Choosing Your Sheets: Cotton vs. Microfiber

Choosing Your Sheets:  Cotton vs. Microfiber | Austin Linen Service

Sheets are a necessity for every bed, and if you’re looking to impress, they come in many different varieties and qualities. Here are a few differences between two typical types of sheets: microfiber and cotton linens.

At a Glance

All linens are sold with a specific “thread count”, which is the number of threads woven together per square inch of fabric. Both the lengthwise and widthwise threads are counted. For example, 100 lengthwise threads woven with 100 widthwise threads produces a thread count of 200.­ Typically a thread count of 300 or higher indicates a good quality sheet, which in turn will be more comfortable and soft to the touch.


Cotton is the most commonly used material to make sheets. Low thread count cotton is coarse and scratchy and more likely to pill (create small cotton balls on the surface). Higher thread count sheets are made with finer threads, resulting in softer sheets. Fine cottons such as Egyptian or Supima cotton are considered amongst the finest quality cotton sheets available because they are made of highest quality cotton, called long staple cotton. The longer the fiber the better because it creates stronger and finer yarns. Cotton sheets will become more comfortable and soft with each washing.


Microfiber is composed of very finely woven fibers, defined by their thickness, or denier, which is the measurement of a fiber’s thickness. A high denier points to a material of higher thickness, a low denier is one of lower thickness.

For a material to be considered microfiber, it must be less than 1 denier in diameter. For comparison, consider that fine silk measures at 1.25 deniers; thus, microfibers are made in the lab instead of forming naturally in nature. They can be made from wood pulp, or polyester and nylon polymers. Microfiber sheets are very thin, but are strong and exceptionally smooth and comfortable.



Though pilling is typically associated with lower quality thread counts; while usually rare, this can happen in high quality and high threat count sheets as well and is thus, a misconception. Pilling can happen with both Cotton and Microfiber sheets, depending on the finishing process.

The measures used to prevent pilling during the finishing process of manufacturing are known as singeing, which burns off the tiny fuzz, and mercerizing, a treatment that improves the strength and luster of the sheets. Typically, the manufacturer of a lower thread count sheet will not perform these preventative measures, thus resulting in pilling on the sheets.


Both microfiber and cotton sheets can be washed and dried with ordinary washers and dryers. Cotton sheets will take longer to dry because of their thicker fabric, and may shrink with the first washing, but they can be sold as “pre-shrunk” by the manufacturer. Microfiber sheets can be made from synthetic or natural fibers, such as cellulose or wood pulp, and may also shrink with the first washing. Both microfiber and cotton linens will hold dyes well, but bright colors will fade after repeated washing. Both types are subject to wrinkling as well but can be pressed with a warm iron.

When you buy a quality set, both microfiber and cotton will generally have the same care requirements.



The cotton sheet with a high thread count will be much more durable than one with a low thread count. Low quality cotton linens have a tendency to pill and will grow less comfortable over time. The benefit of investing in quality cotton sheets, though, is their ability to become more supple and comfortable as time goes by, as well as the durability and ease of care.


Individual microfiber threads are weak on their own. However, microfiber sheets are a tightly woven and thin fabric, therefore giving this tightly woven material a durable quality. Lower quality microfibers do risk being ripped after a few months of use, but going with high quality microfiber increases the strength and quality of these linens, even with daily washing.

Feel and Comfort

Feel, from a user’s point of view, is perhaps the most important quality of the linen that you choose for your bedding. The feel is extremely important, with many seeking a silky-smooth feel against their skin. For both cotton and microfiber sheets, the higher the thread count or the smaller the denier, the higher the quality.

Sheets are an investment that will be used for many years, and you want sheets that are easy to care for, attractive, and most of all, soft and comfortable.


About Eric Austin

Eric is founder and CEO of Austin Linen Service. Eric works with Austin and Texas area Hill Country businesses that are seeking quality linen service.

Eric grew up in a military family and lived around the country until the family settled in Austin in 1981. Though a Californian by birth, Eric is Texan in heart and mind. He attended the LBJ High School Science Academy in Austin, a science and math accelerated magnet program where he also played on the golf and tennis teams as well as playing the violin in the school orchestra, which won numerous state competition awards.

Eric also attended the University of Texas at Austin where he studied Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, as well as Business Administration.

In addition to his scholastic education, Eric also received an education in life, leadership and nature through the Boy Scouts of America where he achieved the rank of Eagle Scout in 1991. Eric still uses the lessons he learned in Scouting on a daily basis; how to interact with and treat other people with respect, and how to conduct himself ethically and professionally in life as well as business. In 2006 Eric was able to put his scouting lessons to the test while hiking 2,175 miles over the Appalachian Trail.

If you are seeking quality linen service, as well as ideas and strategies for getting the most out of your linens, connect with Eric to learn more about the services offered by Austin Linen Service.


  1. Cat Hill says:

    How can you know you are buying better quality microfiber linens? We bought a set of linens for our new memory foam mattress. I didn’t think I liked the linens at all at first but alternating with the cotton linens, (400 count), I have decided I Love the microfiber feel…..but they only lasted a few months before starting to tear. Please send me an email suggestions for a better quality microfiber linen brand. The texture was wonderfully soft, slight stretch and really complements the memory foam mattress but I’m not about to buy another set if they only last a few months.

  2. I thought you may know of another company besides Comphy that carries high quality microfibre sheets?

  3. We recently bought microfiber sheets. I couldn’t find the count on the package, assumed they were cotton, and the feel was great, so I wasn’t worried about the count. However, when we used them this summer, we discovered that they don’t breathe like cotton. It was too hot, and our resulting perspiration didn’t wick out or evaporate. It was as if we were sleeping between very pretty, luxurious plastic sheets. After trying for 2 weeks to get used to them, I repaired the tear in our old cotton sheets, and will be shopping for 100% cotton sheets. Will try the microfiber this winter to see if they will keep us as warm as cotton flannel sheets. If not, we’ll donate them to charity or sew them into kitchen curtains.

    • We recently purchased microfiber sheets and I completely agree with you about the microfiber material Gail. I slept in them last night and even though our home dropped down to 68 degrees, I found myself sweating and feeling overheated on several occasions. It made for a restless night. We are also going back to cotton and will try them again in the winter. I like your idea of curtains… that may be where we head as well.


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