Cotton vs Bamboo Sheets: Which One Should You Choose?
Bamboo Sheets vs Cotton Sheets
Buying sheets can sometimes be a big choice, as the best sheets tend to be on the expensive side. It can also be a difficult choice, as there are so many different kinds of bed sheets you can choose from. But the best sheets tend to be either cotton or bamboo sheets. Both of these have great benefits and are some of the softest materials available. So which is better? That is what I am here to help you figure out.
What Are Bamboo Sheets?
Bamboo sheets are pretty self explanatory. Like cotton bedding sheets are made from the fibers of cotton, bamboo sheets are made from the fibers of bamboo. Bamboo fiber comes from the type of bamboo that is most like timber. the manufacturing process of the fibers varies based on the desired fabric. In general, after the plant is harvested, it is taken to a facility where it is crushed and immersed in a liquid mixture, typically consisting of sodium hydroxide. During this process, the bamboo cellulose is dissolved. Then, carbon disulfide is added to the solution, which allows the fibers to regenerate and be taken off of the plant. Once the fibers are taken from the plant, they are bleached, dried, and ready to be made into the best bamboo sheets.
However, there are two different ways of processing the bamboo. Each of these processes also produces different types of the best bamboo sheets, which we will go over later. The most common way is using a chemical process. This converts the natural fiber into a less natural fiber because of the chemicals used. The two types of bamboo fabrics created using the chemical process are bamboo rayon, and bamboo lyocell. Bamboo sheets made from rayon results in a more synthetic fiber than lyocell.
The second bamboo fiber process is a mechanical process. This is considered more green and eco-friendly. It involves a combination of both a machine and natural enzymes that creates a yarn. The type of bamboo fabric created from the machine process is bamboo linen. This bamboo linen is in fact 100% bamboo, as a result from the mechanical process.
Types of Bamboo Sheets
As mentioned before, there are various different types of bamboo fabric. Each is a result from a different type of processing, which was gone over already. The four types of sheets that you can choose from when picking out the best bamboo sheets are rayon, linen, lyocell, and blended.
Rayon from Bamboo
Bamboo rayon is regenerated cellulose fiber. Often called bamboo viscose, it makes up the majority of bamboo fabrics, and the best bamboo sheets, on the market today. Most rayon viscose is made using the viscose process. This involves dissolving the bamboo cellulose in a strong solvent. This creates a pulpy solution that's forced through a spinneret and into another solvent that solidifies the cellulose strands into the fibers. These will then be used to make the thread and ultimately the rayon. Some of the chemicals used in the process of rayon include chlorine bleach, sodium hydroxide, sulfuric acid and carbon disulfide. Due to this, the rayon tends to not retain much of the original bamboo. In fact, bamboo rayon sheets are required to be labeled as Rayon made from bamboo. This is because in 2009, the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) found that rayon made from bamboo really does not retain any of the antimicrobial properties of the bamboo plant. In addition, it's manufacture is absolutely not eco-friendly as the process results in a lot of waste water, along with harsh and toxic chemicals.
Bamboo linen, also known as either natural bamboo or 100% bamboo, is manufactured in the same way as is used to make linen from flax or hemp. The woody parts of the bamboo are crushed, and natural enzymes are added to break down the bamboo and turn it into a big mound of mush. The fibers are then picked out mechanically, rather than chemically. These fabrics are 100% eco-friendly as they do not involve any toxic chemicals being used. The only byproduct there would be is carbon dioxide from the running of the machines.
Bamboo lyocell is made roughly in the same way as rayon, but using less toxic chemicals. These chemicals include hydrogen peroxide and a type of weak alkalines known as amine oxides. Lyocell is manufactured in a closed-loop process. This means that the chemicals used are continuously recycled back into the process, keeping them out of the environment. It also requires less water to manufacture. Lyocell also tends to retain more of the beneficial properties of bamboo than rayon does, but not as much as Bamboo linen.
What Are Cotton Sheets?
Cotton is probably the most broadly used material for making bed sheets. Due to the high availability and inexpensive manufacturing nature, there is a wide variety of types of cotton sheets. And to add to the options, you also have to take into consideration the way the sheets are woven. In general, the best cotton sheets that you can choose from are 100% Egyptian cotton and 100% Pima cotton, which go by the name Supima. These are considered the best because of their comfort level and durability, as Egyptian cotton tends to be among the softest sheets available as well as the most durable.
Types of Cotton Sheets
When it comes down to it, the two best types of cotton sheets are Egyptian cotton and Pima. 100% Egyptian cotton is known to be the absolute best cotton available. Known as the "King of Cotton", it is incredibly soft and gentle. However, these do typically require more care than the lower quality bedding. The Pima cotton is just as soft as the Egyptian cotton, but is a bit rougher.
Comparing the Two
When you put bamboo sheets and cotton side by side, you start to see a lot of comparisons. This is especially noticeable between bamboo sheets and Egyptian cotton. However, there is still a lot that makes each material very unique and may sway you in one way or the other.
