellulose found in bamboo plants. It is often used to make clothing and bedding because it is soft and durable. Bamboo rayon sheets are especially popular because they are cooler than other fabrics, making them ideal for use in hot weather.
The first recorded use of bamboo rayon dates back to the early 20th century, when it was used to make dress shirts in Japan. However, the process of making bamboo rayon is much older than that. In fact, the ancient Chinese used a similar process to create a fabric known as "pei," which was used for clothing and other textile products. To make pei, the Chinese would soak bamboo stalks in water and then pound them into a pulp. This pulp was then boiled and filtered to remove impurities. The resulting substance was then spun into thread and woven into fabric.
The Chinese kept the secret of this process for centuries, but eventually it was discovered by Japanese textile manufacturers. They modified the process slightly and began using it to produce rayon shirts. Today, bamboo rayon is made using similar methods, but with modern technologies that allow for a more consistent quality of fabric. Thanks to these advances, bamboo rayon sheets are now enjoyed by people all over the world.
Comparing Thread Counts for Bamboo Bed Sheets and Egyptian Cotton Sheets
As for bamboo sheets, they are often said to feel more comfortable than sheets made of cotton. This is true for the different types of cotton varieties, such as Jersey, Percale, Flannel, Upland, and Pima. Once we compare them with Egyptian cotton, however, it comes down to the thread count and cost. Some of the most expensive bedding on the market is made with certified Egyptian cotton with a 400 thread count. It requires more intricate weaving at the textile production plant. As a result, you can expect to pay a lot more for this kind of bed linen.
In contrast to cotton sheets bamboo sheets require lower thread counts due to their silkier texture. This is due to the smooth, tubular shape of bamboo rayon yarn, which is observable under a microscope. In contrast, cotton fiber has a rough, rope-like texture. If you have sensitive skin that is prone to chafing, your best bet will always be bamboo rayon, unless you can afford the best Egyptian cotton. When we couple comfort with value, you are better off with bamboo sheets, but there is more to consider.
Breathability, Temperature Regulation and Perspiration Control
Bamboo sheets offer the same softness and breathability as cotton fabric, if not more. For people whose body temperatures remain high as they try to get some sleep, staying cool through the night is conducive to feeling comfortable. Hot sleepers will love that the micro-gaps in bamboo rayon fabric provide better ventilation than cotton fabric. Incidentally, this is why these sheets feel lighter. Moreover, night sweats are problematic for people who use cotton sheets because these sheets absorb and trap perspiration within its fibers. Bamboo sheets, on the other hand, are of a moisture-wicking nature. This means that sweat is transported away from the skin to the outer surface of the sheets where it evaporates. Nevertheless, both bamboo sheets and cotton sheets feel incredibly luxurious against the skin, especially when coupled with the best mattresses.
Bamboo vs Cotton Sheets: Health Facts
Are bamboo or cotton sheets better for your health? You have probably heard about people looking for 100% cotton sheets because of issues related to allergies or sensitive skin. This makes sense insofar as cotton being a natural fiber, which means it is healthier than purely synthetic fabrics such as polyester. Nonetheless, when we look at the health facts of bamboo sheets such as their hypoallergenic qualities, we can easily see why they are better than cotton sheets.
Let us start with what we have already mentioned: The texture of bamboo fabric enables the sheets to glide over sensitive skin instead of irritating it. Another reason bamboo rayon sheets are superior to cotton is because they do not trap heat or sweat, which happen to be nourishing to dust mites. The droppings of these microscopic insects are terrible for people who live with asthma. Since bamboo bedding reduces dust mite populations, such sheets are a healthier option than cotton sheet sets.
Resistance to Bacteria
When compared to bamboo sheets cotton has less resistance to bacterial growth. Hygiene is tantamount to health, and bamboo rayon has properties that keep bacterial colonies down. They are also better than cotton sheets in terms of repelling odors. This is why bamboo sheets are excellent for babies who are still in diapers or for elderly patients who are bedridden or incontinent. It is a matter of reducing the likelihood of infections and making things more pleasant for sleepers.
The results of this scientific study about bacterial growth on fabrics concludes that bamboo rayon has antimicrobial qualities while cotton does not:
Since there will generally be less bacteria on bamboo sheet sets than on cotton sheets, they are a healthier choice for your mattress.
Quality Sleep and Its Effects on the Immune System
When we add superior sleep to the list of advantages provided by bamboo sheets, we can mention health benefits that result from a strengthened immune system. Research shows that people with healthy sleep habits tend to have more robust immune systems relative to individuals who suffer from insomnia. This advantage is no less important than the previously mentioned health-related qualities of bamboo rayon.
Sustainability: Cotton vs Bamboo Sheets
Is cotton or bamboo bedding better for the planet? It is notable that both cotton sheets and bamboo sheets are theoretically better for the environment than bedding that comprises synthetic fabrics. But this is true only if their cultivation and textile processes follow the best practices for sustainability. While different cotton varieties, blends, and textile processes can determine the how comfortable bedsheets feel, their degree of sustainability can also differ based on numerous factors. If we look at sustainability as a spectrum, 100% cotton would be at levels higher than polyester because its natural fibers make it more biodegradable. However, there is more to evaluate to this effect.
Organic cotton is the product of sustainable cultivation methods that feature practices such as crop rotation, diversity of plant species, natural pest management, and organic fertilization methods. This farming method is more labor-intensive and less efficient in terms of harvesting yields. However, it adheres to established sustainability standards. In the case of bamboo cultivation, sustainability is easier. This is because bamboo requires only a third of the water needed by cotton. Therefore, bamboo farms do not require complex irrigation systems that may damage the environment.
Land Use and Yield
Another inherent advantage of bamboo is its amazing growth rate, which can be almost a meter per day under ideal conditions. In fact, bamboo holds the Guinness World Record for the fastest growing plant. Furthermore, when farmers harvest bamboo culms by cutting them above the root, new bamboo shoots automatically grow to replace them! Hence, the same area of farmland can yield much more raw material when it is cultivated with bamboo instead of the cotton plant.
There is an even more important factor related to bamboo sustainability, and it has to do with greenhouse gas absorption. The carbon dioxide absorption properties of bamboo are amazing. These plants can release 30% more oxygen into the atmosphere than hardwood forests.
Most cotton plantations uproot and replant their crops annually, resulting in soil erosion and even landslides. However, bamboo crops can grow without the need for annual replanting or turning over of the soil. The bamboo roots form networks in the ground and help to protect topsoil by binding it together. Therefore, bamboo farms are much better for soil conservation.
Environmentally conscious shoppers know to look for OEKO-TEX certifications to make purchases that are truly sustainable. This certification goes beyond organic farming since it is simply not reassuring enough to choose a product labelled as organic cotton sheets. It looks at bamboo fabric that generates the smallest carbon footprint throughout the textile process and ensures that the textile processes exclude harmful chemicals, such as formaldehyde. Shoppers can verify the authenticity of cotton and bamboo sheets certified by OEKO-TEX through programs such as the Standard 100 label, which features a numeric code that you can validate online.
Are bamboo rayon sheets better or are bamboo viscose sheets better?
Bamboo Bedding is the Best Option for You
Now that we have explored the differences between bamboo rayon and cotton fabric, this information should make it easier for you to shop for the right sheets for your mattresses at home. Overall, a bamboo sheet set will offer more in the way of comfort, health, and sustainability. Be sure to keep this in mind as you plan your next bedding purchase so that your sheets will provide you with quality sleep for years to come.