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Looking for an affordable new set of sheets but not sure if microfiber or cotton is better for you? Then you’re in the right place! Microfiber and cotton are both popular, affordable sheet fabrics. But there’s no need to waffle between them because these types of sheets actually have more differences than similarities.
Read on below to learn more about how these fabrics compare, what they feel like, and which is best for you.
Microfiber is a popular cotton alternative made of synthetic materials (like polyester, nylon, and cellulose from wood pulp). The fibers are thinner than silk and tightly woven together to create a lightweight fabric. Microfiber is often used in athletic clothing because of its moisture-wicking properties and it has a smooth, slippery feel.
Microfiber bed sheets will feel smooth and airy, plus have a nice sheen. If you live in a colder climate, you have the option of getting a brushed microfiber sheet set, which will feel cozier than unbrushed sheets.
Microfiber sheets are low maintenance and durable. You can throw them in the washing machine without worrying about pilling or fading.
Microfiber sheets are lightweight and breathable, but they trap more body heat than cotton sheets. Hot sleepers should consider a set of the best cooling sheets instead.
Microfiber sheets are more affordable than cotton sheets. That said, low-quality cotton may be cheaper than high-quality microfiber (and vice versa).
Microfiber sheets can feel very staticky, especially fresh out of the dryer.
Microfiber is wrinkle-resistant, which is a great perk for many sleepers.
Microfiber is synthetic, so could irritate sleepers with sensitive skin.
Cotton sheets are an incredibly popular choice because good quality cotton is durable, cooling, and comfortable. Cotton sheets are all made from (you guessed it) cotton plants. But, there are several different types of cotton on the market. Most cotton sheets are made of Upland cotton, while luxury sets will be made of Egyptian cotton or Supima (pima) cotton. Egyptian and Pima cotton fibers are longer than Upland fibers, so they feel softer. Long-staple cotton is also stronger than other cotton.
Cotton sheets also come in several different weaves, including the popular percale and sateen weaves. Curious about cotton? Check out our best cotton sheets article to learn more about all the different types!
Cotton sheets are made of natural materials that are great for sleepers with sensitive skin.
Cotton sheets are more expensive than most microfiber sheets. But different types of cotton come at different price points. If you’re shopping on a budget, stick to Upland cotton.
High-quality cotton sheets are very durable. Look for sheets in the 200-400 thread count range to ensure you’re getting a long-lasting set. You can opt for a higher thread count, but you should feel perfectly comfortable in this range!
Cotton sheets can wrinkle easily, which is a turn-off for some sleepers.
Cotton is naturally breathable, so it’s a great choice for hot sleepers. They’re also absorbent, which is good news for anyone who suffers from night sweats.
Cheap cotton sheets may pill or fade easily. On the other hand, cheap microfiber sheets might tear.
To help you decide which fabric is best for you, I’ve directly compared each fabric in the chart below. Read on to learn more.
Price (Queen Size)
1-3 years depending on quality
2-5 years depending on quality
May trap body heat, no the best sheets for hot sleepers
Highly breathable, great for hot sleepers
Comfort & Feel
Lightweight, smooth, silky
Soft, breathable, crisp
Cleaning & Care
Machine washable and dryable
Machine washable and dryable
So, which sheets are best for you? It depends on your personal preference! But I’ve included a few recommendations below to help you decide which fabric you’ll get a good night’s sleep on.
Microfiber sheets feel smoother and silkier than cotton sheets. However, cotton sheets will be more comfortable for sleepers with sensitive skin because they are made of natural, rather than synthetic, fibers.
Cotton sheets are more breathable, and sleep cooler, than microfiber sheets.
Cotton sheets with a thread count between 200 and 400 will be comfortable. However, if you choose a luxury cotton, like Egyptian cotton, you’ll want a higher thread count. I would recommend opting for sheets with a thread count between 400 and 700 if you choose a luxury fabric. Check out our best thread count for sheets article to learn more.
Microfiber sheets are made from synthetic fibers including polyester, cellulose, and nylon. Polyester is the most common fiber used in these sheets.
Yes, cotton sheets will pill over time. If you want to delay pilling you can opt for sheets with a high thread count or choose a long-staple Egyptian or Pima cotton set.
Microfiber sheets are unlikely to pill because they are made of such fine threads. These sheets are more likely to tear than pill as they wear out.
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Madison is an ex-mattress tester and current law student. When she's not studying, she puts her accumulated mattress and bedding knowledge to good use writing articles for Mattress Clarity. A few of her favorite non-work activities include trying new restaurants, reading short stories, and watching too much reality TV.
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