In terms of comfort, which is what most people tend to look at first, both are very similar. While normal cotton is not very breathable, Egyptian cotton is considered to be breathable. It is also able to absorb moisture from the body to give you that cool feel throughout the night. In addition, this cotton fabric has the capability to generate extra long fibers. These long fibers make thinner thread which give you a higher thread count. And of course, a higher thread count means the sheets are much softer and much more durable. Of course, these are typically exclusive to Egyptian cotton, while regular cotton can be coarse, and fragile.
On the other side, Bamboo sheets have about the same features and then some. Bamboo sheets are naturally more breathable than cotton, as well as have the ability to absorb moisture from the body. In fact, bamboo sheets are known for their cool feel, more so than Egyptian cotton. In addition, these sheets also have natural thermal regulating properties to them. This basically means that when you want them to be warm, they are. And when you want them to be cool, there they are again.
This is where bamboo sheets take an incredible lead. They have multiple natural beneficial properties that puts them leagues ahead of even Egyptian cotton. Of course, they are naturally breathable and moisture wicking, but they are also naturally hypoallergenic and anti-bacterial. Hypoallergenic means that it is a material that does not attract or contain any known allergens. This includes dust mites, which tend to be an issue with cotton sheets. This makes bamboo sheets the best choice for those who struggle with allergies.
However, the beneficial properties of bamboo is dependent on what type of sheets you get. Viscose, due to the harsh chemicals used in the manufacturing process, do not tend to retain many of the anti-bacterial properties. However, when buying Lyocell or bamboo linen, there the properties are much more present and stronger. But even Rayon from bamboo has more health benefits than cotton, which has absolutely none.
This is where it gets a bit tricky. Because while bamboo is a highly sustainable resource and is easy to farm sustainably, the manufacturing process for rayon is highly non-environmentally friendly. When making Rayon from bamboo, it requires many harsh chemicals to convert the bamboo into fibers for weaving. In addition, the process results in a lot of waste water. Now, for the other forms of bamboo, lyocell and linen, the process is much less intensive and much more eco-friendly.
With cotton, this is one of the most pesticide intensive crops on the planet. This by itself makes cotton not very environmentally friendly either. So if you compare rayon from bamboo vs cotton, neither of them come out on top.
Care and Cost
These two things are two of the biggest factors when buying anything really. How much do I have to do to maintain this product and how much is it going to set me back. Well, for bamboo vs cotton sheets, this is a serious question.
First looking at the care level for both bamboo and cotton. In general, bamboo sheets require a good amount of care. Of course, it also depends on the type of bamboo fabric you get because certain ones require more care than others. Viscose for example is usually machine washer and dryer friendly. Just wash in cool water and a tumble dry and you are ready to go. However, with lyocell and linen, they tend to be much more fragile. This means that typically you will have to either air dry these or even hand wash them. Air, or line dry, can also apply to rayon but is much more rare. Bamboo of all types also tends to be much more prone to wrinkling. But it can be fairly easy to avoid as well. Simply remove the sheets as soon as they are done in the dryer and place them on the bed immediately. Unfortunately, this makes storing bamboo sheets virtually impossible, unless you are a fan of ironing.
With cotton, the care level can be much less. Even when looking at the high end cotton fabrics like Egyptian cotton and Pima, the care level is still much lower than most bamboo. Those are both machine washer and dryer friendly and do not wrinkle as easily as bamboo sheets. However, they still require a fair level of care to ensure their longevity.
This is probably the biggest factor when it comes to buying anything. In terms of bed sheets, high quality ones will have you spending quite a bit of money. With Bamboo sheets, Viscose can range anywhere from $30 to $200 or more. Lyocell and Linen are rare to find, but when you do find them, they are very expensive. Cotton sheets can be very cheap or pretty expensive. Egyptian cotton sheets can range from $50 to $200, about the same as bamboo.
However, the cost of something is more than just the initial price. You also have to look at the durability and quality of the sheets. If you end up paying $50 for a bed set and they end up degrading with every wash or even ripping, you are going to be spending more in the long run, maybe even more than if you had shelled out the $200 and got really nice sheets that would last you a good few years. Typically the price of bed sheets will tell you the level of quality. But then again, it does not hurt to glance over the specifications of them before you buy.
When it comes down to it, the choice is really up to you. If you struggle with a lot of allergies that affect your sleep, bamboo is probably the way to go. However, if you do not want to deal with the high level of care that comes with bamboo, then you are probably better off with the cotton. It is all up to you and what you require. Bamboo sheets have a lot of great benefits that come naturally to them, whereas cotton lacks those health benefits. But that does not mean that one is better than the other. Just take a look at the product specifications, price, and your own needs and the choice will reveal itself.
Bed sheets are a big choice to make. So make sure you take your time and pay attention to all that bedding has to offer. It may end up paying off in the long run to go for that slightly more expensive set, over the $30 set. Whatever you choose, make sure you are happy with it. For more information, head on back to Green and Growing.
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