Linen Versus Cotton Sheets (And How To Care for Them!)

You use your bed sheets every night, but how often do you think about giving them the care they need? Probably not as much as you should! 

That’s why we want to take a moment to help you understand the difference between the two most common types of sheets — linen and cotton — and how to care for them properly. Let’s dive in!

What’s The Difference?

The main difference between linen and cotton is the material they’re made of. Linen is a woven fabric made from the fibers of the flax plant, whereas cotton sheets are made from the fluffy white growth on a cotton plant. The strands of either plant can be processed, woven into a thin yarn, and then woven into sheets of various thread counts. 

But this difference is exactly what creates a different feel between the two. Linen has a much longer lifespan than cotton, and has been known to last for decades. It’s super durable against tearing and helps with allergies, but they it takes time to make them feel soft (up to three years).

Cotton, on the other hand, is soft from day one. Higher thread counts are famous for being even softer and more durable, but also more expensive. You can expect to get five years out of high-end sheets, but not much longer. 

As to which of these options is best — that’s largely up to you, your budget, and your patience. Cotton is typically the cheaper option but is popular because of its instant softness. If you are willing to wait (and wash your linen sheets regularly), the linen option is typically better long-term. 

Washing smaller loads allow you to optimize the clean-to-wrinkle ratio by allowing more room for your clothes to agitate. This means they’ll come out less crumpled, cleaner, and minimize your wrinkles once everything is dry. 

How to Care for Sheets

No matter what type of sheet you get, the general care instructions are going to remain the same. And as with all things laundry, care starts in the washer.

When you add sheets to a washing machine, it’s best to wash only the sheets. While you can add clothing of similar color and fabric, you run the risk of over stuffing the load. This can also prevent the agitation from lifting stains. You’ll want to use warm or hot water, measure the detergent carefully, and use fabric softener before the rinse cycle (especially for linen sheets at first). 

Once the washer is done, make sure to pull out your sheets one by one, so they don’t twist in the dryer. Dry on high or medium heat, and remove them and fold promptly to avoid wrinkles. 

Fabric softeners, as the name implies, soften your fabric and can help you dry out wrinkles in the dryer. A similar common recommendation is to add some white distilled vinegar to your load, but it’s best to be careful with this method. Check to ensure your washing machine can handle this, and that it will wash out of your clothes completely.

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